(The following is the next entry in a 31-day blog journey through John Piper’s, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for a Radical Ministry [Broadman and Holman, 2002.] At desiringgod.org, online one can read the full text of “Brothers, Read Christian Biography”)
Christian biography, well chosen, combines all sorts of things pastors need but have so little time to pursue. Good biography is history and guards us against chronological snobbery (as C. S. Lewis calls it). It is also adventure and suspense, for which we have a natural hunger. It is psychology and personal experience, which deepen our understanding of human nature (especially ourselves). Good biographies of great Christians make for remarkably efficient reading (90).
I wish every Christian could read the biographies of Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Jonathan Edwards, and Martin Luther. Someone else might suggest Muller, Brainerd, Calvin, Whitefield, Lloyd-Jones, Singh, Carey, Moon, Studd, or Packer. But I have forever been encouraged by reading of men and women of great prayer, who trusted God for the impossible, lived under incredible circumstances, experienced incredible suffering, maintained an undying burden for the lost and remained faithful to the Gospel to the very end.
Judson, my hero among Christian missionaries, translated the Bible into Burmese and created the first Burmese dictionary – this while losing child after child to death. Edwards, the poster child for Christian resolve in the life of a hated-but-righteous-shepherd, endured through that halfway covenant controversy about the Lord’s Supper (and history has exonerated him) and was dismissed as pastor after twenty-six years of faithful ministry. What hope and encouragement I have gained from these two during the toughest hours of ministry. The latter says to me, “hang in there; you can endure it.” The former says to me, “are you really having it that bad?” Both say, “keep proclaiming the Gospel, for you will be raised from the dead.” Their lives stand upon the eyewitnesses of the Resurrection and they witness to the authenticity of the message of Christ. The world is unworthy of them. When I grow up more in my faith, I want to be just like them.
Find some heroes. Read Christian biography.