Wednesday, January 9, 2008

John Piper -- We Are Not Professionals

NOTE: Thanks to Gunny for inviting me to share this post. I appreciate the invite. FYI: I'm a 1999 grad of DTS with a ThM and now pastor a PCA church in Aiken, SC.

I'm reading John Piper's book to other pastors entitled, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. Already, he has my attention just with the title alone. I don't know how many times I heard in seminary that Dallas Theological Seminary was a "professional" school. This was the rationale given for why we had to wear coats and ties all the time. Somehow, that made us more professional.

Piper's argument is that we are not professionals at all. He writes: "WE Pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is no the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake. For there is no professional childlikeness (Matt. 18:3); there is no professional tenderheartedness (Eph. 4:32); there is no professional panting after God (Ps. 42:1)."

Pastors are not professionals. They are shepherds. They are members of the very flock that they are set over to lead. That leadership doesn't come in board meetings, committees, five-year action plans or any such nonsense like that. It doesn't come in coining terms like "missional" and "holistic ministry" or "connectional ministry." (The last two terms are redundant).

The true leadership of a shepherd comes on his knees, praying for his congregation, asking the Holy Spirit to guard them against sin and unbelief. It comes in praying that God would protect him from sin as well. It comes in comforting the one who has just lost a spouse. Where is the professional action plan for that? It's not there. Comfort isn't something you can market. It isn't something that you can even plan for. It takes dependence upon God.

The same with church growth. You can't plan that. You can't bring that about. Remember that Paul fellow? He told us that one plants, another waters, but growth comes from the Lord. We can sit around and try to stuff the church into the business model all we want to. But in the end, you have manufactured piety, manufactured holiness, manufactured repentance, manufacture belief and manufactured believers. The church is weak today because it did adopt a business model some 50 years ago. Instead of pastors who are given over to holiness, we have men who are very astute at both entertainment and running businesses. But the church is not business or a place to be entertained. It is much greater than that. It's the body of Christ, where the body needs a regular diet of God's word and the sacraments. The body needs to be fed by the things spiritual, not physical. For the church to be healthy, it must feast upon God's word and to submit to God's word. This isn't something that can be done with a business model. It takes prayer, humility, time and God's Spirit.

I think Piper is right on the mark. I hope to glean a lot more from his book in the coming days. If you would like a copy of the book you can get it by going here and here.


GUNNY said...

Let me just echo an "Amen" on that book. Lance (of Scrawny Pulpit fame) gave me a copy a few years back.

That's the kind of book I needed in seminary and it would be required reading if I had my druthers.

Timothy said...

I would also require Calvin's Institutes... just so people will quit misquoting him. Remember this one: "Calvin didn't really believe in infant baptism, he just did it as a hold over from the Roman Catholic Church?" I had that one thrown in my face a few times.

GUNNY said...

Well, that one's true, isn't it?


One of my favorite classes at DTS was taught by Steve Spencer, "Calvin & Reformed Theology."

We read through The Institutes together and it was invaluable for my development, pastorally as well.

It helped make me the professional I am today!

Timothy said...

Hi Gunny,
Yes, I'm glad you are professional. :)

I did an independent study with Hannah reading Calvin's Institutes. It took me more than a year to complete the course. At the end of it, he said: "what do you think you deserve as a grade?" I said, "A-." Notice the humility there. He said, OK.

I learned a lot from that course, probably more in that course than any other course I took.