Just at the beginning of the month, I came on staff at my church full time. And let me tell you, the pressure in a mere two weeks (largely that I have placed on myself) to step up my game has surprised me. The drive to be professional, polished, prepared, proficient—the performance trap had swallowed me whole. So the arrival of John Piper's revised edition of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals could not have come at a better time. These were challenges and questions that I needed to consider as I evaluated the tendencies of my own heart. As Piper asks in his new preface:
- Is there professional praying?
- Is there professional trusting in God's promises?
- Is there professional weeping over souls?
- Is there professional musing on the depths of revelation?
- Is there professional rejoicing over truth?
- Is there professional treasuring the riches of Christ?
- Is there professional walking by the Spirit?
- Is there professional exercise of spiritual gifts?
- Is there professional courage in the face of persecution?
But this book isn't just a caution against the slick and skillful specialist/pastor ideal. Within this book lies the heartbeat of Piper's ministry and writing in seed-form. The themes and passions of John Piper's pastoral life are here as well. With chapter titles like "God Loves His Glory", "Live and Preach Justification by Faith", "Consider Christian Hedonism", "Give Them Passion for Missions", and "Sever the Root of Racism", I cannot help but think of books like Desiring God, Finally Alive, and Bloodlines. In deed, this book is as much as anything else a survey of Piper's teaching and writing over the years, and that is by no means a criticism.
But speaking of criticisms, if I have one of the book it is that Piper has given himself a fine line to try to walk between what he is calling us away from and what he is calling us to. While the high bar of professionalism in the ministry has it's pitfalls, it is not the only high bar that pastors may set for themselves. In back to back chapters he challenges us to become students of the original Hebrew and Greek texts and of Christian biographies. This is not to say that I don't think either of these things are greatly beneficial! But if our aim is to deconstruct the professionalist tendencies of the pastorate, we must be careful not to merely trade one elite class of preacher for another.
While Brothers, We Are Not Professionals may not be Piper's most seminal work, it is quite possibly his most comprehensive. Thus I would say this book is not only a must read for pastors, but it is a great place to start for anyone who would like an overview of most of Piper's other writings. The chapters are rarely longer than six or seven pages; short enough read and meditate on (or cram in between meetings). But the weight and gravity of the challenges here will take a lifetime apply. And lest your own bent towards performance is already despairing at that thought, let Piper's prayer correct:
"Banish professionalism from our midst, Oh God, and in its place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unremitting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovereign Lord. In Jesus' great and powerful name. Amen."Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Recommended for: Pastors and those looking for a survey of Piper's works