Saturday, February 18, 2012

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor – D.A. Carson

© 2008 Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois

As an ordinary, or typical, pastor of an ordinary, or typical, church I am always looking for books that will address the issues that I face and encourage me. These books are all too few and far between mainly because the men who are ordinary pastors in ordinary churches aren’t writing books about the ordinary day to day plodding that is the pastorate. Those who are writing books are the men who stumble upon something that explodes into a megachurch and are sharing the secret (with too many times ignoring the fact that the explosion was God at work and not the gimmick that He happened to use). Consequently, ordinary pastors are buying up the book, digesting the contents, attempting to duplicate the gimmick, and wondering when and where their explosion is going to happen.

In the case of Memoirs, the “ordinary pastor” still did not write the book. That was left to his son (a former pastor himself, and academic who has written books) to do as a memorial after Tom Carson had passed away. Armed with his father’s journals, correspondence, and notes from decades of plodding to reach French-Canadians, D.A. Carson writes an a-typical memoir that reaches out to and touches the mind (and heart) of the pastor in the trenches.

Throughout his life Tom Carson worked diligently to plant and grow churches among French-speaking Canadians in a day when the work was just beginning—and, as new work tends to be, was slow and cumbersome. Several things were of interest to me as reader: the view of history from a north of the border perspective. Having learned all my history from an American point of view, it is often refreshing to hear the stories told from a different side. Also, was the encouragement that comes through becoming posthumous friends with a man like Tom Carson—who “wasted” his life in service of King Jesus. Carson was a man who (with his wife by his side all the way) lived Jesus in the home, and in the marketplace, from the parsonage to the translator’s desk of his later years. He cared for his flock, and he displayed the best of what is a Christian before his community and his family. He was a man who thought little of himself, bringing to life the proclamation of John the Baptist: “He [Christ] must increase, I must decrease.”  Even in the face of losing his beloved to the brain-crippler known as Alzheimer’s Disease, Carson lived for Jesus—studying scripture, providing counseling, and mentoring, as a daily walk of life.

One other characteristic that endears this small volume to the reader is its readability. Unlike most books called “memoirs” these days, this one reads like a nice two-hour visit with the subject. It reads quickly and smoothly, and is filled with the joys, challenges, and tears that would enter the room if Tom Carson were sitting in the chair opposite you. If you are a pastor (ordinary or typical or otherwise) or if you love an ordinary pastor, you should read this book. You will also find in it an urgency to keep on in the plodding work of the Kingdom where you are. I give D.A. Carson  five reading glasses for sharing his father’s life and ministry with us.

—Benjamin Potter, February 17, 2012

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