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Posts Tagged ‘Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor’

I recently just finished reading D A Carson’s book, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor.  This book is a collection of some of his father’s (Tom Carson) journals and reflections on his ministry as a church planter in French Canada.  I’m tempted to offer a book review, but I think I’d rather give some thoughts on this book.  If you go here, you can scroll down (under 2008) and download the book for free!  Free is less than I paid for it, since I had the wonderful fortune of purchasing it and having it delivered to my door the day before it was put up for free download on the TGC site.  That’s okay, actually, because I don’t think I’ll ever get used to reading books on the computer.

Okay, here I  go with some thoughts, in no particular order:

1.  I think this book would be great for anyone in ministry to read.  It gives a glimpse into the mind of someone struggling as a church planting pastor in a difficult context (missionaries to Africa, coming back to North America and looking for a new ministry context, found it too hard and left within a year!).  It’s a sobering and realistic account of what many ministries look like.

2.  It’s most challenging aspect, however, was not seeing the toil of ministry, but seeing the faithfulness of Tom Carson throughout.  He saw a need and gave his life to serve.  He stuck it out through thick and thin, with a grace that is all too uncommon.  I would read about Tom Carson and look at my own life and ministry and realize I had a long way to go.

3.  D A Carson does a good job of avoiding hagiography, not an easy task given his admiration for his father.  He admits that his father struggle with depression (though Tom Carson was never diagnosed or anything) and was better as an associate pastor rather than a senior pastor.

4.  Without giving the specifics away (go read the book!), Tom Carson did a phenominal job of not bad mouthing others in front of his kids.  Doesn’t sound like much?  Listen to the words you and others say about other people.  Can you say that you do not speak negatively about others?  Do your kids ever hear you voice your frustrations about other people, even if they are justified?

5.  The love that Tom Carson had for his wife is moving.  As I was reading through his service to her as she struggled in the final years of her life, I kept coming back to Paul’s command to the men of Ephesus: love your wife as Christ loves the church.  From what I read, Tom Carson did this about as well as anyone.

6.  As Tom Carson got older, the younger generation of pastors saw much more fruit than he and his generation did.  D A Carson notes that there was never a hint of jealousy or animosity on his father’s part.  I know for a fact that I would be jealous.  I’d look for relatively minor flaws and comfort myself that at least I got that right.

7.  An impetus to write this book came from a desire to encourage pastors in difficult contexts.  I can’t remember if I heard D A Carson say this in an interview or if it was in the preface of the book (I don’t have it in front of me), but he commented that we tend to glamorize certain ministries and go to their conferences (I’m thinking: Desiring God, Together for the Gospel, etc).  This can perpetuate an unrealistic vision of ministry.  I have a lot of thoughts on this (though none are complete), but I’ll save them for another post.  But I think there’s a lesson in this book: Tom Carson was faithful, therefore he was successful.  May we hear this message.

There are probably a number of other thoughts I could give (the insights into denominational politics was interesting, as were some of the historical notes of French Canada), but I really want to encourage folks to read this book.  If nothing else, download it for free and read it at your leisure.

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