Maybe it's the rain. Maybe it's the saying good-bye. And maybe it's just that I'm feeling a bit too necessary. Today I leave for a three-day conference. I know it will be beneficial to my spirit. I know I will learn. But I always hate to leave home and office.
Pastors are "Vain" and "Lazy?"
Eugene Peterson writes poignantly to pastors. In his book, The Unnecessary Pastor, he and co-author Marva Dawn deconstruct many myths regarding the pastor's role.
My favorite of Peterson's books, however, is entitled: The Contemplative Pastor. Here he shames clergy for their self-importance. He charges that we stay incessantly busy because we are vain and we are lazy. Ouch! What can this mean?
We want to be seen as busy and as vital to every cog in church and community activities. We want to impress people with our work ethic. We want people to be amazed at how many things we can do well, and how we seem to show up at every crisis.
What a Contemplative Pastor Looks Like
Pastoring, according to Peterson, should be something very different. Pastors should pray, preach and listen. More specifically, we should pray on an intimate level. We should preach after being drenched in scripture and prayer. And we should listen out of unhurried leisure. "Leisure," says Peterson, "is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time." Hmmm.
An Allegory from Melville (long quote from The Contemplative Pastor)
"In Herman Melville's Moby Dick, there is a turbulent scene in which a whaleboat scuds across a frothing ocean in pursuit of the great, white whale, Moby Dick. the sailors are laboring fiercely, every muscle taut, all attention and energy concentrated on the task...In this boat, however, there is one man who does nothing. He doesn't hold an oar; he doesn't perspire; he doesn't shout. He is languid in the crash and the cursing. This man is the harpooner, quiet and poised, waiting. And then this sentence: "To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil.
"....The metaphors Jesus used for the life of ministry are frequently images of the single, the small, and the quiet, which have effects far in excess of their appearance: salt, leaven, seed...It is, then, a strategic necessity that pastors deliberately ally themselves with the quiet, poised harpooners, and not leap, frenzied, to the oars."
Is there even a chance that any of us who are called pastors would be willing to practice such a style of ministry? Would it work? Would we remain employed? Peterson claims that he dropped out of the hustle, and into contemplation, and found that no one noticed.