This review first appeared at Lifeway’s Pastors Today web blog.
John Piper. Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Books, 2013. 320 pp. $14.99
Church and Ministry
Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is the culmination of ministry lessons learned by one of the most respected pastoral leaders in the 20th-21st century, John Piper. Piper shares thirty-six lessons that cover subjects such as ministry philosophy, theology, purpose, function, and the study habits of a pastor. Each chapter offers pastors piercing insights from Piper’s thirty years of ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church. You will find summations of his many other works imbedded in these poignant chapters.
This edition of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is recently updated and expanded, including six new chapters: 4, God Does Make Much of Us; 6, God is the Gospel; 13, Be Bible-Oriented – Not Entertainment-Oriented – Preachers; 18, Pursue the Tone of the Text; 22, Help Them Act the Miracle; and 27, Bodily Training is of Some Value.
Rather than focusing on business, technology, systems and processes – as many pastoral handbooks do these days – Brothers, We Are Not Professionals makes its ballast heart matters. Piper kicks off the book with these words from chapter one, “We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry” (1). This concern of Piper’s, that the church is becoming increasingly professional and decreasingly inspectional on heart matters, is a driving force behind each of the book’s talking points. After all, the pastor who has a healthy heart, filled with affections for Christ, will shepherd the church well.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
I cannot think of a better book for a pastor to walk through in order to warm his heart to Christ and the Church. Young pastors need to read this book and reread it; veteran pastors should keep returning to this book.
Reading Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is like sitting with Piper and drawing from the well of wisdom he would offer in an hour long conversation, while also heeding the prophetical warnings concerning temptations that will assuredly seek a pastor.
Brother, We Are Not Professionals caused me to reflect on subjects I otherwise would not have considered. Many of Piper’s exhortations were novel considerations for me. He encouraged me to read biography (Chapter 16), pursue the tone of the text (Chapter 18), and bodily train myself (Chapter 27).
Other concepts I knew to be functions of the pastorate took on deeper meanings. An instance of this is the chapter on Magnifying the Meaning of Baptism (Chapter 23). This chapter arrested my attention and reinforced a fierce conviction to defend a credo-baptistic view.
Furthermore, Piper helped me think through matters of ethics like abortion (Chapter 33), racism (Chapter 32) and how to handle calamitous events like 9/11, Columbine, or hurricane Katrina (Chapter 30).
Above all, this book prompted me to be passionate and serious in all areas of life. Piper writes – echoing Spurgeon’s exhortation to earnestness in Lectures to My Students: “Brothers, we must let the river run deep. This is a plea for passion in the pulpit, passion in prayer, passion in conversation” (172).
Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is a library essential. I know I already said this, but it is worth restating: buy this book; read it; read it again every few years. If a young pastor asked me: “What should be my first read on the pastorate as a pastor?” I would suggest this one. This book will help some through a spiritual desert and rescue others from a dangerous or deadly path towards destruction.
Will you, pastor, carve out time to enrich and enliven your soul rather than look for the next fix to your most recent ministry problem or the next silver bullet trick to enter mega-church land? Listen to this fitting point from Piper:
For you own soul and for the life of your church, fight for time to feed your soul with rich reading…If you want to stay alive to what is great and glorious and beautiful and eternal, you will have to fight for time to look through the eyes of others who were in touch with God. (80)
Essential Recommended Helpful Pass It By
If Scripture is a map and prayer a compass pointing to God, then Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is a travel guide worth consulting.