Life Lived in a Fully Integrated Way

October 1, 2018

It is truly impossible to quantify the impact of Eugene’s ministry on my life and ministry. I was introduced to him when, as a young pastor, I asked another pastor to recommend something to read devotionally, to supplement my usual Bible reading. He pulled off his shelf a worn paperback version of The Message, Eugene’s paraphrase of the Bible, and threw it in my direction. “Check this out.”

Sometime later, I found myself in a used Christian bookstore. I was at an impasse in my ministry. Frustrated with church, people, church culture, and myself in general, I was in the valley of despair. I pulled a copy of Eugene’s The Unnecessary Pastor off the shelf and bought it. It was the right book at the right time.

Since then, if it has Eugene’s name on it, I get it and seek to understand it. Whether it is his books on spiritual theology, pastoral ministry, collections of sermons, or simple devotionals, I look to Eugene for wisdom, guidance and a taste of heaven. To be honest, I have also stalked Eugene on the internet for his teachings. Whether downloading podcasts or buying course audio from Regent Seminary, I have also listened intently. I love hearing that beautiful distinctive Peterson cadence, the same in his writings as in his speech.

But Eugene’s impact has taken on a more personal tone for me in the last number of years. I met Eugene for the first time in the town where I minister: Vancouver, Washington. He was invited to speak to a pastor’s breakfast. The event was put on by one of the board members from Crossroads Community Church, where I get the pleasure of being a pastor. After the event, I was invited to join Eugene and a few people at a poolside barbeque. Although obviously tired, he was gracious with us all, including my young and rambunctious kids. “They let you pastor with that hair?” Eugene joked as he flashed that sly smile in my direction, commenting on my long dreadlocks.

A few years later, I had the pleasure of joining Eugene and Jan at their home with a few authors and NavPress publisher, Don Pape. Whether it was over a meal or sitting in their family room overlooking Flathead Lake, Eugene and Jan shared their lives, their wisdom, and their Jesus with us. It was in Montana that I got to know the Jan of Eugene’s writings. What a treasure she is. And the two of them together make an extraordinary team. It was a cherished and formative time that I have reflected on many times with great warmth.

On that visit to Montana I realized the power of life lived in a fully integrated way. The author, pastor, and preacher that we know as Eugene Peterson was the same in every situation. In a world where it is easy for people to put on different masks to succeed in each individual domain, Eugene was always who he was, no matter what. He spoke the same in lectures and in conversation, in verbal and written form. His walk with Jesus and his ministry were integrated as well.

What I have grown to love and cherish about Eugene is the authenticity in which he lives. I don’t want to be Eugene, but I want to follow his example: to live authentically and fully, to become the most Eugene possible. He has helped me desire to be a better, more Christlike version of me. What more profound legacy is there than that?

Daniel Fusco is a pastor in Vancouver, Washington. He is the author of Honestly and Upward, Inward, Outward (NavPress).


Other Reflections in Honor of the 25th Anniversary of The Message

Unleashing the Sacred Purpose of God’s Word

Danielle Strickland

I’ve been trying to explain what happened to me when The Message hit the scene. I first heard someone read a passage out loud during a public meeting. And something happened inside of me. The words were familiar, but they stirred something—they settled my heart and relaxed my brain.

Good with Words, Good with Tone

Michael Frost

I had a conversation recently with someone regarding salvation and the afterlife. A death in her family had prompted her to ask questions about life beyond the grave, so we talked about faith in Jesus, and she showed a great deal of interest.

“Where can I read more about what Jesus said?” she asked.

Ode to the Message

Dan Allender

The woman I was counseling was a jagged-edged, hard-bitten woman who looked 60 though she had only turned 40 a week before this conversation. She held a small book in her hands that initially looked like a tract on steroids. I saw the word Psalms upside down but I couldn’t tell what version. Her sister…

This Someday Eden

Jason Hague

I didn’t encounter the transformative writings of Eugene Peterson until my mid-thirties, and that’s probably a good thing. Any earlier than that, and I’m afraid I might have dismissed them altogether. I wanted to save humanity, after all. My world was far too big for his earthy calls to local faithfulness.

The Words of a Lover

Jan Johnson

One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done is teach a Bible study at the Samaritan Center (SC), a drop-in center for the homeless. Some participants could not read, others could read a little, and still others had college degrees. I had to get right to the point without any flowery language.

An Invitation for Me

Brian Hardin

During my childhood, church was ever-present. My father was a pastor. Church was the sun around which we orbited. In church, I grew up hearing sermons about the Bible. For me, reading the Bible was another story—a confusing one. One day, I was crawling beneath the pews when I came upon a book.

The Word of God Comes to Us in Humility

Amy Julia Becker

I ran into Jess in the grocery store one Sunday morning. She glanced around, as if to make sure we weren’t within earshot of another customer. Then she said, “So that Bible study you invited me to join?”
“Yes!” I replied, with what might have been an excessive amount of enthusiasm. “I’m so happy you want to come.”

The Underestimated Theologian

Tricia McCary Rhodes

The thought of sitting at the table with Eugene Peterson had been on my mind for days. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around the thought that I would have the privilege of sharing a meal with a man whose influence in my life stretched back over decades. In my estimation, he had risen to the ranks of Christian “royalty.”

Life Lived in a Fully Integrated Way

Daniel Fusco

It is truly impossible to quantify the impact of Eugene’s ministry on my life and ministry. I was introduced to him when, as a young pastor, I asked another pastor to recommend something to read devotionally, to supplement my usual Bible reading. He pulled off his shelf a worn paperback version of The Message, Eugene’s…