Favorite Quotes from The Contemplative Pastor

I recently finished Eugene Peterson’s classic book, The Contemplative Pastorand I am studying through it with a pastor friend of mine. In this book, Peterson looks at returning the art of spiritual direction during an age where churches and pastors are over-busy, overworked and in many ways overlooking the essentials of ministries. The Contemplative Pastor is over 25 years old but sadly much of what Peterson addresses is still relevant or in some cases worse off. Here are a few of my favorite quotes that hit me the hardest as I read. I would highly recommend this book to any Christian, pastor or ministry leader who desires to step away from the noise of society that has infiltrated many churches and get back to the lost art of listening and presence.

  • A healthy noun doesn’t need adjectives. But if the noun is culture-damaged or culture-diseased, adjectives are necessary. (15)
  • How can I lead people into the quiet place beside still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place? (19)
  • I want the people who come to worship in my congregation each Sunday to hear the Word of God preached in such a way that they hear its distinctive note of authority as God’s Word, and to know that their own lives are being addressed on their home territory. A sound outline and snappy illustrations don’t make that happen. (21)
  • Parables aren’t illustrations that make things easier; they make things harder by requiring the exercise of our imaginations, which if we aren’t careful becomes the exercise of our faith. (33)
  • With programs shaping the agenda–not amazing grace, not stubborn sin–the pastor doesn’t have to be patient. (48)
  • What we do on Sundays has not really changed through the centuries: proclaiming the gospel, teaching Scripture, celebrating the sacraments, offering prayers. But the work between Sundays has changed radically, and it has not been a development but a defection. (57)
  • It should be clear that the cure of souls is not a specialized form of ministry (analogous, for instance, to hospital chaplain or pastoral counselor) but is the essential pastoral work. (59)
  • The central and shaping language of the church’s life has always been its prayer language. (89)
  • The Son of God empties himself of prerogative, of divine rights, of status and reputation, in order to be the one whom God uses to fill up creation and creatures with the glory of salvation. A bucket, no matter what wonderful things it contains, is of no use for the next task at hand until it is emptied. (102)

I highly recommend you grab The Contemplative Pastor and put it on the list of one of the first books you read in 2016. It will challenge you, frustrate you, and leave you thirsting for Christ more in all areas of your life and church. We all could use more of that!


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