Eugene Peterson on the Preaching of Jesus

One book I just started reading is Tell It Slant by Eugene Peterson (I’ve always loved Peterson; his book, The Contemplative Pastor, had a huge impact on me early on when I was in seminary, preparing for ministry).

The subtitle of Tell It Slant is, “a conversation on the language of Jesus in his stories and prayers.” In the opening chapter, Peterson focuses his attention on Jesus as a conversationalist, but in discussing the types of conversation Jesus used, he first mentions preaching and teaching. I was particularly interested in what he said about Jesus’ preaching …

Preaching is proclamation. Preaching announces what God is doing right here and now, at this time and in this place. It also calls hearers to respond appropriately. Preaching is the news, good news, that God is alive and present and in action. … Preaching is language that involves us personally with God’s action in the present. … Preaching reveals God in action here and now—for me. (11)

Preaching continues to be the basic language for conveying the revelation of God in Christ Jesus, spoken from street corners and pulpits all over the world: God alive, at work and speaking, here and now, for you and me. (12)

Good stuff. Preaching is not just talking about what God did in the past, but how he’s active in the present. And it calls for a response. It’s good news!

“Leading on Empty”

In 2006, Pastor Wayne Cordeiro gave a talk at the Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit called, Dead Leader Running. The talk struck a chord with me, at the time, and Cordeiro’s experience has stuck with me. In fact, when my ordeal began 19 weeks ago, it was one of the first things I thought of.

A couple of years ago, I picked up a copy of Cordeiro’s follow-up book, Leading on Empty, but I finally got around to reading it in the last several weeks. The book is very practical and offers tremendous help to all leaders, especially leaders who need replenishment!

Ironically, in early Methodist writings, former or retired pastors were often called “Worn-Out Preachers.” I just read a statistic this morning which revealed that only one in ten pastors will actually retire from the ministry. The reality is, all leaders need constant replenishment (see my last post, The Discipline of Replenishment).

One of the most helpful things from Cordeiro’s story is what he learned from his (Christian) psychologist about serotonin and adrenaline.

Here’s what his psychologist said …

Serotonin is a chemical like an endorphin. It’s a natural feel-good hormone. It replenishes during times of rest and then fuels you while you’re working. If, however, you continue to drive yourself without replenishing, your store of serotonin will be depleted. As a substitute, your body will be forced to replace the serotonin with adrenaline.

The problem is that adrenaline is designed for emergency use only. It’s like those doors in a restaurant that when opened cause an alarm to sound. Our problem, though, is that we use these pathways designed for emergency use only, but no alarm sounds. Not at first, anyway.

Should you continue to run on adrenaline, it will destroy your system. You will burn out sooner on the inside than you’re able to see on the outside. The fuel of adrenaline that keeps your engines running in the beginning will turn on you and destroy you in the end. (25-26)

The psychologist concludes, “The only way to finish strong will be to first replenish your system. If you don’t, prepare for a crash” (27). Cordeiro adds, “To finish strong, you must learn to rejuvenate your spirit early in your ministry” (33).

There are plenty of statistics which reveal that the physical and emotional health of pastors is in a state of trouble. No one is immune. Cordeiro contends, “Sooner or later every long-distance runner encounters the wall. Regardless of how well-trained the athlete, he will meet it one day, and he will meet it head on (34).”

Cordeiro’s discussion of depression should be helpful for those who experience depression. He lists some warning signs (60-64) …

  • Sense of hopelessness
  • Frequent tears
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decision making comes hard
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Lowered activity levels
  • Feeling alone
  • Lack of marital attraction
  • Eating disorders
  • Aches and pains

One of the great reminders for me is the need to focus more on spiritual health than on my leadership development. While I will always work on leadership development, spiritual health must always be my top priority. I love Cordeiro’s quote of Philip Yancey …

I wonder how much more effective our churches would be if we made the pastor’s spiritual health—not the pastor’s efficiency—our number one priority. (69)

Cordeiro goes in-depth on seven hard-learned lessons (113-143), but I’ll simply list them here …

  1. Do not overproduce.
  2. Steward your energy.
  3. Rest well.
  4. Exercise your way to recovery.
  5. Eating your way to a good life.
  6. Recharge daily.
  7. Fight for your family.

One of the most helpful parts of the book for me was Cordeiro’s discussion of daily, weekly, and monthly (or seasonal) activities. He lists prayer, exercise, planning, reading, and devotions as daily activities, in addition to a weekly sabbath. He also suggests a monthly personal retreat day. Joleen and I have done a monthly personal retreat day on occasion, but not in recent years. I can see the value of adding it back to our lives!

Perhaps the most important part of the book for me, though, is the challenge to discover what fills you and what drains you. Cordeiro says, “You need to know the difference” (89). He also admits, “The busier I became, the less time I had for activities that replenished me” (90). He goes on to warn, “You can get along for a while with ‘more drain that fill,’ but it will eventually catch up with you” (90).

Well, there’s a lot more in the book. But these are some of the highlights that impacted me the most. I hope it’s helpful to you!

The Discipline of Replenishment

Recently, I reviewed one of Bill Hybels’ talks from the 2011 Willow Creek Association Global Leadership Summit. In the talk, Hybels mentions the “discipline of replenishment.” Because of where I’m at right now, the phrase struck a chord.

Hybels says every leader needs to practice the discipline of replenishment. Otherwise, you’ll burn out.

While this phrase is new to me, it’s an issue I’ve been addressing lately. In recent months, I’ve written 3 Steps I’m Taking to Manage Stress Better. I’ve talked about engaging and disengaging. I’ve listed some Songs for the Valley. I’ve reflected on the book, Secrets From the Treadmill. And, I’ve listed Simple Techniques to Manage Stress.

At this point, my basic strategy of replenishment includes …

  • Time with God (prayer, Scripture, journaling)
  • Exercise
  • Rest
  • Play
  • Reading & Personal Growth
  • Diet & Nutrition

What do you do to replenish yourself? How do you practice the discipline of replenishment? Let me know in the comments below!

Celebrating 3 Years With Sarah

Three years ago, Joleen and I were in Seoul, Korea to pick up Sarah (see the day we met Sarah and first hours with Sarah). It’s one of the real highlights of our lives, a blessing for which we are eternally grateful!

Today, we celebrated Sarah’s third gotcha day by going to Fun Central, a local indoor play area, to play and eat pizza. Afterward, the kids enjoyed a cupcake at home.

Thank God for our family!

Blessings From Blogging

I was just reflecting on some of the unexpected blessings I’ve experienced because of blogging. At first, it was a place to post sermon notes. Then it became more of a resource for ministry and leadership, as well as a way for friends and family to keep up with what’s going on in our lives.

One of the real highlights for us was our adoption journey. The blog gave us a place to announce It’s a Boy! and It’s a Girl! And, we especially enjoyed blogging while in Korea during both trips to pick up Ethan in February 2008 and Sarah in October 2009. It was a great way to connect with people while we were 7,000 miles from home!

Another blessing is the occasional connections with descendants of Adolph Nussman, my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather and the first Lutheran pastor in North Carolina back in the late 1700s.

Most recently (in the last week), I was invited to write a book review for a research journal, after someone came across my post on the same book, The Recovery of a Contagious Methodist Movement, by Dr. George Hunter.

Sometimes I take blogging more seriously than other times. But I’m always grateful for the opportunities and connections it has provided!