SUMMARY OF CHAPTER ONE OF “UNDER THE UNPREDICTABLE PLANT” BY EUGENE H. PETERSON

I like reading the book mentioned above and here is the summary of chapter one of this book. I you like the summary, buy this book and read it all. You can get it on amazon also.

We presume that being a pastor is being spiritual as a result we create a great abyss in us. We work so had to show spirituality to fit our vocation instead of working for our spirituality before vocation to avoid being like dives in hell. We sometimes abandon our vocation for religious job. We work towards satisfying a customer other than being honest on ourselves. We kills our spirituality but able to give life to our followers. We become economists other than pastors.

Vocational idolatry
Where the name of God is mentioned the committee is formed. We want gods that are not God so we can “be as gods”. Pietism does not guarantee true pastoral work. Holiness is not banal but a blazing. Pastoral work is not a career but a ministry.

The Jonah Story
The story of Jonah is a parable and a story. The first movement in the story shows Jonah disobedience; the second one shows his obedience. In both, Jonah fails and never got it right.

Escape to Tarshish
Tarshish (Gilbraltar or Spain or some place in that direction. Jonah’s journey was initiated by God. He somehow obeyed by not ignoring it and continues staying in Joppa but chose another destination, Tarshish. Jonah uses the command of the Lord to avoid the presence of the Lord (1:3). Why would one flee from the presence of the Lord when it is a wonderful place to be? As in Eden, the experience of God sometimes is accompanied by a temptation to be God. Being loved by God is twisted into a lust to God-performance. We want to blow out the face of God, flee from His presence and seek a place where I can develop pride and acquire power. We first seek the face of the Lord but when we have it we get tempted to be it (Mt. 4:1-11). Instead of speaking for God, pastors begin to act godlike. They flee from the presence of the Lord because that is where their pretence may be exposed. The sins of the flesh are easily recognised but the sins of the spirit are difficult to discern (e.g. deception mostly in church leader). Those who deceive others are first deceived because it was not their intent to deceive. These happen because of lack of spiritual counsel to our leaders.

Why Tarshish and not Nineveh? Because Neniveh was ruined by unhappy history. Going to Neniveh was not a good preference for a Hebrew prophet. Tarshish was beautiful and exotic/adventure. We accept the calling but we tell God, but not this way but that way. We want to have a religious career without having a deal with God. Pastoral work is not like that. It has routine tasks like farming such as weeding clearing etc. in pastoral work, Nineveh is our congregation. They are hard to deal with. Like Moses, in congregation, there are gossips furnaces that malfunctions sermons, disciples who quit, choirs that go flat and worse etc. every congregation are sinners and they have a sinner for a pastor. Others cheats that we are not doing well in ministry because of the type of congregation and we start abandoning one congregation for another making the devil smile for our lack of patience.

Stay where you are
In St Benedict’s century, monks some Christians were committed to be monks but others were leaving one monastery to set for another for more holiness. Was it really God they were after or they were avoiding God who was revealing himself to them? Because of continuous movement of monks from one monastery for another, Benedict introduced a vow of stability: stay where you are. A pastor must learn to live with his darkness, with interior horror, or temptation and fantasies. Pastoral ministry is not a career but a calling. The congregation is not a job site to be abandoned when a better offer comes along, but a location for our spiritual maturity and vocational holiness.

Ecclesiastical Pornography
Pastoral work is not to be portrayed as being chaplain to tourists on the religious sea to Tarshish. “Church glamorisation is ecclesiastical pornography-making photographs (skilfully airbrushed) or drawing pictures of congregation that are without spot or wrinkle”, to attract you to abandon your wife (congregation) for another like such. Pastorate is not the only ministry but those who are called into it accept the nature and conditions of this work. God is also found in suffering (I didn’t want to write this) no church congregation was perfect; neither in OT nor in NT but the church grew to today. Certain person come with designs to improve matters, purify the church and make it what will advertise to the world the attractiveness of the kingdom. They later construct the version of the church that is well behaved and efficiently organised and see no need for God. Do not expect smoothness in ministry.

The travel agent in Joppa
You sometimes find people who don’t fit in already established congregation, misfits. These are the people you are to be their pastor. You wouldn’t wish to be their pastor, but they are given to you. They are your Nineveh and your imagined congregation which may be your Tarshish. Through frustrations you keep on going to travel agent in Joppa to purchase a ticket for Tarshish. Go to Nineveh where God has called you to. The congregation may not be cooperative or what you planned may not work and you get frustrated but carry on. Each time you try to go to Tarshish, things will not work because God has called you to Nineveh. Don’t waste time for Tarshish dream. Your Nineveh may be your hard times you meet in ministry but carry on. There are many ministries you can shift to but geographical stability is not biblical goal.

Jonah obedience
The second movement of Jonah consisted of obedience. After being rescued by fish he went ahead to preach in Nineveh as he was commanded by God but in anger. He is worse than he was disobedient. He betrayed the spirit of God by his anger and vindictiveness. Jonah hated and despised Nineveh.

Professionalised obedience
After failing to go to Nineveh, he preaches in Nineveh with professionalism without seeking the presence of God. By God’s grace people repented but he never cared about them but valued his preaching. Destruction of this city to Jonah would be better off than God forgiving them. Many are the time we do what we do as pastors as if we are obeying God when we want the congregation to recognise us. When they respond to God and not to our expectation we become angry. It is while we are being good that we really become bad. Our obedience substitute our will for God’s because we suppose they are identical. We develop pastoral hubris (pride), arrogance and insensitivity to the “least of these brethren, the poorest of the poor” and what in Jonah are named as “persons who do not know their right hand from the left, and also much cattle”.(4:11). In his disobedience, Jonah at least had passion on the sailor in the ship and offered to be thrown in water to save them but not when we obeyed and went to Nineveh.

The kind of pastor we in fact are
The happy ending in this is that in both obedience and disobedience Jonah saved the people. When the Ninevites turned from their evil God did not destroy it as he said (3:10). In our disobedience and heartless obedience, God works his will that can’t even get credit for it. E.g. running away from ministry, get employed somewhere and God uses you to save your workmates.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: