The Importance of Knowing Their Names

Eugene Peterson died last year.  He was known as the pastor’s pastor.  I started reading him in seminary (I can’t now recall how I found my way to him, as I don’t think he was assigned) and I will be forever grateful that I did.  His vision of pastoral ministry shaped mine, and whatever help I’ve been to others is due, in large part, to his influence.

In 2017 he gave an interview which has been recently published in CT online.  Here are a few highlights.  If pastors and, indeed, all Christians took his answers to heart, it would go a long way in helping the gospel flourish in our society.

“If you were training as a young pastor today, in what context would you be looking to minister?

“It would be local, relational. If you’re content to stay with one congregation for a while, you could have a congregation of four, five, six hundred, and still know everyone. I had a congregation of 600, and I knew everybody’s name.

“I don’t think you can help anyone live a congruent life without knowing their name. How can you be personally involved in someone’s life and not know who their children are, who their spouses are, or the trials they go through every day? It just doesn’t work …

“We live in a time when people are very skeptical of religion. They may even see it as dangerous. In that context, how can church leaders wield any sort of spiritual authority in a way that is faithful and credible?

“You have to start small. Invite people over for a meal, and just keep at it. People in our culture tend to be a little suspicious of anybody who takes interest in them. What are they trying to get out of me? We’re trying to find quick solutions for something that takes a lot of time. We’ve dug ourselves into a hole, and we’ve got to start filling the hole by forming relationships with our neighbors.”

You can read the entire interview here (subscription may be required).


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