Is it possible to be a slave to Christ and a professional minister?
In Brothers, We Are Not Professional, John Piper answers this question with a resounding no. He argues that when the pastor views his vocation as a profession, he will inevitably despiritualize the calling. A professional attitude that seeks human respect is antithetical to a Christian minister's calling.
Piper recognizes that the pastorate is filled with temptations to compromise and seek self-fulfillment and self-glorification. Even more so, in our modern age, it is tempting to compromise on the message of Christ crucified to gain acceptance from our peers.
In his introduction, Piper cites the Islamic understanding of who Jesus was. Muslims typically understand Jesus as a great prophet who was risen to heaven before he could suffer the pain and humiliation of the crucifixion. The crucifixion of Jesus is at the center of Christian teaching, and to bend on it would be an unacceptable compromise. Because a Christian minister must be unapologetic in preaching Christ crucified, Piper believes he will inevitably have to choose between being a professional with wide acceptance and a faithful preacher.
Piper calls the Christian minister to a "pastoral ministry full of joy ... [where] there are tears, to be sure ... [but these] tears deepen and intensify the joy of our hope." Many have acclaimed Brothers, We Are Not Professionals as a book worthy of anyone called to be a pastor.
See more great resources from John Piper in the John Piper Collection.
In Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, John Piper presents 30 succinct exhortations to pastors to help them understand the depth and breadth of their calling. He argues that a minister cannot be a slave to Christ, obedient in all he is called to, and also seek to be seen by the world as a professional.
At the center of the argument is the reality that Christ crucified for sins will inevitably offend the world. He notes that this truth "is always the aroma of life for some and the aroma of death for others." It is by preaching this truth that the pastor will draw some unto Christ, while others will be offended. Piper is unapologetic about this stance and hopes to encourage others to join him.
Through these 30 chapters, Piper pulls the reader into the depth of this calling. He hopes that even the title will disrupt the pressures to fit in with cultural expectations to lose focus on the preaching of Christ.
This book could be a theoretical book about Christian vocation. Instead, the reader will find practical steps to encourage them in their calling and help them avoid many pitfalls. Piper aims to invite the reader into the deep joy he has found in pastoral ministry.
“So the goal of spiritual leadership is to muster people to join God in living for God’s glory.” (Page 11)
“I defined spiritual leadership as ‘knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to get them there by God’s means in reliance on God’s power.’” (Page 11)
“Why is it important to be stunned by the God-centeredness of God? Because many people are willing to be God-centered as long as they feel that God is man-centered. It is a subtle danger. We may think we are centering our lives on God, when we are really making Him a means to self-esteem. Over against this danger I urge you to ponder the implications, brothers, that God loves His glory more than He loves us and that this is the foundation of His love for us.” (Pages 6–7)
“Gratitude is a species of joy which arises in your heart in response to the goodwill of someone who does or tries to do you a favor.” (Page 36)
“God is not looking for people to work for Him but people who let Him work mightily in and through them:” (Page 40)
John Piper's Brothers, We Are Not Professionals challenges the notion that pastors are professionals. Instead, he exhorts those in this vocation to be wholeheartedly devoted to the message of Christ crucified.
Through 30 brief chapters, Piper explains why a pastor should not consider himself a professional. As he moves his way through his argument, he presents the central aspects of the pastoral calling as glorifying God. He then moves towards some practical steps to help readers guard themselves against the temptation of making the pastorate a strictly professional enterprise.
Many books help guide the pastor, presenting him with ethical guidance, encouragement, and caution. What sets Brothers, We Are Not Professionals apart from other books is Piper's experience as a pastor and his firm conviction that the pastor's chief responsibility is to preach Christ crucified. Once he has started to unpack this and reveal God's glory, he shows some practical responsibilities and pitfalls that the pastor may face.
In The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Ray Van Neste notes, "There is much more worthy of comment than there is space to comment. This book deserves wide circulation among our churches—pastors, so they will be challenged to fulfill their calling; laity, so they will see what the calling of their pastors really is." This book will encourage pastors, remind them of their calling, and renew their focus.
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Rev. Delwyn X. Campbell Sr