Piper, J. (2013). Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, Updated and Expanded Edition [Kindle Android version].
We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. 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 (Matt. 18:3); there is no professional tenderheartedness (Eph. 4:32); there is no professional panting after God (Ps. 42:1). But our first business is to pant after God in prayer.
This week I finished reading through the revised and updated version of John Piper’s book Brothers, We are Not Professionals. Overall it was a good worthwhile read. While I don’t necessarily agree with all points Piper makes theologically this book has a lot of practical application and takeaways. Therefore, the purpose of this post is not to provide a review or complete summary of the book but more so to record some key takeaways from my perspective. This post will be a longer than my typical “book review” as a result of this purpose.
Of the 36 Chapters I have reduced this to key takeaways from 11 of these chapters some shorter than others.
Location 849The Christian life is pictured as an effort to pay back the debt we owe to God. The admission is made that we will never fully pay it off, but the debtor’s ethic demands that we work at it. Good deeds and religious acts are the installment payments we make on the unending debt we owe God.
Location 862In fact the astonishing thing is that every good deed we do in dependence on Him to “pay Him back” does just the opposite; it puts us ever deeper in debt to His grace
Location 880Gratitude is a species of joy which arises in your heart in response to the goodwill of someone who does or tries to do you a favor.
Location 897The aim of that act was to unleash a power of forgiveness and renewal that would transform people into reflectors of God’s glory.
Location 899This immediately excludes the debtor’s ethic. Any attempt to express a gratitude by paying God back would contradict the nature of His gift as free and gracious.
Location 905Good deeds do not pay back grace; they borrow more grace.
Location 972Religious “flesh” always wants to work for God . But “if you live according to the flesh you will die” (Rom. 8: 13). That is why our very lives hang on not working for God, both in justification and sanctification.
Location 983But it is not entirely passive. Matthew 6: 24 gives another clue to good service. Compare serving money and serving God. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” How does a person serve money? He does not assist money. He is not the benefactor of money. How then do we serve money? Money exerts a certain control over us because it seems to hold out so much promise of happiness.
Location 998The only right way to serve God is in a way that reserves for Him all the glory.
Location 1168Both our flesh and our culture scream against spending an hour on our knees beside a desk piled with papers. It is un-American to be so impractical as to devote oneself to prayer and meditation two hours a day. And sometimes I fear that our seminaries conform to this deadly pragmatism that stresses management and maneuvering as ways to get things done with a token mention of prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
Location 1172When we depend upon organizations, we get what organizations can do; when we depend upon education, we get what education can do; when we depend upon man, we get what man can do; but when we depend upon prayer, we get what God can do.
Location 1175I know that the reason so few conversions are happening through my church is not because we lack a program or staff. It is because we do not love the lost and yearn for their salvation the way we should.
Location 1179our lives and in our churches, there will be agonizing prayer: “God, break my heart !” I choose the word agonize carefully. Paul used in Romans 15: 30, “Now I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit , to strive together [sunagōnizasthai] with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.” With such “agonizing together” God may grant tears. And without those tears we may shuffle members from church to church, but few people will pass from darkness to light.
Location 1219Ministry is its own worst enemy. It is not destroyed by the big, bad wolf of the world. It destroys itself. One survey of pastors asked, “What are the most common obstacles to spiritual growth?” The top three were busyness (83 percent), lack of discipline (73 percent), and interruptions (47 percent). Most of these interruptions and most of our busyness are ministry related, not “worldly.”
Location 1233Without extended, concentrated prayer, the ministry of the Word withers. And when the ministry of the Word declines, faith (Rom. 10: 17; Gal. 3: 2, 5) and holiness (John 17: 17) decline. Activity may continue, but life and power and fruitfulness fade away. Therefore, whatever opposes prayer opposes the whole work of ministry.
Location 1281Brothers, beware of sacred substitutes. Devote yourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.
Location 1307The great pressure on us today is to be productive managers. But the need of the church is for prayerful, spiritual poets.
Location 1337There is so much soul-refreshing, heart-deepening, mind-enlarging truth to be had from great books! Your people will know if you are walking with the giants (as Warren Wiersbe says) or watching television.
Location 1353It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you , you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.
Location 1372No, the point is not to read many books . The point is to stay alive in your soul, to keep the juices flowing, to fan the flame again on Monday and have it burning bright on Saturday night.
Location 1523there is a direct correlation between reading a lot and gaining insight. But, in fact, there is no positive correlation at all between the quantity of pages read and the quality of insight gained.
Location 1719Christian biography is the means by which the body life of the church cuts across the centuries.
Location 2901The right use of your body and your mind may enable you to see so much of God that you would sacrifice your life for Christ.Location 2924So now I spend about twenty to thirty minutes three times a week on weights at a local gym. My total weekly investment in physical exercise these days would be about six hours, counting dressing and showering and travel.Location 2956For me , adequate sleep is not just a matter of staying healthy . It’s a matter of staying in the ministry—I’m tempted to say it’s a matter of persevering as a Christian.Location 2959Therefore, we must watch the changes in our bodies. In the fight for joy, we must be wise in the adjustments we make.Location 2963So, brothers, take heed to your eating and exercising and resting. Do this not because the body is so valuable.
Location 3510Tell them there are three possibilities. They can be goers, senders, or disobedient.
Location 3999The fundamental reason for this is probably that the Old Testament was mainly a “come see” religion and the New Testament fulfillment is a “go tell” religion . In other words, while the focus was on the people Israel in one place, worship could be structured in fixed and formal ways. But once Jesus said, “Go make disciples of all nations”— all cultures, all languages, all temperaments— the issue of form almost vanished out of the New Testament. The New Testament is a missionary handbook . It is a book for all cultures. This is the fundamental reason for its sparing treatment of form in worship.
Location 4047When we say that what we do on Sunday morning is to “go hard after God,” what we mean is that we are going hard after satisfaction in God,
Location 4089If the focus shifts onto our giving to God, one result I have seen again and again is that, subtly, it is not God that remains at the center but the quality of our giving.
Location 4255No wife should replace the authority of Christ with the authority of her husband.
Location 4275Ephesians 5: 25– 30. This text makes clear that the reason there is so much misery in marriages is not that husbands and wives are seeking their own pleasure but that they are not seeking it in the pleasure of their spouses.
Location 4288He says, “Husbands and wives, recognize that in marriage you have to become one flesh; therefore, if you live for your private pleasure at the expense of your spouse, you are living against yourself and destroying your own highest joy. But if you devote yourself with all your heart to the holy joy of your spouse , you will also be living for your joy and making a marriage after the image of Christ and his church.”