Editor's note:

On Octo­ber 22, 2018, Eugene Peter­son com­plet­ed his long obe­di­ence in the same direc­tion. His life and writ­ing stood in sharp con­trast to main­stream west­ern Chris­tian­i­ty. He called us to shift our focus from pro­grams to peo­ple, from the gray fog of abstrac­tion” to the sharp par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of the rec­og­niz­able face and the famil­iar street.” 

Eugene, thank you for a life well lived. Your pres­ence is missed while your words keep speak­ing. See you soon.

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from The Jesus Way

The ways employed in our North Amer­i­can cul­ture are con­spic­u­ous­ly imper­son­al: pro­grams, orga­ni­za­tions, tech­niques, gen­er­al guide­lines, infor­ma­tion detached from place. In mat­ters of ways and means, the vocab­u­lary of num­bers is pre­ferred over names, ide­olo­gies crowd out ideas, the gray fog of abstrac­tion absorbs the sharp par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of the rec­og­niz­able face and the famil­iar street. My con­cern is pro­voked by the obser­va­tion that so many who under­stand them­selves to be fol­low­ers of Jesus, with­out hes­i­ta­tion, and appar­ent­ly with­out think­ing, embrace the ways and means of the cul­ture as they go about their dai­ly liv­ing in Jesus’ name.” But the ways that dom­i­nate our cul­ture have been devel­oped either in igno­rance or in defi­ance of the ways that Jesus uses to lead us. 

Jesus as the truth gets far more atten­tion than Jesus as the way. Jesus as the way is the most fre­quent­ly evad­ed metaphor among the Chris­tians with whom I have worked for fifty years as a North Amer­i­can pas­tor. We can­not skip the way of Jesus in our hur­ry to get the truth of Jesus as he is wor­shiped and pro­claimed. The way of Jesus is the way that we prac­tice and come to under­stand the truth of Jesus, liv­ing Jesus in our homes and work­places, with our friends and family. 

The local con­gre­ga­tion is the pri­ma­ry place for deal­ing with the par­tic­u­lars and peo­ple we live with. As cre­at­ed and sus­tained by the Holy Spir­it, it is insis­tent­ly local and per­son­al. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the more pop­u­lar Amer­i­can church strate­gies in respect to con­gre­ga­tion are not friend­ly to the local and per­son­al. The Amer­i­can way with its pen­chant for catchy slo­gans and stir­ring visions den­i­grates the local, and its pro­gram­mat­ic ways of deal­ing with peo­ple erode the per­son­al, replac­ing inti­ma­cies with func­tions. The North Amer­i­can church at present is con­spic­u­ous for replac­ing the Jesus way with the Amer­i­can way. 

Jesus’ metaphor, king­dom of God, defines the world in which we live. We live in a world where Christ is king. If Christ is king, every thing, quite lit­er­al­ly, every thing and every one, has to be re-imag­ined, re-con­fig­ured, re-ori­ent­ed to a way of life that con­sists in an obe­di­ent fol­low­ing of Jesus. A total ren­o­va­tion of our imag­i­na­tion, our way of look­ing at things — what Jesus com­mand­ed in his no-non­sense imper­a­tive, Repent!” — is required.

We can — we must! — take respon­si­bil­i­ty for the way we live and work in our homes and neigh­bor­hoods, work­places and pub­lic squares. We can refuse to per­mit the cul­ture to dic­tate the way we go about our lives. 

Ways and means that are removed or abstract­ed from Jesus and the Scrip­tures that give wit­ness to him amount soon­er or lat­er to a betray­al of Jesus. In this king­dom-of-God world, the per­son that we fol­low is the pri­ma­ry shap­ing influ­ence on the per­son that we become. Chris­tians fol­low Jesus.

Excerpt­ed from The Jesus Way: a con­ver­sa­tion on the ways that Jesus is the way by Eugene H. Peter­son (Grand Rapids, MI, Eerd­mans, 2007), pp. 1, 4 – 5, 9, 13, 15. Used with permission.

Originally published February 2007

Starting Soon: The 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion not just infor­ma­tion. Runs Sep­tem­ber 2020 through May 2021.

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