1) Begin Ministry In God’s Presence. Begin the ministerial vocation delighting in the presence of the Lord. Unlike Jonah, we must not flee away from the presence of the Lord. We must not turn away from our uncomfortable calling to the pagan Ninevites for a more illustrious calling to Tarshish where we can develop pride and acquire power. We must be drawn toward, be attracted to, and go where God calls us. It is there we will find joyful fulfillment of our calling.
2) Stay Where You Are. Citing that it was not unusual for monks to leave one monastery to set our for another “more challenging” monastery, Peterson wonders, “Was it really more of God they were after or were they avoiding the God who was revealing Himself to them?” (p. 20).
Apparently, Peterson is not the only one with valid suspicions. So was Saint Benedict. To those who were “sure” that if they just got into the right monastery, things would be better, Benedict said, “stay where you are.” Hence, the Benedictine “Vow Of Stability.”
The “norm for pastoral work is stability,” Peterson notes. “Twenty, thirty, and forty year-long pastorates should be typical among us (as they once were) and not exceptional. Far too many pastors change parishes out of adolescent boredom, not as a consequence of mature wisdom. When this happens, neither pastors nor congregations have access to the conditions that are hospitable to maturity in faith” (p. 29).
3) Think “Vocation,” Not “Advancement.” Citing a parallel between the monastery and the congregation, Peterson urges pastors to “detach themselves from the careerism mind-set that has been so ruinous to pastoral vocations” (p. 21). Begin to see your congregation as a location–the location–into which God has placed you so that you might have a “spiritually maturing life and ministry….The congregation is not a job site to be abandoned when a better offer comes along” (p. 21).
4) Think “Transformation”, Not Just “Results.” God may not be so much interested in the numbers, growth, and institutional success of a given congregation as he is in the spiritual transformation which the numbers, growth and institutional success hopefully reflect. The focus, however, is always the spiritual transformation of each individual, encouraging the process of spiritual growth, and helping the people in the pew find God in their suffering. This transformation must start with the pastor.
5) Think “Imperfect Church” Not “Perfect Church.” Peterson has much to say of the imperfect groupings of people in God’s church. Of the ancient Israelites Peterson remarks, “Nothing in Israel strikes me as terrifically attractive….A bare sixty or seventy years after Pentecost we have an account of seven churches that shows about the same quality of holiness and depth of virtue found in any ordinary parish in America today. In two thousand years of practice we haven’t gotten any better. You would think we would have, but we haven’t. (p. 24)
6) Think “Christ”…First And Always In Everything. That was St. Paul’s advice to the Colossians. “Christ first in everything!” For Peterson, this means that “every time we open up a church door and take a careful, scrutinizing look inside we find them there again–sinners. [But we also see] Christ. Christ in the preaching, Christ in the sacraments, but inconveniently and embarrassingly mixed into this congregation of sinners” (p. 24).