by Michael Johnson
Carl Trueman writes in Republocrat:
[The] Lord has blessed the church of today with some remarkably talented individuals who have been used to do remarkable things [e.g. Keller, Piper, and Driscoll]. The danger is that, in focusing on such men, we create unrealistic expectations. The evidence that the church models developed by these men can be transplanted with success elsewhere is highly equivocal; more likely, their success is rooted in God’s using their own remarkable gifts and contexts—the right men in the right place at the right time for something great, if you like. The life of Don Carson’s father, outlined so movingly in his Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, is more likely to be closer to the norm for most churches and pastors than that of Redeemer in New York (38-39).
In light of Trueman’s observations:
Three Implications for Churches
- Listen (attentively and expectantly) primarily to your pastor’s sermons (assuming he’s biblically orthodox).
- Listen to extraordinary preachers (unless he’s your pastor) sparingly. Do you normally quote extraordinary preachers in everyday conversation more than your pastor? Doing so often unwittingly feeds into creating unrealistic expectations for your pastor.
- Lower your (likely unrealistic) expectations of your pastor. While he may not be (and likely isn’t) extraordinary, he is (for you and your church) likely the right man in the right place at the right time. It’s okay that your pastor is ordinary. (Aren’t most of us rather ordinary, regardless of vocation?) Exercise grace towards him and his gifts—you may just see him begin to flourish.
Three Implications for Pastors
- Broaden your diet of your favorite preachers. Ask a trusted individual in your church if you’ve found your voice. (Or do you eerily resemble, in either vocabulary, tone/tenor, or overall posture, your favorite preacher?) You may have to “fast” from some of your favorites for a season to broaden yourself. Let other voices in (again, assuming they’re biblically orthodox), thus eventually finding your own.
- Be content being an ordinary pastor and preacher. It’s okay (really it is!) to be ordinary. A brief glimpse of church history is littered with seemingly ordinary people God’s been pleased to use for His glory.
- To give you proper perspective (and deep encouragement) as you aspire and cope with your newly embraced “ordinariness,” read Carson’s Memoirs annually.
Any other implications?