I’m reading John Piper’s Brothers, We are not Professionals (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002). The books thesis is encapsulated in its title which is “meant to shake us loose from the pressure to fit in the cultural expectations of professionalism. It is meant to sound an alarm against the pride of station and against the expectation of parity in pay and against the borrowing of paradigms from the professional world” (Piper, Brothers, xii).
It has been my experience as a church planter that one’s role as a church planting pastor can be very easily dichotomized between a church planter and a pastor. As a church planter you are by and large an administrator; much planning is involved in establishing a new church. As a church planting pastor, you function primarily pastorally, or as a shepherd. Now don’t misunderstand me, no one has taught me this dichotomy nor has anyone implied that this is right. But in practice, it is a very easy distinction to make and therefore to guide my approach to ministry. There is, I think, a Biblical basis to this dichotomy in light of Ephesians 4:11 (some men are called to be evangelists [i.e. church planters]. They plant and leave the watering to a pastor-teacher). Having said this, my point is simply that no matter whether one is a church planter or a pastor it is difficult to functionally separate pastoral ministry from church planting. The goal of both roles is to point people to faith and growth in Christ (cf. Acts 16:23-26).
Since we have chartered Bible Baptist Church, I am now serving as the pastor of this wonderful, small, new church. It has whetted my appetite to grow and thrive in this role. I want to faithfully shepherd this congregation as my former pastor Douglas McLachlan shepherded Fourth Baptist Church for nearly twenty years, and more importantly to heed Peter’s admonition to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2).
I minister in the middle-class NW suburbs of Minneapolis. It is generally considered to be a sophisticated area. Therefore, professionalism in ministry has a pleasant aroma to me. I need to steer clear of this. However, to say I wish to avoid the professionalism Piper warns against is not to swing the pendulum to incompetence, as it were. Both should be equally despised. My goal as a young pastor is to shepherd faithfully and set eternity before my hearers weekly; with passion, with tears, and with joy which, as Piper argues, are not “professional” sentiments. Piper’s book has communicated, among other things, the spiritual, financial, emotional, physical, and intellectual rigor that characterizes serious pastoral ministry. He closes his first chapter, “Brothers, We are not Professionals” with this prayer, which is a worthy one for all undershepherds to pray:
God, deliver us from the professionalizers! Deliver us from the “low, managing, contriving, maneuvering temper of mind among us.” God, give us tears for our sins. Forgive us for being shallow in prayer, so thin in our grasp of holy verities, so content amid perishing neighbors, so empty of passion and earnestness in all our conversation. Restore to us the childlike joy of our salvation. Frighten us with the awesome holiness and power of Him who can cast both soul and body into hell (Matt. 10:28). Cause us to hold to the cross with fear and trembling as our hope-filled and offensive tree of life. Grant us nothing, absolutely nothing, the way the world views it. May Christ be all in all (Col. 3:11).
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 glory our sovereign Lord.
Humble us, O God, under Your mighty hand, and let us rise, not as professionals, but as witnesses and partakers of the sufferings of Christ. In His awesome name. Amen.
(Piper, Brothers, 4)