Thursday, March 5, 2009

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (1) to be faithful

Don Carson's Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson is a tribute by a son to his father. It's a moving and encouraging book, and a wonderful antidote to pride.

The man who transcribed the English part of Tom Carson's diaries says,

I used to aspire to be the next Henry Martyn [heroic British Bible translator and missionary to the Muslim peoples of India and Persia]. However, after reading your dad's daires, the Lord has given my heart a far loftier goal: simply to be faithful. I know we as men are but dust, but what dust the man I read about in these diaries was!
Tom Carson was an ordinary pastor, but also that most extraordinary of things: a man who sacrificed himself to tell others about Jesus, who didn't seek the praise of men, who spent much of his life in his knees, who dealt with conflict with humility and forbearance, and who struggled through his own "dark night of the soul" (brought on, as mine is so often, by perfectionistic guilt - but also, as mine so often isn't, by passion for the cause of the gospel) with perseverance and faith.

I cried when I read the closing paragraphs of these memoirs:

When he died, there were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no announcement 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.

But on the other side all the trumpets sounded. Dad won entrance to theh 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."
I went away from reading this book determined to aim for that rarest of things: not to be praised or respected, but simply to be faithful.

The highlight of the book for me was the chapter on Tom's depression and discouragement in ministry. What Don Carson says is so significant for anyone in ministry, that I'm saving it for another post.


charissa said...

I found this book really chalenging and encouraging. In once sense Tom Carson was an ordinary pastor. But in his faithfulness and passion for the gospel he was surely extraordinary, someone that we all should aspire to be like.
I was particulalry challenged by the pact he and his wife made not to speak badly of the man who had undermined their early ministry. The fact that their children had never heard anything negative about this man from their parents and only learned of the difficulites they had faced as adults and from other people really made me think about how I speak about people before my children and others.

Jean said...

Thanks, Charissa. What helpful observations! You're right, the fact that he never spoke negatively of the man who treated him so badly is very challenging. And yes, I guess he was extraordinary, I never saw it that way - extraordinary in the things that matter, the things which are unseen. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I have had my eye on this book for ages and now I will try to get a hold of it. He reminds me so much of Jesus who forgave those who hurt and abandoned him and who never sought the praise of men. The message of the book reminds me of the verse in Hebrews which says "We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." (Hebrews 6:12) We can imitate Tom Carson who imitated Jesus. A timely reminder for me. Thanks Jean.

Jean said...

Thanks, Carmelina. You got your photo working - well done! Thank you for reminding me of that verse: I'll have to memorise that that for when I read Christian biographies. Because I'm a perfectionist, they often make me feel inadequate. That's a far better way to look at it: to imitate them as they imitate Christ. There are probably other verses which say similar things?? I'll have to look them up (content for a blog post?).

Anonymous said...

Yes! I got my photo working - one of me in my younger days and also slightly out of focus! Does that remind you of a verse about ... what was it ... vanity?

Jean said...

LOL! Mine too - well, it wasn't taken when I was much younger, but it certainly makes me look *ahem* perhaps *ahem* a little younger and slimmer and more groomed than I might possibly be in person ... mind you, I chose it from a bunch of photos which included ones which made me look like I had a nose like a potato, and so on and so forth, so perhaps I have some excuse for choosing this one. Ah, vanity indeed.

mattnbec said...

I have had my eye on this book and have been thinking it looked really good. I think I now have the first item for my Christmas 09 gift list!

I too was struck by the fact that they chose not to speak negatively of that man. Both by the decision and also what strength of character and self-control that must have taken.