This week I had the privilege of spending four days with more than 1000 pastors at Moody’s Pastor’s Conference. It was a joy to get to know just a couple of these faithful shepherds as I manned the SBTS booth and talked to brothers, young and old, about ministry and on-going equipping for ministry.
At the same time, in the off hours of the conference, I had the chance to read through D.A. Carson’s inspiring tribute to his father, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflection of Tom Carson. It was a fitting book to read at a pastor’s conference and it reminded me why no faithful pastor is ‘ordinary,’ and why the ‘ordinary pastors’ that I have come to know in my life are my heroes. They are the ones I look at and say, “I want to be like them.” “Ordinary pastors” long to see Christ glorified at the expense of their own reputations; they sacrifice time, money, personal leisure, and even ministerial advancement for the sake of soul-winning and commitment to their local flock; they put everything else down so they can pick up their cross and follow their savior.
Most pastors, like Tom Carson and the ones I met this week, will never be known in the world as great, powerful, respectable, or extraordinary, but at the day of judgment they will be the ones whom the Lord Christ honors as those who served his church well–with hearts filled with Christ-adoring faithfulness and not crowd-pleasing fanfare. They will be the ones who will receive an unfading crown of glory when the chief Shepherd appears (1 Pet. 5:4). Until then, they may be overshadowed, marginalized, and/or rejected by the men and machinations of this world, but when Christ comes and sets the record straight, any ordinariness will replaced with unreserved and undeserved glory–for the first will be last, and the last shall be first. This point was brought home this week and gave me a greater appreciation for and desire to be an ordinary pastor. Consider this moving quote and ask yourself how God might make you more faithful as a servant of Christ (cf. Heb. 13:7),
Tom Carson never rose very far in denominational structures, but hundreds of people in the Outanouais and beyond testify how much he loved them. He never wrote a book, but he loved the Book. He was never wealthy or powerful, but he kept growing as a Christian: yesterday’s grace was never enough. He was not a far-sighted visionary, but he looked forward to eternity. He was not a gifted administrator, but there is no text that says, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you are good administrators.” His journals have many, many entries bathed in tears of contrition, but his children and grandchildren remember his laughter. Only rarely did be break through his pattern of reserve and speak deeply and intimately with his children, but he modeled Christian virtues to them. He much preferred to avoid controversy than to stir things up, but his own commitments to historic confessionalism were unyielding, and in ethics he was a man of principle. His own ecclesiastical circles were rather small and narrow, but his reading was correspondingly large and expansive. He was not very good at putting people down, except on his prayer list (D.A. Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008], 147-48).
Men like Tom Carson and the brothers I met with this week, challenge me to serve our Lord more faithfully and remind me what really matters in life–God, God’s Word, Christ’s church, and telling lost souls the Good News of Jesus Christ. May we who are in or about to enter the ministry, aspire to such faithful service, and may those who are not called to pastoral ministry pray for their pastor that he would have such a zeal for souls, energy for service, and freedom from pleasing this world.
Sola Deo Gloria, dss