Book Reviews > Preaching > Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry
Director of the RC Ryan Center for Biblical Studies and Assistant Professor of Christian Studies
In this book Piper turns his passionate voice to address pastoral ministry, an area desperately needing reappraisal today. This book is a collection of 30 brief (typically 6 pages) exhortations originally written to his fellow elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church or for his denominational magazine. The essays are not intended to develop in any certain order and the book is not intended as a comprehensive introduction to pastoral ministry. Rather, it is a collection of bold meditations and exhortations on various facets of pastoral ministry and Christian living. The title, "Brothers, We Are Not Professionals," comes from the lead essay but does also establish the viewpoint of ministry found throughout the rest of the essays. In his preface, Piper explains his choice of title:
"The title of this book is meant to shake us loose from the pressure to fit into the cultural expectations of professionalism. It is meant to sound an alarm against the expectations of parity in pay and against the borrowing of paradigms from the professional world. Oh for radically Bible-saturated, God-centered, Christ-exalting, self-sacrificing, mission-mobilizing, soul-saving, culture-confronting pastors! …. For every sick shepherd who offends unnecessarily, a hundred are so frightened to offend that the sword of the Spirit has become rubber in their mouths and the mighty biblical mingling of severity and kindness has vanished from their ministry. (xii)"
This sort of exhortation needs to be heard widely if we are to return to New Testament church vitality.
Among the essays a few stood out as particularly good to me. In "Brothers, Fight for Your Life" Piper issues a moving, strong and encouraging exhortation to good reading, suggesting that it is essential for ministerial vitality in a hurried culture. "Brothers, Let Us Query the Text" and "Brothers, Bitzer Was a Banker" (both available on the website of Union University's Center for Biblical Studies, www.uu.edu/centers/biblical) are stirring calls on the value and necessity of diligent biblical study. "Query the Text" calls for "headache causing" wrestling with the biblical text rather than the superficial fluff which usually passes muster today. The essay on Bitzer is a clarion call on the value of knowing the biblical languages. In a day when pastors and seminaries alike devalue the study of biblical languages (e.g., "you won't really have time for them in real ministry"), this call is sorely needed. Piper also gives a profound discussion of the evangelistic value of laboring for the perseverance of the congregation ("Save the Saints"), the need for preaching on hell ("We Must Feel the Truth of Hell"), and a rebuke of the materialistic approach we often have to church ("Tell Them Copper Will Do").
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. Buy a copy for yourself. Buy a copy for your pastor or a seminary student. Donate some copies to others in your area. And may God grant us a revival of pastors such as are described here.
Ray Van Neste
Previously appeared in "The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology"