I began to read Eugene Peterson’s books on pastoral ministry decades ago. They helped me frame my thoughts on what it means to be a pastor. For me, pastoral ministry is a ministry of presence. It is also a ministry that helps set the overall standard and tone for the local church. This of course is done as an extension of the Chief Shepherd of our souls.
Within this framework of thought, the Sunday morning sermon is effective, because it is lived out by the preacher from Monday through Saturday. Being a pastor is about personally being involved in people’s lives. This means being there for them during their peaks, valleys, and normal rhythms. I am passionate about helping people live balanced, restful, and purposeful lives—ones characterized by faith, community, and God’s goodness. A daily prayer request of mine goes something like this.
LORD, thank you for this personal time with you in prayer and in the Word. May it help me maintain a healthy, ordered heart of love. I desire that my witness of you to others flows fundamentally from your love to me and them.
Thank you for already working in the lives of everyone I will encounter today. May I not mechanically witness to them of your love for them. Instead, may my witness fit with what you are already doing in their lives. Give me courage to speak the truth in love and to show true humility and love to everyone—regardless of their age, ethnicity, lifestyle, or creed.
Today, may I too think they are to die for; may I embrace your perspective that “mercy triumphs over judgment.” May I not treat people like they are projects, nor dispensable objects used to complete my mission and make me feel important. May I not indifferently bypass and neglect the hurting person cast to the side of the road, because of the project in-hand or the goal in sight.
This is the day you have made! Today, shape my thoughts, my desires, my decisions, my words, and my actions. May they glorify you. This morning, I meditate on and give thanks for your love; tonight I will remember your faithfulness to me and those I encounter. Your ability to do your perfect work through imperfect people amazes me.
Now forty years into my pastoral calling, it is easy to write that Peterson’s thoughts on pastoral ministry helped me be a better pastor. The Imperfect Pastor contains similar concepts, albeit for a new generation of pastors.￼ Thanks Zack Eswine!
If you are in pastoral ministry consider reading this book. It emphasizes “discovering joy in our limitations [as a pastor] through a daily apprenticeship with Jesus.”