Letters to a Young Pastor – Eric Peterson & Eugene Peterson

Letters to a Young Pastor Eric Peterson Eugene Peterson
Letters to a Young Pastor: Timothy Conversations Between Father and Son by Eric E Peterson, Eugene H Peterson
Also by this author: Letters to a Young Congregation: Nurturing the Growth of a Faithful Church
Published by NavPress on June 9, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Leadership, Memoir, Christian Life
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Have you ever felt in over your head? When Eric Peterson became the pastor of a brand-new church, he quickly and wisely turned to his dad for guidance. Eugene Peterson, author of more than thirty books including his bestselling memoir The Pastor and his groundbreaking Bible The Message, here reflects on pastoral ministry in all its complexity--from relationships to administration to the sheer audacity of leading God's people in a particular place. This is Eugene Peterson at his best--lifelong wisdom written with deep love.
As the reader, you will glimpse into the tender, witty, personal side of Eugene mentoring his own son. These intimate letters will be treasured by all who read, and applicable to church leaders around the globe.
Purchase individually or together with Letters to a Young Congregation as a memorable gift for a church leader or seminary graduate.

Letter-writing is a lost art. In the age of emails and voice-to-text, it should be easier than ever, but, as a society, we’ve by-and-large put such conversations to the side and focused on more disposable and temporary forms of communication. Public letter-writing might even be more of a lost art, though I’ve seen attempts for it to make a comeback, and private letters repurposed for public consumption seems like a relic from a forgotten age.

In 1999, Eric Peterson—son of Eugene Peterson—was two years into a new church plant. Eugene had just retired from his own church service, though not from his public ministry. Amid this, Eric asked Eugene if he would write occasional pastoral letters to him: sort of Timothy conversations between father and son.

I doubt there was any thought or indication given to the fact that these letters would one day be published, but I’m glad that Eric Peterson is willing to share this part of his father with us. Letters to a Young Pastor runs the gamut from intensely practical to intensely personal. Some are written as insights into Eugene’s ministry. Some are filled with personal and practical advice. Some are deeply theological. Others simply reveal the loving relationship between father and son. This book is an intimate journey and I felt almost crass distilling ten years of father-son correspondence into a leisurely weekend afternoon.

The letters are arranged chronologically, not topically, so you never really know what is going to come next. You are treated to small snippets in the progression of both Eric and Eugene’s life and ministry as you work your way through the book.

As I reflected on the book in writing this review, I tried to determine which lesson or which letter I thought most impactful to myself personally, but after much thought, have concluded that it was the letter’s tone that struck me as most powerful: personal, practical, pastoral. I was also comforted in the fact that this book is entitled Letters to A Young Pastor, given that Eric was six years younger than I currently am when the letter-writing began. I suppose I still qualify as a young pastor (though I don’t always feel it!)

Above all, Letters to a Young Pastor is an exploration of pastoral ministry in all its complexities and nuance. It’s Eugene reflecting on his nearly thirty years at Christ Our King Presbyterian and speaking into Eric’s situation at Colbert Presbyterian. It’s filled with familial memories and generalized advice, specific admonitions and pastoral recollections. It’s both an intimate look into a specific family and their specific ministries, but also a wider look at pastoral ministry at large. Even if it’s written to Eric’s specific situation, pastors will surely find specific application, encouragement, admonishment, solidarity, and love within their own specific contexts. Letters to a Young Pastor is a beautiful, intimate book.