The Unbusy Pastor: Facing Vanity & Laziness.

Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:

I (and most pastors, I believe) become busy for two reasons; both are ignoble. 1) I am busy because I am vain. I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed. 2) I am busy because I am lazy. By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us; then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to satisfy a half dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation, to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone.  Eugene Peterson (from Chapter Two, The Contemplative Pastor pp.27-28)


Vanity and Laziness. Yikes!

As much as I’d like to deny that these two sickies are part of my inner workings as a pastor, after reading Peterson’s thoughts on the subject in this second chapter of The Contemplative Pastor, I’m afraid I need to ‘fess up’. In truth, the idea that my busy-ness just might be driven by my two friends (Vanity & Laziness) is frightening, indeed.

Let’s look at this ‘vanity’ thing first. In a world where bigger is better and the person with the most toys at the end of his or her life wins, the ‘busy’ factor plays a very important part in determining our success in this life. It’s when people around us are perceiving us as busy, busy bees, laboring intensely for the prize that’s set before us, when most of us do actually feel the most secure in our labors. I mean what pastor doesn’t take pride in having to ‘check his or her busy schedule’ prior to making an appointment with a parishioner? And let’s be honest here, it’s that same pride and vanity that so often pushes many of us pastors to maintain a massive system of rules and regulations in the church life we oversee. Systems of programming that keep our folks busy, busy, busy so that we pastors can look successful at the next ministerial meetings when asked how our church is doing.

If this vanity thing isn’t enough to shame us out of our busy schedules, how about the laziness issue Peterson addresses as well? In truth, when was the last time you or I actually took the time to look at what we are doing with our time? As I see it, time just might be, next to life itself, the greatest gift God gives us in this life. And when I ignore this precious gift of time, lazily letting the tyranny of the urgent run its course, busyness will always be the end result. Now throw into this lazy mess my vain concept that busy is always better, and we have one sick man or woman whose vanity and laziness have overtaken life itself.

Welcome to the American way of life.

Busy is better. Take life as it comes.

Put these two mantras together and we have an intoxicating mix of vanity and laziness. A formula that we American pastors drink from on a daily basis. Thankfully, some wise sage named Eugene Peterson has been sent by God to awaken us from this nightmare we now call Americanized pastoral ministry!

Thanks, Eugene. I needed that kick in the pants.

My prayer: Father, it’s so tough to hear how my busy-ness in ministry might be birthed out of my being both lazy and vain. Yet, Peterson makes a great argument on how these two mortal sins just might be at the core of my stressed-out, ‘burning-the-candle-at-both-ends’ life in ministry. May Your Spirit come to both convict me of my sin and direct me in paths of righteousness. For Your name’s sake. Amen. 

My questions to ponder: How might my vanity for looking important (and busy) be one of the culprits that need to change in my life? And how might my laziness be pushing me into busy situations that might have been avoided, if I’d only be more prudent with my time?

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

1 thought on “The Unbusy Pastor: Facing Vanity & Laziness.

  1. Pingback: The Unbusy Pastor: Blasphemous Anxiety, Anyone? | The Contemplative Activist

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