The Passing of Eugene Peterson

This week the world lost a great pastor, writer, and thinker on Monday with the passing of Eugene Peterson. (You can read more HERE). That name may not mean much to you, but he was significant to me on my spiritual journey. A professor at school required us to read his book, “The Contemplative Pastor” as a class assignment. That book would help me to think more clearly about ministry and was a significant first step into the world of a pastor.

Over the years that followed, I would read many of the books he wrote, and one of them played a special role in my life. A group of students met with a local pastor to discuss books and knowing that I enjoyed Peterson’s material, they invited me to attend. Over the next several months I poured myself into the book, “Under the Unpredictable Plant” at the weekly gatherings. As the interest of the group waned, mine increased, and I asked that pastor to mentor me through other books for the next two years. Those weekly meetings with Kyle shaped my heart and mind in unique and wonderful ways.

In the years since college, I have collected more of Peterson’s books, but nothing has rivaled his paraphrase of the original Biblical languages into The Message. It has served as a blessing in my ministry and to help me think through the Bible in everyday language. Whenever I feel stuck in scripture reading, a quick turn to The Message has enabled me to understand the difficult texts. It has also challenged me to work at making the Bible understandable for others.

Peterson has stood as a giant on the religious landscape of the United States over the last 30 years, and his passing is mourned by many, including me. This week I have read all kinds of tributes and thoughts about his life and ministry. They have blessed me while serving as a reminder of the significance one life can have over another.

Today I read a post that asked the question, “Who will be the next Peterson?” While I appreciate the question and wonder who will rise to promote a Godly life rooted in the spiritual disciplines, I also think about the unknown ways God uses us. I never met Eugene Peterson, other than through his written words, and yet he touched my life. His work also served as a tool to open discussions with another minister that molded my ministry.

Your life, whether you like it or not, is making an impact for God. Your actions, your words, the things you post on the internet, your volunteer service along with everything you do for the Lord are sending a message. You have the potential to impact people you have never met. You have the power to mold and shape people in profound ways by using how God has gifted you. While I like the question, I am not really worried about who will be the next Peterson. What concerns me is more personal, “Whose life will feel my impact like the one I felt from Eugene Peterson?” Whose life will be shaped by you and me?

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