Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Oversight of Ourselves

Fairly recently I received this in an email from a friend:

I have just recently found out that another friend of mine in the ministry has had an affair. How frustrating and scary! I really never would have thought that it would be this guy. This is the second friend in the past two years.
If only this was an unusual thing to hear. If you have been in ministry or training very long you have probably seen and heard this same sort of occurrence yourself. In addition to being heart rending as you consider the one who has fallen and his family, church, etc., it is also personally sobering- especially when it is someone you respected and never expected to do something like this. It scares you because you think, “Could I do this?” Of course the answer to any question about whether you could, possibly do any sin is “Yes.” As Calvin said, “The seed of every sin lies dormant in the human heart.” Or to quote Spurgeon:
‘There is tender enough in the saint who is nearest to heaven to kindle another hell if God should permit a spark to fall upon it. In the best of men, there is an infernal and well-nigh infinite depth of depravity. Some Christians never seem to find this out. I almost wish they might not do so, for it is a very painful discovery for anyone to make: but it has the beneficial effect of making us cease trusting in ourselves’
We should take note of these things and see that they scare us well, that we might be delivered from self-assuredness and that we might be painfully aware of our desperate need for grace and the accountability of godly men- in short that we might be reminded of our desperate need for the oversight of our souls.

Richard Baxter referred to this as the oversight of ourselves. Pastors often do not have anyone else overseeing them. This is one of the benefits of plurality in leadership. Brother, if you are out there without any real accountability (read: people who will ask you hard questions and follow up on you) get some quick! For the sake of your own soul, for the sake of your family and the church you serve, for the sake of the name of God, find some accountability.


Barry Wallace said...

Hi, Ray. There's an interesting post on George Grant's blog examining Thomas Chalmers' view of the need for the covenant community itself to discern and affirm a man's call to the ministry, providing yet another avenue of accountability. Here's an excerpt:

*QUOTE* The Bible was, is, and always shall be clear in detailing specific criteria and prerequisites for vocational service in the Church. But not only that, covenantal communities serve as the proving grounds for those criteria and prerequisites so that there is a kind of checks and balances system at work.

Chalmers asserted that the Bible makes it plain that any candidate for the ministry as well as the members of his immediate family must evidence constancy of character and virtue over the course of time (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). He must also demonstrate particular pastoral gifts and aptitudes in the handling of the Gospel (Eph. 4:4-16; 2 Tim. 2:15-16). As he said, “The Word of God countenances as requisite both a testable sanctification and a notable endowment.” And such mandatory capacities are observable within the context of everyday parish life (Philem. 4-7). He said, “An affirmation of the ministerial calling is the inevitable result of a life rightly lived, gifts rightly shared, and proficiencies in handling both Scripture and adversity amongst those who might best be able to judge a candidate’s sincerity: his neighbors.” Accountability is thus assured. *END QUOTE*

That's what I like about the way pastors are being mentored and developed in the context of the Christian community there at Cornerstone. I wish that were the norm!

In the event you want to read the entire post, here it is:

Matt Crawford said...

Thanks for making this point, Dr. Van Neste. Recently Dr. Don Whitney preached a sermon on 1 Timothy 4:16 in chapel at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I encourage all those aspiring to or currently in ministry to listen to it. He draws attention to the inevitability of ministerial failure . . . unless we make use of the means of grace. You can listen to the semron at . Blessings.

Ray Van Neste said...

Thanks Barry and Matt for passing along these two good resources. This is the helpful conversation I hoped to see develop! I look forward to checking out both of these sites.
Just yesterday I was trying to explain to some students the necessity of the local church in discerning one's call.

Josh Wamble said...

hey Ray,

I have been enjoying your blog. This posts reminds me of Thomas Brooks's Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices.

In his 4th remedy against Satan's 4th device to draw the soul to sin (by presenting to the soul the best men's sins, and by hiding from the soul their virtues; by showing the soul their sins, and by hiding from the soul their sorrows and repentance)he says that there are 2 reasons God records the falls of his saints. The first is to keep others who fall from "faiting, sinking, and despair under the burden of their sins." the second is...

"that their falls may be as landmarks to warn others that stand, to take heed lest they fall. It never entered into the heart of God to record his children's sins, that others might be encouraged to sin, but that others might look to their standings, and hang the faster upon the skirts of Christ, and avoid all occasions and temptations that may occassion the soul to fall, as others have fallen, when they have been left by christ. The Lord hath made their sins as landmarks, to warn his people to take heed how they come near those sands and rocks, those snares and baits, that have been fatal to the choicest treasures, to wit, the joy, peace, comfort, and glorious enjoyments of the bravest spirits and noblest souls that ever sailed through the ocen of this sinful troublesome world."

In a footnote, he says, "I have known a god man, saith Bernard, who, when he heard of any that had committed some notorious sin, he was wont to say with himself, ... so may I to-morrow."

Adam Winters said...

Cheers to Richard Baxter. Kudos to Calvin. And much appreciation to Dr. Whitney. I'm thankful to have mentors in the faith who are able to warn all of us aspiring teachers and preachers of the perils of not taking heed to the state of one's soul. How will we expect our congregations to be pure and nourished by the Word if we ourselves do not discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness?

Ray Van Neste said...


Brooks' book is a goldmine of much practical, pastoral wisdom. Simply the writing of such a book by a pastor for his congregation is a great example of taking oversight seriously.