I Really Should Apologize to My Old Professor, Jerram Barrs

(This is actually a repost from my old blog. Soon all these posts on Eugene Peterson will be all in one place.)

I took a class in Seminary class called “Pastoral Theology.” Actually I remember very little about it. A number of fellow students were into it. They loved the class. Me? Not so much. It was taught by Jerram Barrs and everyone sat in awe. I wanted REAL theology. This seemed sorta truncated and secondary. In that class he assigned a Eugene Peterson book.

I remember sitting outside of Edwards Hall on a bench facing in the direction of the bookstore and the upper parking lot. The library was on my left and I remember some traffic of students in front of me. It was after lunch and I was most likely waiting for a class to begin. This Peterson book was in my hands. I was reading it…kinda. Not really. My heart was not in it. The stories were compelling but I was not into it at all. It did not feel “Reformed” to me.

Stupid Feelings.

So here I am 8, 9 years later and I am wishing I had had a whole course simply mining that one book. Eugene Peterson is refreshing; a poet and a pastor…a pastor’s poet. A poet’s pastor. And Jerram Barrs is a genius for assigning the book. Although we should have been made to read the book. Eugene Peterson’s books for pastors are saving my vocational soul right now. I just wished they would have done so sooner.

Everything that young pastors are so geeked up about these days, Peterson was talking about 20 years ago.

Peterson was talking about God-centeredness before anyone.

Peterson was talking about ‘story’ before anyone.

Peterson was talking about the glory in the ordinariness of ministry before anyone.

Peterson was talking about the trend towards silliness in our spiritual lives before anyone.

Peterson was decrying the programmed nature of contemporary churches before anyone.

Peterson beat the drum of fighting against the commercialism of spirituality before anyone.

The whole time I am reading his books — my plan is to read through them all this year — I am laughing at how refreshingly original they were but no longer are. My wife is probably getting tired of me talking about them. I keep interrupting her own reading. You are probably wondering which book it is I should have read. He has at least 4 books for pastors. Actually it just doesn’t matter. You should read all of them. And I should apologize to Professor Barrs for not reading the book like I should have.

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