Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is a distillation of what pastor and author John Piper believes are the most crucial doctrines and practices for effective, Christ-exalting ministry. Piper is an excellent communicator with a gift for inspiring his hearers to pursue the joy he himself has found in cherishing Christ. As he says many times, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” So what does that mean for those in pastoral ministry?

The core idea driving the book is that pastoral ministry is not something to be pursued with all the performance and cold impersonality that professionalism implies.

In the preface, Piper asks, “Is there professional praying? Professional trusting in God’s promises? Professional weeping over souls? Professional musing on the depths of revelation? Professional rejoicing in the truth? Professional praising God’s name? Professional treasuring the riches of Christ?… These are not marginal activities in the pastoral life. They are central. They are the essence… Professionalism is not supernatural. The heart of ministry is” (ix–x). Pastors should resist the pressure to professionalize their work and instead chase hard after the kind of ministry modeled in the New Testament.

I am not a pastor, but I requested this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program because I was curious what Piper would say to his peers about what is absolutely non-negotiable in ministry. I found that although this message is written to his pastoral brothers, the truths he teaches are applicable to me and every other believer in Christ. I was deeply challenged by many of the chapters, most notably “Beware of the Debtor’s Ethic” (about how we can so easily fall into the trap of trying to pay God back) and “Tell Them Copper Will Do” (about sacrificial giving and living with a joyful, wartime simplicity to escape materialism and be copper, not gold, conduits of provision and grace to others — ouch).

His message is both profoundly theological and insistently practical; in addition to arguing against the joyless philosophy of Immanuel Kant, Piper challenges us to blow the trumpet for the unborn and to sever racism at the root. He strives for a definition of worship to help churches survive the “worship wars” over style and form, while also urging pastors to know and teach how God loves His glory. It is all interconnected.

Piper delights in saying old things in fresh new ways, with arresting chapter titles as “Tell Them Not to Serve God,” “Fight for Your Life,” “Bitzer Was a Banker,” “Lead Them to Repentance through Their Pleasure,” and more. He writes with passion and clarity, and is not afraid to dissect hard passages to drill down to their rich depths.

What else stood out to me? Piper’s challenge to pastors to study Greek and Hebrew is stirring and right (“when we fail to stress the use of Greek and Hebrew as valuable in the pastoral office, we create an eldership of professional academicians” [101]).

I loved his discussion of why God inspired hard texts (they create desperation: a sense of utter dependence on God’s enablement; supplication: prayer to God for help; cogitation: thinking hard about biblical texts; and education: training young people and adults to pray earnestly, read well, and think hard). And of course Piper’s signature emphasis on joy permeates everything, how it is the best and only motive for pursuing God (“As Christian hedonists we know that every listener longs for happiness. And we will never tell them to deny or repress that desire. Their problem is not that they want to be satisfied but that they are far too easily satisfied. We will instruct them how to glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God” [66]).

The chapters are short and easy to read, but left me meditating on their truths and often rereading some of the more eye-opening passages several times to really understand the implications for my life. I heartily recommend this to all Christians (since we are all ministers, really) and especially pastors, as a quick compendium of the biblical teachings that have formed the basis of Piper’s 30-year ministry. There is a lot of wisdom here and I certainly see myself rereading. How many ministries and churches have been exhorted and encouraged by this book? Thank You, Lord, for John Piper! (  )

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