The Pastor by Eugene Peterson – Discussion Questions – Chapter 22 to “Letter to a Young Pastor”


  1. Eugene Peterson writes, “As a kind a malaise seemed to spread through the congregation, I could also feel the adrenaline drain out of my blood stream…. I had no way of knowing it at the time, but I was entering into a time of m life that I later named the “badlands.”  And I had no way of knowing how long I would be there.  It was going to last six years”  (202).  If you have you ever been through the “badlands” in your ministry, could you please describe it for the rest of the group?
  1. In Chapter 26, “Emmaus Walks,” Peterson describes the Sabbath routine that he and Jan developed.  Do you take a “day off” or do you practice a Sabbath?  If you practice a Sabbath, please describe your Sabbath routine.
  1. Eugene Peterson chose John Henry Newman, Alexander Whyte and Baron Friedrich von Hügel as his three mentors from history (224).   Who would your three mentors from history be?
  1. Peterson writes,”…when the life leaks out of what we say and write, teach and pray—especially when we are using sterile, lifeless language that objectifies words like God, Jesus, prayer, believe—we are left with nothing but godtalk” (240).  How can we as church workers keep “… Christians alert and present to everything and everyone around us, keeping our language grounded, incarnate in this vast and always God-personal world of creation and salvation?” (241)
  2. Peterson writes, “I want to be a pastor who prays….  I want to be a pastor who reads and studies….  I want to be a pastor who has the time to be with you in leisurely, unhurried conversations so that I can understand and be a companion with you as you grow in Christ…I want to be a pastor who leads you in worship…  I want to have the time to read a story to [my child]…  I want to be an unbusy pastor” (278).  How do you respond to Peterson’s words describing his desire to be an unhurried pastor?
  1. Peterson quotes a letter from Irene, “the pastor is the one person in the community who is free to take men and women seriously just as they are, appreciate them just as they are, give them the dignity that derives from being the ‘image of God,’ a God-created being who has eternal worth without having to prove usefulness or be good for anything”(284).  How would you define the ideal pastoral identity?
  1. In the chapter titled “Good Deaths,” Peterson writes, “Resurrection does not have to do exclusively with what happens after we are buried or cremated.  It does have to do with that, but first of all it has to do with the way we live right now.  But as Karl Barth, quoting Nietzsche, pithily reminds us: “Only where graves are is there resurrection.”  We practice our death by giving up our will to live on our own terms.  Only in that relinquishment or renunciation are we able to practice resurrection” (290).  How is giving up your will to live on your own terms going for you?
  1. Peterson concludes his book this way, “Even though we have never met personally, because of my long friendship with your father, I feel we are part of the same family, which of course, we are.  But also companions in finding our way as pastors in this American culture that ‘knew not Joseph’ and doesn’t quite know what to make of us.  That makes for lonely work.  We need each other.  The peace of our Lord, Eugene.”  Your thoughts? 
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About James Paulgaard

Living in the in between, becoming, but not quite there yet, old and new mixed together, hanging on with all my might to the One who is holding onto me.
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