You Must Read This . . . Beyond a Job Description

By Teresa Welch

The Pastor: A Memoir
Eugene H. Peterson
New York: HarperOne, 2011

For those of you who have read Eugene Peterson’s other works, you will anticipate his memoir to be a collection of well-
crafted stories about this author/professor/pastor who has already shared so much through his writings. What he provides in his newest work, The Pastor: A Memoir, exceeds those expectations. Interwoven into Peterson’s memories about his childhood, vocational discernment and formation, planting a new congregation, and responding to the needs of his community are words of exhortation and hope for the church and for those who lead and serve the bride of Christ.

Peterson reminds those serving in ministry that leading the people of God to follow Christ is a high and holy calling. The call is not for “someone who ‘gets things done’ but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to ‘what is going on right now’ between men and women, with one another and with God” (p. 5).

The call to pastoral ministry is a vocation, not a job. It is a call to prayer, to listening, and to Sabbath keeping. It is a call to first serve God and then through this call to serve God’s people. Peterson also reminds pastors that their call is best kept in the company of other pastors.

This memoir speaks not only to pastors and ministers, but to all believers. As Peterson shares memories of his family and formative years, he reminds us that moments, both large and small, help shape each of us and our futures. He encourages us through stories about successes and failures, celebrations and heartaches, to recall how our own stories are part of the continuing story of God. He reminds us of the beautiful miracle that we call the church and helps us reclaim the best parts of being in community with one another.

As I journeyed alongside Peterson, I was reminded of my own pilgrimage. He inspired me to reflect on those moments that have formed and shaped me in my pastoral and teaching ministry. He reminded me of my call to a vocation beyond a job description.

My hope is that others will take the time to journey alongside this author/professor—who was called “Pastor Pete” by the children of his congregation—and be challenged and encouraged as well.


Teresa Welch is assistant professor of Christian education at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, Johnson City, Tennessee, and a member of Standard Publishing’s Publishing Committee.

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