Thursday, 7 April 2011

Reflections after reading "Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor" by D. A. Carson.

An ordinary pastor. What does it mean to be an ordinary pastor? Carson's book certainly isn't intended to define what it means to be an ordinary pastor. Less was it to encourage pastors to be ordinary. The purpose and intention, as I understand, was to encourage pastors, but also any Christians, in their Christian walk. In that respect, he has produced a wonderful book. It sure has encouraged and challenged me to think about my life as a Christian, although I do not hold a title, pastor.

What was most striking for me from this book was, however, the title itself. Once I started learning about Tom Carson, the subject of the book and the father of the author, I could not help but feel that this pastor was no ordinary man. Sure, the size of the church he was ministering at never grew to a point where it could be called big or significant regionally, let alone internationally. He did not author a book. He did not start a seminary. He was not involved in a major theological controversy worth mentioning. In fact, even the book about him by his son concludes at mere 160 pages.
If these are what all counted in a Christian pastor, yes, perhaps the book was titled very aptly; at least his achievements were very ordinary, and I believe this is the reason the book was so titled. Yet, when I discovered the way he honoured others, even those who mistreated him so unjustly, or the way he put his sin of bitterness to death so promptly and persistently, or the way he rejoiced with those who were joyful with no reservations and envy, or the way he faithfully committed himself to God's sure word, the bible, day after day, week after week, year after year, the way he kept on loving his wife and his children through all the ups and downs of life, I found myself thinking that this is no ordinary pastor, but an exceedingly extraordinary one.

Then, I soon felt a slight blush. I was somewhat embarrassed for what I had just thought. To think that a godly character was an extraordinary thing in a Christian man revealed how low my moral standard had sunk. By no means I am trying to minimise the fact how great and wonderful Tom Carson was, the lasting impression I have from reading the book is my desire to be like this godly man. But to think that, simply because he was a godly man, although he did, of course, have some weaknesses, this pastor was no ordinary Christian, I believe I have a very slackened sense of Christian discipline and character.

That brought me back to agree with the title, "Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor." He was an ordinary Christian. Perhaps extraordinary by the world's standard in terms of Character, and insignificant by the world's measure of success. Nevertheless, he was a very much significant servant for God's mission and in His Kingdom, and very much ordinary in his character as far as God's moral vision for His people goes.

Now, what about me? I don't need such a godly man as Tom Carson to compare to reveal my short comings, an hour of drive together with me on busy Sydney roads will be more than enough. I might as well be called an "extraordinary" Christian in the opposite way in the Kingdom of God, if He was not so gracious to save such a sinner as myself. So I do not need to despair about my sins, yet, I can, nay, must set my goal ever higher; indeed Tom Carson is not my goal, but Jesus Christ Himself had set the ever clear and bright standard I must run towards. He had gone through the adversaries in life without stumbling, and now sits on the right hand of the Father and sent His Spirit to empower me in my walk as a child of God. How will He find me on the Judgment Day? Will He find me faithful?

(I highly recommend reading this book for any Christians wishing to be encouraged and invigorated in their desire for growth in godliness. You can purchase this book from Amazon, BookDepository, or Koorong.)

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