In this revised and expanded edition of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals that includes a new introduction and select all-new chapters, best-selling author John Piper pleads through a series of thoughtful essays with fellow pastors to abandon the professionalization of the pastorate and pursue the prophetic call of the Bible for radical ministry. "We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry," he writes. "The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake. For there is no professional childlikeness, there is no professional tenderheartedness, there is no professional panting after God. "Brothers, we are not professionals. We are outcasts. We are aliens and exiles in the world. Our citizenship is in Heaven, and we wait with eager expectation for the Lord (Phil. 3:20). you cannot professionalize the love for His appearing without killing it. And it is being killed. "The world sets the agenda of the professional man; God sets the agenda of the spiritual man. The strong wine of Jesus Christ explodes the wine- skins of professionalism."… (more)
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The book is a rewrite of an earlier publication by Piper and includes additional chapters.
I began reading this book with certain expectations of what was going to be discussed, but found it wasn't quite what I expected. If you're familiar with any of John Piper's other books, you have a
The book I had in mind would probably have been entitled Brothers, We Are Not Celebrities, so it took me a while to clearly grasp what Piper had in mind. Here's my best stab at it. We attribute a certain prestige to the "professionals" among us. They've pursued an education to train for their chosen career. They're pursuing a certain status by achieving a certain level of competency in their profession. We might think of the doctors and lawyers among us - well-respected, credentialed individuals.
Piper argues that pastors are not "professionals" because none of these things really apply for them. No amount of university or seminary training equips a pastor for a work that relies on the supernatural work of God. A pastor never becomes competent in himself because everything he does requires the working of God's Spirit to make it effective. No credentialing agency can help him accomplish greater things in God's kingdom. The pastor relies on God to bring people to faith and salvation; the pastor relies on the Spirit to answer prayer; the pastor relies on the Lord to make his preaching effective. Contrary to being well-respected, they are likely scoffed at by the world around them when they commit to living a radical Christian life.
Being reminded of these truths draws the reader's attention upward to see God as more magnificent in the pastor's life and calling. There is quite a bit of content here that will encourage the pastor who may be struggling with the effectiveness of his ministry. It will help reorient him to look to God alone to make his labor fruitful. I most enjoyed the chapters that encouraged this kind of thinking among pastors.
Other chapters were more theologically oriented, focusing on certain doctrines that Piper considers foundational to Christian belief. These are the chapters I was already familiar with from other Piper books and didn't find them quite as engaging.
we accepted Christ
Throughout the entire text, there was only one chapter that I had problems with and that was chapter 15. In this chapter Piper proposes that the Sunday sermon or teaching is what saves people. He states, “Our salvation and the salvation of those who hear us week after week depend in large measure on our faithful attention to personal holiness and sound teaching.” I am not in disagreement with being a positive example, but I am in disagreement with the statement that ours and our listener’s salvation depends on our resentation. Salvation does not depend on our actions. This puts us in control which in turn puts God as a spectator. This
can not be so, ever. We are responsible for our actions, but it is ultimately God’s decision as to who is elect and who is not. “The salvation of our believing hearers is on the line.” I most definitely disagree.
John Piper is an “easy reading” author. His insights are thoughtful and well spoken. Although I do not agree with all of his opinions, his works are certainly worth reading.
Piper has a wonderful collection of articles from magazines that were written for church leaders. They are easy to read, and generally press in on the reader to evaluate and refine the character found within. This is a
“Beware of the Debtors Ethic” was a chapter that particularly struck with me. The idea that often enters into the conversation of Christian life is that “the Christian life is pictured as an effort to pay back the debt we owe to God.”(pg34) What a fallacy, what a trap. People strive to find ways to pay back the free gift of salvation. The question that haunts me is ... how much of that what I hear is due in part to my teaching, and my example of a life? The encouragement that we do not owe anything for the free gift of salvation (yet we owe everything!), and the challenge is to fight this thought process to the bitter end!
Another chapter that worked me over was; “Don’t confuse uncertainty with humility”. In this section Piper really cut into me and my attitudes. He presented five points on humility;
- begins with a sense of subordination to God in Christ
- does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got.
- asserts truth not to bolster the ego with control or with triumphs in debate, but as service to Christ and love to the adversary.
- knows it is dependent on grace for all knowing, believing, living and acting.
- knows it is fallible and so considers criticism and learns from it, but it also knows that God has made provision for unshakable human conviction and that He calls us to persuade others.
Five simple points, and not one of them was a simple read for me ... each one convicted, and at the same time spurs me on to walk out the privilege of pastoral leadership with greater humility!
“Tell them that copper will do” is the next chapter, and again it is a reading that causes discomfort. Here the root of my selfishness and greed was laid on the table. “God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves (not matter how thankfully) what we ought to be using to alleviate the misery of unevangelized and uneducated and unhoused and unfed millions” (pg 169). How often am I unwilling to give, to share the great gifts that God so graciously gives to me? Even worst yet how often do I grumble about the things that I do have?
But not every chapter was a hard reading on the areas I am lacking. “Read Christina biography” is a chapter that encourages the practise for reading the stories of those have gone before us. This I do as a practise, but again it is something that I can grow in, doing a better job of gleaning and implementing positivity habits into my life and ministry for the glory of God.
That is what this book is about; giving God glory as we work through whatever field He has placed us to plow!
The goal of being better equipped to pray for my pastor was absolutely worth it in reading this. Preaching alone is a huge mountain to climb, and should be drenched in prayer, not to mention pastoral care, leading through conflict, and spurring others on in their walk with the Lord.
Second, this edition is a second edition and Pastor Piper revised the focus of the book to include a new type of "pastor" in the American church - the "media" savvy Pastor who is another type of "professional" who cares more about
His points are in general well grounded in the text (keep in mind Pastor Piper's Doctor of Theology was on the use of the work Love in the New Testament under the title: "Love Your Enemies: Jesus' Love Command in the Synoptic Gospels and the Early Christian Paraenesis (Cambridge University Press, 1980; Baker, 1991)".
He knows his Biblical text - but the one criticism I have is the question of whether the First Century is the proper "polity" of the church in the 21st Century, and if it is not, then his position of the role of women in the church (or lack thereof) is misplaced and wrong. If the answer to this question is different from John's (that women have a proper place in the ministry) in no way undercuts or diminishes much of what he has to offer regarding the pitfalls and traps of the over focus on "professionalism" in the church vis-a-vis its pastors.
Finally, while prophets are needed in our churches, not all pastors are called to be prophets - any more than all are called to "pastor-teachers" or "evangelists" - see Eph. 4:11.
A worthwhile read for pastors-teachers - even if you do not agree with all John writes.
My one caution is to remember to read John's writings with a critical eye - his take on scripture is helpful and generally spot-on but it is not infallible and John would be the first to tell you that.... as he does in his re-writes of certain chapters in this book (demonstrating that he continues to re-shapre his thoughts and take on the current state of the pastoral ministry in the US.)
Piper draws from his 30+ years of pastoral ministry to offer encouragement and wisdom to all who are called to serve as pastors today. He addresses matters of character, theology and culture, providing insights into ways in which the pastor needs to tend their own person in order to tend God’s people well. The book is saturated with scripture, as Piper draws extensively from the Old and New Testaments to ground his lines of reasoning, as well as citing references from throughout the church’s history.
There are two issues that may dissuade certain readers from picking up this book and drawing from its wisdom. One is that Piper is a Baptist, known for embracing a complentarian model of ministry, rather than an egalitarian one. While he uses the form “Brothers,…” as the title for each chapter I believe that the wisdom included in each chapter is of equal value for women serving in pastoral ministry. Additionally, as a Baptist, he holds to baptism as an ordinance, rather than a sacrament. As someone who fully embraces orthodox Reformed theology I found that Piper’s words on baptism could be used constructively not only in reference to baptism, but also within a covenantal understanding of the Lord’s Supper.
In the past few years I have read a few of Piper’s books and listened to him speak on several occasions. His mantra, if you will, has been and remains, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” In Brothers, We Are Not Professionals Piper ‘s overarching goal is for pastors to more fully pursue glorifying God in their personal lives and public ministries, so that those they minister among are enabled to do the same. He accomplishes this purpose and I highly commend this book.
**I received this book free through the Early Reviewer program on LIbraryThing in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
This book is laid out in very short but profound chapters, and in each one Piper calls upon his fellow pastors to engage differently with his flock. Every chapter stays true to the overall theme of the book, which is Piper's call for pastors to stop thinking of themselves as members of the pastoral profession and instead to look at themselves as outcasts. He states in the very beginning that "[w]e are aliens and exiles in the world (1 Pet 2:11). Our citizenship is in heaven, and we wait with eager expectation for the Lord (Phil 3:20). You cannot professionalize the love for His appearing without killing it. And it is being killed." Piper urges pastors to do away with the mentality of the professional and instead hold on to the mentality of a prophet.
I love this. I have met way too many professional pastors and so pitifully few prophetic ones. I have met too many men that stand behind the pulpit who care more for professional organizations than they do for the hurting sheep and for the lost of the world. I think this book should be read by every pastor. Furthermore, I think this book should be read by all Believers, because the challenge in its pages is for all Christians and not just those called to preach His Word from the pulpits of the churches.
Chapters with titles like:
"Brothers, Be Bible-Oriented- Not Entertainment-Oriented- Preachers"
"Brothers, Query the Text"
"Brothers, Show Your People Why God Inspired Hard Texts"
"Brothers, Feel the Truth of Hell"
Chapters like this and many others are guaranteed to at least challenge us into critically regarding the complacency into which so many of us have fallen.
So, please. If you are a pastor, read this book. Please, if you are a Christian, seriously consider reading this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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" ). 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" ).
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!
The title is somewhat misleading: "Brothers, We Are Not Professionals" is only the first of 36 different subjects relating to the author's encouragement regarding proper ministry. The author does not envision ministers as
There's a lot of great stuff in this book. His concept of "Christian Hedonism" is intriguing. He does well at telling ministers how they need to make time to pray and to continue their personal studies beyond the day-to-day/week-to-week study work. Much of what he encourages ministers to promote--Bible-based lessons, emphasis on God's glory, recognition of the challenges of the text, proper discussion of hell, repentance, and other subjects, avoidance of legalism, maintenance of humility not uncertainty, a proper view toward wealth, love for one's wife, and exhortation against racism and abortion, among other matters.
Piper is a Baptist, and one on the Reformed side at that: his emphasis on justification by faith alone is there, along with great fealty to the Puritans. He recognizes the importance of baptism but resists what the text clearly indicates about what baptism does. One should be careful in these parts for the Protestant over-reach; while studying Puritan works can have value, one ought not neglect patristics, reformed, and more recent writings as well in order to obtain a more holistic understanding of the range of all matters Christianity (if one is so inclined for such a study).
Nevertheless, save on these Protestant doctrinal matters, this book has a lot of good information for ministers to consider, and they should do so.
Upon completing his doctoral dissertation, John Piper became a professor of Biblical Studies at Bethel University and Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota
Brothers, We Are NOT Professionals was first published in 2002. This expanded edition has great cover art. The title continues to be controversial and misunderstood by clergy and laity alike. The book consists of 36 chapters which tackle issues of prayer, baptism, marriage, money, racism, and the art and science of preaching.
I've read quite a few of them. Every time I finish one, I think, "What was all the fuss about?" I think the issue, at least for me, is mostly stylistic. His writing style just doesn't appeal to me. There is
In Brothers, We are Not Professionals, Piper breaks the mold. As far as I'm concerned, this is his magnum opus. Forget Desiring God and . Those things are rags compared to Brothers!! Following in the path of Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students, Piper offers up simple essays that challenge ministers in just about every conceivable way! He addresses everything from the minister's marriage to the need to preach justification by faith. Each chapter tackles a unique topic and could be read on its own. Piper has penned an offering that is sure to mentor young ministers well beyond his own lifetime. I found myself evaluating my own life with each chapter. More than a few blindspots were revealed! I can honestly say that this book has inspired me to (among other things) be more faithful in my study of original biblical languages, to read more Christian biographies, to tell my people "that copper will do" (read chapter 29- you'll agree with me!), and to be more prayerful. I am immensely thankful to John Piper for this offering!
I guess I should admit that, at least in this instance, I DO get all of the fuss!
The second edition improves on
My only critique would be that the additional chapters being interspersed through the book results in page numbering and chapter numbers being quite different. For the individual reader, this is not a challenge, but when read as a group, its important to ensure that either (a) everyone has the same edition, or (b) the chapter titles of what's being read are communicated so that each person reads the correct pages.
There was one chapter, however, that had less to do with helping pastors fulfill their role as shepherds and more to do with putting forth Piper's theology. I felt that the chapter on baptism was out of place in this book. I found that it did not help to put forth the goal of the book of helping pastors to shed the role of professional and embrace their role as shepherd.
All-in-all, this was an excellent book and well worth the read.