The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘minister

A model minister

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The gentlemen at Pyromaniacs have provided the following excellent snippet from Mr Spurgeon, in “False Professors Solemnly Warned,” a sermon on Philippians 3:18-19 preached at Exeter Hall on 24 August 1856.

Paul was the very model of what a Christian minister should be. He was a watchful shepherd over the flock; he did not simply preach to them, and consider that he had done all his duty when he had delivered his message; but his eyes were always upon the Churches, marking their spiritual welfare, their growth in grace, or their declension in godliness. He was the unsleeping guardian of their spiritual welfare.

When he was called away to other lands to proclaim the everlasting gospel, he seems always to have kept an eye upon those Christian colonies which he had founded in the midst of heathen darkness. While lighting other lamps with the torch of truth, he did not fail to trim the lamps already burning. Here you observe he was not indifferent to the character of the little church at Philippi, for he speaks to them and warns them.

Note, too, that the apostle was a very honest pastor – when he marked anything amiss in his people, he did not blush to tell them; he was not like your modern minister, whose pride is that he never was personal in his life, and who thus glories in his shame, for had he been honest, he would have been personal, for he would have dealt out the truth of God without deceitfulness, and would have reproved men sharply, that they might be sound in the faith. “I tell you,” says Paul, “because it concerns you.”

Paul was very honest; he did not flinch from telling the whole truth, and telling it often too, though some might think that once from the lip of Paul would be of more effect than a hundred times from any one else. “I have told you often,” says he, “and I tell you yet again that there are some who are the enemies of the cross of Christ.”

And while faithful, you will notice that the apostle was, as every true minister should be, extremely affectionate. He could not bear to think that any of the members of the churches under his care should swerve from the truth, he wept while he denounced them; he knew not how to wield the thunderbolt with a tearless eye; he did not know how to pronounce the threatening of God with a dry and husky voice. No; while he spoke terrible things the tear was in his eye, and when he reproved sharply, his heart beat so high with love, that those who heard him denounce so solemnly, were yet convinced that his harshest words were dictated by affection. “I have told you often, and I tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.”

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 15 November 2010 at 09:52

Rebuking sin

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I am not sure for whom this advice from J. C. Ryle is more terrifying – the gospel minister himself, or those whom he serves:

We see, in the third place, how boldly a faithful minister of God ought to rebuke sin. John the Baptist spoke plainly to Herod about the wickedness of his life. He did not excuse himself under the plea that it was imprudent, or impolitic, or untimely, or useless to speak out. He did not say smooth things, and palliate the king’s ungodliness by using soft words to describe his offence. He told his royal hearer the plain truth, regardless of all consequences, – “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

Here is a pattern that all ministers ought to follow. Publicly and privately, from the pulpit and in private visits, they ought to rebuke all open sin, and deliver a faithful warning to all who are living in it. It may give offence. It may entail immense unpopularity. With all this they have nothing to do. Duties are theirs. Results are God’s.

No doubt it requires great grace and courage to do this. No doubt a reprover, like John the Baptist, must go to work wisely and lovingly in carrying out his master’s commission, and rebuking the wicked. But it is a matter in which his character for faithfulness and charity are manifestly at stake. If he believes a man is injuring his soul, he ought surely to tell him so. If he loves him truly and tenderly, he ought not to let him ruin himself unwarned. Great as the present offence may be, in the long run the faithful reprover will generally be respected. “He that rebukes a man, afterwards shall find more favor than he that flatters him with his tongue.” (Prov. 28:23.)

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Mark, 119-120

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 1 July 2010 at 15:00

More on “A Portrait of Paul”

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For those not yet bored rigid with the topic, we continue to make progress with A Portrait of Paul (more information).

Monergism Books are now offering it, in addition to Reformation Heritage Books, Westminster Bookstore, Christian Book Distributors (CBD) and Grace Books International.  No news yet on a British co-publisher or distributor.  Perhaps a case of no prophet being accepted in his own country!

People I did not even know would read the book are now endorsing the book, which is encouraging.  Here is Conrad Mbewe‘s assessment:

When I first sensed God’s call to the preaching ministry, I did a study of the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. And, oh, what a study that was! It opened my eyes to the difference between ministry in the New Testament and what is in vogue today. Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker have now brought all those truths that I saw into this one volume. I, therefore, commend this book to all who want to take God’s call to the work of ministry seriously. For, in these pages is the heart and experience of a true minister of the new covenant.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 13 May 2010 at 09:26

“A Portrait of Paul”

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It seems that the time has come to break cover and shuffle into the foetid pool.  The book mentioned a few days ago is now available in the US for pre-publication orders from Reformation Heritage Books or Westminster Bookstore or Monergism Books or Christian Book Distributors (CBD) or Grace Books International. and Evangelical Press are now stocking the item.

A Portrait of Paul: Identifying a True Minister of Christ

Rob Ventura & Jeremy Walker

Blurb: What does a true pastor look like, and what constitutes a faithful ministry? How can we identify the life and labors of one called by God to serve in the church of Jesus Christ? To address these questions, Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker examine how the apostle Paul describes his pastoral relation to the people of God in Colossians 1:24–2:5. By discussing these essential attitudes, qualities, and characteristics of a faithful minister of Christ, A Portrait of Paul provides gospel ministers an example of what they should be, and demonstrates for churches the kind of pastors they will seek if they desire men after God’s own heart.


  1. The Joy of Paul’s Ministry
  2. The Focus of Paul’s Ministry
  3. The Hardships of Paul’s Ministry
  4. The Origin of Paul’s Ministry
  5. The Essence of Paul’s Ministry
  6. The Subject of Paul’s Ministry (sample)
  7. The Goal of Paul’s Ministry
  8. The Strength of Paul’s Ministry
  9. The Conflict of Paul’s Ministry
  10. The Warnings of Paul’s Ministry


John MacArthur: The apostle Paul has always been a hero whom I look to as a model for my ministry. His unrelenting faithfulness in the worst kinds of trials is a remarkable example to every pastor and missionary. In the midst of suffering, hardship, and (in the end) the abandonment of his own friends and fellow workers, Paul remained steadfast, dynamic, and utterly devoted to Christ. This invaluable study of Paul’s life from Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker is a wonderful, powerful, soul-stirring examination of Paul’s self-sacrifice and his unfaltering service to the church. It will both motivate and encourage you, especially if you’re facing trials, opposition, or discouragement in your service for Christ.

Geoff Thomas: For the first two decades of my life as a Christian, I had an abundance of role models who seemed to enflesh for me how a minister of God should live. I realize now that I even took their presence and consistent example for granted. I looked forward to the future under the protection of their mature lives of patience, wisdom, and many kindnesses. The labors of most of those men have come to an end and today I face another situation. There are now numbers of fine younger men in training and starting out on their own ministries. What grace and zeal they have, but there appears to be less role models than the company with which I was favored. What Walker and Ventura have done in this splendid book is to return to the fountainhead of Christianity, to the apostle Paul with the authority the Lord Christ gave to him, his wisdom and compassion, and examine the apostle’s relationship with one congregation, how he advised and exhorted them concerning the demands of discipleship and their relationship with fellow believers. Paul became Christ’s servant and mouthpiece to them and he has left us with a timeless inspired example. He exhorted his readers more than once to be followers of him as he followed God. With a refreshing contemporary style, and with humble submission to the Scripture, these two ministers have given to us a role model for pastoral life. This is a very helpful book and a means of grace to me.

Paul Washer: This work on the Christian ministry is a clarion call to true devotion and piety in the pastorate. The theology is pure and the language is as powerful as it is beautiful. I pray that every pastor and congregant might take up this book and read it. It will hold a place in my library beside Baxter’s Reformed Pastor, Bridges’ Christian Ministry, and Spurgeon’s Lectures. I will refer to it often. It will serve as a great antidote against all that might cause my heart to stray from Christ’s call.

Conrad Mbewe: When I first sensed God’s call to the preaching ministry, I did a study of the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. And, oh, what a study that was! It opened my eyes to the difference between ministry in the New Testament and what is in vogue today. Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker have now brought all those truths that I saw into this one volume. I, therefore, commend this book to all who want to take God’s call to the work of ministry seriously. For, in these pages is the heart and experience of a true minister of the new covenant.

Steven J. Lawson: The greatest need in churches today is for godly men to shepherd the flock of God. To be sure, no church will rise any higher than the level of its spiritual leaders. Like priest, like people. To this end, Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker have done an exceptional job in providing a model for pastoral ministry, drawn from the extraordinary example of the apostle Paul. This book is built upon careful exegesis, proper interpretation, penetrating insight, and challenging application. Herein is profiled the kind of minister every church so desperately needs and what every true minister should desire to become.

Derek W. H. Thomas: In this dual-authored portrait of Paul as a minister of the gospel, Ventura and Walker have captured the very essence of ministry. On every page, we are forced to reflect upon the dimensions of apostolic ministry and urged to comply. Packed with exposition and application of the finest sort, these pages urge gospel-focused, Christ-centered, God-exalting, Spirit-empowered, self-denying ministry. I warmly recommend it.

Carl R. Trueman: This deceptively easy to read book consists of a series of reflection on Col.1:24 to 2:5 by two experienced pastors. In an age where there is much focus on technical aspects of ministry, Ventura and Walker analyse the topic in terms, first, of call and character, and then of the existential urgency with which the great doctrines of the faith are grasped by those called to the pastorate. Intended not just to be read but to be a practical guide in helping churches think through the role of the pastor, each chapter ends with a series of pointed questions, to Christians in general and to pastors in particular, which are designed to focus the minds of all concerned on what the priorities of the pastorate, and of candidates for the pastorate should be. This book is a biblical rebuke to modern trends, a challenge to those who think they may be called to the ministry, and a reality check for all believers everywhere.

Joseph A. Pipa Jr: Ventura’s and Walker’s A Portrait of Paul Identifying a True Minister of Christ makes an unique contribution to the literature on pastoral theology. Rather than approach their subject topically, they unfold Paul’s heart for and practice of ministry through an exposition of Colossians 1:24-2:5.  The authors balance careful and experimental exposition with challenging application–addressing both fellow Christians and pastors.  All serious Christians, as well as pastors, will profit from this book; it is intellectually satisfying, experimentally challenging, and practically stimulating.

Philip H. Towner: As the diverse churches of the world have demonstrated throughout history, there is no better place to turn, when confronted with the complexities of pastoral leadership, than the Scriptures.  Each church in each generation must revisit this resource and view it anew through its particular historical, theological, cultural and political lens. The authors of A Portrait of Paul engage precisely in this task. With Colossians as their main laboratory, they probe the text and engage Paul in a conversation about pastoral ministry—its priorities, foundation, and potential—and a profile of pastoral mission and leadership emerges.  All who read this book will discover an invitation to join this rich conversation and take away numerous fresh perspectives to challenge and shape their thinking.

Sam Waldron: What is A Portrait of Paul Identifying a True Minister of Christ? It is, first, the effort of two young pastors to teach themselves and their churches what it means to be a true minister of Christ. It is, second, an exposition of Colossians 1:24–2:5 which attempts to understand how Paul’s ministry gives them and their churches a paradigm of faithful ministry. It is, third, biblical exposition of Scripture in the best historic and Reformed tradition with careful exegesis, sound doctrine, popular appeal and practical application. As such, it is a very challenging book to read as Rob and Jeremy lay before us, for instance, the selflessness and suffering true ministry requires. It is, however, a good, useful, and profitable book to read. It can, and I hope it will, do much good!

Robert R. Gonzales Jr.: Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker’s A Portrait of Paul is biblically sound, pointedly practical, and sagaciously simple. In addition to an exposition of Colossians 1:24-2:5, they provide the reader with a host of citations from other pertinent texts of Scriptures as well as judicious quotes from past and contemporary authors, all of which help to trace out the contours of Paul’s life and ministry. Each chapter concludes with practical applications directed both to fellow pastors (or aspiring pastors) and also to fellow Christians. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who would seek to imitate Paul as Paul sought to imitate Christ.

Pre-order in the US at RHB or WTS.

Further information to follow as it becomes available.

John Newton on the pastoral office

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ministry-on-my-mind-newtonSome time ago I mentioned a little book called Ministry on My Mind transcribed entries from the diaries of John Newton as he wrestled with his call to vocational gospel ministry.  As I wrote then, Michael Haykin put it on the list of books every man aspiring to the pastoral ministry ought to read.

Having now had an opportunity to read it, I would heartily concur.  Honest enough to expose you, short enough to be read and re-read by you, searching enough to humble you, insightful enough to trouble you, sincere enough to shame you, careful enough to illuminate you, blunt enough to shake you.

Reading this record of Newton’s Scriptural consideration and self-examination will strip away a great deal of the fluff and faff that surrounds issues of the call in many mind and hearts.  His accurately high conception of the work of pastoral ministry is something to which every potential pastor needs to be exposed, and his questions and searchings of soul will prompt our own.  I would encourage pastors and prospective pastors to obtain and read this volume either as a reminder of or instructor in what we are to be and do.

To this end, here is a taste of Newton’s thoughts on the question, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2Cor 2.16):

Who is able – who has either wisdom or strength for so great a work?  What zeal, courage, diligence, faithfulness, tenderness, humility and self-denial are necessary to fill up all the various parts of the ministerial character.  Whenever I think of a minister, I necessarily suppose such a one (if honoured and useful) must have an extensive knowledge of the scripture, a large stock of divine experience, an eminent degree of discernment and prudence, an ardent thirst for the glory of God, and the salvation of souls, and a readiness and aptitude to bring forth out of his treasures those instructions the Lord has given him, according as circumstances require either for stated or occasional services.  And when such a one has filled up all his public work with propriety, I know he has done nothing, unless by a life of prayer, and waiting upon the Lord, he is continually watering the seed sown and unless his converse and behaviour amongst his hearers, evidently savour of that universal holiness he recommends from the pulpit.  I can easier conceive than express what continual need such a one will have of all the graces of the Spirit, to prevent him pulling down with one hand what he is attempting to build up with the other, while his calls to duty are so numerous and sudden, his temptations so peculiar, his hindrances so many, and corruptions still remaining in him as well as others.  How much circumspection is necessary in him, who is placed in such a point of light, that all his actions pass under constant examination of multitudes, and is sure by every mistake at once to gratify the enemies of religion, offend the consciences of the weak, and grieve the hearts of all that love the Lord and his truth?

john-newtonNor is the labour of this calling to be overlooked.  It requires great strength both of mind and body, or at least extraordinary supplies and supports to each, to be living always upon the expense, to be pressing, warning, beseeching every man, publicly, from house to house, in season, out of season.  To be able to wrestle, with God, to pour forth strong prayers and supplications, in the assemblies, families etc – to improve every opportunity that may offer of an open door to extend the knowledge and savour of the Gospel into adjacent, perhaps into distant places – O it is a most busy life – The Lord preserve me from entering upon it with confined or indolent aims: I cannot think of being a minister as some are, who yet I would hope are good.  And yet when I look back upon what I have written, when I think seriously of what I am desirous to undertake, when I look at home upon what I am, and abroad upon what I am about to rush into, what can I return to the Apostle’s question, Who is sufficient? O Lord do thou answer for me . . .

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 3 March 2009 at 17:03

The invention and use of gospel means

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It is easy to snipe across established boundaries.

Some of us look at men whom we consider too pragmatic, and assure ourselves that if they had any principle they would not do what they do, and they would of course be less successful.  From the other side we look at men whom we consider frigidly principled, sterile and fruitless but self-assured and unshakeable in their conviction that their very ineffectiveness is a mark of their faithfulness.  Perhaps, for many genuinely Reformed Christians, our accusations of mere pragmatism (even where legitimate in degree) mask the fact that our principles are not practically employed as they ought to be.

john-angell-james-2John Angell James addresses men who ought to be in earnest for the salvation of souls in the following excerpt from his excellent book, An Earnest Ministry: The Want of the Times.  He calls us neither to abandon true principle nor to embrace mere pragmatism, but to cultivate a holy pragmatism in accordance with Scriptural principle, and so to seek to accomplish the ends God has given us by the invention and use of means that accord with Scripture.  It is not pleasant reading, but it is good medicine.

But this touches a THIRD thing implied in genuine earnestness, and that is the studious invention and diligent use of all appropriate means to accomplish the selected object. An earnest man is the last to be satisfied with mere formality, routine, and prescription.  He will often survey his object, his means, and his instruments: will look back upon the past to review his course, to examine his failure and success, with the causes of each; to learn what to do, and what to avoid for the future.  His enquiry will often be, What next?  What more?  What better?  And as the result of all this, new experiments will be tried, new plans will be laid, and new courses will be pursued.  With an inextinguishable ardour, and with a resolute fixedness of purpose, he exclaims, “I must succeed-How?”

And shall we ministers possess nothing of this earnestness, if we are seeking the salvation of souls?  Shall dull uniformity, stiff formality, wearisome repetitions, and rigid routine, satisfy us? Shall we never institute the inquiry, “Why have I not succeeded better in my ministry?  How is it that my congregation is not larger, and my church more rapidly increasing?  In what way can I account for it that the truth as it is in Jesus, which I believe I preach, is not more influential, and the doctrine of the cross is not, as it was intended to be, the power of God unto the salvation of souls?  Why do I not more frequently hear addressed to me, by those who are constantly under my ministry, the anxious inquiry, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’  I am not wanting, as far as I know, in the regular discharge of my ordinary duties, and yet I gather little fruit of my labours, and have to utter continually the prophet’s complaint, ‘Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?'”  Do we indeed indulge in such complaints!  Have we earnestness enough to pour forth such lamentations?  Or is it of little consequence to us, provided we get our stipend, keep up the congregation to its usual size, and maintain the tranquillity of the church, whether the ends of the ministry are accomplished or not?  Are we often seen by God’s omniscient eye pacing our study in deep thoughtfulness, solemn meditation, and rigorous self-inquisition; and after an impartial survey of our doings, and a sorrowful lamentation that we are doing no more, questioning ourselves thus?  “Is there no new method to be tried, no new scheme to be devised, to increase the efficiency of my ministerial and pastoral labours?  Is there nothing I can improve, correct, or add?  Is there any thing particularly wanting in the matter, manner, or method of my preaching, or in my course of pastoral attentions?”  Surely it might be supposed that such inquiries would be often instituted into the results of so momentous a ministry as ours; that seasons would be not unfrequently set apart, especially at the close or beginning of every year, for such a purpose.  The result could not fail to be beneficial.

Here it may be proper for us to look out of our own profession, and ask if the earnest tradesman, soldier, lawyer, philosopher, and mechanician, are satisfied to go on as they have done, though with ever so little success?  Do we not see in all other departments of human action, where the mind is really intent on some great object, and where success has not been obtained in proportion to the labour bestowed, a dissatisfaction with past modes of action, and a determination to try new ones?  And should we who watch for souls, and labour for immortality, be indifferent to success, and to the plans by which it might be secured?  In calling for new methods, we want no new doctrines; no new principles ; no startling eccentricities; no wild irregularities; no vagaries of enthusiasm, nor phrensies of the passions; no, nothing but what the most sober judgment and the soundest reason would approve; but we do want a more inventive, as well as a more fervid zeal in seeking the great end of our ministry.  Respectable but dull uniformity, and not enthusiasm, is the side on which our danger lies.  I know very well the contortions of an epileptic zeal are to be avoided, but so also is the numbness of a paralytic one; and after all, the former is less dangerous to life, and is more easily and frequently cured, than the latter. We may, as regards our preaching for instance, examine whether we have not dwelt too little on the alarming, or on the attractive themes of revelation? – whether we have not clothed our discourses too much with the terrors of the Lord? and if so, we may wisely determine to try the more winning forms of love and mercy: or whether we have not rendered the gospel powerless by a perpetual repetition of it in common-place phraseology? whether we have not been too argumentative? and resolve to be more imaginative, practical, and hortatory: whether we have not addressed ourselves too exclusively to believers? and determine to commence a style of more frequent and pungent address to the unconverted: whether we have not been too vague and general in our descriptions of sin? and become more specific and discriminating: whether we have not been too neglectful of the young? and begin a regular course of sermons to them: whether we have not had too much sameness of topic? and adopt courses of sermons on given subjects: whether we have not been too elaborate and abstract in the composition of our discourses? and come down to greater simplicity: whether we have not been too careless? and bestow more pains: whether we have not been too doctrinal? and in future, make all truth bear, as it was intended to do, upon the heart, conscience, and life.

Nor must the inquiry stop here.  There ought to be the same process of rigid scrutiny instituted as to the labours of the pastorate.  We must review the proceedings of this momentous department, for here also is most ample scope for invention as to new plans of action.  Perhaps upon inquiry we shall find out that we have neglected various channels through which our influence might, have been poured over the flock committed to our care, and shall discover many ways in which we can improve upon our former plans, in the way of meeting the inquirers after salvation, giving our aid to Sunday schools, setting up Bible classes, or visiting the flock.  What is needed is an anxious wish to be wanting in nothing that can conduce to our usefulness, a diligent endeavour to make up every deficiency, and a mind ever inquisitive after new means and methods of doing good.  Could we all but adopt the plan of setting apart a day at the close of every year for solemn examination into our ministerial and pastoral doings, with the view of ascertaining our defects and neglects, to see in what way we could improve, to humble ourselves before God for the past, and to lay down new rules for the future, we should all be more abundantly useful than we are. And does not earnestness require all this?  Can we pretend to be in earnest if we neglect these things?  The idea of a minister’s going on from year to year with either little success, or none at all, and yet never pausing to inquire how this comes to pass, or what can be done to increase his efficiency, is so utterly repugnant to all proper notions of devotedness, that we are obliged to conclude, the views such a man entertains of the design and end of his office are radically and essentially defective.[1]

[1] John Angell James, An Earnest Ministry: The Want of the Times (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1993), 45-49.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 20 February 2009 at 18:09

Pastoral courage

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Thomas Foxcroft advises us as to the correct and necessary balance and relationship between public and private ministerial responsibility.  He gives this further counsel:

Private inspection or pastoral visitation is of necessity to the same purpose as the public administrations.  Hence we have ministers described in Song of Solomon 3:3 as watchmen who go about the city; and it is observable what follows: They “found me,” says the spouse.  They found her, not she them, plainly intimating that the ministers of the gospel must diligently seek out and look up the wandering and the straying, and maintain a watchful inspection over their flocks, even as the Good Shepherd looks after His sheep, going about and taking particular notice of all.  The husbandman walks about in his garden and fields to observe the growth and decay of things, and makes all needful and suitable applications.  So ministers must arm themselves with a becoming courage and resolution, and shake off that false modesty, that tame and vicious dread of offending men, which too often wretchedly prevails to the entire omission or sorry performance of this necessary and important duty; and apply themselves with all fidelity and holy boldness hereunto.  But they must take heed to manage all with utmost prudent caution and discretion, careful not to use the instruments of a foolish shepherd, but in all points to concert such measures and improve such means as are best adapted to answer the end, so that their work may succeed.[1]

[1] Thomas Foxcroft, The Gospel Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Soli Deo Gloria, 2008), 40-41.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 3 January 2009 at 23:00

The perfect minister

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Somebody slipped me the following a few days ago.  From experience (my own and that of others), much more might be added, but that’s beside the point.  What’s wrong with yours?

If his sermon is longer than usual, “He sends us to sleep.”

If it’s short, “He hasn’t bothered.”

If he raises his voice, “He’s shouting.”

If he speaks normally, “I can’t hear a thing.”

If he’s out visiting, “He’s never at home.”

If he’s at home, “He never visits.”

If he talks finance, “He’s too fond of money.”

If he doesn’t, “Nobody knows what he’s up to.”

If he encourages mission, “He wears everybody out.”

If he doesn’t, “The church is dead.”

If he takes time with people, “He goes on and on.”

If he is brief, “He never listens.”

If he decorates the church, “He’s spending too much money.”

If he doesn’t, “He’s letting everything go.”

If he is young, “He lacks experience.”

If he is old, “He ought to retire.”

And, if he dies?

Well, of course, nobody could ever take his place.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 11 November 2008 at 09:45

Posted in Pastoral theology

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Loving like Christ and labouring for Christ’s people

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In the adult Sunday School class on the Lord’s day morning we moved from the distortions and perversions that characterise the distinctive roles of women and men – effacement or domination/manipulation rather than submission for women, and abdication or tyranny for men called to loving leadership – and turned to the keynote that the Scripture sounds for husbands: love.

We only got far enough to consider the quality of that love, namely, that it is Christlike. Husbands are called to love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her (Eph 5.24). This precludes all bitterness (Col 3.19) and requires genuine knowledge (1Pt 3.7) – Christ loved the church as she was, in all our unloveliness. Christ did not love the lovely, but makes the unlovely lovely by his love. However, the distinctive mark of Christlike love is its sacrificial character: he “gave himself for her.” Indeed, “Love seeks not its own.”

Jay Adams challenges us somewhere: “Wives, are you prepared to live for your husband? Husbands, are you prepared to die for your wife?” Now, that can be quickly romanticised. There’s something at least a little cool about being the knight in shining-but-soon-to-be-blackened armour who faces up to the fire-breathing dragon as it charges down upon his gorgeous princess. Without being remotely facetious, a husband must be prepared to stand in front of his wife in any moment of danger. Because a crisis does not form character, but only serves to reveal it, he must determine as a matter of principle that – if he has anything to do with it – for anything to harm his wife, it must get through him first. However, most of us don’t need to defy dragons, take bullets, or jump in front of cars for our wives, at least not regularly. What we do need to do is live with them, dying to self. This is where the rubber hits the road. All our decisions must be governed by a concern for our wife’s well-being. This is not the same as bowing to her every whim: this love seeks what is genuinely best, even when not preferred or even resented. It acts out of a principled love which respects, esteems and delights in its object, and is willing to put even its own legitimate desires over her definite needs, as the Lord Jesus did when he subjected his own wish to avoid the horrors of the cross to his Father’s will for the salvation of the church which he himself loved.

So, when there’s only one of something left, who gets it? When there’s not much juice left in the bottle, who gets the lion’s share? Do you spend money on yourself more readily than on your wife? Do you find yourself pursuing your own selfish ends while masquerading as a loving husband who wants his wife’s best (it just so happens that you know her best, and sadly it’s often not what she thinks she needs, but what you want)? Does life in the home revolve around you, or are you dying daily to self in the most close and profound human relationship that you will ever know?

Then, in the evening, I reached the end of Colossians 1 with a sermon on The gospel minister’s toil. Having considered the minister’s tools and task, we then looked at his attitude to the work. With his eye fixed on Christ’s return, there is effort – he labours: steady, wearisome work to the point of exhaustion, leaving a man feeling as if he has had a beating. In labouring, there is exertion – he strives: he is engaged in concentrated and intense struggle, agonizing like a rugby forward in a five-metre scrum with ten seconds to go and the other team four points in front and trying to play down the clock.

In other words, he is called to a life of total strain on the whole man: even when the bow of his humanity is unstrung, it is so that he might return to the good work of ministry rejuvenated. Ministers need to recognise these demands, and make up their mind to them. There is no room for lazy and careless men, casual corner-cutters.

But how is such a life sustained? Does a man not wear out? No, because in his effort and exertion there is energy, the working of Christ that works in him mightily. He is not superhuman, but the energy by which he effectively works is supernatural, for God supplies and sustains his servants. Our sufficiency is of Christ.

This is the way that the minister is to live. It is the way that anyone enters into the kingdom: the man’s earnest effort, the Lord’s mighty work. It is the way that anyone advances in the kingdom: ministers are to be an example to the flock. They are responsible for the charge given and the standard set, but they cannot answer for the response of God’s people. Every child of God, in accordance with his calling, is to consecrate himself to the King and his kingdom in the same way.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 19 May 2008 at 10:37

Gospel ministry and gospel confidence

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My father and fellow-pastor was away this past Lord’s day, taking a well-deserved holiday. As a result, I had the privilege of all three ministries.

In the Sunday School hour, we continued to consider the distinctive roles of men and women. As we completed our consideration of the role of women, we paused at the point of transfer to studying out the role of men to look at the various abuses of male headship and female submission to which we are prone. Because the distinctive roles of men and women are grounded upon their essential equality (in terms of created dignity, native depravity and redemptive reality), there ought to be no sense of inferiority or superiority engendered by considering what man is as man, and woman as woman, and what they are in relation to each other. However, men – in the exercise of loving leadership – should not err either by abdication nor tyranny, and women – in the pursuit of positive submission – should not err either by way of domination nor effacement. In considering this, I basically employed material from my friend and mentor Alan Dunn, drawing from his excellent and insightful if occasionally technical little volume, Headship in Marriage (in the Light of Creation and the Fall).

Then, in our morning worship, I continued a long-standing series in Colossians. We are now in the last two verses of the first chapter. Here, we see Paul as a fellow-labourer with God. As one would expect from such a man, there exists a full and precise correspondence between Paul’s activity and God’s stated purposes.

In Colossians 1.28-29, Paul identifies the gospel minister’s tools, task, and toil. The first sermon was on The gospel minister’s tools, which he uses constantly, comprehensively and specifically. The first tool is proclamation. This is the authoritative declaration of Jesus Christ, his glorious person and saving work.
This mighty river contains two currents, two subsidiary tools: admonition and instruction. The first is putting something in the mind of men, getting something laid to their hearts, driving into the will and affections, to awaken and arouse, stimulating reflection and promoting action. The second works on the understanding, definite truth and clear direction being imparted to the inquiring mind, guiding sinners to Christ and directing the child of God in faith and life to the glory of Christ. I hope to go on to consider the task and the toil in due course.

Then, in the evening, we celebrated the Lord’s supper. With the aim of preparing our minds and hearts, I preached on Romans 8.34, under the title, Uncondemnable! We set out the four pillars of Christian confidence, upon which a Christian can stand and ask heaven and earth and hell, “Who is he who condemns? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul offers four answers, any of which is sufficient, all of which together are simply unassailable: it is Christ who died; it is Christ who furthermore is also risen; it is Christ who is even at the right hand of God; it is Christ who also makes intercession for us. It was, I trust, a good day in the house of God, with the morning’s message more of a challenge, and the evening’s more of a consolation.

One particular pleasure in the evening was to have Andy and Sallyann Owen visiting with us. Apparently, my parents had been God’s means of doing good to Sallyann before she was married, and they had hoped to catch up with her. Andy heads up a ministry to the Deaf at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Andy has also authored three books assisting in this work: Signs of Life, Not Hearers Only, and Jesus Used Sign Language (all of which can be ordered through the Tabernacle Bookshop). Having recently taught through Christ’s healing of a deaf and mute man in Mark 7 at our Stepping Stones bible study, having had a substantially deaf father, and having had the privilege of being interpreted for the Deaf by a man with whom I subsequently have had fascinating conversations, it was a delight to speak with Andy and to gain some of his wisdom and insight into this challenging yet rewarding sphere of ministry.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 5 May 2008 at 20:39

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