I have in hand another invitation to a big name conference with a big name speaker. I could go and hang out around the coffee pot with ordinary pastors, but I am told that the important stuff comes from the important people.
My brother Steve and I have spoken from time to time on how glad we are to be part of the Evangelical Free Church of America. One of the reasons is that there is no single awe-inspiring individual with whom the Free Church is identified. It is not a movement of personalities. We had looked at other church planting groups who were led by powerful, ‘successful,’ personalities, yet we chose the Free Church as a movement of ordinary pastors led by ordinary men who are seeking to be faithful to the work and Word of God.
Some time ago I read Don Carson’s book Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: the Life and Reflections of Tom Carson in which he told the story of the faithful work of his father laboring in small churches in Quebec. The Reformed Reader summarizes the book aptly:
This book is not exciting. Rev. Tom Carson’s life was pretty normal – though perhaps a little more difficult than average because he labored in such hard soil (the Quebec area in the ’40s and beyond). He is not very quotable, and his journals aren’t full of moving and inspiring writing. Rev. Carson even suffered through periods of melancholy because he didn’t have a high view of himself; he sometimes questioned his abilities and calling. So if you want a book about self-motivation, conquering the world for Christ, starting a thriving ministry, or building a multi-campus church, don’t get this book. You’ll be sorely disappointed.
However, if you want to see what the life of an ordinary pastor is like, this book belongs on your shelf. I’m guessing that most of our readers are in the context of a smaller church whose pastor is not known by more than a few hundred people. This book is for those pastors! And I’d encourage parishioners to read it as well, just to get an idea of what it’s like to simply be a Christian pastor, father, and husband who does his best to follow the Lord in faith and obedience (http://tinyurl.com/7rh6n6s).
I enjoy the company of ordinary pastors. They have not written a book that has cast them into such prominence that they have left their church to talk about the book. They have not experienced such phenomenal church growth that they have become itinerant evangelists of church success. They do not tweet often and are rarely, if ever, re-tweeted. They have no unique and engaging story to tell that sets them apart from other ordinary pastors – at least not one that many want to listen to. They are ordinary.
They seek to be 1 Timothy 3 kind of men; they are faithful in preparation and preaching; they are involved in evangelism, discipleship, shepherding, and community involvement. They are ordinary.
Because they are ordinary, they have no need of being the center of attention. They actually care about other ordinary pastors and are interested in what is going on in the lives and ministries of ordinary pastors. I have one such valued friend who over the course of our friendship has never sought to impress me with his successes but who, unintentionally, has impressed me with his faithfulness. He is an ordinary pastor who one day will hear the words, “Well done, ordinary pastor (good and faithful servant). Enter into the joy of the Lord.”
May God give us more ordinary pastors and maybe even more conferences for ordinary pastors led by ordinary leaders.