Edwards on the Ministry (2)
Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.” Matthew 11.7-9
It’s not likely John the Baptist would be welcomed in many pulpits today. Even though Edwards used him as a model of “The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister”, few and far between are the shepherds today who would even think of adopting his example.
Edwards wrote, “He also shone bright in his conversation, and his eminent mortification and renunciation of the enjoyments of the world; his great diligence and laboriousness in his work, his impartiality in it, declaring the mind and will of God to all sorts without distinction; his great humility, rejoicing in the increase of the honour of Christ, though his honour was diminished, as the brightness of the star diminishes as the light of the sun increases; and in his faithfulness and courage, though it cost him his own life.”
These days many pastors secure their “honor” in subtle but significant ways. They go by “Reverend” or “Doctor”. Have reserved parking places and their name on the church sign. Adopt fashionable garb and speech. Try hard to be friends with all the right people. Such shepherds want to advance their honor; John worked to have his honor diminished, that the honor of Christ might increase.
John excelled in “faithfulness and courage” as he declared “the mind and will of God to all sorts without distinction”. John is one of those minor characters in Scripture it is easy to overlook in seeking examples and instruction for the work of pastoral ministry. But his greatness was not lost on Jonathan Edwards, who extolled him as an example for all shepherds in this ordination sermon.
Resources for Shepherds
Preaching and teaching can become one more way shepherds try to gain honor for themselves. In his day, William Cowper denounced preaching that was offered more to impress than to convict, convert, and transform. In his epic poem, The Task, he blistered the high church preachers of his day and he provides food for reflection for those who have been entrusted with the ministry of the Word in any generation. We used his comments on preaching to prepare “An Essay on Preaching” for The InVerse Theology Project at The Fellowship of Ailbe. Here are the links to all five installments in that series.
An Essay on Preaching Part 1
An Essay on Preaching Part 2
An Essay on Preaching Part 3
An Essay on Preaching Part 4
An Essay on Preaching Part 5
I find it useful to review the basics of ministry from time to time, including the work that goes into preparing to preach or teach. Our book, Text to Transformation, provides an extended outline of what ministers of the Word must do to be faithful in their calling to preach or teach for discipleship. Order your free copy of Text to Transformation by clicking here.
Need to brush-up on your approach to reading, understanding, and teaching the Scriptures? Order a free copy of our book The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart by clicking here.
From the Celtic Revival
Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here). Here is an excerpt from the writings of Patrick, another truly excellent Gospel minister, which is featured in yesterday’s issue of Crosfigell:
But after I to Ireland came, I found
myself a slave, and pastured sheep around
the hills and meadows in the west. You can
imagine my despair, my sorrow, and
my loneliness, a boy of sixteen years.
My days were filled with toil, my nights with fears.
And so I turned to prayer to find relief
in God, although I had not made belief
my firm conviction as of yet. I prayed
throughout the day, and many times I stayed
awake, beseeching God to pity me.
I found the love and fear of God to be
advancing in my soul; my faith began
to grow, and I began to understand
that God was working in my spirit. I
would pray a hundred times each day, and by
the light of moon and stars, as often, too.
I found through prayer a pleasant means to do
my work without complaint or fear, and would
remain out on the mountain and in the woods
through snow or frost or rain. I rose to pray
before the morning light appeared each day,
and suffered no adversity, nor was
I sluggish in my work. It was because
the Spirit of the living God was in
me seething, freeing me from fear and sin.
- Patrick, Confession (late 5th century)
Read more from the leaders of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) in recent issues of Crosfigell by clicking here. Use the pop-up to add Crosfigell to your subscriptions.
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.