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Faithful ministry

"Faithful ministry leads God’s people into the Word so that the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit renews them."

Source: W. Robert Godfrey ‘ Faithful Theological Education’ Jun 16, 2014

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/faithful-theological-education/

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Know humanity

Phillips Brooks:

“It is remarkable how many of the great preachers of the world are inseparably associated with the places where their work was done, where perhaps all their life was lived …

Certainly the long pastorates of other days were rich in the knowledge of human nature, in a very intimate relation with humanity.

These three rules seem to have in them the practical sum of the whole matter.  I beg you to remember them and apply them with all the wisdom that God gives you.

First. Have as few congregations as you can.

Second. Know your congregation as thoroughly as you can.

Third. Know your congregation so largely and deeply that in knowing it you shall know humanity.”

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A letter, written by a pastor called John Brown, to one of his students, who had been appointed to a small congregation.

It’s a gentle warning to those who aspire to ‘greater’ things.

I know the vanity of your heart and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ, at his judgement seat, you will think I have had enough.

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Thus saith the Lord

Self-examination in preachers was a trademark of New England Puritan preaching. “Before calling the congregation to account to God for their lives, thoughts and feelings, the minister first had to submit his own life to a withering, divine scrutiny. Only then could he project that message outward and say to his congregation with the proper combination of humility and finality, “Thus saith the Lord.”‘

source: Harry Stout

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… for a man to undertake the interpretation of any part or portion of Scripture in a solemn manner, without invocation of God to be taught and instructed by his Spirit, is a high provocation of him; nor shall I expect the discovery of truth from any one who so proudly and ignorantly engageth in a work so much above his ability to manage.

– Pneumatologia, Book 6 (Part 2) Chapter VII

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I’m particularly challenged by what he has to say about “triffle conversation”.

As long as men have eyes as well as ears, they will think they see your meaning as well as hear it; and they are apter to believe their sight than their hearing, as being the more perfect sense of the two. All that a minister doth, is a kind of preaching; and if you live a covetous or a careless life, you preach these sins to your people by your practice. If you drink, or game, or trifle away your time in vain discourse, they take it as if you said to them, ‘Neighbours, this is the life you should all live; on this course you may venture without any danger.’ If you are ungodly, and teach not your families the fear of God, nor contradict the sins of the company you are in, nor turn the stream of their vain talking, nor deal with them plainly about their salvation, they will take it as if you preached to them that such things are needless, and that they may boldly do so as well as you.

Nay, you do worse than all this, for you teach them to think evil of others that are better than yourselves. How many a faithful minister, and private Christian, is hated and reproached for the sake of such as you! What say the people to them [the good ministers]? ‘You [the good minister] are so precise, and tell us so much of sin, and duty, and make such a stir about these matters, while such or such a minister, that is as great a scholar as you, and as good a preacher, will be merry and jest with us, and let us alone, and never trouble himself or us with such discourse. You can never be quiet, but make more ado than needs; and love to frighten men with talk of damnation, when sober, learned, peaceable divines are quiet, and live with us like other men.’ Such are the thoughts and talk of people, which your negligence doth occasion.

They will give you leave to preach against their sins, and to talk as much as you will for godliness in the pulpit, if you will but let them alone afterwards, and be friendly and merry with them when you have done, and talk as they do, and live as they, and be indifferent with them in your conversation.

For they take the pulpit to be but a stage; a place where preachers must show themselves, and play their parts; where you have liberty for an hour to say what you list; and what you say they regard not, if you show them not, by saying it personally to their faces, that you were in good earnest, and did indeed mean them, Is that man then likely to do much good, or fit to be a minister of Christ, that will speak for him an hour on the Sabbath, and, by his life, will preach against him all the week besides, yea, and give his public words the lie?

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for a man to undertake the interpretation of any part or portion of Scripture in a solemn manner, without invocation of God to be taught and instructed by his Spirit, is a high provocation of him; nor shall I expect the discovery of truth from any one who so proudly and ignorantly engageth in a work so much above his ability to manage.

– Pneumatologia, Book 6 (Part 2) Chapter VII

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