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Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson Paperback – February 5, 2008
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"This account gives us valuable insight into the life of a man who accepted the challenges of ministry with both integrity and grace, and into the life of a Protestant pastor in French Quebec. A powerful reminder that there are no little places if we are faithful to the God who called us."
—Erwin W. Lutzer, Senior Pastor, The Moody Church, Chicago, Illinois
"How can the application of a Bible-saturated mind (Don's) to a Bible-saturated life (Tom's) produce an even more helpful story to encourage pastors? Let the 'mind' be carried on a river of love because the 'life' is his father's. Then add a kind of narrative creativity. That's how."
—John Piper, Founder, desiringGod.org; Chancellor, Bethlehem College & Seminary
"A rare and precious gift from one of evangelicalism's greatest scholars. How generous of Dr. Carson to bequeath his father's quiet legacy to us all."
—C. J. Mahaney, Senior Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church, Louisville, Kentucky
"Carson strikes at the heart of what's wrong when we forget that, as servants, we were meant to live ordinarily under the gospel of grace. Read this book. You will be deeply encouraged in your life and ministry."
—Michel Lemaire, Pastor of Eglise Baptiste de la Foi, Drummondville, 1984-2005
"This personal testimony is a healthy reminder of heavenly priorities in the pastorate and Christian ministry."
—Pierre Constant, Associate Pastor, Eglise Baptiste Montclair de Hull, 1982-1997
"Read this book and be strengthened. You hold in your hands history, humor, and an amazing amount of wisdom for the Christian life (especially for pastors!)."
—Mark Dever, pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; president, 9Marks
About the Author
D. A. Carson (PhD, Cambridge University) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He is a cofounder of the Gospel Coalition and has written or edited nearly 120 books. He and his wife, Joy, have two children and live in the north suburbs of Chicago.
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Tom Carson served the Lord in Quebec--the French-speaking province in Canada. He ministered there during an extraordinary time where the population transitioned from being among the most religious people on earth, held firmly by the grasp of the Roman Catholic Church, to a population almost entirely secular. He labored there faithfully, despite adversity and despite both pain and failure.
Part of the appeal of this book is its sheer "ordinary-ness" (I couldn't find just the right word so decided to coin one). I may have to admit a measure of bias toward the book as the area in which Carson labored is Les Cantons de l'Est or the Eastern Townships. This is the region of Quebec where my mother grew up and it is not far from Montreal where my father was born and raised. The story takes place in a familiar setting, something I've never before experienced in reading a biography. Yet there was also comfort in the ordinary nature of Tom Carson himself. He was not extraordinarily gifted--not the kind of man who typically merits a biography. Instead, he was a very ordinary person, one who labored long and who labored faithfully. The power of this biography is not in the great accomplishments of its subject but instead in his faithfulness and his enduring love for the Lord.
The book closes with some beautiful and memorable words that aptly summarize his life and ministry.
"Tom Carson never rose very far in denominational structures, but hundreds of people ... testify how much he loved them. He never wrote a book, but he loved the Book. He was never wealthy or powerful, but he kept growing as a Christian: yesterday's grace was never enough. He was not a far-sighted visionary, but he looked forward to eternity. He was not a gifted administrator, but there is no text that says "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you are good administrators." His journals have many, many entries bathed in tears of contrition, but his children and grandchildren remember his laughter. Only rarely did he break through his pattern of reserve and speak deeply and intimately with his children, but he modeled Christian virtues to them. He much preferred to avoid controversy than to stir things up, but his own commitments to historic confessionalism were unyielding, and in ethics he was a man of principle. His own ecclesiastical circles were rather small and narrow, but his reading was correspondingly large and expansive. He was not very good at putting people down, except on his prayer lists.
"When he died, there were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no announcements on the 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.""
Oh, that each ordinary pastor and each ordinary Christian may be so faithful and enter into that same reward. I can only hope that many young pastors will commit to reading this book. But it is not just they who can benefit. Any Christian will appreciate reading about this ordinary man who somehow seems so much like you and me. Though it is good to read about Calvin and Edwards and Whitefield, men who had extraordinary ministries and who continue to exert a worldwide impact through their writing and preaching and evangelistic efforts, it is good to see as well how God has more commonly used ordinary men to do His work. Tom Carson was an ordinary pastor, a man who struggled with depression and who saw his ministry bear visible little fruit, but he was a man who remained faithful and who served the Lord with all his heart. More aware of his faults than his strengths and more prone to humility than pride, there is much we can learn from this man.
Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor is a book I enjoyed reading from the first word to the last. It strengthened me, challenged me, moved me (to tears, even!) and ministered to me. This book is a gift to the church and I hope that you will read it too. You'll be glad you did.
As a minister in a rural area the challenges that Tom has faced presented a great comfort to me. Helping me realise that such a great minister of the Lord, faithful and long suffering, joyous and exemplary can also undergo trials and long painstaking years of apparent fruitlessness. Yet this also challenged me greatly seeing how Tom's faith and knowledge of the Lord helped him to minister with such faithfulness and consistent fervor, leaving me to question my heart, efforts and understanding of God in all of life AND ministry. This is definately a book that will help the rural and city minister to consider the struggles of ministry and see a great example of how one can struggle with the Lord and remain committed to his post in mission.
Tom Carson's pastoral ministry is a great challenge through this book. Considering the hard field in which he pastored, it surprised me that his strength was truly pastoring people. Praying, singing hymns, reading the word, counselling, etc. I cannot help but dream of having such a great godly example. The pages of Tom's diary in these pages pour out his desire and heart for the people under his care. Devotion to the people of God and the mission field is another strength that Tom had and challenges the reader to have.
Another strength of this book was how Don captured not only the ministry life of Tom, but also his family life. The ministers family are usually the sacrifice during ministry, but not for Tom. Tom's home life, his relationships with his children and in particular his wife are a great example to many ministers.
This book has challenged me, brought me almost to tears, and greatly encouraged me. I am very thankful to God for Tom, for his ministry and the way he conducted himself. I am also thankful to God for Don's commitment to set this account for the world to enjoy. I would highly recommend this book to everyone. In particular ministers, or training ministers. Whether they are rural, multilingual, mega church, or planting a church. All ministers must read this book. It is a must read for all in ministry and a great read for any who would like a glimpse at an extra-ordinary pastor.
I have read many things by D. A. Carson and find him both highly intelligent and informative. This book is no exception - EXCEPT - he gives us a look into the life of a young lad growing up in a very dedicated Christian family on a mission to spread the Gospel to the part of the world where God led them in a very personal way. This "ordinary" father and mother is in a big way what made D. A. Carson and his siblins what they are today.
It is a must read! Oh, Lord on so many levels you are glorified through this family.