Christianity Today once described Eugene Peterson this way: "If Eugene H. Peterson were not a Presbyterian, he might be a monk. … He is bearded, balding, and thin. He has a quiet, raspy voice that sounds as if it belongs to a man who has weathered many dark nights of the soul. … When he speaks, the coarse, gentle words seem to rise from a genuine depth."

This article, which debuted in Leadership a decade ago, was judged by many readers as "coarse, gentle words rising from a genuine depth." Eugene probes a common problem—the expectations people place on ministers—and doesn't stop until he reaches the essence of ministry.

Ann Tyler, in her novel Morgan's Passing, told the story of a middle-aged Baltimore man who passed through people's lives with astonishing aplomb and expertise in assuming roles and gratifying expectations.

The novel opens with Morgan's watching a puppet show on a church lawn on a Sunday afternoon. A few minutes into the show, a young man comes from ...

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