Probably 95% of solid Christian pastors labor almost in an unnoticed way – visiting the sick, weeping in prayer at night, preparing sermons (with which they are never happy!), struggling with illness and personal shortcomings, preaching to 50 or 75 people on Sunday, baptizing, leading wedding services, and crying at the gravesite with other Christians. So Don Carson’s book about his father’s life is exactly realistic: Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: the Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.
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 its like to simply be a Christian pastor, father, and husband who does his best to follow the Lord in faith and obedience.
This book reminded me that pastors need to embrace the ordinary and be content with the place and people to which the Lord has called them, even if the ministry is small in the eyes of man. Pastors are called to be faithful, not famous.