Saturday, March 29, 2008

Scougal once more

Here is another powerful excerpt from Scougal’s sermon "The Importance and Difficulty of the Ministerial Function". There is a need to recapture this gravity today. Then, under this weight we must cling steadily to the cross which alone bears us up, empowers us and gives us grace to stand.

“But if the negligence and miscarriage of a minister hazards the souls of others, it certainly ruins his own; which made St. Chrysostom say (words so terrible that I tremble to put them into English), ‘If a man should speak fire, blood, and smoke; if flames could come out of his mouth instead of words; if he had a voice like thunder and an eye like lightning, he could not sufficiently represent the dreadful account that an unfaithful pastor shall make. What horror and confusion shall it cast them into at the last day to hear the blood of the Son of God plead against them, to hear our great Master say, ‘It was the purchase of My blood which ye did neglect! God died for these souls, of whom ye took so little pains!’ Think not, therefore, to be saved by that blood which ye have despised, or to escape the torments whereunto many others are plunged through your faults!’ By this time I hope it appears that the work of the
ministry is of great weight and importance; that much depends on the right discharging of it, and that miscarrying in it is the most dangerous thing in the world.” (p. 235)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Scougal, on the Gravity of Pastoral Ministry

One of the items I have required in my pastoral ministry class from the beginning is a sermon by Henry Scougal entitled “On the Importance and Difficulty of the Ministerial Function” (found in The Works of Rev. H. Scougal, ed. By Don Kistler). This time around I required the sermon again but failed to supply a copy!

Some industrious students however discovered that the entire book, including this sermon, is available on Google book search! I recommend the book to you. It includes Scougal’s Life of God in the Soul of Man which has had significant impact over the years in the lives of men such as Wesley, Whitefield and more recently John Piper (see the preface to The Pleasures of God).

This sermon is based on 2 Cor 2:16 where in discussing the weightiness of preaching the gospel Paul asks “Who is sufficient for such things?” Here are some quotes to allure you to read the whole thing.

“it [the gospel] proves a vital savor to those who receive and obey it, but a most deadly poison to all who reject and despise it.” p. 228

“And shall we undervalue the price of His blood, or think it a small matter to have the charge of those for whom it was shed? It is the Church of God we must oversee and feed; that Church for which the world is upheld, which is sanctified by the Holy Ghost, on which the angels themselves attend. What a weighty charge is this we have undertaken! And ‘who is sufficient for these things?’” p. 234

“But certainly the greatest and most difficult work of a minister is in applying himself particularly to the various persons under his charge; to acquaint himself with their behavior and the temper of their souls; to redress what is amiss and prevent their future miscarriages. Without this private work, his other endeavors will do little good.” p.241

“Now this supposes a great deal of care, to acquaint ourselves with the humors and conversation of our people; and the name of ‘watchmen’ that is given to us implies no less.” p.252

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Horton on the Pastorate

The article by Michael Horton which I mentioned in the previous post is now available online. This is a helpful article critiquing many common assumptions about what pastors should be and do.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Maxwell on Pastoring

Barry Maxwell is a good friend and thoughtful pastor. I recommend his blog. His most recent post is excellent as he discusses his own struggle with the difference between what the Bible calls us to as pastors and what the current church culture expects of us. This is important, valuable stuff. He also interacts with a recent article by Michael Horton in Touchstone Magazine. I was going to recommend that article as well, but I’ll now just point you to Barry’s musings.
Here is part of my response to his post:
You are right Barry. Continue in that way and continuing helping all of us resist the siren song of the culture which seeks to seduce us to false views of ministry. It must have felt odd for the Reformers to shake off the ways that had become so familiar to their setting when they returned to a more biblical path. It will feel odd to us too,
and if we are in the least bit humble we will wonder, as you have done here, if we're on the right track or have simply lost our minds. We must be diligent to encourage one another in this path. And who knows, maybe for our children this biblical path will not seem so strange.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Barth, Preachers Must Love their People

I have a number of disagreements with Barth theologically and ethically, but he did often speak truth. This quote from his book Homiletics he expresses well the how essential it is for us to love the people to whom we preach. Without this love it all falls apart.

“Preachers must love their congregations. They must not want to be without them. They have to realize: I am part of them, and I want to share with them what I have received from God. It will not help to speak with the tongue of men or angels if this love is missing.” (Cited in Preaching with All You’ve Got, David Day, p. 17)
If your theology is better than Barth’s, will your practice be less?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I am like James and John

Here is a perceptive, challenging poem for those of us who are in any sort of leadership.

I am like James and John
Lord, I size up other people
in terms of what they can do for me;
how they can further my program,
feed my ego,
satisfy my needs,
give me strategic advantage.
I exploit people,
ostensibly for your sake,
but really for my own sake.
Lord, I turn to you
to get the inside track
and obtain special favors,
your direction for my schemes,
your power for my projects,
your sanction for my ambitions,
your blank checks for whatever I want.
I am like James and John.

- Robert Raines, cited in Kent & Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Peter Adam on Expository Preaching

Peter Adam, Principal of Ridley College in Australia, has a good brief article titled, “Fourteen incontrovertible arguments in favour of Expository Preaching.” This is a good succinct argument for the value of systematic preaching through books. It would probably be useful for handing out to a congregation, or even passing on to a pastor friend.
This page on the Ridley College sites contains other useful articles.

(HT: Greg Thornbury)