Brothers, We Are Not Witchdoctors

We are not, in ourselves, the vehicle of God’s grace and kingdom-building. Making this mistake will eventually lead us to fatigue, even despair, says Russell Moore.

Commemorating the release of John Piper’s revised edition of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, we recently asked Dr. Moore for an exhortation to pastors and church leaders under the “Brothers” theme. In short, witchdoctors can’t do Christian ministry, so stop acting like one. He explains:

Get John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Updated and Expanded Edition, 2013), now available.


[Video transcript]

Brothers, we are not witchdoctors. I say that because several years ago I heard a pastor say, “I feel like a witchdoctor because I come to people’s situations of crisis, I pray over them, and I do the things I am supposed to do and go and visit them and stand up and preach my sermons. I just feel like everybody expects some kind of magic from me in every area of my life.”

And when I heard the pastor saying that I heard exhaustion. And it was the kind of exhaustion that comes when we expect that we ourselves are going to be the vehicle of God’s grace and of God’s kingdom building, rather than God’s Spirit working through us. There is a sense of exhaustion, a sense of fatigue, a sense of disappointment when we see people who we have poured our lives into walk away. Or we see ministries that we’ve been pouring our lives into not seem to grow, and we feel as though we are failing because we don’t have the magic — we don’t have the stuff.

But Scripture doesn’t call us to magic.

Scripture call us to faithfulness and the Scripture tells us that the fruit that Jesus brings forward often happens long, long, long after we have eyes to see those things. It is really startling to me when I look at the New Testament. Everybody seems to have a messiah-complex except for the actual Messiah, who is able to walk away from the crowds and see God’s purpose, and is able to see God’s plan, and is able to rejoice in that kind of tranquility.

I want to encourage you, pastors and church leaders, that as we move toward faithfulness and try to carry out the ministry that’s been given to us, let’s not do that by magic. Let’s not do that by our own abilities and by our own gifts. And let’s not despair when we look around and say, “I don’t see what I expected to see.”

It is the power of God. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s not witchdoctry.

Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary .