Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson


I am not surprised. Don Carson (the writer and son) interlaces his messages with examples of some spiritual lesson learnt in his childhood to his father, who was an ordinary pastor. I hear it often enough. They are heart warming. I’m glad to see that he is finally publishing something more personal about his family life when he was younger.

Some quotes I got from here. Touching:

Some pastors, mightily endowed by God, are a remarkable gift to the church. They love their people, they handle Scripture well, they see many conversions, their ministries span generations, they understand their culture yet refuse to be domesticated by it, they are theologically robust and personally disciplined. … Most of us, however, serve in more modest patches. Most pastors will not regularly preach to thousands, let alone tens of thousands. They will not write influential books, they will not supervise large staffs, and they will never see more than modest growth. They will plug away at their care for the aged, at their visitation, at their counseling, at their Bible studies and preaching. Some will work with so little support that they will prepare their own bulletins. They cannot possibly discern whether the constraints of their own sphere of service owe more to the specific challenges of the local situation or to their own shortcomings. Once in a while they will cast a wistful eye on “successful” ministries. Many of them will attend the conferences sponsored by the revered masters, and come away with a slightly discordant combination of, on the one hand, gratitude and encouragement, and, on the other, jealousy, feelings of inadequacy, and guilt.

Most of us—let us be frank—are ordinary pastors.

Dad was one of them. This little book is a modest attempt to let the voice and ministry of one ordinary pastor be heard, for such servants have much to teach us.

* * *Tom Carson never rose very far in denominational structures, but hundreds of people … 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 he 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 lists.

When he died, there were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no announcements on the television, no mention in Parliament, no attention paid by the nation. In his hospital room there was no one by his bedside. There was only the quiet hiss of oxygen, vainly venting because he had stopped breathing and would never need it again.

But on the other side, all the trumpets sounded. Dad won entrance to the only throne-room that matters, not because he was a good man or a great man—he was, after all, a most ordinary pastor—but because he was a forgiven man. And he heard the voice of him whom he longed to hear saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Very very true. It is a pity that some never understood the biblical warrant and importance of a shepherd (pastor) in a christian congregation (assembly/church). More a pity if they do not emphatise and support the ‘ordinary’ pastors of their spiritual lives.

It is easy to just claim that there is no need for a shepherd when we have THE SHEPHERD. But that is just a cop out excuse as saying there is no need for a church since we have THE CATHOLIC (invisible, universal) church.

I’m definitely getting this book. A good reminder and always a timely one for those who tends to stray away from their God appointed shepherds who guides them to the streams of living water (The Word).

P.S. Interesting to note also that, the thing that Don writes about what his father is not, is what he is. I’m sure he sees the irony, but also appreciates the humility of his father’s life that tempers his own ‘popularity’.


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