The Pastor by Eugene Peterson – Discussion Questions – Chapters 9 – 16


  1. Peterson writes, “Thanks to Sven, I was being prepared to understand a congregation as a gathering of people that requires a context as large as the Bible itself if we are to deal with the ambiguities of life in the actual circumstances in which people live them” (59).  What helps you deal the ambiguities of life in the people you serve?
  2.  In Chapter 11, Peterson speaks of how Psalm 108 made such an impression upon him one summer while he worked at a summer job for the town of Kalispell that he began to consider the land around him as Holy Land.  Is there a passage of Scripture that has made such an impression upon you that it has changed how you view your context?
  3.  In Chapter 12, Peterson describes the steps on the way to him becoming a pastor as “haphazard” (83).  How would you describe your steps on the way to becoming a church worker?
  4.  When Dr. Buttrick was asked what was the most important preparation for preaching that he did, he replied, “For two hours every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, I walk through the neighborhood and make home visits.  There is no way that I can preach the gospel to these people if I don’t know how they are living, what they are thinking and talking about.  Preaching is proclamation, God’s word revealed in Jesus, but only when it gets embedded in conversation, in a listening ear and responding tongue, does it become gospel.’” (86-87)
  5.  Regarding his discovery of Barth, Peterson declares, “Barth wasn’t indifferent to ‘getting it right,’ but his passion was in ‘getting it lived.’” (90)  Where do you think the emphasis in theology ought to be and why?
  6.  In Chapter 14, Peterson tells the story of how his atheist roommate Bob played a role in Peterson getting together with his future wife Jan.  Are there any atheists woven into the fabric of your life story in significant ways?
  7.  Eugene Peterson defines church as “a colony of heaven in the country of death” (110).  What do you think of this definition?  How is the church that you serve a colony of heaven in the country of death?
  8.  Peterson employs some strong language to decry what he calls “the Americanization of congregation.  It means turning each congregation into a market for religious consumers, an ecclesiastical business run along the lines of advertising techniques, organizational flow charts, and energized by impressive motivational rhetoric.  But this was worse.  This pragmatic vocational embrace of American technology and consumerism that promised to rescue congregations from ineffective obscurity violated everything—scriptural, theological, experiential—that had formed my identity as a follower of Jesus and as a pastor….  It was a blasphemous desecration of the way of life to which the church had ordained me—something on the order of a vocational abomination of desolation” (112).  Serving as church workers about fifty years later on the other side of the continent, are there similar trends among churches today?  If so, how do they impact you in your vocation?
  9.  Peterson writes, “I thought that my pastoral task at this point was to do my best to get my congregation to understand Scripture, and for right now Acts, as a story….a story that includes us, a story in which we are invited in as participants” (116).  What do you think of Peterson’s understanding of his pastoral task?  What would that look like in your congregation?
  10.  Peterson speaks of a paradigm shift that took place early on in the life of the church that helped plant: “The paradigm shift from understanding the church in terms of what we plan and accomplish and take responsibility for … to understanding church as what God plans and accomplishes and takes responsibility for …” (125).  Which of these two paradigms predominates in the church that you serve?
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