Calvin on the Ministry (1)
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry,… Ephesians 4.11, 12
The focus of our ministry
In 1538, after three stormy years in his first pastorate, John Calvin was run out of Geneva when he tried to establish a Biblical order for the churches there.
And you thought the people you serve have little patience.
It seems Christians in all generations can have a problem with things like authority and structure. The Genevans of Calvin’s day were no different.
Yet three years later, in 1541, the situation in Geneva had so deteriorated for lack of a Biblical order, and the failure of the Gospel effort was in such disarray, that they pled with Calvin to return from exile and help them.
Only reluctantly did Calvin agree.
Upon returning, he immediately composed the Ecclesiastical Ordinances to outline a program of edification and care for the Christian people of Geneva. And he made it clear to all who would join him in this work what the focus of their energies would be: “As to the pastors, whom the Scripture also sometimes calls elders and ministers, their office is to proclaim the Word of God, to instruct, admonish, exhort and censure, both in public and private, to administer the sacraments and to enjoin brotherly corrections along with the elders and colleagues.”
This is the ministry of the Word to which all pastors and shepherds are called.
The next 23 years of Calvin’s ministry made a worldwide impact for the Kingdom of God. Nothing good happens where things are left to chance or whim. Ours is a God of order, not chaos. And that goes for the work of ministry in all forms.
Resources for Shepherds
One of the three tools shepherds have for doing this great work is prayer. Our free course, Parameters of Prayer, provides an opportunity for you to review and improve your prayer life, and to begin helping others to grow in this discipline as well. Watch this brief video introducing the course. Then register with The Ailbe Seminary (top right on the home page) and enroll in the course. For men who take this course, we’ll provide a Reader to walk you through all the assignments.
The second tool shepherds have been given for their work is the Word of God, which they minister in all the ways Calvin indicated above. Preaching is the focal point of this part of our work, so we want to make sure we’re getting it right. At The InVerse Theology Project, we’re just about to wrap up our study of William Cowper’s critique of the preaching in late-18th-century England. You can listen to the most recent installment of our “Essay on Preaching” by clicking here. Here’s a sample:
For William Cowper, there was no excuse
for preaching anything but Jesus. He
who used the pulpit otherwise was but
a wolf among the flock of God, who worked
his calling but to gratify his vain
self-interest. God’s elect would only know
true virtue, and be fitted for each day’s
ongoing warfare as they were shaped by
the Word of God into the likeness of
Christ Jesus; and this work, as Cowper saw
it, must begin and be sustained by true
and faithful proclamation of the Lord
and all His wisdom, works, and wondrous love.
Such preaching would encourage proper growth
in Christ, embolden Christian witness, shut
the mouths of liars and deceivers, and
equip God’s people for their Kingdom work.
Such preaching is required for every age
and generation of the Lord’s elect.
- From “An Essay on Preaching”
Listen to all the installments of “An Essay on Preaching”, as we follow William Cowper’s assessment of late-18th century British preaching. The series (four installments to date) begins here.
From the Celtic Revival
“Everything they [the people of Britain] did went against their salvation, just as though the true doctor of us all granted the world no medicine. And this was true not merely of worldly men; the flock of the Lord and His shepherds, who should have been an example to the whole people, lay about...a prey to swelling hatreds, contentious quarrels, the greedy talons of envy, judgement that made no distinction between good and evil...they were seduced by their follies and wandered in the trackless desert.”
- Gildas, The Ruin of Britain, British, 6th century
“Far from his friends was Coemgen steadfastly among the crags; nobly and alone he saw the order which was brought to the brink of the fair lough. At night he would rise without fear to perform his devotions in his fort; there he would early recite his hours [prayers] standing habitually in the lough up to his girdle.”
- Life of Coemgen, Irish, 17th century, from an earlier ms.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.