The pastor's question

A couple weeks ago I had brunch with a couple close pastor friends, and about 30 other pastors. Apparently they wanted to fatten us up a little on food and the gospel (food was hearty bread pudding, bacon and sausage!)

The talk was about marks of faithful Gospel ministry (which translated for non-pastor types means we were seeking what is it we designed by God to do as pastors in our churches).

The talk turned to a theologically-informed discussion (which I like), and then some of the Q&A shifted to church practice (membership, discipline, leading through change, preaching the Gospel through all avenues, etc.) Good times, and I’m glad we went. Plus, who can argue with free books!

Afterwards I spoke briefly with Kevin Palau (that one; he’s the real deal) about what pastors think and talk about most. Seminary students may like to debate theology (and I’m happy to jump into the ring on that one), but faithful pastors move to a more practical theology. (Note I did not say a pragmatic theology, though that is far too common these days.)

What we (I) wrestle with most is this: how do people change?

Later that night with a few free moments I picked up Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor. Right of the bat, in a conversational interview format, Peterson points to a couple great truths for pastoral ministry:

The pastor’s question is, “Who are these particular people, and how can I be with them in such a way that they can become what God is making them?”

Then he considers the purpose of helping people change through the Gospel, defining “Christian spirituality”:

“Christian spirituality means living in the mature wholeness of the gospel. It means taking all the elements of your life—children, spouse, job, weather, possessions, relationships—and experiencing them as an act of faith. God wants all the material of our lives.”

—Eugene H. Peterson, vol. 17, The Contemplative Pastor : Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, The Leadership library (Carol Stream, Ill.; Dallas; Waco, Tex.: Christianity Today; Word Pub.; Distributed by Word Books, 1989), 11, 12.
How do people change? By the Gospel of Jesus.

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