My Top 5 Eugene Peterson Books

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In the wake of Peterson’s death I want to take a moment to mention some of my favorite books he authored.

Under the Unpredictable Plant – Peterson’s attempt to wrestle with and through a moment of personal ministerial turmoil through studying the life of Jonah. This is a move from career to true, God-given vocation. He addresses the minister’s feelings toward their congregation and calls us to a renewed since of purpose in the pastoral role. This is the perfect book for a minister going through burnout and needing some renewed focus.

The Contemplative Pastor – This is Peterson’s encouragement for ministers to turn from busyness to contemplation. It is about turning our focus from ourselves to others. To change from being the speaker to the listener and from being in the center to be in the margins. This is the move from being obsessed with our initiative and initiatives to God’s initiative and initiatives.

Working the Angles: the Shape of Pastoral Integrity – This book serves as a call back to a biblical, pastoral role in the congregation.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction – This book outlines principles and practices to help ministers have some longevity in ministry.

Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work – In this book, Peterson take the Megilloth (Ruth, Esther, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations) and applies them to pastoral ministry. The insights in this book are a must read for any minister. This was the book that inspired the theme of the Pepperdine Bible lectures a few years ago.

You can see from all of these books that Peterson had a real heart for pastoral ministry and leadership. Let’s pray that God raises up 100 more like him to continue to help educate and encourage church leaders into healthy spirituality and leadership roles and functions.

Honorable mention – The Pastor. I would have included this in the five above but I haven’t finished reading it yet. I have had so many people recommend this book that I believe it could be his most important work. Okay, I have to mention Eat This Book as well – it is his book on how to read the Bible. It was one of the first books (of many) I ever read on reading the Bible more effectively and I am indebted to Peterson every time I open the Bible. I would also be remiss if after teaching a series on how to better listen to God that I didn’t mention his book Answering God. That book has been so helpful to me to get more in tune with the Spirit.

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