Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A Very Different Book

Last year I read a very helpful little book by the well-known (from Northern Irish stock!) Don Carson: “Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor – The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson”

I wrote a review of it for Irish Baptist Life and thought I'd share it again here. 

The author is well known because of his numerous theological works, which have been of great help to many of us.  This biography however is entirely different to Carson’s normal writings.  There is a narrative creativity here which we probably didn’t know he possessed.  It tells the heart-warming and engaging story of his father, Tom Carson, who was born in Carrickfergus in 1911 and went on to serve as a pastor for most of his life in French Canada.  Using his father’s journals, letters and notes, Carson shares his story – the life of an ordinary pastor.  In the introduction he says most pastors are ordinary pastors – they do not have high profiles, they do not preach to thousands; they just plug away, day after day, with the ordinary demands of ministry. Tom Carson was one such man.

 It’s all here – encouragements and discouragements, crises and challenges, visitation, mediation and translation.  We learn of how Tom just ‘plugged away’ in some tough times and how he managed his scarce time and resources and how he had to deal with misunderstandings, feelings of guilt at so much he just couldn’t get done and family and personal challenges.

Particularly powerful is Carson’s chapter on his mother’s Alzheimer years and Tom’s practical care of her and her subsequent homecoming.  It is very intimate, we are given a glimpse into the sometimes far too hidden agonies of pastors and how they are just “flesh and blood” like the rest. 

In a world of mega-church and misguided perceptions that success in ministry is all about numbers, this very powerful little book is a very welcome antidote.  In the words of John Piper “How can the application of a Bible-saturated mind (Don’s) to a Bible saturated life (Tom’s) produce an even more helpful story……?”

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