A Pastor Is Not A Tour Guide

Here’s the excellent opening to Eugene Peterson’s great book: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (p. 16-17).

“I don’t know what it has been like for pastors in other culture and previous centuries, but I am quite sure that for a pastor in Western culture at the dawn of the twenty-first century, the aspect of [the biblical word] ‘world’ that makes the work of leading Christians in the way of faith most difficult is what Gore Vidal has analyzed as ‘today’s passion for the immediate and the casual.’  Everyone is in a hurry.  The persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach and teach, want shortcuts.  They want me to help them fill out the form that will get them instant credit (in eternity).  They are impatient for results.  They have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist and only want the high points.”

“But a pastor is not a tour guide.  I have no interest in telling apocryphal religious stories at and around dubiously identified sacred sites.  The Christian life cannot mature under such conditions and in such ways.”

“Friedrich Nietzsche, who saw this area of spiritual truth at least with great clarity, wrote, ‘The essential thing “in heaven and earth” is…that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”  It is this ‘long obedience in the same direction’ which the mood of the world does so much to discourage.”

Peterson goes on to explain that the biblical words and concepts of disciple and pilgrim resist the pull of the world and direct us to Christ and his kingdom.  Indeed, Christians are not tourists at a theme park, but disciples and pilgrims making our way towards the Promised Land (Heb. 12:1-2).

shane lems

2 Replies to “A Pastor Is Not A Tour Guide”

  1. I recently acquired this book – found it in a thrift store. It is in my large “to read” pile. Maybe I’ll move it to the top!


  2. Peterson really is one of the better pastoral theologians. He has an artful simplicity that strikes right at the heart of pretense and silliness. Strangely enough I have been reading (and enjoying) this book myself for the first time.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: