Edwards on the Ministry (20)
These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. 2 Peter 2.17
We’ve seen plenty of examples of unfaithful ministers in our day – men who’ve allowed their privileged office to become a means for aggrandizing fleshly desires. Each such act of unfaithfulness paints a stain on the Church, undermines the credibility of the Gospel, tarnishes the honor Christ, and leaves hurting and angry believers in its wake.
It’s easy to look askance at such men and to forget that we, too, are susceptible to temptations to use the office of pastoral ministry to make ourselves someone to be respected by men, rather than their servant. Our unfaithfulness may not be scandalous, but if we’re using the ministry to vaunt our own prestige or image, we are betraying our calling as shepherds over the Lord’s flocks.
We must ever look to Christ, and not to our own advantage. Edwards wrote, in Christ the Example of Ministers, “It will be our great honour that we are called to this work of Christ, if therein we follow him: for therein we shall be like the Son of God: but if we are unfaithful in this office, and do not imitate our Master, our offence will be heinous in proportion to the dignity of our office, and our final and everlasting disgrace and ignominy proportionably great; and we, who in honour are exalted up to heaven, shall be cast down proportionably low in hell.”
Not the kind of talk we hear these days. And that’s at least one explanation for unfaithfulness in ministry – lack of solemn warnings from our colleagues.
The devil will seek our undoing in various ways, and will appeal to pride, the flesh, the need to be unique, or just the need to be needed if that’s what it takes to bring our high calling into dishonor. Be on guard. Both for yourself and your fellow shepherds.
Resources for Shepherds
Men, four reading groups are scheduled for this fall, and we invite men in ministry to join us for times of lively discussion, fresh insights, new perspectives on our lives and ministries, and the opportunity to make some new friends. I’ll be leading or co-leading each of these groups, and over the next four weeks I’ll give you the information about each.
Here are the other three books we’ll be studying in groups. I’ll share more about them and the times and dates over the next few installments:The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, by Alan Kreider. The first Christians won their neighbors by their habitus more than their preaching. Ralph Elmerick and I will lead.
The Case for the Psalms, by N. T. Wright. David Timbie and I will lead this study on why the psalms matter and how to make best use of them.
The Sermons of Columbanus. I’ll be leading our discussion of the thirteen extant sermons by this greatest of the Irish peregrini.
Our book, Fan into Flame, provides a variety of assessment tools to help you in discovering ways of improving your ministry. It’s free, and you can check out the table of contents, listen to an excerpt, and order your copy by clicking here.
From the Celtic Revival
It’s the last line of this excerpt from the Life of Bairre (early 6th century) that arrests me:
Too numerous to recount or narrate are the miracles and mighty works which God wrought for St. Bairre. For no one would be able to narrate them all, unless he himself or an angel of God should come to relate them. Still, this little of them may suffice as an illustration of his inner life and his daily conversation, his lowliness, his obedience, his compassion, his sweetness, his patience and gentleness, his love and pity and readiness to forgive, his fasting and abstinence, his earnest prayer, his patient waiting, and his mind continually intent on God…He was also the heavenly cloud wherewith was fructified the ground of the Church, that is, the souls of the righteous with the drops of his peaceful and virtuous teaching.
- Life of Bairre of Cork, (6th century)
His heaven-oriented life “fructified the ground of the Church…” What a challenge to each of us! Let’s make sure we set our minds on the things that are above, where Christ is seated, so that we can have grace to cultivate the Lord’s vine for greater fruitfulness in worship and ministry.
Sign-up at our website, www.ailbe.org, to receive Crosfigell every Tuesday and Thursday and learn more from and about the great leaders of the Celtic Revival.
For a brief introduction to the Celtic Revival, click here for a free copy of our PDF, The Celtic Revival: A Brief Introduction.
T. M. Moore
Cowper on Preaching
William Cowper, hymn writer and poet, offered some compelling and convicting insights into the work of preaching in his lengthy poem, The Task. Our book, An Essay on Preaching, arranges those excerpts into a concise overview of Cowper’s views on late 19th century preaching in England. A free copy awaits you by clicking here.
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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.
 Plummer, Lives of Irish Saints, p. 19.