Rediscovering the Call


Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson

Eerdmans, 2000, 256 pp.   ISBN 0-8028-4678-5

The two authors write for ministry leaders, focusing on the Pastoral Epistles, set within the larger context of Ephesians.


“We begin with the obvious: the gospel of Jesus Christ is profoundly countercultural.” (1) “...the radical life of repentance and baptism is mighty hard to sustain.” (2)


“Pastors are in charge of keeping the distinction between the world’s lies and the gospel’s truth clear.”  “ one else occupies this exact niche that looks so inoffensive but is in fact so dangerous to the status quo.”  (2)


“The purpose of this book, then, is to reconnect pastors with the authoritative biblical and theological texts that train us as countercultural servants of Jesus Christ.”  (2)


We are to be “unnecessary” in three ways:

1.     to what the culture presumes is important

2.     “to what we ourselves feel is essential: as the linchpin holding a congregation together.”  (3)

3.     “to what the congregations insist that we must do and be: as the experts who help them stay ahead of the competition.”  (4)


“With hardly an exception they don’t want pastors at all—they want managers of their religious company.” (4)


“My main thrust is toward cultivating humility among pastors....” (7)


“The constant danger for those of us who enter the ranks of the ordained is that we take on a role, a professional religious role, that gradually obliterates the life of the soul.” (14)  “Humility recedes as leadership advances.”  “The role of leader almost inevitably replaces the role of follower.  Instead of continuing as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we become bosses on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (15)


“ is a language, a culture, a way of living.  We can truly learn a language only if we are immersed in it.” (31)


“How desperate is the need in our society for more active dominance of the will over feelings!” (37)


“One of the problems in churches these days is that we have too many adolescents and not enough sons.  To be an adolescent is still to clamor for instant gratification.”  “To be a son is to be the agent of the Father and to do the Father’s work.”  (48)


“Since in our culture we do not name sin for the despicable sin that it is, we rarely recognize how truly dead we are (see Ephesians 2:1-3).  We are enslaved to sin.” (53)


“The pastoral dimensions of the church’s leadership are badly eroded by technologizing and managerial influences.”  “The theological dimensions...have been marginalized by therapeutic and marketing preoccupations.”  (61)


“Paul’s relation to the Scriptures was not as a student finding out what was there but as a disciple who is living the text.” (64)  Pastors are not to use the Scripture as a source of quotes or applications but “enter it as a world of revelation.” (66)


“Mystery is not the absence of meaning, but the presence of more meaning than we can comprehend.” (quoting Gabriel Marcel)  “Scripture is not the answer book to all our problems but a doorway into the world of God’s mystery.” (69)


According to Ephesians 6 we are called to stand against the methods of the diabolical one.  Methods!  “How easily our methods degenerate into practices not of God, but of the diabolical one!”  “...anything that is phony, superficial, subjective, ...lacking in integrity, performance rather than worship....” (95-6)


“The biblical record never describes the essence or nature of the principalities and powers.  We can know them only by their functions.”  “Whenever money pulls churches away from their God-given purposes, then it is functioning as Mammon.” (110-11)


Truth is not the same as reality.  “Reality is what we see on the surface, the superficial perspectives we gain, for example, from the television’s evening news.  Truth is what is really going on in a certain situation.  ...Jesus Christ is still Lord of the cosmos.” (112)


“Children who watch a lot of television actually have smaller brains.” (according to Jane Healy’s research, 113)


“If the media give them bad ideas about their sexuality ninety-five times a day, how often do we in the Christian community need to tell them good ideas?  It is essential that we recognize the working of the powers in the media and take steps to resist them.” (114)


“Most teenagers with whom I converse at youth convocations or in congregations where I am a guest do not really know clearly how they are different as Christians from the rest of society and why they should care about that difference.  We are failing our children—and ourselves!” (115)


“But the gospel that Jesus brought and that Paul preached is not first of all about us; it is about God.  It is about the God who created us and wills to save us; the Jesus who gave himself for us and wants us to deny ourselves and follow him wherever he leads us, including the cross.... None of this involves fulfilling our needs as we define them.  Our needs are sin-needs – the need to get our own way, to be self-important, to be in control of our own lives.” (127)


“The overriding concern in the Pastoral Epistles is in ‘healthy’ or ‘sound’ teaching.”  “Timothy is given a mandate to teach in a way that brings health to people.” (128)


“Science is information stored in the head that can be used impersonally; wisdom is intelligence that comes from the heart, which can only be lived personally in relationships.”  “Wisdom...personalizes knowledge in order to live intensely, faithfully, healthily.” (133)


“Teaching is at the center of leadership work in the Christian community.  Every piece of the gospel is to be lived, so we must keep on teaching.  ...teaching people how to live, not teaching people how to pass exams.” (134)


“All our words must be lived worlds.  What we say and the way we live are part of the same grammar.” (135)


“...all shaping of the spiritual life and a servant’s character takes place in th emidst of the entire Christian community....”  (149)


“One of the most severe failures in churches today is that so often preaching has become therapeutic instead of proclamatory.”  “Rather, we [should] preach to paint so beautiful and compelling a vision of the kingdom of God that we enable the hearers to inhabit it.” (149)


“Everywhere I go as a guest lecturer, across denominational lines, I hear sermons about us, rather than about God.”  “Moreover, many people in our culture don’t know anything about God.” (150-51)


“Our ministry to others is always to show them Jesus....”  (152)


“It seems to me that Christian churches have such little impact in North America and most of the Western world because we are not willing to suffer.  We are not willing to bear the pain and cost of really living true to God’s instructions.” (159)


“The early Christians did not try to translate their faith into something that was accessible to the world’s darkened understanding.  What they did instead was to engage in a way of life that was so different from the world that their neighbors wanted to be part of it.” (160)


“If faith is a language to be taught and practices, then we spread it not by translating, but by immersing newcomers in it.  The learners submit themselves to it and exercise its skills.” (161)


“Everybody and his dog has a job description for the pastor.  Everybody knows what a pastor must do to be a real pastor.  That’s a problem, but what complicates and compounds it is that it’s nice to be so needed, nice to have culture and congregation alike interested in defining our work and giving us instructions on how to go about it.  It’s nice to be so much in demand....” (184)


“Counsel in how to be leaders is unending, but it all has to be tested against our Scriptures.”  “Against all leadership counsel we have to set Jesus..., a Jesus-leadership spirit, mind, sensitivity.  It is a leadership that is conspicuously lacking in the exercise of power and the attraction of followers.” (190)  “We have to deal with people the way Jesus deals with them.” (191)


“We have a culture that knows nothing about community, and we have a salvation that requires community to be lived rightly.”  People who come to Christ have the culture ringing in their ears.  “And the culture is a lying, self-indulgent, violent culture....” (198)


“Paul was looking for character, not ability.”  “If we identify people functionally, they turn into functions.,  We need to know our people for who they are, not for what they can do.” (200)


“We have to scrap most of what we are told today about leadership.  Forget about charisma, go for character.” (203)


“One important step is to teach Christians to recognize that the Bible is most often written in the plural – and then to equip them for acting on that plurality.” We need the word y’all. (214) 


“The Christian community is an alternative society.” (215)