(Quotes and Notes from the book, The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges)
“‘A Pastor should act with the dignity of a man, who acts by the authority of God’-remembering, that while we speak to men, we speak in God’s stead”.
How about that as a job description? That shows the dignity of the pastoral position and the authority thereof. BUT…there is much work to be done. Sadly, many pastors settle at “pulpit preaching” and fail to further expound upon the foundation that has been laid.
“There was not only a foundation to be laid, but a building to be raised”
“Not even is the light and heat of the sun- not even is meat and drink, so necessary for the support and cherishing of our present life, as the Apostolic and Pastoral Office for the preservation of the Church on earth”- John Calvin
“The subsequent walk also of our people in the faith, hope, and love of the gospel, forms our ground of unceasing thanksgiving to God, our chief joy, and the very life of our life. “We have no greater joy, than to hear that our children are walking in truth””.
If that is so, we are in dire need of discipleship. In a day and age, where “backsliding” happens more often than sincere repentance, we (all of us who call ourselves Christians) must work toward better efforts in discipleship. Let’s start with the discipleship of our “leaders”.
“The Scripture justly insists- that Ministers should be “holy”- in a peculiar sense men of God- men taught of God- men consecrated to God by a daily surrender of their time and talents to His service- men of singleness of purpose- LIVING IN THEIR WORK- living altogether but for one end, “moved by none of the afflictions that wait them: neither counting their life dear to them, so that they might finish their course with joy, and the Ministry which they have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God”. Cf. Acts 20:17-35
Again, a sad note is that the failure of many “leaders” or “pastors” in that they have not worked toward their continual discipleship.
“The solid establishment of the people may be materially hindered by the Minister’s contracted statements, crude interpretations, or misdirected Scriptural application”.
I personally have come into contact with “pastors” who make the “ministry” out to be an ordinary job description like a “worldly” 9-5 job. Men who claim to be “of God” yet will not challenge their presuppositions and build a “social network” rather than God’s Church. Let me add a disclaimer, I extend as much grace to those who fail in these regards as I would hope to receive myself, as has been rightly noted:
“It will not fail to be objected that if none were to be admitted into the holy orders, except those who are possessed of every necessary qualification, there could not possibly be procured a sufficient number of Pastors for the supply of our Churches”
With that said, let’s delve into the proper “discipleship” of the “pastoral ministry”.
“The duties of an evangelical preacher, before he begins his ministry, are,
1.) To grow in piety, by feeding on the bread of prayer
2.) To give his zeal time to wax strong by reading the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers
3.) To continue in silence and retirement, till God is pleased to bring him out, and show him to the world; men deceive themselves when they imagine that they ought to produce and employ their talents without delay, and that they cannot hide them without violating the commandment of God.
“A season of preparation- employed in storing the mind with Christian doctrine, and in directing it to devotional and practical purposes- in habits of self-communion and converse with God, and in the exercises of godliness, will turn to the most profitable account throughout the course of a protracted ministry”.
For the past 3 years, I have continually sought God’s advice and counsel in regards to my call in ministry. I have had opportunities, but my decisions (accepting the truth espoused in Full Preterism for one) removed those opportunities from before me. I have had nights where I cried out to God asking WHY?!?! All my labor for and in Him, yet I seem to be the one “not being blessed in regards to my calling”. I remember one day after a long prayer session, I went to my wife and said, “God is preparing me. He has told me to be ready, because when it is time, I will be responsible”. As I noted in part 1 of this series, as of March 2013, I have been called. How exciting!!!
HABIT OF GENERAL STUDY
“The object of all your studies, should be neither celebrity, advantage, nor knowledge for its own sake, but furniture to enable you to serve God in your generation”.
“…whatever is respect of knowledge supplies the materials necessary for EDIFYING, COMFORTING, AND PROTECTING FROM ALL SPIRITUAL DANGER the people that may be committed to his charge, or is of use for defending the cause of his Master, MUST EVIDENTLY BE A PROPER STUDY FOR THE MAN WHO INTENDS TO ENTER INTO THE HOLY MATRIMONY”.
“Indeed, to restrict our reading to matters of immediate connection with our grand subject, would exclude us from much valuable collateral knowledge, and expose us to prejudice and misconception”
“…a competent acquaintance with the Evidences of the Christian religion- the Holy Scriptures- and the history of the Church, and especially of our own church”.
“PATIENT APPLICATION is literally everything. Without it you may have a number of HALF-FORMED IDEAS floating in your mind, but deep, connected, large, and consistent views of any subject you will never gain. Impatient haste is the bane of deep intellectual work. IF YOU ARE INVESTIGATING ANY IMPORTANT DOCTRINE, BE NOT READY TO LEAVE IT. COME TO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN: SEEKING LIGHT FROM EVERY QUARTER; AND PERUSING WITH ATTENTION THE BEST BOOKS, UNTIL YOU HAVE ENTERED, AS FAR AS YOU ARE CAPABLE, INTO ITS PRFOUNDEST MERITS. And, if compelled by any circumstance to leave the subject before you have reached this point, hold it in reserve for another and more satisfactory examination. In short, let your motto, and, as far as practicable, your habit be, to leave nothing until you have THROUGOUGHLY MASTERED IT”.
To be honest, this is something I am still working hard on. I have developed quite the ‘foundational knowledge’ of many topics, yet I do find it hard to “thoroughly master” things since I “jump” a lot. I have been in a “season” of practicing this though, challenging myself in regards to ‘preterist thought’ and the consistent application of it (for example, baptism- which Larry Siegle has been an immense help).
I have met many friends who fail to fully understand the concept of “patient application” and this leads them in many directions. I have continually challenged people with the truth of 1 Thessalonians 5:21 which clearly expresses the Christian truth, which is much neglected’ of “examining everything carefully”.
“The accuracy of study is of far greater importance than its extent. ‘A little study, well digested in a good, serious mind, will go a great way, and will lay in materials for a whole life”.
“…LOVE OF STUDY; a desire of becoming useful to our parish; a CONVICTION of the necessity of deriving from prayer that knowledge which study does not afford; of being impressed with a desire of salvation, and of applying all the means of ADVANCING IN EVANGELICAL WISDOM, to INSPIRE our flock with a love of their duty, in order that they may the more easily be induced to practice it: in a word, a sincere desire to fulfill our ministry”.
-Authentic Missional Discipleship
“Not to read or study at all is to tempt God: to do nothing but study, is to forget the ministry: to study, only to glory in one’s knowledge, is a shameful vanity: to study, in search of the means to flatter sinners, a deplorable prevarication: but to store one’s mind with the knowledge proper to the saints by study and by prayer, and to diffuse that knowledge in solid instructions and practical exhortations- this is to be a prudent, zealous, and laborious minister”.
The practice of having a well rounded Biblical understanding has allowed for my to keep Scriptural truths always revolving in my mind. When someone speaks of something regarding the Scriptures I am able to draw from my mind the story in context (sometimes I wish I was blessed with the memorization gift, not yet at least).
“I wish him to be diligent in his studies; but the Bible is the proper library for a young man entering into the Church…I read other books that I may be better able to understand the Scriptures”
“Prefer having eyes to read the Scriptures, and be blind to everything else, rather than to read everything else and neglect the Bible”.
“I find it would be very much to my advantage to be thoroughly acquainted with the Scriptures. When I am reading doctrinal books, or books of controversy, I can proceed with abundantly more confidence, and can see upon what FOUNDATION I STAND”.
Amen. When I first became a Christian I believed reading ‘Christian books’ was ridiculous. Why bother when I have the Scriptures? Obviously as I have grown, I have realized the benefit of studying science, history, sociology, and various religions to better enhance my understanding of the context of Scripture. The fact that for about 2 years I was a staunch, “Bible-Only” type of guy, I have developed a strong foundation to which I can always refer back to.
The failure of men/women in the “leadership”, as well as all in the Church, to examine the Scriptures in context of the “whole story” prior to “religious indoctrination” has led to prejudice.
“Attachment to some particular system is a spiritual self-indulgence, which TOO OFTEN GUIDES OUR SCRIPTURAL READING, and gives an INDIVIDUAL CHARACTER to it, rather than receives a complexion from it”.
In our day and age, there are a variety of “flavors” of Christianity which sadly read the Scriptures in different contexts. The failure to understand Audience Relevancy and other Hermeneutical practices has led to a gross error in how many understand the Scriptures. The rise of “devotional reading” without contextual understanding has led so many to read themselves into a historical story and to completely remove the original context they had. This in turn makes Christianity out to be a personal religion rather than a historical fact.
The fact that a reformation, or as some are calling it, a “reframe-ation” is occurring in our day, is rather exciting. Many are coming to understand the historical story of the Scriptures, the truth espoused in them, how that affects us in our day, and also leading many to the faith. Semper Reformanda.
“You will apply yourselves wholly to this one thing, and draw all your cares and studies this way; continually praying to God the Father by meditation of our only Savior Jesus Christ, for the heavenly assistance of the Holy Ghost; that by daily weighing of the Scriptures, you may wax riper and stronger in your ministry”.
“Study furnishes the materials- prayer sanctifies them- exercise makes a suitable distributive application of them to several cases brought before us”.
“Abhor an hour of idleness, as you would be ashamed of one hour of drunkenness”.
“A minister must remember, that himself with all his studies is consecrated to the service of the sanctuary. Let everything be done therefore with a view to one great end; and let us pursue every part of science with a design to gain better qualifications thereby for our sacred work”.
I endeavor to continue to walk worthy. So grateful to be alive in this generation and to be called to ministry as a reformation takes place!
In service to Him,