Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:
The person who looks for quick results in the seed planting of well-doing will be disappointed. If I want potatoes for dinner tomorrow, it will do me little good to go out and plant potatoes in my garden tonight. There are long stretches of darkness and invisibility and silence that separate planting and reaping. During the stretches of waiting there is cultivating and reading and nurturing and planting still other seeds. Eugene Peterson (from Rodney Clapp’s Introduction to The Contemplative Pastor pp. 10-11)
I decided to start my blog through Eugene Peterson’s classic book for pastors, The Contemplative Pastor, by quoting from Christianity Today’s Associate Editor, Rodney Clapp, and his insightful 10-page interview with Peterson which appears in CT’s hardcover edition (1989) of Peterson’s book. In writing this introduction, Clapp met with Eugene Peterson and his wife Jan just as they were coming back from their summer sabbatical in September 1987. Interestingly enough this interview is being done just three short years before Eugene was asked by NavPress to leave his long-time pastoral post at the church he and Jan planted in the Baltimore area and begin work on his now-famous labor of love, The Message Bible.
As I reflect on some of Peterson’s first words in his interview with Clapp, I ask this question, as a pastor and a follower of Christ…
What better describes my job description here on earth than to be a “seed-planter of well-doing?”
As I see it, Jesus came to earth to not only rescue us from our sin and selfishness, He also came to start a revolution of manifest agape (i.e. ever-present unconditional, selfless love). I’ve mentioned it often in my other blogs that the best job description we followers of Christ can have in life is to simply be ones who go around, doing our very best to daily practice the Kingdom presence of God, loving ‘the hell’ out of others as best we can. When done in His Name and by His strength and grace alone, loving ‘the hell’ out of others can be the most powerful act a Christian can perform. Yet, like Peterson eludes to here in his comments to Clapp, being a ‘seed planter of well-doing’ is the most subversive, quiet, pre-planned, future-looking, ‘long obedience in the same direction’ act ever performed on the planet.
Now, here’s another question…
As a pastor, ‘a seed-planter of well-doing,’ how have I allowed myself to become, as Peterson describes it, “a person who looks for quick results in the seed planting of well-doing?”
Yikes. Now we’re starting to meddle a bit, aren’t we?
You see, in a world of ministry where bigger is better and most churches ask their pastor, “What have you done for us lately?” the pressures of what I call the 3-B’s yell at us, pushing us to build bigger (B)uildings, add more (B)ucks to the bank account, and draw in more (B)utts to the seats. And when we feel that kind of pressure to produce results, it’s truly hard to remain as a simple ‘seed planter of well-doing,’ isn’t it? As I see it, the push in Americanized church to grow our churches beyond the infamous 200-barrier pushes us to become the seed-planters that continually are looking for quick results. And through it all, we lose our original identities and become the driving, controlling leaders of God’s people most of us despise.
While Peterson’s words, “long stretches of darkness and invisibility and silence that separate planting and reaping” sound romantic to some, or the phrase, “during the stretches of waiting there is cultivating and reading and nurturing and planting still other seeds” might sound refreshing; the truth is that waiting on God for results while remaining a ‘seed planter of well-doing’ is much easier said than done. Which brings me to why this book, The Contemplative Pastor, which addresses our overt busyness and impatience in ministry, is such an important read for us ‘git-r-done’ drivers in our Americanized churches.
My prayer: Lord, my call in this life is to be Your ‘seed planter of well-doing.’ With Your wisdom leading me, and Your Spirit empowering me, that job can be the most lucrative, enjoyable position on the planet. But yet, Lord, I find myself so often becoming impatient in my role, looking for quick results to my seed planting of well-doing. Please call me up short, Lord, and give me Your perspective of those who’ve gone before me. Those who’ve learned the secret joys of being a ‘seed-planter of well-doing’ but also have the patience to wait for Your results, not ours. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How have I fallen prey to the demands of being a 3-B pastor? Have I become a leader who is constantly standing over the seedlings I’ve planted, demanding instant results and immediate fruitfulness? What needs to change inside me so that I can become a relaxed ‘seed-planter of well-doing,’ allowing God all the time He needs to produce good fruit from the labor of my hands?
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.
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