Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry

ISBN: 0805426205
ISBN 13: 9780805426205
By: John Piper

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About this book

A senior pastor pleads with his colleagues to abandon the secularization of the pastorate and return to the primitive call of the Bible for radical ministry.

Reader's Thoughts

Bendick Ong

Excellent book addressing many core issues in which a pastor must stand firm in today's world. I love especially chapter 6 (makes me think what it means when we say we "serve. God" what it means then when we say a person is serving mammon?); 7(if one wants a 10 pages summary of Christian hedonism - this will be a concise one, identifying the roots and defending the notion); 10 (best write-up I have read on the need for Christians - and esp church leaders - to READ. And yes! No time is not an excuse! Love the chapter title - fight for your life); 21 (on Christian liberty - why legalism is as bad as, or even worse than alcoholism); and 23 (is it legitimate for a Christian to buy a bigger house or a nicer car for his own comfort instead of giving to the poor? - a question that has been troubling me for quite a while and am glad Piper offers a good answer.)In addition, we also get to read Piper's opinions on prayers, difficult Bible texts, hell, baptism, humility, disasters, missions, racism, abortion, worship, wives, seminaries etc.Though I think the title may be a little misleading - well it boils down to how we define "professionals". If we take it negatively to mean secularisation and in contrast to "brothers" like how the 30 chapters in this book do, then there is no problem. By highlighting these concerns, Piper calls for a radical ministry which requires conviction and courage. By drawing a line between a radical pastor and a professional minister, Piper presents God's servants with strong anchor points to stay afloat in the billows of this world.

Joseph Louthan

I know. Five stars. Five stars says : Crème de la crème. Why did I rate this so high? Because I believe the author accomplished what he sat out to do and did it in a fantastic way.Imagine my perspective: Newly saved, called to be a pastor, has barely started on the path to becoming a pastor and by God's grace, I read this book.This is clock-filled with not only practical after practical insight to undo the executive, CEO business mindset of the American Evangelical megachurch of the last 50 years but it is a higher call to change our mindset of what we are called to do. My friends, this is not another job and I get sick when I see people treating this like it is job. Do we not see the qualifications of an elder in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? Are we to have the mentality to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified? Are we not charged in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching?The calling of a pastor is not just another job. The church staff is not another corporate ladder to climb. Your end is not to get to the “top” but rather, run the race that is set before us and keep our eyes on the finish line, that is, Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith.This book is perfect for the newbie pastor-to-be.This book is perfect for the grizzled old veteran.This book serves well for all the saints who are looking to do the work of the ministry.Brothers and sisters, we are not professionals. We have been called to behold the absolute truth and it is our faithful duty to reveal the timeless beauty of God. If we heed to what the Scriptures tell us, we know that we desperately need his Spirit to carry out the gospel of Christ for the glory of God and our joy until Christ comes and gets us or we drop six feet into the ground.May God help us all. Amen.

Ryan Adair

I first read Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper in January of 2010 (yes, eight years after it had been published). And it was rich food for my soul and health to my bones. John Piper pleaded with pastors, who are constantly surrounded by leadership books and professional tips to better themselves, to stay true to the supernatural aspect of the ministry. We are not professionals in the sense of “education, a set of skills, and a set of guild-defined standards which are possible without faith in Jesus,” writes Piper (x). He was faithful to this endeavor in 2002, and he added to that faithfulness with this updated and expanded edition. Adding six new chapters to the 30 already fantastic ones of the first edition, these are nothing new if you’ve followed Pastor John over the years. Two of them were added (chaps. 4 & 6) to further clarify theological points he had previously made, namely on the subjects of God making much of us and God being the gospel (of which Piper has written a book about, published in 2005). Chapters 13 & 18, which are new additions as well, are focused on being a better preacher in our modern age. Being a Bible-oriented preacher, not an entertainment-oriented preacher, is one of the best exhortations to pastors about being faithful to the Word of God, not giving in to the current trends and flippancy of the day. Chapter 18, subsequently, challenges pastors to pursue the tone of the text. By that he means “the feel that it has. The spirit it emits. The emotional quality. The affectional tenor. The mood” of the text (121). These are invaluable for any pastor, but especially us younger ones. Another addition sprang from his eight-month leave of absence from Bethlehem Baptist Church where he didn’t preach, didn’t write, didn’t blog or tweet, but just pursued his own sanctification in the midst of his family (chap. 22). There are some intimate moments shared here that he had yet to go through in the first publication, chronicling some of the besetting sins he had and how he put them to death. In this leave of absence, he did a lot of soul-searching and processing with his wife so he could grow in godliness. And, finally, the last chapter he added to this book is about health, and about glorifying God with our body for the purpose of longevity (chap. 27). In it he talks about the need to eat well, exercise often, and rest on a consistent basis, sharing a lot of his own habits and how aging has affected him. Though this doesn’t seem like it should be in a book of this caliber, Piper’s exhortation is “not [for] your maximal physical health. Nor is it to help you find ways to get the best buzz for your brain. My aim is that you will find a way of life that enables you to use your mind and your five senses as effective partners in seeing the glory of God and that you be so satisfied in Him that you are willing to risk your health and your life to make Him known” (185). Though these are practical realities that every pastor must face (due to a more sedentary lifestyle), they are no less important in the overall pursuit to make much of God in one’s life. Though Piper has been in the ministry over 30 years, there is still a richness and a depth to his writing that moves me every time I read one of his books. And this one is no exception. His writing focuses me on the glory of God, saturates me with Scripture, increases my affections for Christ, and causes me to ruminate on every word he writes. He writes with love, humility, tenderness, and most of all, depth. Every word has been carefully chosen, placed on the page for the edification of our souls. And he is a man who thinks deeply, which, in turn, causes him to write with clarity. Investing in this new and updated version of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is a worthwhile investment—one with, I’m sure, eternal significance.

Richard Minor

Being a pastor is different than being in the professional world. Secularization of the pastorate has caused great damage.The pastor has an impossible mission to accomplish because, as Piper notes well, the true goals of the ministry are only accomplished by the power of God. This makes being a pastor radically different.This book contains short essays on many topics for a pastor to know and understand. These essays, for the most part are excellent and a much needed corrective in some cases.This is a very good book for pastors to read and really think through.

Peter N.

A very good book on what pastoral ministry should be about. Numerous chapters challenged my priorities. A worthwhile read for any man going in the ministry or any lay person who wants to pray effectively for their pastor. I agree with another reviewer that his chapter on worship was most frustrating. I also didn't like how he quoted himself at the beginning of each chapter. That seemed odd.


I read this book with a couple of other young pastors who were struggling with the business and corporate side of pastoring in churches. Piper encouraged us and challenged us to keep our shepherding roles in sight without taking a "worldly" attitude toward church polity. Too often we address issues and church life as though we're a corporation. This certainly doesn't fit the descriptions Scripture gives for the church. John Piper really affirmed us as we met every couple weeks and discussed these difficulties that all suburban pastors face.

Jeff Elliott

Piper's thinking is clear and solid in his message to pastors. Some chapters are better than others (this is most likely because of my personal interest in them). I appreciated the earlier chapters better than the latter. He writes on a number of topics of value: preaching, prayer, worship, marriage, abortion, bible interpretation, etc;...Some quotes:The peace and satisfaction of our aching souls—and our hungry churches and the waiting nations—flow not from the perks of professional excellence but from the pleasures of spiritual communion with the crucified and risen Christ.There is an infinite difference between the pastor whose heart is set on being a professional and the pastor whose heart is set on being the aroma of Christ,(p. 3). many people are willing to be God-centered as long as they feel that God is man-centered. It is a subtle danger. We may think we are centering our lives on God, when we are really making Him a means to self-esteem. Over against this danger I urge you to ponder the implications, brothers, that God loves His glory more than He loves us and that this is the foundation of His love for us. pp. 6-7). the goal of spiritual leadership is to muster people to join God in living for God's glory.(p. 11). One way to highlight the meaning of God's holiness is to compare it with His glory. Are they the same? Not exactly. I would say that His glory is the shining forth of His holiness. His holiness is His intrinsic worth—an utterly unique excellence. His glory is the manifest display of this worth in beauty. His glory is His holiness on display.(p. 13). God would be unrighteous and unreliable if He denied His ultimate value, disregarded His infinite worth, and acted as though the preservation and display of His glory were worth anything less than His wholehearted commitment. God acts in righteousness when He acts for His own name's sake. For it would not be right for God to esteem anything above the infinite glory of His own name.(pp. 13-14). For God to be righteous, He must devote Himself 100 percent, with all His heart, soul, and strength, to loving and honoring His own holiness in the display of His glory. (p. 14).Everything in our salvation is designed by God to magnify the glory of God. (p. 14). His holiness is the absolute uniqueness and infinite value of His glory. His righteousness is His unswerving commitment always to honor and display that glory. And His all-sufficient glory is honored and displayed most by His working for us rather than our working for Him. (pp. 14-15).This is why justification by works would not put an end to boasting. If you work for your justification, what you are doing is trying to put God in your debt. And if you succeed in getting God to owe you something, then you can boast before men and God. If you worked for justification and you succeeded, you would not get grace, but a wage. God would owe it to you. (p. 25). When faith is born in the soul, we are still ungodly. Faith will begin to overcome our ungodliness. But in the beginning of the Christian life—where justification happens—we are all ungodly. Godly works do not begin to have a role in our lives until we are justified. (p. 26).Gratitude is a species of joy which arises in your heart in response to the goodwill of someone who does or tries to do you a favor.(p. 36). Whenever we experience joy, it is because our hearts have esteemed something we regard as valuable. The cause of joy is always a perceived value. The greater the value to us, the greater our joy in receiving it. But not only that. All joy is gregarious. It has in it a demonstrative impulse. It likes to gather others around and savor the value together. Is it not a psychological impossibility to feel intense delight in something good yet feel no impulse to demonstrate to others the value which caused that delight? (p. 36).Any attempt to express a gratitude by paying God back would contradict the nature of His gift as free and gracious.(p. 38). Disinterested performance of duty displeases God. He wills that we delight in doing good and that we do it with the confidence that our obedience secures and increases our joy in God. (p. 48).the heart is ripped out of worship by the notion that it can be performed as a mere duty. There are two possible attitudes in genuine worship: delight in God or repentance for the lack of it.(p. 50). As Christian hedonists we know that every listener longs for happiness. And we will never tell them to deny or repress that desire. Their problem is not that they want to be satisfied but that they are far too easily satisfied. We will instruct them how to glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God. We will paint God's glory in lavish reds and yellows and blues, and hell we will paint with smoky shadows of gray and charcoal. We will labor to wean them off the milk of the world onto the rich fare of God's grace and glory.(p. 52). there is one thing God loves to do more than bless the world. He loves to bless the world in answer to prayer. (p. 54). A pastor who feels competent in himself to produce eternal fruit—which is the only kind that matters—knows neither God nor himself. A pastor who does not know the rhythm of desperation and deliverance must have his sights only on what man can achieve. But brothers, the proper goals of the life of a pastor are unquestionably beyond our reach. The changes we long for in the hearts of our people can happen only by a sovereign work of grace.(p. 54). But brothers, the proper goals of the life of a pastor are unquestionably beyond our reach. The changes we long for in the hearts of our people can happen only by a sovereign work of grace.(p. 54). A cry for help from the heart of a childlike pastor is sweet praise in the ears of God. Nothing exalts Him more than the collapse of self-reliance which issues in passionate prayer for help.(p. 55). Those incessant knocks at our door, and perpetual visits from idle persons, are so many buckets of cold water thrown upon our devout zeal. We must by some means secure uninterrupted meditation, or we shall lose power. CHARLES SPURGEON The great threat to our prayer and our meditation on the Word of God is good ministry activity. JOHN PIPER(p. 59). The great pressure on us today is to be productive managers. But the need of the church is for prayerful, spiritual poets.(p. 66). Some of his recommended reading:Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections, or Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, or Sibbes’ Bruised Reed, or Baxter's Saints’ Everlasting Rest, or Boston's Fourfold State, or Burrough's Christian Contentment, or Ryle's Holiness, or Bridges’ Christian Ministry, or Brook's Precious Remedies, or Flavel's Method of Grace. John Piper, “Biblical Exegesis: Discovering the Original Meaning of Scriptural Texts”It is difficult to preach week in and week out over the whole range of God's revelation with depth and power if you are plagued with uncertainty when you venture beyond basic gospel generalities. (p. 82).We preach so that saints might persevere in faith to glory. We preach not only for their growth, but because if they don’t grow, they perish.(p. 112). When our people cast fear to the wind and spend themselves and risk their lives and fortune in the cause of God's truth, and in love for other people, then God is revealed for who He really is: infinitely valuable and satisfying—so much so that His people don’t need the fleeting pleasures of sin in order to be content. (p. 120).Genuine evangelical contrition—as opposed to legalistic, fearful sadness simply owing to threats—is a sorrow for not having holiness. (p. 123).The only true sorrow for not having holiness comes from a love for holiness, not just from a fear of the consequences of not having it. Or a more precise way to say it is this: true remorse over not having holiness is remorse over not enjoying God and living by the impulses of that joy. (p. 123). true evangelical contrition, true repentance, must be preceded by a falling in love with the all-satisfying God. (p. 124).On written prayers, emotion and spontaneity...genuine, heartfelt expression of our deepest emotions does not require spontaneity. (p. 147). we can no longer believe that unpondered prayers are more powerful or real or passionate or heartfelt or genuine or alive than prayers that are thoughtfully and earnestly (and painfully?) poured out through a carefully crafted form.(p. 147). legalism means treating Biblical standards of conduct as regulations to be kept by our own power in order to earn God's favor.(p. 153). The second meaning of legalism is this: the erecting of specific requirements of conduct beyond the teaching of Scripture and making adherence to them the means by which a person is qualified for membership in a local church.(p. 154).This one is slightly out of context. Soon after he argues against this idea in saying (There was no consensus in this country on the person-hood and rights of slaves.)One of the strongest arguments against legal enactments to protect the unborn is the claim that legal constraints without wide-spread social consensus is tyranny. (p. 228).the essence of worship is not external, localized acts, but an inner, Godward experience that shows itself externally not primarily in church services (though they are important) but primarily in daily expressions of allegiance to God. (pp. 232-233). It will transform your pastoral leadership in worship if you teach your people that the basic attitude of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with your hands full to give to God but with your hands empty to receive from God. And what you receive in worship is God, not entertainment. Teach them that they ought to come hungry for God. (pp. 238-239).Nothing makes God more supreme and more central than when a people are utterly persuaded that nothing—not money or prestige or leisure or family or job or health or sports or toys or friends—is going to bring satisfaction to their aching hearts besides God. This conviction breeds a people who passionately long for God on Sunday morning. They are not confused about why they are here. They do not see songs and prayers and sermons as mere traditions or mere duties. They see them as means of getting to God or God getting to them for more of His fullness. (p. 239). Nothing keeps God at the center of worship like the Biblical conviction that the essence of worship is deep, heartfelt satisfaction in Him and the conviction that the pursuit of that satisfaction is why we are together.(p. 240).

Luis Branco

It is a must read book to all pastors and seminary students. A beautiful description of what ministry is all about. Loved it!

Josh Crews

Thesis: I see the American pastorate trying to maximize their efficiency, focus on numbers, please customers, and follow the maxims of business. But how can God's calling be to be "professional". How does one professionally pant after God? How can you professionally weep over your sins?"Brothers We Are Not Professionals" is actually one essay pleading with pastors in the book. There are many more pleadings in the other chapters. One of my favorites is called "Bilder was a Banker" and it's about a layman who knew his Greek and Hebrew for the joy of it; and how pastors don't think it's that necessary to study the languages. After hearing Piper make the case for learning the Greek/Hebrew I've already started amateurly studying Greek with an inter-linear New Testament. I've already received rewards of treasures discovered in the text that I wouldn't have seen without trying to know the Greek.

CJ Bowen

Very helpful thoughts on pastoral ministry. The updated edition contains several new chapters, one of which humbly corrects an imbalance in the first edition by arguing that God does in fact make much of us in Christ. Another new chapter addresses the homiletic issue of matching the tone of the message to the tone of the text, which for me has been an instructive way of examining a message beyond simple textual faithfulness. Chapter 27, on the value of bodily exercise, humanizes the book in an important way. Overall, a very good book that has only gotten better.I received an ARC of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals as part of the Librarything Early Reviewers program.


Every so often a book comes to me at the right time and place. When this happens, it can be life-changing or at a minimum, life enhancing. Piper's "Brothers, We Are Not Professionals" is somewhere right between the life-changing/enhancing continuum. Piper focuses on 30 readings to recapture the passion of pastors for pastoral (as opposed to executive) ministry.I wouldn't say there is much in the way of "new" insight, particularly for its intended audience. Rather, Piper offers a potent, refreshing, reviving, call to arms that many will find useful when they face the unique challenges of modern ministry.Piper has a balanced approach to the concepts of pastor as shepherd vs. pastor as CEO, though it's clear where his heart is. In addition, the book is helpful in spurring some great sermon ideas thanks to the author's copious use of scripture references. The chapter on addressing racism from the pulpit is especially challenging. As a Reformed Presbyterian, I was intrigued by his baptist perspective on Infant Baptism. I also loved his poem included in "Brothers Love Your Wives." Piper's writing on materialism and legalism were thought provoking.Overall, this book was a great refreshment to me, and will be a good resource in the future for referencing concise insights on pastoral and church issues. It really is a must read for any one in ministry, especially pastors.

Levi Booth

Though provoking and inspiring. My only beef with this book is that some of the later chapters don't really fit the topic or tone of the book. It feels as if they were thrown in to up the page count and/or allow Piper to vent a bit. But hey, it's his book!

Brian Algie

An easy and important read for anyone in or planning on entering the ministry. The chapters are short enough and laid out in such a way that you can read a chapter or two and come back to it later. Some chapters will be review while other chapters will hit you between the eyes and cause some action in your steps. The version I read is older while the newer one has about six more chapters.


Purchased the revised and updated version by Baker publishing. This is essentially "Piper's Greatest Hits." There are 38 chapters that are all relatively short and each chapter covers an essential aspect of Piper's ministry, and specifically ordered to pastors. Want to read Piper but don't really know where to start? Read this book. The only downer was that I caught some pretty glaring typos a few times. Maybe trying to make a deadline proved difficult? Regardless, it's a minor quibble that can be fixed further on down the line. I am grateful for John Piper and his ministry, and thankful that he published this book for pastors and leaders alike.

Dennis Thurman

Excellent reminders! A prophetic word. Very challenging.

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