Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor

At the Desiring God Conference in the fall of 2006, John Piper and D. A. Carson were asked what encouragement they might offer to pastors of small or rural churches, who will likely never see the kinds of crowds or have the kind of exposure Piper and Carson do. In his response, Carson spoke of his father, a Baptist church planter in French Canada who labored for years with very little fruit, and the effect his life has had on Carson’s own perspective on numbers and influence. It was a touching tribute (which you can read here or listen to here).

This spring Carson published Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, a short biography of his father, Tom Carson, drawn largely from Tom’s diaries. I’ll venture a guess that unless you’ve heard of this book, you haven’t heard of Tom Carson. He was an obscure pastor in the recesses of French Canada who preached the Gospel, prayed for the people in his town, and routinely went through bouts of depression and discouragement when his church didn’t grow. This book is a realistic portrayal of a very human figure, and it’s very encouraging to other ordinary Christians. Carson never spoke at conferences or wrote bestsellers; he just faithfully preached the Gospel and tried to love people for years and years. The final paragraphs are so powerful I’ll share them here.

When [Tom] died, there were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no announcements on 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.”

This quick read would be a great addition to your summer reading, and especially a great gift for your pastor. It’s both challenging and encouraging, and a reminder that we’re called to run whatever course God has marked out for us, whether large or small.

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