Contemplating The Contemplative Pastor: An Introduction.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Psalm 46: 10 (MsgB)

Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at Me, your High God, above politics, above everything.  


Hi. I’m Marty Boller.

I’m a recovering 3-B pastor on my way to becoming a 3-C contemplative activist.

What is a recovering 3-B Pastor, you ask? Just as it is with any addiction, one must come to the realization of a problem before one can be set free. So, in order to become a “recovering” 3-B pastor, one must first understand that you’ve been a 3-B pastor for most of your pastoral career! So it is with me. A 3-B pastor, you see, is any pastoral shepherd who is addicted to measuring his or her “success” (or failure) in ministry using three major components of “success” utilized in many of our churches, large and small, across North America. I like to call this triad of components, the 3-B’s:

(B)uildings.     (B)ucks.     (B)utts in the seats.

Today, as a recovering 3-B Pastor, I’ve joined the ranks of a growing number of pastors and key leaders across North America who have decided to step out of the 3-B traffic, so that we might better align ourselves with Jesus of Nazareth; who quite honestly, evaluates our effectiveness in ministry much better than anyone else! Sadly, it’s taken much of my six decades of life to come to this conclusion, but as they say; better late than never, right?

Back in 2011, after nearly 30 years in pastoral ministry, I finally wised-up enough to listen to Dave Jacobs, my pastoral coach and schedule a much-needed sabbatical for my wife, Sandy, and I. We began our ten-week break in early June, scheduling ourselves to begin our sabbatical with two relaxing weeks at The Lighthouse Cove; a beautiful timeshare snuggled alongside the Atlantic Ocean in Pompano Beach, Florida. Without a doubt, sitting by the pool with a coffee in hand, soaking in the beautiful summer sun of South Florida, would be a great place for Sandy and me to escape the 3-B’s of Americanized church life and work on the 3-R’s: Reading, Resting and Relaxing.

Surprisingly, neither one of us talked with one another as we picked out the books we brought with us to Florida. When we opened up our bags at Lighthouse Cove and began stacking the books we had stuffed into our carry-ons, we laughed. Of the books we had on the table, only one wasn’t written by Eugene Peterson, translator of the multi-million seller, The Message Bible! I quipped to Sandy, “Well, I guess Eugene Peterson is coming along with us on this vacation!”

One of those books in that big pile has dramatically changed my life since returning to pastoral ministry after our sabbatical in 2011. That book is The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Directionthe first in what some call Peterson’s “four-book-trilogy” for pastors. In case you’re interested, the other three include: Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, Under the Unpredictable Plant, and Working the Angles. Originally published in 1989, I’ve had a copy of The Contemplative Pastor on my bookshelf for years, but sadly, I had never taken the time to crack it open. Now, I wish I could roll back time and take some of the wisdom I’ve found in this classic and apply it to my busy life.

So over the next few weeks (37 blog-posts to be exact), I’m going to work my way through some of the eye-opening material I’ve found in this powerful book. I hope the journey will be productive for you, my dear readers. I know there are a good number of pastors of smaller churches who are currently reading this blog, and I particularly encourage you to go get a copy of Peterson’s book and begin the journey with me. Heck, even if you’re not a pastor, my guess is that you’ll be blessed and challenged by this read.

Next time, we’ll begin with quotes and comments from the book’s Introduction, which, in my version of the book, is an interview of Pastor Eugene (as he loves to call himself) by Christianity Today Associate Editor, Rodney Clapp. I realize many copies of Peterson’s classic don’t include this wonderful ten-page intro. My copy is the hardcover published jointly by Christianity Today and Word, Inc. in their Leadership Library series. As I gaze over this insightful interview, I realize I’ve underlined so much of it; I might just stay there, blogging on this material alone for several weeks! A rich find, to say the least. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey with us that begins in earnest next time.

I hope you won’t be too busy to join us!

Hint. Hint.

My prayer: Father, my sabbatical back in 2011 started a slowing-down process for me that was much-needed. Today, I still see my great need to “step out of the traffic” so I can take a long, loving look at You, my High King. May this blog study be used by Your Spirit to form and shape me into the pastoral shepherd You desire me to be. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: What would it look like for me to stop my pursuit of the 3-B’s in pastoral ministry, where most everything I do is geared to increase (B)uilding size, (B)ucks in the offering plates, and the number of (B)utts in the seats? What aspects of my schedule need to be re-arranged so that I can give myself more fully to slowing down; investing more of my time to the care of my soul instead of to the growth of my church?

So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Contemplative Pastor?


Over a 37-blog series, you and I will take a deeper look at Eugene Peterson’s classic, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to continue to the next blog in this series…

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