Eugene Peterson’s Advice to Seminary Students

Eugene Peterson’s advice to seminary students:

Eugene_Peterson (1)“I’d tell them that pastoring is not a very glamorous job. It’s a very taking-out-the-laundry and changing-the-diapers kind of job. And I think I would try to disabuse them of any romantic ideas of what it is. As a pastor, you’ve got to be willing to take people as they are. And live with them where they are. And not impose your will on them. Because God has different ways of being with people, and you don’t always know what they are.

“The one thing I think is at the root of a lot of pastors’ restlessness and dissatisfaction is impatience. They think if they get the right system, the right programs, the right place, the right location, the right demographics, it’ll be a snap. And for some people it is: if you’re a good actor, if you have a big smile, if you are an extrovert. In some ways, a religious crowd is the easiest crowd to gather in the world. Our country’s full of examples of that. But for most, pastoring is a very ordinary way to live. And it is difficult in many ways because your time is not your own, for the most part, and the whole culture is against you. This consumer culture, people grow up determining what they want to do by what they can consume. And the Christian gospel is just quite the opposite of that. And people don’t know that. And pastors don’t know that when they start out. We’ve got a whole culture that is programmed to please people, telling them what they want.  And if you do that, you might end up with a big church, but you won’t be a pastor.”

(via Jonathan Merritt)


15 thoughts on “Eugene Peterson’s Advice to Seminary Students

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  1. As a young seminary student, I’m not sure I would have listened to Peterson. The siren of the big church and successful ministry was too loud in my ears. I’m listening now, “you might end up with a big church, but you won’t be a pastor.” True.

  2. Learned Peterson’s lesson later in ministry than I should have. I never Pastored the “big downtown church;” but it took years of pastoral ministry to realize that I should accept people as they are and understand that God has different ways of being with people that I might not understand or need to understand.

  3. I agree with everything Peterson said. I too was smitten with the “big church bug” as a young pastor, but after 34 years of labor in small to mid-size churches I am learning how to be a pastor not a Christian “rock star.” I would add, however, that being a pastor is the most spiritually rewarding job in the world. It may not pay off in terms of money or fame, but there is a sense of deep satisfaction which comes from serving God and His people.

  4. And then there is the flip side of being a pastor for a congregation that wants “the right system, the right programs, the right place, the right location, the right demographics” and think “it’ll be a snap”.

    Is there a place to send congregants to school? I’m only slightly kidding.

  5. As a ‘late-comer’ to pastoral ministry (I’m 59; 6 years in ministry), Peterson is right about impatience – I don’t have 25 or 30 years in front of me. When faced with the ‘let’s keep things the way they’ve been for 40 years’ mentality, I simply don’t have the time it will take to slowly evolve/change attitudes about what it means to be the ‘Body of Christ in the world’. So yes, I’m impatient. Older sem students, take note….

  6. I think Peterson’s early comments can be applied well to the large church as well. And, big church doesn’t equal ineffective pastor.

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