A Pastoral Reformation: The Care & Cure of Souls.

Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:

A reformation may be in process in the way pastors do their work. It may turn out to be as significant as the theological reformation of the sixteenth century. I hope so. The signs are accumulating. The vocational reformation of our own time (if it turns out to be that) is a rediscovery of the pastoral work of the cure of souls. The phrase sounds antique. It is antique. But it is not obsolete. It catches up and coordinates, better than any other expression I am aware of, the unending warfare against sin and sorrow and the diligent cultivation of grace and faith to which the best pastors have consecrated themselves in every generation. Discovering the meaning of Scripture, developing a life of prayer, guiding growth into maturity. This is the pastoral work that is historically termed the cure of souls. The primary sense of ‘cura’ in Latin is ‘care’, with undertones of ‘cure’. The soul is the essence of the human personality. The cure of souls, then, is the Scripture-directed, prayer-shaped care that is devoted to persons singly or in groups, in settings sacred and profane. It is a determination to work at the center, to concentrate on the essential.  Eugene Peterson (from Chapter Six, The Contemplative Pastor pp.65-66)


Keep in mind that these words you have just read were written back in 1989.

A then-57-year old Presbyterian pastor, after serving nearly 30 years in one congregation, was calling in the wilderness for a reformation of the pastoral ministry across America.

Did we listen?

Eugene Peterson, now deceased, must look down from heaven at what he called “the Americanized church” here in the early part of the twenty-first century, and wonder if the reformation he wrote about back then has actually progressed or, God-forbid, stalled out? I guess the answer to that question quite honestly lies in the hearts and souls of us pastors and church leaders who are still serving at our posts today.

And speaking of our hearts and souls, has your soul been cured yet?

Has it undergone the ‘caring-curing’ process Peterson speaks of here?

Has God brought to you yet His priority of re-discovering the meaning of life and ministry in and through the Scriptures?

Has your soul been convicted yet that a fresh re-discovery of His written Word will eventually lead us busy, over-worked pastors into ones who will intentionally choose to live unbusy, uncluttered lives of prayer, listening and responding to God’s voice of manifest agape?

Has your increased communion with Him through Scripture and prayer guided you to real Kingdom growth that leads to levels of wisdom and maturity found only in Christ?

Tough questions, huh?

Or are you a lot like me, where much of my last thirty years in ministry has been a singular focus on ‘doing church well’ or ‘running my church successfully’ in order to accomplish goals that are birthed more from personal ambition and drive, rather than being ‘born from above?’

The care and cure of souls.

How strange is the sound of these ancient words.

‘Doing church.’

‘Going on missional assignments.’

‘Working the 3-B’s of church life where success is defined in (B)uildings, (B)ucks & (B)utts.’

Now those phrases are meaningful to our ears. But the care and cure of souls?

As I see it, Peterson was spot on correct when he called for this radical reformation in pastoral ministry across this land. But alas, will we, in this time and place, respond to this ancient call?

My prayer: Father, a prophet-pastor named Eugene Peterson called for a reformation of the pastoral ministry back in 1989. Only You know where we are today in reference to that much-needed reformation. As for me and the remainder of my days, I choose to step away from what one author calls “Church, Inc.” and give my heart, soul, strength, and mind to the ancient practice of the care and cure of souls. One sheep at a time. One heart at a time. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: What will it look like for me to join this reformation of the pastoral ministry Peterson called for? What obstacles are in my way? What new ways of doing pastoral ministry need to be introduced in order for me to join with this ancient work of “Scripture-directed, prayer-shaped care that is devoted to persons singly or in groups, in settings sacred and profane?”

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…

3 thoughts on “A Pastoral Reformation: The Care & Cure of Souls.

  1. Pingback: The Apocalyptic Pastor: Keep Showing Up. | The Contemplative Activist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.