This fall I’m thinking a lot about the Book of Jonah and pastoral ministry. Jonah, because I’m currently leading a sermon series based on the OT book. Pastoral ministry, because after 8 years of ordained parish ministry, it’s time to review my pastoral identity. Happily, both topics come together in Eugene Peterson’s book, Under the Unpredictable Plant (Eerdmans, 1992). I first read this book as a seminarian, and it cast a helpful vision for me of pastoral ministry. I just read it as an ordained pastor, and it continues to speak into my life. Peterson is concerned about the tendency of many pastors to leave their posts when trouble or boredom comes, to seek out easier or more prestigious pastoral opportunities. Sort of like Jonah, who fled to Tarshish, as he didn’t like God’s assignment to proclaim His message in Nineveh. He encourages pastors to stay in their local churches and grow. In order to do that, pastors need to rediscover a more traditional pastoral calling–that of spiritual director. Yes, someone needs to direct the programs of the church, but that someone should probably not be the pastor, who is called to proclaim God’s Word accurately and help people grow spiritually. But in order to do this well, a pastor must spend considerable time in God’s Word and prayer. So, how is this to be done in a culture that expects the pastor to be busy all of the time? Through the traditional means of spiritual growth: the weekly worship service, praying the Psalms, and praying Simple Prayers through the day. This is the foundation. The soil of our faith. But sometimes the soil of our hearts needs to be worked-up, which is done by the practice of various spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. Practices like spiritual reading, confession, Sabbath-keeping, retreats, etc. An effective model for spiritual formation, which I plan to practice. We’re not exactly sure what happens to Jonah. The story leaves us hanging. But I trust the Lord will use me as an imperfect local church pastor, like he used Jonah as an imperfect prophet. Peterson gets it right and helps me get it right as a pastor. I’m thankful for him. With his help and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I hope to remain fruitful as a pastor for the long haul. To God be the glory!