Saving Graces

by Dale Beaver

I hadn’t been at Dallas Seminary very long when I discovered that I had more to learn than I thought— and I already thought I had a whole lot to learn! My upbringing and college education had certainly helped, but there was a whole dynamic of pastoral leadership that was lost on me.

Leadership. It was a new buzzword for pastors. It was taken from the pages of a lot of books written by business leaders, and pastors were expected to exhibit the same traits. Strong, type-A leadership was seen as the great personality type for pastors, and I didn’t seem to measure up. I began to doubt whether or not I should even pursue ministry full-time if that was the type of man for the ministry. My bucolic experience didn’t seem to prepare me for church work as much as I had proudly maintained.

Enter Eugene Peterson. You might know him as the man who translated the Scriptures into what we call "The Message." However you may feel about that particular translation, I can tell you that his books on pastoral ministry and discipleship became a saving grace for me while I was in seminary. It would not be a stretch to say that Eugene Peterson was a voice that kept me in seminary. My favorite book on discipleship is one that he has written called “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” It’s been around for a long time, but I always love to reread it every other year or so— and I would love to recommend it to you.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.

People submerged in a culture swarming with lies and malice feel as if they are drowning in it: they can trust nothing they hear, depend on no one they meet. Such dissatisfaction with the world as it is preparation for traveling in the way of Christian discipleship. The dissatisfaction, coupled with a longing for peace and truth, can set us on a pilgrim path of wholeness in God. 

Have a great weekend,
Dale Beaver