ADVERTISING
 
Monday, August 19   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Society
Should Christians join social protests?



SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Philip S. Powell
 

Eugene Peterson: Earthly fruit, heavenly reward

How did this young boy growing up in Kalispell, Montana make such an impact on the world that celebrities like Bono sought out his friendship and counsel?

JUBILEE CENTRE AUTHOR Philip S. Powell 30 OCTOBER 2018 11:00 h GMT+1
Eugene Peterson. / Clappstar, Flickr (CC)

On 22 October 2018, the famous and beloved American Christian writer and Pastor, Eugene Peterson, passed away at the age of 85 from complications related to heart-failure. He is best known for his contemporary and catchy translation of the Bible – The Message. His family released a statement that it was fitting that he died on a Monday, the day he always honoured as his Sabbath during his years as a pastor.



Peterson’s father was a butcher and grocer and his mother was an Assemblies of God pastor. As a young boy he was often bullied by his friends and spent many hours by himself reading or spending time in nature. Even though he became famous in later life through the popularity of his written works (he has published over 35 books), for most of his life he was a small-town pastor, rooted in one place and committed to serving in the congregation at Christ our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air.



How did this young boy growing up in Kalispell, Montana make such an impact on the world that celebrities like Bono sought out his friendship and counsel? I would like to reflect on three things that stand out to me about Eugene Peterson’s life and ministry.



 



COSED-DOOR FAITHFULNESS



The first thing I want to reflect on is what went on in Peterson’s life when nobody was looking. Of course, we don’t really know what he did when he was alone at his home, but there are things we do know from what friends and people who knew him have shared. When he was a student at Seattle Pacific College, we know that he gave himself diligently to studying the Greek and Hebrew languages. Years later, when he began working on his own translation of the Bible, all those years of hard intellectual labour paid off. The depth, the creativity and the power of his written words were the result of many years of steadfast and unyielding commitment to study and prayer behind closed-doors. This is a key lesson for those of us in Christian leadership.



Even in Christian ministry there is real temptation to sell cheap, useless ‘goods’ using flashy Christian packaging—to ‘fleece the flock’ to further one’s own agenda. We’re all too familiar with overworked pastors who end up preaching on Sunday morning without actually putting time and effort into preparing their sermons, or Christian musicians who get caught up in worldly marketing strategies to increase CD sales. These temptations are real. But we learn from Peterson’s life that if we’re going to make a positive and significant contribution to our world, then there are no short-cuts to achieving this. No matter in what field or sphere of society, if our lives are going to make an impact and bear good fruit, it will require this kind of ‘closed-door faithfulness’ and long-term perseverance.



 



AWAKENING IMAGINATION



The second thing I want to reflect on is the role Peterson has played through his writings in awakening the imagination of Christians. Peterson explained it this way in his book, Subversive Spirituality:




“Imagination is the capacity to make connections between the visible and the invisible, between heaven and earth, between present and past, between present and future. For Christians, whose largest investment is in the invisible, the imagination is indispensable, for it is only by means of the imagination that we can see reality whole, in context… When it [imagination] is healthy and energetic, it ushers us into adoration and wonder, into the mysteries of God. When it is neurotic and sluggish, it turns people, millions of them, into parasites, copycats, and couch potatoes.”




As a pastor he was alert to the constant danger of clichés and religious cants destroying our language. He knew Christians could easily mouth pious platitudes to hide what is really going on inside their soul. He saw the problem of Christians in America objectifying the Bible, reading it literalistically and defending it vehemently, but impotent to live by its statutes or know God’s power in their lives. Therefore he admonished us that “poets are essential allies in purifying our language,” and to read the Bible poetically, allowing it to awaken the imagination and reshape reality according to God’s vision for the world.



Peterson was as much a prophetic poet as he was a pastoral writer.



 



PASTORAL MINISTRY



The final thing that stands out to me about Eugene Peterson was his calling and ministry as a pastor. Many pastors who knew him have reflected that Eugene Peterson restored honour back to the vocation of a pastor.



Peterson himself grew up in a Pentecostal church that emphasized extraordinary and ecstatic experiences, and the shallow anti-intellectualism and manipulation of people that went along with this. Early on in life he decided that this was not for him. Instead he decided to pursue the life of the mind. He wanted to become an academic, however he gave up his doctoral studies to become a pastor. His vision for being a pastor was very different to what he had seen before. He stayed away from mega-church Christianity and tele-evangelists, who conducted their ministries as if they were lucrative business opportunities. He condemned this kind of ‘Christian’ culture as materialistic and full of lies—any kind of consumeristic spirituality that shunned self-sacrifice and costly commitment was not really Christian.



Instead, for Peterson, pastoral ministry was about walking alongside ordinary folks who wanted to follow Jesus. In his words, a pastor must be willing to “show up and shut up”. Being a pastor is not about offering quick-fix solutions or even good advice. He knew that it was about offering people the gift of listening. His pastoral ministry animated ‘cruciform witness’, a shepherd willing to lay down his life for his flock. This was life-changing ministry.



Eugene Peterson, thank you for being a humble and faithful servant of Christ. And, thank you for giving us The Message. Your earthly fruit will continue on for many years to come.



 



Philip S. Powell manages the Learning Community of the Jubilee Centre.



This article first appeared on the Jubilee Centre website and was republished with permission.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Eugene Peterson: Earthly fruit, heavenly reward
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels

An interview with the socio-political representative of the European Evangelical Alliance about how evangelical Christians work at the heart of the European Union.

 
Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Testimony: Wildfires near Athens Testimony: Wildfires near Athens

Nico Spies, a Christian worker in Athens, gives details about the wildfires in Greece.

 
Arie de Pater: Refugees deserve a fair and efficient process Arie de Pater: Refugees deserve a fair and efficient process

The Brussels representative of the European Evangelical Alliance offers a Christian perspective on the crisis: “We can’t reduce people to just a number that needs to be controlled”.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’ IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’

Students, graduates and staff of the global evangelical student movement reflected together on how the books of Luke and Acts apply to today's universities.

 
Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission

Photos of the Lausanne Movement Global Workplace Forum, celebrated in Manila.

 
European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference

Images of the fifth EFN gathering. Experts, activists, counsellors and church leaders met in Pescara, Italy.

 
Glimpses of the ELF 2019 conference Glimpses of the ELF 2019 conference

Evangelical leaders from across Europe meet in Wisla (Poland) to network for mission in a range of fields. The vision is to renew the biblical church and evangelise Europe.

 
‘Small churches, big potential for transformation’ ‘Small churches, big potential for transformation’

Photos of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance’s annual gathering “Idea 2019”, in Murcia. Politicians and church leaders discussed about the role of minorities in society.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Chinese Homecoming Gathering: Thousands say 'we’re one' Chinese Homecoming Gathering: Thousands say 'we’re one'

Christians from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and North America, from different ethnic backgronds, came together to pray for unity as the body of Christ.

 
How have global missions changed over the last century? How have global missions changed over the last century?

The centre of gravity of Christianity has shifted from Europe to Africa, says Nana Yaw Offei Awuku, Director of the Lausanne Younger Leaders Generation initiative.

 
Christian organisations call to pray for new British Prime Minister Christian organisations call to pray for new British Prime Minister

Representatives of the National Day of Prayer, the Evangelical Alliance and CARE express the need for churches to pray for the new leadership of a country divided by Brexit and other issues.

 
Practical ways to direct our hearts toward spiritual growth Practical ways to direct our hearts toward spiritual growth

“It is not our initiative, it is not working for ourselves, it is gazing to Jesus and responding to Him. It is the language of inclining the heart that we see in Psalms”, said  Peter Mead, Director of Cor Deo.

 
Evangelical students from around the world gather in South Africa Evangelical students from around the world gather in South Africa

A short video summary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) World Assembly, July 3-10.

 
GWF in Manila: “Kingdom building requires global collaboration” GWF in Manila: “Kingdom building requires global collaboration”

850 from 108 countries met for the Global Workplace Forum, June 25-29. The gathering was organised by the Lausanne Movement. “Every workplace is a place of ministry”.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.