Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson

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UnderUnpredictablePlantI regret not reading more from Eugene Peterson after reading his book “Under the Predictable Plant”. After 30+ years of ministry, he writes this book back to address many of the issues he faced through his early years in ministry, wishing someone had written this for him at that time. He shares his thoughts primarily through the lens of the story of Jonah and calls his readers to “vocational holiness”…to embrace a life of ministry that is coherent and where personal and professional spirituality go hand in hand.

Peterson doesn’t hold much back in this book. In his usual colorful language, he tells stories from his childhood that impacted his spiritual formation and understanding of what ministry is all about. He tells stories from his early days in ministry, his misconceptions and is very real about his own humanity and fallibility.The story about him making things up about his failings in ministry to his accountability board and them not responding is worth the price of the book…you will have to read that one for yourself. Priceless but sad.

This book is a call back to reality and back to the fertile ground of local ministry…loving and appreciating the people we minister with, learning not to resent people, God or the church…and beginning to see the exciting in the seemingly mundane.

This is one of those books that I could have underlined the things I didn’t want to remember as it would have taken less time. I would encourage every single minister to read this book, especially those in their first 3-5 years of ministry. You won’t regret it. There are so many stories I would love to recount from this book and so many points that his me right between the eyes…but I will leave that for you to discover on your own.

This may be the best book on local, pastoral ministry I have ever read.


One Response

  1. I haven’t read the book, but from your introduction to it I sense that there was a very acute fear of failure within Mr. Peterson. I can relate to that. I am sixty four years old, and it has been twenty nine years since I left the ministry; but emotionally there are times, though only small bits, when it feels like only twenty nine days.

    I was raised very strict by my parents; of course, that did not stop me from a “sneaking around rebellion”. But the strictness, along with the message I heard day in, day out, that it was sin to question authority, made me fearful of standing up to elders and older members; so, I pretended all was well until I either had to leave or collapse. I made the decision, for my health and peace of mind, to leave the ministry. I now live a happy, grateful life within God’s grace that has led me, I believe, to a richer understanding of life as I meet it day by day.

    Like I said, I haven’t read the book. But I hope there is a message within its pages for young preachers to trust their own spiritual instincts, and not be ruled by fear.

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