Thinking Out Loud

July 2, 2013

Where You’ve Bean

Eugene Peterson in Tell It Slant (Eerdman’s, 2008, pp 60-61)

Eugene PetersonSeveral years ago I was conducting a seminar in the interpretation of Scripture in a theological seminary. It was a graduate seminar. Our topic that day was Jesus’ parables. All the participants were experienced pastors and priests. One of the priests, Tony Byrnne, was a Jesuit missionary on sabbatical from twenty years at his post in Africa. As we discussed the Biblical parables, Father Tony told us of his experiences with his Africans who loved storytelling, who loved parables. His Jesuit order didn’t have enough priests to handle all the conversions that were taking place, and he was put in charge of recruiting lay-persons to carry out the basic teaching and diaconal work.

When he first began the work, where he would find men who were especially bright he would put them in charge of their village and sent them to Rome or Dublin or Boston or New York for training. After a couple of years they would return and take up their tasks.

But the villagers hated them and would have nothing to do with them. They called the returnee a been-to (pronounced bean-to): “He’s bean-to London, he’s bean-to Dublin, he’s bean-to New York, he’s bean-to Boston.” They hated the bean-to because he no longer told stories. He gave explanations. He taught them doctrines. He gave them directions. He drew diagrams on a chalk board. The bean-to left all his stories in the waste-baskets of the libraries and lecture halls of Europe and America. The intimacy and dignifying process of telling a parable had been sold for a mess of academic pottage. So Father Brynne told us, he quit the practice of sending the men to those storyless schools.



  1. What a brilliant piece Paul….this line was beautiful, “The intimacy and dignifying process of telling a parable had been sold for a mess of academic pottage”. My father was a story teller, weaving the stories of his boyhood and anecdotes of pastoral work into his sermons. People would drive a great distance to hear him preach because this opened up scripture in amazing and unforgettable ways. I am thankful to God that this gift has been passed on to me. God drops down into my heart just the right story to give to the people as I guest preach or speak at conventions. Jesus knew the power of this!

    Comment by Cynthia Almudevar — July 2, 2013 @ 9:02 am

    • Thanks, I wish I had written it! However your line, “People would drive a great distance to hear him preach,” reminded me of this song:

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — July 2, 2013 @ 9:08 am

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