Honest Christianity – Pastor Maybe


One of our resources for our blogging has been people and places that encourage our honest reflections and going the distance. I am currently reading the memoirs of Eugene Peterson. He is perhaps most well known for his work on the Message Bible.

It is a very readable book and in the early chapters he looks at key times, places, people and situations that shaped, directed and clarified his calling as a Pastor.  I have fallen in love with one of his ideas which gave me a new insight into ministry:

The ways in which the vocation of the pastor is conceived, develops, and comes to birth is unique to each pastor.  The only modifier I can think of that might be useful in honouring the ambiguity and mystery involved in the working life of the pastor is ‘maybe’.  Anne Tyler a few years ago wrote a novel with the title Saint Maybe.  How about Pastor Maybe? That would serve both as a disclaimer to expertise (that if we could just copy the right model, we would have it down) and a ready reminder of the unavoidable ambiguity involved in this vocation.  Pastor Maybe:  given the loss of cultural and ecclesial consensus on how to live this life, none of us is sure of what we are doing much of the time, only maybe.

This ticks all my life and ministry desires for a ministry that can encompass bold and quiet confidence and humility.  It is possibly a sign of getting old that potential answers to the dilemmas I am involved and am invited into are getting as grey as my hair, but ‘maybe’ the offering of options rather than definitives is not a sign of lack of confidence in my God, but hopefully a sign of my ability to be less opinionated and more humble and respectful of the complexity of the situations others share with me.

Pastor hopefully.

Confidence in God, definitely.

Pastor maybe.


Eugene Peterson.  A Memoir: The Pastor. New York:  HarperOne, 2011, p6.


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