Brothers, We are NOT Professionals. By John Piper. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2002. 286 pp. Paper. $14.99.
In an age when megachurches are marketed as the ministry model and pastors plaster their faces on billboards and books, it is helpful to be reminded that pastoral ministry and the CEO mindset do not mix. John Piper has provided such a reminder in his book, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals.
I love books on pastor al ministry almost as much as books on salvation. I try to read several of each every year. This past year, I got both subjects in this one book by John Piper. It includes not only his views on pastoral ministry, but his views on salvation as well. The former were refreshing; the latter shocking.
His chapters on Christian service (6), prayer (8), ministry priorities (10), and preaching (11 and 14) were excellent. Chapter 4 on justification by faith alone was typical Calvinist fare, but chapter 15, “Brothers, Save the Saints,” was rank and file Romanism.
In chapter 15, Piper shows that the “Puritans believed that without perseverance in the obedience of faith the result would be eternal destruction, not lesser sanctification” (p. 106). He says that “What is at stake on Sunday morning is not merely the upbuilding of the church but its eternal salvation (p. 106) and that “The salvation of our believing hearers is on the line” (p. 106).
Later, Piper reveals his belief that the salvation of the elect depends not just on their own perseverance, but on the perseverance of the pastor. “The eternal life of the elect hangs on the effectiveness of pastoral labors… It is the job of a pastor to labor so that none of his brothers and sisters is destroyed” (p. 108). Pastors need to preach the Word so that the people grow, “because if they don’t grow, they perish” (p. 111).
Regarding eternal security, he says “It is a community project” (p. 110) and that “self-sufficiency and self-determination…will result in a tragic loss of eternal life, if there is no repentance” (p. 153).
Piper understands that some will accuse him of teaching justification by works. He says such accusations are a misinterpretation of what he is saying (p. 110). But there is no other way to interpret it. While there is a difference between justification and entering heaven, he bluntly states that no one will enter heaven unless they persevere in good works. Therefore, one gains entrance into heaven through a lifelong process of obedience and spiritual growth. He claims to be a Calvinist, but his views on salvation are closer to those of Catholics and Arminians.
Piper has a good grasp on pastoral ministry and for that, I highly value his book. But sadly, those who follow the beautiful music of Piper’s preaching and writing are following the Pied Piper back to Rome.
Jeremy D. Myers