Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

Piper, John. Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry. Nashville, Tenn: B&H Publishing Group, 2013.

John Piper has penned more than 50 books to include, Desiring God, Don't  Waste Your Life, and The Future of Justification.  He is the pastor of preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church, served as the a professor of Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is the founder of Desiring God Ministries.  He holds a Doctorate of Theology from the University of Munich and is presently the chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary.  Often called 'A pastor to pastors' Piper has re-released his 2002 publication, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, now updated and expanded. 

John Piper discusses the re-release of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals:

In addition to some revisions, Piper added six more chapters.  Chapter 4, 'Brothers, God Does Make Much of Us,' and Chapter 6, 'Brothers, God Is the Gospel' were added for theological reasons. In his pursuit of being a better preacher, he added Chapter 13, 'Brothers, Be Bible-Oriented--Not Entertainment Oriented Preachers' and Chapter 18, 'Brothers, Pursue the Tone of the Text.'  For family reasons relating to his sanctification, he added Chapter 22, 'Brothers, Help Them Act the Miracle.'  And for personal reasons, he added Chapter 27, 'Brothers, Bodily Training is of Some Value' (xi). 

Piper opens with a charge against today's pastorate: "[...] the pressure to 'professionalize' the pastorate has morphed and strengthened" (ix).  He goes on to ask, 
"Is there professional praying? Professional musing on the depths of revelation? Professional treasuring the riches of Christ? Professional walking by the Spirit? Professional exercise of spiritual gifts? Professional dealing with demons? Professional pleading with backsliders? Professional perseverance in a hard marriage? Professional playing with children? Professional courage in the face of persecution? Professional patience with everyone?" (ix-x)
His questions are good.  Ministry does, he argues, have a side of professionalism, but these are in "areas of competency where the life of faith and the life of unbelief overlap" (x).  Professionalism in other areas need not be compartmentalized.  "These are not marginal activities in the pastoral life;" writes Piper, "They are central.  They are the essence" (x).   Therefore, Piper sets out to make two primary arguments with this book.  The first is, "professionalism should always be marginal, not central; optional, not crucial" (x).  The second is like it.  "The pursuit of professionalism" he argues, "will push the supernatural center more and more into the corner while ministry becomes a set of secular competencies with a religious veneer" (x).  Thirty-six short chapters follow to fill out the details of his thesis. 

Most pastors today are likely dealing with the very issues Piper sets out to reshape.  That being the case, this book is a helpful tool for pastors.  One gets the feeling while reading Brothers, We are Not Professionals, that Piper is simply putting all the aspects of ministry that interest him on paper to help the next generation.  But this is not to say that this book is limited to pastors alone, or just for brothers for that matter.  Many (but not all) the chapters have great application for the Christian life.  Those in positions like worship leaders, teachers, small group hosts, or other ministry areas will benefit from this book.  Men leading in their homes will find this book compelling.  And women will have just as many areas of application as the men, although Chapter 35, 'Brothers, Love Your Wife' may need some adaptation. 

Piper is honest about his own walk in ministry, which is most likely why this book is as compelling as it is.  There is not one single word that is not backed by his emotion, passion, and service to the Kingdom.

One criticism however, might be that a small selection of the chapters are 'Piper specific,' that is, rather specific to his ministry.   For example, "Brothers, Sever the Root of Racism" and "Brothers, Blow the Trumpet for the Unborn."  While both of these issues are extremely important and obviously a passion of Piper's, they provide very little instruction for issues to which other pastors may be called in other times, cultures, and places. Racism and abortion must be ended, but what about those serving to eradicate issues of poverty, the sex-trade, illiteracy, child labor, violence, drug addiction, or many other ills in our fallen world today? While I appreciate Piper's call to the two above mentioned issues, understanding better tools to fulfill other passionate callings may have been helpful for those in circumstances where additional matters must be addressed.

Apart from this fairly insignificant criticism,  Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, is a fantastic work and well worth the time to read.  It is a must read for pastors and I also highly recommend it to those not serving in the paid pastorate.

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* A copy of this book was provided in exchange for a review; however, the content and quality of the review were completely as my discretion.