Here on Internet Monk, Michael has made no secret of the fact that he is a huge fan of pastor, author, and professor Eugene Peterson. And I am right there with him in my admiration of Peterson’s writings.
If you would like to go back and read some of what Michael has said about the man and his writings, here are some posts from the iMonk archives about Peterson:
- March 4, 2005
- August 22, 2007
- January 31, 2008
- Sabbatical Journal I
- Sabbatical Journal continued
- Sabbatical Journal conclusion
Though best known in popular circles as the author of The Message paraphrase of the Bible, it is Peterson’s earlier works on what it means to be a pastor and his devotional books and Bible studies that I have long loved and treasured as encouragements for my spiritual life and ministry.
The other day I received my copy of Eugene Peterson’s new book, Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ. In this work, Peterson has his readers contemplate the message of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to help us learn what it means to, “grow up to the full stature of Christ.”
This is the final book in Peterson’s “Conversations on Spiritual Theology” series. Each book is deeply insightful and well worth reading. The other four are:
- Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology
- Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading
- The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways that Jesus Is the Way
- Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers
I plan to put up several posts on what Eugene Peterson has to say in Practice Resurrection. I hope you will join the conversation.
In my view, Eugene Peterson has been one of the most thoughtful and eloquent critics of American Christianity. In the introduction to Practice Resurrection, he takes on the subject of how we have handled spiritual growth.
We cannot overemphasize bringing men and women to new birth in Christ. Evangelism is essential, critically essential. But is it not obvious that growth in Christ is equally essential? Yet the American church has not treated it with an equivalent urgency. The American church runs on the euphoria and adrenaline of new birthâ€”getting people into the church, into the kingdom, into causes, into crusades, into programs. We turn matters of growing up over to Sunday school teachers, specialists in Christian education, committees to revise curricula, retreat centers, and deeper life conferences, farming it out to parachurch groups for remedial assistance. I don’t find pastors and professors, for the most part, very interested in matters of formation in holiness. They have higher profile things to tend to.
Americans in general have little tolerance for a centering way of life that is submissive to the conditions in which growth takes place: quiet, obscure, patient, not subject to human control and management. The American church is uneasy in these conditions. Typically, in the name of “relevance,” it adapts itself to the prevailing American culture and is soon indistinguishable from that culture: talkative, noisy, busy, controlling, image-conscious.
…Not long ago a pastor who has made an art form of pole vaulting from church to church told me that I was wasting my time on this, there was no challenge to it, it was about as exciting as standing around watching paint dry.
I suggested to him that most of our ancestors in both Israel and church have spent most of their time watching the paint dry, that the persevering, patient, unhurried work of growing up in Christ has occupied the center of the church’s life for centuries, and that this American marginalization is, well, American. He dismissed me. He needed, he said, a challenge. I took it from his tone and manner that a challenge was by definition something that could be met and accomplished in forty days. That’s all the time, after all, that it took Jesus.
For far too long now, with full backing from our culture, we have let the vagaries of our emotional needs call the shots. For too long we have let ecclesiastical market analysis set the church’s agenda. For too long we have stood by unprotesting as self-appointed experts on the Christian life have replace the “full stature of Christ” with desiccated stick figures.
That’s a powerful critique.
Peterson’s counter-cultural answer is for the church to “practice resurrection,” to learn to walk with Jesus in a reality that is not of our own making or controlling.
I can’t wait to see what he has to say. Hope you’ll join the journey and the conversation.