Quotable: Richard Baxter on Celebrity Christian Leaders

“Consider, I beseech you, brethren, what baits there are in the work of the ministry, to entice a man to selfishness, even in the highest works of piety. The fame of a godly man is as great a snare as the fame of a learned man. But woe to him who takes up the fame of godliness instead of godliness! ‘Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.’ When the times were all for learning and empty formalities, the temptation of the proud did lie that way. But now, when, through the unspeakable mercy of God, the most lively practical preaching is in credit, the temptation of the proud is to pretend to be zealous preachers and godly men. Oh, what a fine thing it is to have people crowding to hear us, and affected with what we say, and yielding up their judgments and affections! What a taking thing it is to be cried up as the ablest and godliest man in the country, to be famed through the land for the highest spiritual excellencies! Alas! brethren, a little grace combined with such inducements, will serve to make you join yourselves with the forwardest, in promoting the cause of Christ in the world. Nay, pride may do it without special grace.”

Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, 146.

A Selection from John Wesley’s “An Address to the Clergy”

Let us each seriously examine himself. Have I,
(1.) Such a knowledge of Scripture, as becomes him who undertakes so to explain it to others, that it may be a light in all their paths? Have I a full and clear view of the analogy of faith, which is the clue to guide me through the whole? Am I acquainted with the several parts of Scripture; with all parts of the Old Testament and the New Upon the mention of any text, do I know the context, and the parallel places? Have I that point at least of a good Divine, the being a good textuary? Do I know the grammatical construction of the four Gospels; of the Acts; of the Epistles; and am I a master of the spiritual sense (as well as the literal) of what I read? Do I understand the scope of each book, and how every part of it tends thereto? Have I skill to draw the natural inferences deducible from each text? Do I know the objections raised to them or from them by Jews, Deists, Papists, Arians, Socinians, and all other sectaries, who more or less corrupt or cauponize the word of God? Am I ready to give a satisfactory answer to each of these objections And have I learned to apply every part of the sacred writings, as the various states of my hearers require?

(2.) Do I understand Greek and Hebrew Otherwise, how can I undertake, (as every Minister does,) not only to explain books which are written therein, but to defend them against all opponents? Am I not at the mercy of every one who does understand, or even pretends to understand, the original? For which way can I confute his pretence? Do I understand the language of the Old Testament critically at all? Can I read into English one of David’s Psalms; or even the first chapter of Genesis? Do I understand the language of the New Testament? Am I a critical master of it? Have I enough of it even to read into English the first chapter of St. Luke? If not, how many years did I spend at school? How many at the University? And what was I doing all those years? Ought not shame to cover my face?

(3.) Do I understand my own office? Have I deeply considered before God the character which I bear? What is it to be an Ambassador of Christ, an Envoy from the King of heaven? And do I know and feel what is implied in “watching over the souls” of men “as he that must give account”?

(4.) Do I understand so much of profane history as tends to confirm and illustrate the sacred? Am I acquainted with the ancient customs of the Jews and other nations mentioned in Scripture? Have I a competent knowledge of chronology, that at least which refers to the sacred writings? And am I so far (if no farther) skilled in geography, as to know the situation, and give some account, of all the considerable places mentioned therein?

(5.) Am I a tolerable master of the sciences? Have I gone through the very gate of them, logic? If not, I am not likely to go much farther, when I stumble at the threshold. Do I understand it so as to be ever the better for it to have it always ready for use; so as to apply every rule of it, when occasion is, almost as naturally as I turn my hand? Do I understand it at all? Are not even the moods and figures above my comprehension? Do not I poorly endeavour to cover my ignorance, by affecting to laugh at their barbarous names? Can I even reduce an indirect mood to a direct; an hypothetic to a categorical syllogism? Rather, have not my stupid indolence and laziness made me very ready to believe, what the little wits and pretty gentlemen affirm, “that logic is good for nothing”? It is good for this at least, (wherever it is understood,) to make people talk less; by showing them both what is, and what is not, to the point; and how extremely hard it is to prove anything. Do I understand metaphysics; if not the depths of the Schoolmen, the subtleties of Scotus or Aquinas, yet the first rudiments, the general principles, of that useful science? Have I conquered so much of it, as to clear my apprehension and range my ideas under proper heads; so much as enables me to read with ease and pleasure, as well as profit, Dr. Henry More’s Works, Malebranche’s “Search after Truth,” and Dr. Clarke’s “Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God”? Do I understand natural philosophy? If I have not gone deep therein, have I digested the general grounds of it? Have I mastered Gravesande, Keill, Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia, with his “Theory of Light and Colours”? In order thereto, have I laid in some stock of mathematical knowledge? Am I master of the mathematical A B C of Euclid’s Elements? If I have not gone thus far, if I am such a novice still, what have I been about ever since I came from school?

(6.) Am I acquainted with the Fathers; at least with those venerable men who lived in the earliest ages of the Church? Have I read over and over the golden remains of Clemens Romanus, of Ignatius and Polycarp; and have I given one reading, at least, to the works of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Cyprian?

(7.) Have I any knowledge of the world Have I studied men, (as well as books,) and observed their tempers, maxims, and manners? Have I learned to beware of men; to add the wisdom of the serpent to the innocence of the dove? Has God given me by nature, or have I acquired, any measure of the discernment of spirits; or of its near ally, prudence, enabling me on all occasions to consider all circumstances, and to suit and vary my behaviour according to the various combinations of them? Do I labour never to be rude or ill-mannered; not to be remarkably wanting in good-breeding? Do I endeavour to copy after those who are eminent for address and easiness of behaviour? Am I (though never light or trifling, either in word or action, yet) affable and courteous to all men? And do I omit no means which is in my power, and consistent with my character, of “pleasing all men” with whom I converse, “for their good to edification”?

If I am wanting even in these lowest endowments, shall I not frequently regret the want? How often shall I move heavily, and be far less useful than I might have been! How much more shall I suffer in my usefulness, if I have wasted the opportunities I once had of acquainting myself with the great lights of antiquity, the Ante-Nicene Fathers; or if I have droned away those precious hours wherein I might have made myself master of the sciences! How poorly must I many times drag on, for want of the helps which I have vilely cast away! But is not my case still worse, if I have loitered away the time wherein I should have perfected myself in Greek and Hebrew I might before this have been critically acquainted with these treasuries of sacred knowledge. But they are now hid from my eyes; they are close locked up, and I have no key to open them. However, have I used all possible diligence to supply that grievous defect, (so far as it can be supplied now,) by the most accurate knowledge of the English Scriptures? Do I meditate therein day and night? Do I think (and consequently speak) thereof, “when I sit in the house, and when I walk by the way; when I lie down, and when I rise up”? By this means have I at length attained a thorough knowledge, as of the sacred text, so of its literal and spiritual meaning? Otherwise, how can I attempt to instruct others therein? Without this, I am a blind guide indeed! I am absolutely incapable of teaching my flock what I have never learned myself; no more fit to lead souls to God, than I am to govern the world.


The task of understanding and then appropriating a methodology for ministry begins early on in our spiritual lives. We are unwittingly yoked to certain philosophy’s long before we reach ministry. These different presuppositions come from many places including our former pastor’s and the schools with which we received our training.

One of these presuppositions pounded into my thinking from an early age was a disjunct between the halls of academia and the laymen in the pew on Sunday morning. While it is not within the scope of this discussion as to how this disjunct arose, I would like to look at the effect of this separation through the eye’s of the local church. The issue can be boiled down to one’s view of the purpose of the college (and seminary) and the purpose of the church. While I’ll not debate your individual school or church’s position, I will share with you several comments I’ve heard from both sides of the issue.

Often times (in both undergrad and grad work) professors have made comments along these lines “This material is probably not suitable for the congregation as it will. . . (e.g. cause them to loose respect for the principal of inspiration, etc.)” The same sentiment is voiced from the layman’s perspective in the comment, “We don’t need to know all that deep theology, we merely need to know how be holy.” Within the realm of evangelicalism today there is a disjunct between theology and holy living.

This is terribly unfortunate and has led to many extremes. Our modern fundamental movement is fraught with either elite intellectualism or legalistic morality! The biblical model, as we are readily aware, does not present such a disjunct but welds theology and practice together. Romans 12:2, a text often quoted, cites “mind renewal” as the means for sanctification. Countless texts cite the need to think right. Inculcating right doctrine is crucial for right actions. To often, however, this doctrine is dry — most likely because it had no effect on the presenter to begin with.

Bunyan had a much different approach to solving the issue of promoting spiritual growth. He states in a sermon:

“Apples and flowers are not made by the gardener, but are the effect of the planting and watering. Plant in the sinner good doctrine, and let it be watered with the word of grace, and as the effect of that, there the fruits of holiness and the end everlasting life. Good doctrine is the doctrine of the Gospel, which showeth to men that God clothed them with the righteousness of His Son freely, by which free gift the sinner is declared righteous before God. Therefore, there is infused a principle of grace into the heart, whereby it is both quickened and bringing forth fruit!”

There is no disjunct in the mind of Bunyan between theology and morality. Positional truth, the fact of our reconciliation, our justification, and our redemption should be the fountainhead for all our preaching and teaching. Far from promoting apathetic or licentious believers, this is our only hope for true holiness. When we promote the gospel and all its benefits we are in turn promoting Christ — pleading with people to look to him.

To know Him is to love Him and to love Him is to serve Him!

Pastoral Ministry

Charles Jefferson decries the lack of appreciation for “pastoral ministry.” He says the following:

One result of this disparagement of pastoral service is visible in the sentiments entertained by many young men entering the ministry. They say quite openly that they despise pastoral work. Study they enjoy, books they love, preaching they revel in. But as for shepherding the sheep, they hate it. They like to feel that they have special gifts for the pulpit. When their friends prophesy for them a glorious pulpit career, their heart sings. The work of the shepherd was an abomination, we are told, to the ancient Egyptians, and so it is to all the pulpit-Pharaohs who are interested in building pyramids out of eloquent words. The fear of ailing in pastoral duty is never once before their eyes. A slip in the pulpit brings gnawing remorse; a blunder in pastoral work gives the conscience not a twinge. Public worship is to them the be-all and end-all to ministerial life. They have not read the New Testament sufficiently to observe that public worship is not made the one thing needful, either by Jesus or the apostles; and that while it is not to be neglected, there are many weightier matters of the law.
Charles Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd, pg. 24

I’m am certain, as unpleasant as it may be, at times it is healthy to read things that I strongly (and negatively) react to by nature. When I first read this paragraph I was angry at the characterization of young men. In my pride, I miss the point. This is a good reminder I think.

The Small Church

For good or for bad?

From Shepherding the Small Church, by Glenn Daman

Within the small church, it is not the position that gives power and authority to the individual but the relationships the person has with the other members. Consequently, the pastor is often not the primary leader of the congregation. That role is often given to an individual or individuals who, by their personal interaction with others, influence the rest of the church.”

This is especially true regarding the vision and direction of the church. Whereas in the large church, the senior pastor sets the direction of the church, in the small congregation the vision must arise from the people themselves. Rather than the pastor being the vision setter, he becomes the vision facilitator, one who helps and coaches the congregation as they set the agenda for the future.”

The small church is owned and operated by the laity rather than the pastor. Because of this, the pastor is less important to the operation and health of the small church than the larger counterpart. While the pastor may retain the title, the power of the church belongs to the people who have built and operated the church for generations. If the pastor comes into conflict with that authority, then the pastor will often be asked to leave.”