In this provocatively titled book, John Piper urges pastors of churches to focus on what is truly important and be radical in their ministry. He is concerned that so many pastors are getting so caught up in learning professional business techniques that will help them run their churches more efficiently that they lose sight of what they are really supposed to be doing.
But rather than critiquing trends in the modern church, John Piper prefers to write 30 short chapters each giving pastors something to be passionate about. His own remarkable fire and earnestness shines through this book, and you cannot fail to be stirred by it.
He starts off as we would expect with his typical emphasis on the glory of God, calling us to live in “Christian hedonism”, seeking to glorify God by delighting in him.
He controversially urges pastors to tell their people not to serve God. Why not? Because of the potential for a legalistic “debtor’s ethic” – where we attempt to repay God out of gratitude. He states that:
The gospel is not a help-wanted ad. It is a help-available ad. Nor is the call to Christian service a help-wanted ad. God is not looking for a people who to work for Him but people who let Him work mightily in and through them.
Piper moves on to cover a broad range of topics. He makes a plea for the learning of Greek and Hebrew, for reading Christian biography, and for serious study of the biblical text. He urges that we feel the truth of hell, and lead people to repentance through their pleasure, by which he means to point people to God as the source of real pleasure. He warns against fighting sin with “pea-shooter” regulations.
While many of the chapters are about things that a pastor should preach and teach his congregation, the focus is much wider than the Sunday morning meeting. Piper calls his readers to get a passion for mission, to defend the cause of the unborn, to love their wives, to stand up against racism, and to reject materialism.
This book ranks right up there with the best of John Piper’s writings, and I pray that many pastors and church leaders will read it, and heed his call to radical ministry, refusing to be sidetracked by the latest strategies and technologies, and focusing on being who God has called us to be, and doing what he has called us to do.