Each semester in our Applied Ministry class at Southern Seminary we read and discuss books on spiritual leadership and ministry. This semester we have been using the book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry as a basis for our discussion on ministry in the local church. This book was written by John Piper in 2002 (published by Broadman and Holman, ISBN0-8054-2620-5). Piper has been the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota since 1980. The book is divided into 30 short chapters and discusses topics such as “Brothers, God Loves His Glory; Brothers, God is Love; Brothers, Let Us Pray; Brothers, Fight for Your Life; and Brothers, Let us Query the Text.”
Though the chapters are short, the content of the chapters is quite deep. Piper has written a wonderful book aimed at pastors calling them back to prayer, study of God’s Word, and the hard tasks of pastoring the flock of God. The purpose of the book Piper says is “to spread a radical, pastoral passion for the supremacy and centrality of the crucified and risen God-Man, Jesus Christ, in every sphere of life and ministry and culture.” (xi)
In the first chapter titled “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals,” Piper states that ”pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry … The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake.” (1) Piper quotes E.M. Bounds who states that ”the preacher … is not the professional man; his ministry is not a profession; it is a divine institution, a divine devotion.”
Piper contrasts the professional business man with the spiritual leader. He states that “the pastor’s first business is to pant after God in prayer. Our business is to weep over our sins (James 4:9). Is there professional weeping? Our business is to strain forward to the holiness of Christ and the prize of the upward call of God (Phil. 3:14); to pummel our bodies and subdue them lest we be cast away (I Cor. 9:27); to deny ourselves and take up the blood-spattered cross daily (Luke 9:23). How do you carry a cross professionally?…Brothers, we are not professionals! We are outcasts. We are aliens in this world (I Peter 2:11). Our citizenship is in heaven, and we wait with eager expectation for the Lord (Phil 3:20). The aims of our ministry are eternal and spiritual. They are not shared by any of the professions….The world sets the agenda of the professional man; God sets the agenda of the spiritual man.”(2,3).
Piper closes this chapter with a prayer to “banish professionalism from our midst …. 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 the sovereign Lord.” (4)
The book shows Piper’s passion for the pastoral ministry. It is a convicting and challenging book with topics that will cause you to ponder for some time. I think it is a must read for every pastor who needs to be reminded of the priorities of the pastoral ministry. That would include most of us. How easy it is to be sidetracked in the midst of ministry!