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The Pastor: A Memoir

4.36  ·  Rating Details ·  1,618 Ratings  ·  226 Reviews

In The Pastor, Eugene H. Peterson, the translator of the multimillion-selling The Message and the author of more than thirty books, offers his life story as one answer to the surprisingly neglected question: What does it mean to be a pastor?

When Peterson was asked by his denomination to begin a new church in Bel Air, Maryland, he surprised himself by saying yes. And so

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by HarperOne (first published February 2nd 2011)
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Jul 27, 2011 Bethany rated it it was amazing
I can't say I've ever before considered the distinction between an autobiography and a memoir. But reading them simultaneously, I can see the difference and fell in love with memoir style. It's more heart than head, more process than fact.

The only thing I really knew of Eugene Peterson before this book was his role in translating The Message. Through this book, I got a glimpse into the person and the process, the things that formed him and prepared the way.

I love that he started on a path (neve
Demetrius Rogers
Apr 10, 2011 Demetrius Rogers rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite quotes is by Amos Bronson Alcott. He once said, "That is a good book which is opened with expectation, and closed with delight and profit." Well, I found a book that thoroughly meets that description. Although I had never read any of his stuff, I had heard that Eugene Peterson's books were excellent. The moment I heard of this one, I knew I had to pick it up, and boy, I'm glad I did. Peterson held me spell bound for the last couple of weeks. I am in the process of finishing up ...more
May 05, 2016 Mark rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this down. Peterson is such an approachable and compelling writer, but paradoxically, he has such prophetic insight and imagination. His message and call are far from comfortable, but they are communicated with such winsomeness and honesty that it is hard not be drawn in.
This is a very unusual memoir - he's open - but keeps the focus very clear on ministry. This seems to me a brilliant solution to the problem of Christian autobiography. As such it is simply an extension of his rol
Georgia Herod
Dec 26, 2015 Georgia Herod rated it really liked it
A friend passed this book along to me because she was sure I'd enjoy it. As a pastor's wife for nearly 35 years, I've been immersed in the life and ministry of a pastor who has planted churches, as well as led in growing them in both numbers and spiritual maturity. I was eager to read Peterson's memoir because of my having known about other books he'd written and having read and used The Message, his translation of the Greek and Hebrew texts into everyday American English. I was not disappointed ...more
Jan 09, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, ministry, 2016
Dear pastor Pete. Thank you. For who you are, and how you have walked and stayed true to the journey of discovering "pastor" in the truest sense.

Your words and your life find resonance in my soul, in my imagination and I know that the stories book will serve as markers along the way, whispering "here is the way, walk in it."

I feel like I could sit at the feet of Grandad Eugene, and listen to the same stories over and over again - and still be raptured.


I wonder if at the root of the defectio
Mark Spyker
Jun 01, 2016 Mark Spyker rated it it was amazing
I just loved this book! Many of the early chapters had been covered to an extent in some of his earlier books, but it was wonderful to finally get an overview of the ministry which I think has impacted my own more than any other writer! Perhaps it is Peterson's exegesis of scripture which is most impressive - Run with the Horses (Jeremiah); A long obedience in the same direction (Psalms of Ascent); Leap over a Wall (David in Samuel); Reversed Thunder (Revelation); Traveling Light (Galatians); et ...more
Jimmy Reagan
May 06, 2014 Jimmy Reagan rated it it was amazing
Given to me as a gift from a friend, this volume by Eugene Peterson is a book every pastor needs to read. Don’t overlook biography or memoirs as a source of great insight into the ministry, and such is the case here. The beauty of this book is what parts of his life he chronicled. Much is left out as only those events that in some way shaped him as a pastor are told. The wisdom comes from those events that he saw as shaping him. Even better, is the wisdom he distills for us from those events!

Mar 23, 2014 Jkanz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-read, 2015, 2017
The Pastor: A Memoir (2012) by Eugene Peterson is a remarkable book, full of wisdom and beauty. Undoubtedly, Peterson is a storyteller, one who draws the reader into his reflections on a lifetime as a pastor, not as a job, but as a true vocation. From his early life in mountains of Montana to his later aspirations to become a professor, to the transition to becoming a pastor, he paints a thousand pictures with his words.

I said recently that I would like to put this book into the hand of every p
Mar 02, 2013 Kirk rated it it was amazing
Reading this is an amazing opportunity for any pastor who wants a reflective look of someone who took a church start to lasting community, authored many books, taught many students (including myself) and, oh, by the way, translated the Bible in to contemporary American language to make it more tangible and in doing so, created one of the best selling stories of God. Yet, Pastor Eugene concludes with a letter in which he wrote, "... it strikes me right now as curious that I have almost no sense o ...more
J.E. Jr.
Feb 16, 2011 J.E. Jr. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: pastors, church members, church leaders
Recommended to J.E. by: Matt Redmond, Lee Ferguson
As expected, this book was excellent. Peterson’s honesty about his own humble path to becoming the pastor he was and is, in his simple description of how it came to pass, makes it seem that God could guide any pastor along a similar path. And in fact, that’s the point: our work and vocation as pastors is not all that different from one another, and Peterson’s portrayal of the life he has lived, and the lessons he has learned, as a pastor is not meant to be self-aggrandizing, but affirming of oth ...more
Josh Hopping
May 25, 2011 Josh Hopping rated it it was amazing
Drawing from 30 years of experience as the pastor of a small 300 member church in Maryland, Peterson shares the tough times and the good times, the happy times and the not-so-happy times. And even better, he calls pastors to be pastors instead of managers or councilors or entertainers.

“I was not primarily dealing with people as problems. I was a pastor calling them to worship God….Congregations is a company of people who are defined by their creation in the image of God, living souls, whether t
Dec 01, 2011 Nicki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of memoirs/biography
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audio, there is so much depth to it that it can be listened to many times. I loved hearing the stories from Eugene Peterson’s childhood in Montana and as he got to grips with becoming a pastor. I love his honesty with the things he’s struggled with in his vocation, I also liked the way he described the changing face of the church in America through the years he was pastoring.
I had only heard of him in connection with ‘The Message Bible‘, so its been an fas
Teri Peterson
Jul 06, 2011 Teri Peterson rated it really liked it
I loved how easy this was to read. I loved the trip down nostalgia-lane about the days when starting a new church would go the way it did for him. I loved the reflections on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, to be a member of a church, to be a pastor. Of course, his understanding of "pastor" is in some ways bound to his generation and to the ways of being church that were common 50 years ago, but many of his reflections are as current now as they would have been when he first started out. ...more
Feb 08, 2015 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Eugene Peterson is the author of The Message version of the Bible. Having grown up believing that the King James Version was the ONLY version worth reading, I resisted reading The Message for quite some time. I did read another book by Eugene Peterson some time ago and was super impressed. Recently, though, I have been so enjoying the Message version of the Bible. So I decided to find out more about the life of this amazing guy - I mean seriously, can you imagine translating the WHOLE Bible??? L ...more
Jan 26, 2013 Margie rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, spirituality
I recommend this to anyone who has a pastor or is a pastor - men, women, in association with a church or ministering to others in everyday ways. He quietly traces his life and what shaped him from boyhood to somewhere near the end of his journey. (I think he is in his 80s.) He shares both wisdom and pitfalls - teaching from both his head and his heart. I want to listen to pilgrims like Peterson - they lead us, cheer us, encourage us to keep on.
Robert D. Cornwall
It's a good book, and likely a necessary read for pastors. I'll have more to say in a longer review, but while I find a condescending attitude at times, he does lift up important elements of the pastoral life.

For a full review, check here.
Tamara Murphy
Jan 08, 2016 Tamara Murphy rated it it was amazing

Re-reading this personally life-changing and wonderful memoir that manages to both comfort and motivate us. Here's the particular reason I felt the need to re-read right now: Waiting for our next step.
Wendy C
Jun 19, 2012 Wendy C rated it it was amazing
I really liked his candor and I also like the way he writes and thinks. He will not give you the "evangelical" party line but is orthodox. He always has insights that make me think about things differently. Glad he writes...I need more writers like him !
Thomas Ferguson
Oct 06, 2016 Thomas Ferguson rated it it was amazing
Inspiring. Vulnerable. Humble. Beautiful. Insightful. Wise. Passionate.

I loved this book.
Matt Bailey
Mar 14, 2017 Matt Bailey rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone in the vocation of Pastoral ministry.
Scott Guillory
Jan 05, 2017 Scott Guillory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic! A paradigm-shifting book. A beautiful, mysterious, endearing look into the life of a pastor.
Sarah Klaassen
May 22, 2014 Sarah Klaassen rated it liked it
In this meandering memoir, Eugene Peterson invites us to take the long view. In a world of instant gratification, individualized priorities, and getting things done, this prolific writer tells the story of how he developed a pastoral imagination rooted in the art (and skill) of slowing down and paying attention.

From the early days learning the trade in his father’s Montana butcher shop, Peterson writes of the many ways he realized his life’s work, to attend more “to what God does than what I do
Gavin Breeden
Feb 17, 2011 Gavin Breeden rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-reads
Eugene Peterson has had quite a profound impact on my life as a pastor simply because he wrote the excellent book, "The Contemplative Pastor," which came to me at exactly the right moment in life and I've since re-read multiple times. It gave me a perspective on ministry that I didn't know existed and it really helped confirm my own calling to the pastoral vocation. I don't agree with Peterson on everything (in fact, we disagree on some fairly big issues) and I haven't agreed with every word of ...more
Christine Keegan
Mar 10, 2017 Christine Keegan rated it it was amazing
awesome memoir.
Ernesto Alaniz
Feb 24, 2017 Ernesto Alaniz rated it liked it
This was a very uneven read for me. I am an artistic sort, and I like a good meandering walk through a life. But I guess if a life is small, I want it to be paired with the most beautiful of prose. And this had neither.

There were times when the author would speak about his views of reality, and then I would sit up and take notice. His observations were astute and had some real conviction behind them. So much so that I thought the book was going to be a meditation on the life in the pastoral min
Josh Morgan
Apr 27, 2011 Josh Morgan rated it it was amazing
This review first appeared on my blog, Jacob's Café (

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an initial review of Eugene Peterson's memoir, The Pastor. I have finally finished it and absolutely loved it. While I am not in the role of professional clergy, this book hit home to me. If you want to know what my heart is as a psychologist and where I find meaning in life, read this book.

Peterson's book is a perfect example of how amazing of a writer he is. His prose becomes beautiful
Feb 24, 2017 Daniel rated it it was amazing
I needed this book.
Ben McFarland
Oct 08, 2013 Ben McFarland rated it liked it
In a way, Eugene Peterson has been a pastor to me. I first read his books (and "The Message," his translation of the Bible) when I came to Seattle and joined my church 16, 17 years ago now. Peterson's words are tangled up with my own pastor's words and I'm sure mixed up at some point. I used to seek out "The Message" to use in Bible readings for the congregation or Sunday School. Because I associate Peterson's writing with my own translocation to the Northwest, I found it particularly fitting th ...more
Duane Henry
Sep 16, 2016 Duane Henry rated it really liked it
This is a great book for people who want to learn about pastors or who are pastors themselves. Peterson uses a fairly easy but creatively articulate style to share his story and it is more of a story than a lecture or a how to book. I think it's important for people to grasp what their spiritual leaders are going through and this book is the best that I've read in a long time, if ever, on the subject. It may appear slow to some readers, particularly those who are younger and of a certain persona ...more
May 22, 2011 John rated it liked it
This is a fine, beautifully written memoir by Eugene Peterson, best known for his "The Message" translations of the Bible. But it gets a little boring. Peterson has lived a meaningful, impactful life, but not one that necessarily makes for interesting reading. It is more interesting reading about his life BEFORE he settled in as a pastor than about his life AFTER.
Actually, his childhood in Montana is the most interesting part. Here's an excerpt from when he was in first grade. He was being bulli
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Eugene H. Peterson is a pastor, scholar, author, and poet. For many years he was James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College. He also served as founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. He has written over thirty books, including Gold Medallion Book Award winner The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language a contemporary translation of t ...more
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“The vocation of pastor(s) has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.” 17 likes
“Classically, there are three ways in which humans try to find transcendence--religious meaning--apart from God as revealed through the cross of Jesus: through the ecstasy of alcohol and drugs, through the ecstasy of recreational sex, through the ecstasy of crowds. Church leaders frequently warn against the drugs and the sex, but at least, in America, almost never against the crowds.” 9 likes
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