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Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  620 ratings  ·  118 reviews
D. A. Carson's father was a pioneering church-planter and pastor in Quebec. But still, an ordinary pastor-except that he ministered during the decades that brought French Canada from the brutal challenges of persecution and imprisonment for Baptist ministers to spectacular growth and revival in the 1970s.

It is a story, and an era, that few in the English-speaking world kno
Paperback, 160 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Crossway Books
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Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is destined to be a classic, especially among pastors. I would say that you ought to drop whatever you're reading, grab this 160-page book and read it with pen in hand. It's that good.

The last 30 pages were read with longing and desire to live a life worthy of the calling I've received. So many of us are focused on the "big names" in evangelicalism (which of course would include the author of this book!) and we get discouraged or intimidated by massive ministries that God is blessing a
Aug 25, 2015 added it
This book moved me deeply. I wept as I read. God grant us great grace to finish half as well as Tom Carson.
Leandro Guimarães
Such a precious book, not only for other ordinary pastors but for all who may think being ordinary Christians may not be enough. Shows how fruitful can be a small life, even if lacking confidence.
Will Barbour
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
A refreshingly quotidian hagiography. Carson admires his dad but does not shy away from mentioning his flaws (mainly his self-degradation). My favorite part of the book was Carson's takeaways from his father's life (92-96). I wish Carson had replaced some of the minutia of his dad's life with more of his pastoral wisdom we could glean from. But I guess that's part of the beauty of this book: his dad did not experience much success in ministry but was extraordinary faithful and true, especially i ...more
Caleb Batchelor
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
May God raise up a thousand more "ordinary Tom Carsons!" As a young man, what an example to emulate. I will definitely re-read this book.

"He was not very good at putting people down, except on his prayer lists."
Michael Moon
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An inspiring story of an ordinary pastor. I highly recommend this book to anyone- Christian or not, pastor or not.
Jun 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
First, this book is a biography of Tom Carson an "ordinary pastor". I know some people are intimidated by carson's books because of the depth of his thinking, which I love; however, this book is an easy read for all.

Carson shows us an unbelievable example of a man dedicated to Christ that few would know of; however, those who did were deeply affected by. Many times we read of great men of God who were phenomenally blessed with great flocks and were in short well known in their time. Of course t
Clayton Hutchins
Sep 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
Why read a biography about an ordinary pastor? Because that's what most pastors are. (And that's a good thing.) Very encouraging; lots to learn from. I would really recommend this to anyone in or heading into pastoral ministry. Read Tom Carson's biography and put your celebrity pastor syndrome to death. We need extraordinary examples of faith, yes—our Samsons and Davids (Heb 11)—but we also need ordinary examples of faith, our no-name local church leaders (Heb 13:7). In some ways we need the lat ...more
Jon Pentecost
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This short little introduction to the life and ministry of Tom Carson was encouraging and convicting. I am so thankful that his son took the time to share his father's faithfulness with the rest of us. Tom Carson labored in relative obscurity, didn't always see much apparent fruit, and faced much discouragement. But the Lord was faithful to use Tom's faithfulness, even if his ministry never looked glamorous or impressive.

I was encouraged by his discipline in several ways--his discipline in stud
Michael L Gowens
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thanks to my son-in-law for the gift of this title last Christmas. As usual, his recommendation was spot-on. This excellent memoir speaks to the deeps in me, rekindling my ambition to be what Tom C achieved, an ordinary pastor. The author’s portrait of his late father as a man of various struggles, many arising from his particular temperament and personality, yet with a sincere faith and devotion to the Lord, will resonate with others (I’m sure), as it did with me. After the first 60 pp (in whic ...more
Dustin Tramel
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tom Carson never wrote a book, never spoke to huge crowds, had no podcast or blog and yet his life is an example of what God is looking for and what is missing in many leaders today - humility and faithfulness. What will matter most when we stand before God? This book bears witness to that. "A powerful reminder that there are no little places if we are faithful to the God who called us."
Phil Butcher
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such an encouraging read for an ordinary pastor like me! A good reminder that I am called to be faithful to God's word & people - rather than "successful". ...more
Stephen Temple
A remarkable book—well written and moving. A remarkable man—one whom every Christian should learn from.
Jacob Navey
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Final two chapters are great.

What a great example of love in marriage, love in suffering, finishing well, leading your family well, etc.
Richard Klueg
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dr. Carson has produced an fitting tribute to his godly father. While not overly sentimental, it is quite touching to read. I found it challenging, convicting, and encouraging. It was also interesting to learn a bit about Canada, especially the difficult progress of the gospel in Quebec.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Snippets of 20th century Quebec, snippets of deep Christian devotion and spiritual discipline, snippets of ordinary post-war Canadian life, snippets of personal reflection and depression, snippets of different languages. Tom Carson was indeed a very ordinary guy. And yet lots of very ordinary things about him were actually very impressive -- how many small-town pastors today are completely fluent in two modern languages and conversant with three ancient ones? How many Christian leaders are conte ...more
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ministry, biography
I can't think of any other books like this. So many lessons and encouragements for a pastor in this book. Here are those that struck me:

Tom Carson: Loved Jesus and devoted his life to ministry; loved God's word, theology and was committed to preaching; dealt with unfair controversy due to church politics; served in small churches, in difficult places, with inadequate time for the needs of ministry, with inadequate financial support; faithfully loved his wife and children; struggled with depressi
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
A brilliant book about an 'ordinary' pastor with many lessons to be learned about 'ordinary' ministry. Actually, his commitment to the cause of the gospel even in the face of great opposition from within his own denomination, is exemplary. His dedication to his wife and children even in the midst of e busyness of other responsibilities is also admirable. His prayerfulness and rigorous sermon preparation & Bible study', his tireless visitation and care of others is outstanding. But this book neve ...more
Jan 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of all Carson's books, this one was uniquely transforming. For a number of reasons this is so; but especially just learning to be content in ministry and amazed that God would call me into it.
Kelle Craft
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very humbling. In an age where any one Christian can name drop a number of celebrity pastors, this lowly biography about a well-known scholar’s not-so-well-known-father is sure to move and put one seeking to go into full time ministry into the right perspective.

What makes this book stand out is the unique vocation of Tom Carson (D. A. Carson’s father). Growing up in Canada, not only did Protestantism have to overcome an overwhelming hostile Catholic majority, many cities were completely bordere
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daniel Nelms
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
How many Toms Carsons live and die in the world? Many thousands and thousands more than a Charles Spurgeon or a Jonathan Edwards. I don't remember the last time a book has hit me harder than this one. My new goal in life? To be as faithful as Tom Carson.

He had insecurities and weaknesses, noting at times that he felt he preached "poorly" the Sunday before. His Sunday services in the Drumondville years often had no more than 15-20 in attendance, but he labored ever so diligently in some of the t
Anson Cassel Mills
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tom Carson was more missionary than “ordinary pastor,” but the implication of the term—that Carson was unheralded in his own lifetime—is certainly correct. Noted evangelical theologian D. A. Carson has done a fine job of putting his father’s story in context of the dramatic religious change that occurred in Quebec during the mid-twentieth century, demonstrating a fine touch in managing homage without sliding into hagiography. The author perhaps quotes a bit too much from his father’s diaries, an ...more
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
We usually read biographies of people who did something extraordinary, but there is something peculiarly helpful about reading biographies of normal people. I especially appreciated that this wasn't written as an eulogy to his dad but as a way to encourage "ordinary" pastors. Too many biographies do little good because they are written for the sake of the one written about and not for the sakes of those who will read it. Along the way, I also learned a bit about Canadian history and realized to ...more
Tom James
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
New Testament theologian D. A. Carson tells the story of his father, Tom Carson, a Baptist pastor who sensed God's call to ministry in French-speaking Quebec, Canada. Unlike most biographies of "celebrity" pastors, Tom Carson did not preach to thousands, write bestsellers, or appear on TV. Rather, he was a godly worker who took his work in the church seriously, going door to door, visiting his parishioners, preaching faithfully, and praying earnestly for those who were entrusted to him. He was n ...more
Vincent Ng
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent biography written on a remarkable man. D.A. Carson recounts the events and letters from the life of his father, providing valuable and personal insight into Tom Carson's life. Notable features drawn out are Tom's character, his care in ministry, his love for his wife and children as a family man, a man of great ethical integrity, a man of prayer and great passion for the work that the Lord has called him to do. This book is definitely an encouraging read with the combination of both ...more
Michael Goforth
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was honest, intriguing, humorous, moving, and so much more. I would consider this a must read for pastors, and I’d highly recommend it for anyone else looking for a glimpse into the life of an ordinary pastor.

I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because at times the author got carried away with historical facts that were probably very important in his mind, but they didn’t seem to advance the narrative of his father’s life all that much. However, it was still an exce
Colin Buchanan
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
As I was reading this book I started thinking, "Nothing significant is happening and I can see this guy's retirement on the horizon."

That's just the point. Faithfulness is Carson Senior's legacy. He didn't establish a theological college, lead an army, discover a continent. He walked humbly with his God, serving his family and his church in season and out of season.

It is a steady exhortation to let significance be found in "our audience of One." And a revealing and personal insight into the eng
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is possible for a Christian to propound the doctrines of grace every day in their ministry, and yet struggle to live in the light of that grace in their personal life.

Tom Carson was a tender hearted pastor who devoted his life to ministry in a cross-cultural environment, setting an example for all of us. And yet despite a lifetime of faithfulness to his God, wife, family and church his journals make it clear that he struggled with depression most of that time.

In the words of his son Don, refl
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
D. A. Carson has written a very warm and honest book about his father and his labours as a pastor in Quebec. Pastor Tom Carson was a man who loved the Lord and desired very earnestly to be a faithful servant in His vineyard. Though there was very little outward sign of success (his diary often records church attendance of 20 or less), yet this godly man touched the lives of many people with his devotion and commitment to the gospel of God's saving grace in Christ alone. And now, through this boo ...more
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D.A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has been at Trinity since 1978. Carson came to Trinity from the faculty of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he also served for two years as academic dean. He has served as assistant pastor and pastor and has done itinerant ministry in Cana ...more

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