The Unbusy Pastor: Leading Others Beside Still Waters.

Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:

How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the 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? Eugene Peterson (from Chapter Two, The Contemplative Pastor pp.28-29)


So honestly, men and women of God; pastors of God’s people that we are; when was the last time you spent a good amount of quality time ‘living by faith in the quiet place beside the still waters?’

Now before you answer that question, let’s make sure we are defining this correctly. ‘Living by faith in the quietness of God’s presence’ does not equate with scripture study time preparing for your next sermon. ‘Silently resting in a quiet place beside still waters’ is not the same as the 15-minute quiet time crammed in between busy appointments and highly-charged business meetings.

As I see it, the ‘living by faith in the quietness of God’ Peterson refers to here is not a blip in the midst of a busy day, but a lifestyle change that affects everything we do and say as ministers of the gospel. And while it might seem that I’m preaching at you here, let me be quick to add that I’ve not arrived at this beautiful destination Peterson refers to any more than you probably have.

Since this blog of mine is focused toward pastors who are looking to escape the 3-B machinery, where success in ministry is measured by evaluating (B)uilding size, (B)ucks in the offering, and the number of (B)utts in the seats, let’s get gut-honest here, guys and gals. Being a pastor of a church in North America is not the type of job one takes who earnestly desires to set up camp resting in ‘a quiet place beside still waters!’ Since most of us are sincerely passionate about our jobs, we wake up in the morning eating, drinking, and thinking about ways we can make our church more ‘successful.’ We earnestly desire to do our very best for God with the pastoral assignments we’ve been given. And as we’ve discussed throughout past sessions of this blog, most of us believe the best way to be ‘successful’ for Jesus is to grow our churches, reaching more and more people for the cause of Christ.

Now while this pursuit of success sounds both reasonable and right, we fail to remember what Peterson asks us here:

“How can we lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if we are in perpetual motion? How can you and I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if we have to juggle our schedules constantly to make everything fit into place?”

Sadly, the answer to these two probing questions is “we can’t.” Now maybe some of you are not bothered by that answer. Possibly some of you might say that there are greater causes for Jesus than leading people into the Kingdom presence of God, or assisting a parishioner to live by faith. But as I see it, don’t simple goals like these best describe ‘discipleship’ as defined by the New Testament? My gut tells me that they are. 

“My life is my message.”  Mahatma Gandhi.

Hmm, what’s my busy life saying to people today? Maybe I need to keep reading here? Maybe Peterson will give me more if I only have the eyes to see and ears to hear? O busy pastor, I pray we’ll hear and see and respond. As I see it, our message depends upon it.

My prayer: Father, I must admit that I spend more time talking about living beside still waters than I actually do letting You lead me there. In truth, Lord, that’s a sham. Forgive me that my actions are actually betraying my words. Forgive me and change me. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: What message is my busy life in ministry conveying to others? Am I guilty of encouraging others to slow down, be still and know God, when I, myself, fail to do that for myself on a regular basis?

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…

2 thoughts on “The Unbusy Pastor: Leading Others Beside Still Waters.

  1. Pingback: The Unbusy Pastor: Facing Vanity & Laziness. | The Contemplative Activist

  2. Just a quick add-on to this blog post. I wrote this when I was still actively working as a senior pastor of a church that was struggling to exist. God eventually transitioned me from that role to now working with pastors, leaders, and layfolks, helping them slow down using the ancient tools of spiritual formation. But just a heads-up here. Learning to “live beside the still waters” is still a work in progress for me and in some ways, my “busyness” in spiritual formation training is as hideous (if not more so!) as my “busyness” in pastoral ministry. So friends. Take it from me. The call to become one who learns to ‘live beside the still waters’ will never come easy to those who live, move and have our being in this crazy, busy world. But fear not. Just keep your eyes on Jesus and allow Him today to continue your personalized trek to those waters of rest! For His name’s sake!

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