I don’t usually read autobiographies. I am not sure why I feel that way. Likely it has something to do with my feeling that the autobiographer is not always able to provide an accurate reflection on their own life. All too often, I am disappointed by the publication of autobiographies of people who are just slightly removed from their “15 minutes of fame.”
Dr. Eugene Peterson’s autobiography – The Pastor: A Memoir – might change my mind about autobiographies. This book is a reflection of his life as he has lived it through the lens of becoming and then being a pastor.
The book itself is a wonderful read. The chapters alternate from short to rather lengthy. The subject matter is a mixed bag as well. Whimsical stories of growing up in Kalispell, MT are mixed in with thoughtful meditations on a variety of topics. All the chapters relate, directly or indirectly to the vocation God called Dr. Peterson to – that of a pastor.
The book resonated with me immediately, not only because I live a few hours south of Kalispell, but also because of Dr. Peterson’s journey toward his vocation. Like Dr. Peterson, I too was a reluctant pastor. Like him, a vocation in the pastorate was not my first choice – academics was. And like him, I woke up one day with the realization that God had called me and gifted me to be a shepherd, despite my initial reluctance. And since that calling, like Dr. Peterson, I also have wrestled to discover just what it means to lead and shepherd a flock of people seeking God.
In addition to much discussion on the nature of the pastorate, Dr. Peterson has much to say about other great topics. What is does it mean to be a community of believers and how is such a community nurtured? How do architecture and worship intersect? What is it like going through the “badlands” of ministry? Why are pastors “invisible” much of the week? And there is story after story of how the Word of God and the community of the people of God drew those seeking God into a walk with Him.
And while, as a pastor I was both challenged and blessed by this book, I don’t believe this book is for pastors only. It gives a non-pastor a unique glimpse into the thinking and even the struggles of their pastor. It gives insight into the pastor’s understanding of his weekly “invisibility.” And it reminds each of us of the power of the Word of God and the impact of a faithful shepherd.
As a result, I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants a good, thought-provoking read. Although Dr. Peterson and I come from different church backgrounds and have some different views on theology, we share a calling that is precious. Like Eugene Peterson, I too am a pastor. And like him, I continually reflect – and marvel – on what that word really means.