Eugene Peterson was asked in an interview to give his thoughts about the pace of ministry. Here is what he said:
It’s odd: We live in this so-called postmodernist time, and yet so much of the public image of the church is this rational, management-efficient model. If the postmodernists are right, that model is passe; it doesn’t work anymore. In that sense, I find myself quite comfortably postmodern. I think pastors need to cultivate “unbusyness.”
My father was a butcher. When he delivered meat to restaurants, he would sit at the counter, have a cup of coffee, and waste time. But that time was critical for building relationships, for doing business.
Some pastors don’t wander around. They don’t waste time. Their time is too valuable. They run to the tomb, and it’s empty, so they run back. They never see resurrection.
To be unbusy, you have to disengage yourself from egos—both yours and others’—and start dealing with souls. Souls cannot be hurried.
Peterson makes two statements the ring true to me and reach deep into my heart. First, “pastors need to cultivate ‘unbusyness.'” I have found through the years that the pastor has become more of a CEO, than a shepherd or mentor. Even the pastor friends I have now can sometimes get so busy that they get caught up in decision-making processes that have already been assigned to a team or committee.
Secondly, Peterson makes the point that “pastors don’t wander around. They don’t waste time.” He makes a good point because we live in a corporate culture that says, “I better get a bang for my buck.” Unfortunately, in ministry this puts a lot of pressure on pastors, or spiritual leaders to perform and always look busy. The focus is removed from developing relationships and moved to increasing bottoms on seats. The danger with this situation is that it inflates the ego and erodes the foundation of the local church by placing church growth on the pastor. It can also change the local and global mission of the church. The truth is, Eugene is right, we do need to disengage ourselves from the egos that would have us as Christ-followers trying to impress ourselves and others. The truest and most effective ministry is developed through relationships and we all know relationships take time. We know that the best motive in a relationship is to encourage healthy growth in the other (i.e., spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical).
I have to say I agree with Eugene Peterson, “Souls cannot be hurried.”