Long Obedience

So, Pastor Eugene Peterson died. He’s more famous for his bible paraphrase, The Message. I’ve never been too much of a fan of The Message, although there are some beautiful gems in that work which have been so helpful.

No, I’ve come to appreciate Eugene much more recently as a reflective writer on ministry as a life-long pastor. From him I’ve become more convinced of the fundamental need to see ‘the person’ and learn their name long before you assume to do anything else. Ministry is, above all else, founded upon relationships. I’m invited to take the risk of being known by others.

I’ve also come to understand so significantly the value of being available to listen to people without agenda. To see folks where they’re at and to go from there. People aren’t tools to be utilised or resources to be deployed – but lives to be enriched, encouraged, equipped and celebrated just as they are as for all that God will do in/for them.

Finally, he talks about life and ministry as one long obedience in the same direction. We’re called to life, not to grasping the ‘next thing’. Ministry in recent years for us has been exhaustingly spread. It’s all been hugely valuable – I’ve met great people, I’ve experienced great and challenging things, and I’ve changed hugely from the 20 year old who started out. But I’m in that place where I just recognise that everything that has gone before may well just have been training for the main job ahead. Having said that, a sabbatical would be really nice after 18 years of ministry without anything remotely resembling it!

More than all of this, I’m a couple of years off 40. God willing, I may have about 30 years ministry left? It’s not that long. God…what can you do with this one life handed over to you? It is for him to decide but I’m given over to it that Jesus might be lifted up and God be glorified.

Peterson expresses that he hoped his legacy will have been to speak prophetically to a generation of American pastors about the heart and rhythm of ministry. Well, Eugene – your legacy has burst its geographical and generational borders and lives on in many others in further places, even in me.

Thank you, Eugene. Praise God for your life, ministry, and long obedience in the same direction.

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