Peterson is most well known for his translation/paraphrase of the entire Bible (called The Message), and he’s written several other books on a wide range of topics, though mostly in the areas pastoral work and spiritual theology.
Q is a fantastic organization founded by Gabe Lyons, author of the terrific book The Next Christians (I’m currently reading it). I’m really grateful for Q’s work in forging a new way for Christians to think about culture and engagement with the world. I scour the Q website regularly to learn from some really thoughtful Christians.
The relatively small group of us (99 – most conferences I have attended are at least 300) had a chance to hear Peterson’s reflections on his life, Sabbath-keeping, Simplicity, and Prayer, mostly by way of interview by Lyons.
Here are some of my reflections from today.
1) There is Much to Learn from Age – As a relatively young pastor in my 30s, there’s much to learn from people who are older. There’s a depth that I personally experience listening to an older sage like Peterson, a man who seems to have pressed more deeply into God and Scripture as he’s aged. There is something uniquely profound listening to someone who has practiced “a long obedience in the same direction.” Peterson could be talking about the difference between blue and red M & Ms and he’d have my rapt attention as a result.
I once heard Richard Rohr once say, “there are many elderly people, but very few elders.” That phrase has stayed with me since I heard it, mostly because I long to be an elder, not simply one who grows old.
To be an elder, I’ve learned, one must be willing to learn from elders.
Peterson, through his writing and today, has been a tremendous elder to learn from.
2) Peterson’s Values are so Counter-Cultural to the Western Church – I know, this is a pretty strong statement, but I’ll explain why I believe this to be generally true.
I think the Western Church tends to inordinately celebrate fast-growing, numerically large churches. I don’t think this is the fault of any person or church – I think we simply live in a culture which values big things (hence, this is not a critique of mega-churches – I actually really like megachurches!). Big events, big crowds, big buildings, Big Macs.
Most conferences and learning opportunities for pastors err this way too – celebrating and offering platforms for large church leaders and their churches.
Whether intentional or not, big churches with big budgets and big programs are highlighted and uplifted more than other churches.
Again, this is not a critique – it’s simply an observation.
There have been many times in my brief ministry career when I’ve been swept up into this thirst for “big” too, and I think as much as I might say it’s to “reach more people” (which really is true), I think there’s also been some mixed motives of wanting to be “known” as somebody, too.
But the values that Peterson highlighted today – Sabbath-keeping, simplicity, and prayer – are really counter to growth, expansion, and becoming widely known.
In fact, Sabbath, simplicity, and prayer are all practices that lend one toward more obscurity and scaling down, not up.
In this respect, these values run counter to the Western Church.
I was moved when Eugene spoke of his visit to Israel a couple of years ago. He walked through different areas of Judea, and he noticed the non-descript desert where the Patriarchs walked and the smallish size of towns around Galilee where Jesus grew up and did most of his ministry.
In comparison, the Egyptians had their spectacular pyramids and Herod had his grand palaces.
You see, God works in small, obscure places too.
For every large, miraculous moment in Scripture like the Pentecost (which seemed pretty mega to me), there are also small, obscure practices of retreat, solitude, and obscurity in the life of Jesus.
Peterson’s trying to counterbalance the overwhelming tilt toward bigger, larger, and more… to remember the values of mustard seed living.
Sidenote: Throughout today, I kept thinking of Pete Scazzero as a mini-me of Eugene Peterson. They talk about so many of the same topics! I’m fortunate to have learned, taught, and implemented many similar principles of Sabbath-keeping, prayer, and simplicity, throughout the years, and Pete has certainly had a big hand in that. Pete would be another great voice for Q, I think.
This is not to say that I’m an expert by any means – I’m simply very fortunate to have been exposed to these principles early in my ministry career.
Laura Speiller was also the first to introduce me to many Contemplative Prayer Practices that I use to this day.
3) I’m Really Diggin Q – I love what Gabe’s doing, and what many other Christians are doing in being culturally relevant yet counter-cultural. Very cool.
As for this event in particular, the organizers have done a great job and actually got a Sweetery NYC food truck to be stationed outside the venue where we’re gathering. We get unlimited goods from the food truck whenever we want. Holla!
4) It’s Been Fun Hangin’ with my buddy Jared Howard – I didn’t think I’d know anyone here, but when I heard Jared was coming, I was ecstatic. Fun times raiding the Sweetery truck together, Jared.
5) I’d be Remiss if I Didn’t Mention the Participants – I’ve met some really cool people here, and I have tons of respect for the fellow pastors and leaders that I’ve met. I even had a chance to meet some leaders from Reality Santa Barbara, a church movement in California that I’ve visited once and absolutely loved!
Another interesting observation, though, is that the participants here are largely white and male. I think I expected this, but not in terms of the volume I’ve experienced.
It’s fairly easy to do percentages because there are 99 participants, and I’d guesstimate that 80-85 of the participants are white males.
I’m saddened by this because I know so many other women and minority leaders in NYC (and beyond) who would benefit from this event and have much to contribute to the discussion.
Maybe next time!
6) All in all, it’s such an extraordinary gift to be here. I also love that Q Practices is happening in our own backyard in NYC, IMHO the best city in the world.
Lastly, I think I’m going to ask Eugene Peterson what he thinks about Linsanity.