Word reaches me that those interested in the progress of the gospel in Kent can join likeminded brothers and sisters to pray about the planting of a new church in Maidstone. Join others this Thursday at 7:30pm at Union Chapel in Bethersden for the next Maidstone prayer meeting.
In a passing comment on Ephesians 1.15, John Gill speaks this way:
And the grace of faith, which terminates on him, is a seeing him, a beholding the glory of his person, and the fulness of his grace; a going to him, and venturing on him; a laying hold upon him, and embracing of him; a committing all unto him, and a leaning and depending on him, and a living upon him, and a walking on in him.
What a delightful way to describe the full-orbed nature of the faith that saves in looking to Christ Jesus!
This is not about Mark Driscoll, though it is prompted by a few notes being sounded (not by him, as far as I am aware) with regard to his resignation letter, and the circumstances surrounding it.
First, pastoral qualification is never merely a matter of apparent giftedness and effectiveness. It has at its root a question of character. I thankfully acknowledge that, mercifully, and to the best of our knowledge, Mark has not been guilty of “immorality, illegality and heresy.” Nevertheless, I protest that this is not the issue in the matter of pastoral qualification and disqualification. The presence of scandalous and often public sin would certainly disqualify any man from ministry at that point in time and very possibly perpetually. Its mere absence, though, is not the same as being qualified for ministry. There are a set of very specific and detailed qualifications that are necessary – not optional – for any man who would be an under-shepherd of any flock of God. For the sake of completeness, here they are, with some emphasised elements, some relating to present and some to past issues:
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1Tim 3:1–7)
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. (Ti 1:5–9)
Many moons ago, I addressed some of this here. Any man – however prominent, apparently gifted or seemingly effective – who falls short in these matters is disqualified from the pastorate. If these matters of character remain as unresolved patterns of behaviour in any man seeking to shepherd the flock of God, then he cannot – for the sake of the church, he must not! – be permitted to take that office.
A second matter has to do with the matter of apologies and forgiveness. We are often told that some man has apologised for something. He was sorry he did it. Fine, and so might we all be. But an apology is not the same as repentance. The gracious dynamic that truly resolves sin and its offence is not the mere passage of time, nor the issuing of a more-or-less public apology (see here for more on this). It is the expression of sincere repentance, with its appropriate fruits, with forgiveness extended in principle and practice, leading – we trust – to genuine reconciliation and appropriate restoration. Quite apart from anything else, I can be sorry for a sin that I may or intend to go on committing. Repentance involves a God-dependent determination and whole-souled commitment to keep from sinning in that way again. So applause for apology is a different thing to forgiving the repentant, and we should not confuse the two, either in their intention or effect.
Finally, let there be no gloating: “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1Cor 10:12). You may believe you saw this coming. You may have mourned over the painful trajectory that developed, and perhaps the failure of those who publicly applauded phases of Mark’s career publicly to address the change in tack. You may have your suspicions and fears about what comes next. But to revel in the sin of another is a demonic thing. To rejoice in a man’s public downfall is to join Satan’s company. When you see another man, any man, sinning and stumbling, remember that – but for the grace of God – that is you, and pray with tears that it might never be.
I did not think to mention this earlier, but for those in and around Sussex (and anyone else who can get there) there is a Sussex Conference this coming Saturday, hosted by Hailsham Baptist Church, and the topic is “Bring the books!”
I have been asked to preach and teach three times on that topic and am very much looking forward to it. The conference begins at 10.30am, and the cost is negligible. It’s a little late in the day, but I am sure that they will be delighted to welcome all comers, though grateful for advance notice if you are able to give it. All the details are on the brochure here.
Papers are as follows:
- Holy worldliness? by Stephen Clark
- Thomas Charles of Bala by Adrian Brake
- The International Phenomenon of Calvinistic Methodism by Andrew Davies
- Law and Grace by Mark Jones
- Richard Baxter and his Legacy by Robert Strivens
- John Knox: An International Christian by Andy Young
Entirely unconnected with the Scottish referendum, I am heading north for a few days next week. The saints at Cumnock Baptist Church are having a Bible rally, and I have been asked if I will preach each evening from Monday 22 through Friday 26 September. The meetings begin each night at 7.30pm and all are welcome. My theme for the week, God willing, will be “The Redeemer.”
If you are able to drop by, please say hello.
Over the last week or so, I have put aside a few days to work with my friend Stephen McCaskell, who has been directing the biographical film of the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon, Through the Eyes of Spurgeon. With Stephen have been the outstanding Matt Pennings, a quite magnificent photographer (see here and here, especially if you live in Ontario) and Director of Photography on this project, and the effervescent Brandon McCaskell, sound guy and general helper.
Stephen has been sending out updates through the film’s Facebook page and on the blog. I have to say, I have been impressed with the technical skills of these gentlemen. Of course, I have no real expertise with which to judge, but the quiet efficiency and all round competence on display, together with what looks like some great final product, gives me real hope of a happy outcome to this project. I readily acknowledge that my occasional appearance as narrator could be considered to drag the whole thing down horribly, but there’s not much I can now do about that.
There remains a great deal to be accomplished, but the last few days have been profitable, as I hope the following pictures suggest.