Tuesday, April 11, 2006

An Earnest Ministry: The Want of the Times

Today in my pastoral ministry class we discussed An Earnest Ministry: The Want of the Times, by John Angell James. This book, originally written in 1847, is a real gem. I have 16 pages (single-spaced) of quotes drawn from the book! James gives a clarion call for a return to earnest, i.e. passionate, devoted, ministry. He says the way this is to be accomplished is for pastors to return to the basic purpose of their calling- the salvation of souls. As such this is a very passionate book on evangelism from an heir of the Puritans. Some are confused, however, when he also says in the book that the purpose of pastoral ministry is the oversight of souls (Heb 13:17). In the way we typically use the words these would seem contradictory- one is evangelism, the other is caring for those already converted. However, for James (and indeed the Bible) these are not contradictory but synonymous. He pauses at one point to clarify exactly what he means by ‘salvation of souls.’ He writes:
‘The salvation of souls’ as the great object of the ministerial office, is a generic phrase, including as its species, the awakening of the unconcerned; the guidance of the inquiring; the instruction of the uninformed; and the sanctification, comfort, and progress of those who through grace have believed; in short the whole work of grace in the soul.” (36)
Thus, James has a biblical view of salvation which involves not only conversion but also sanctification. So the compelling goal of pastoral ministry according to James is the overall work of laboring to see people come to faith in Christ and then to see them persevere in that faith. Truly, this is the biblical witness and we do need an increase in earnestness to this end.


Gordon said...

Good post. We often draw too far a distinction between evangelism and discipleship. I don't believe that discipleship can occur without evangelsim having first taken place, and evangelism is not complete until discipleship is happening.

Steve Weaver said...

Great post! Thanks for reminding me about this book!