Home Pastors Pastor Blogs Storied Imagination – A Book Review of The Pastor by Eugene Peterson

Storied Imagination – A Book Review of The Pastor by Eugene Peterson

“Story is a way of language in which everything and everyone is organically related. Story is a way of language that insists that persons cannot be known by reducing them to what they do, how they perform, the way they look.

Story uses a language in which listening has joint billing with speaking. Story is language put to the use of discovering patterns and meanings – beauty and truth and goodness: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” – Eugene Peterson The Pastor

You know it’s a good book when turning that last page is an emotional experience, when you feel a sense of loss that the story is over.

Eugene Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor, is that sort of book.

Peterson shares life and wisdom which seem far disproportionate to the length of the book. He takes you on a journey with him, through childhood memories of butcher-shops and a Christmas with no tree, through the joys of seminary and new love, through the successes and struggles of years in the pastorate, and through integrating the life of the writer.

His prose captivates, bringing each story to life with a slow beauty. Slow not as in dense or plodding, I often found myself pages or chapters in without realizing it, slow as in unhurried. Reading Peterson was in that sense, and in the grounded-ness and wisdom he displayed, much like reading Wendell Berry.

I wish I had read this book years ago, though of course I couldn’t have, because reading it has been deeply challenging and transformative for me. It has forced me to look at story, life, faith, church, and congregations with new eyes.

Though not holding back in critiquing the Americanized consumerist church – he suggests “treating souls for whom Christ died as numbers or projects or resources seemed to me something like a sin against the Holy Spirit” and later compares the Church Growth movement to a cancer – he also sees incredible value and necessity in the church, specifically the messy local on-the-ground church.

When my options too often feel like either blindly affirming a broken way of being the church “because I’m supposed to” or tearing it all down and starting over, a voice who’s been in the trenches and identifies with both sides yet can hold them in tension was exactly what I needed.

There is much more to The Pastor, both as a vocation and as a book, but no review of mine is going to do that justice. So I’ll leave it at this, Peterson’s book is one of the best stories I’ve read in quite some time, and I give it my most enthusiastic recommendation.