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Posts Tagged ‘public ministry’


When I’m talking to people about a pastor’s work, I try to communicate the necessity and differences between public ministry (mostly Sunday morning) and personal ministry.  The first is more general, but the second more specific.

In his book, The Work of the Pastor, William Still addresses the former in his first chapter and the latter in his second chapter.  Perhaps I am not as stupid or crazy as I am prone to think I am.

It is the public ministry that sets the stage for the personal ministry.  It flows out of the ministry of Word (and sacrament, which he left out).  The average person, with normal spiritual sickness, merely needs a solid, balanced diet of the Word and some disciplined routine, says Still.  I wouldn’t disagree.  Often it is the neglect of the means of grace, or disciplines of grace, which produce so much spiritual lethargy, dullness and weakness in temptation.

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The last 2 letters of Rev. William Bull were written near the end of John Newton’s life.  The first just before his 76th birthday, and the second just after his 78th birthday.

Rev. Newton enjoyed fairly good health, though his eyesight was nearly gone which is why he wrote so infrequently at this point in his life.  But he still maintained a public ministry.  His statements to his younger colleague are quite appropriate for all who approach the finish line of life.

“But pray that I may be enabled to leave the time and manner of my dismission entirely in the Lord’s hands; that if he sees fit to summon me suddenly, that I may be willing to go without delay; and that if he is please to lay me aside, I may be as willing to retire and wait his time.”

He wanted to submit to the Father’s will, regardless of what it was.  He did not want to retire, but remain useful.  However, he recognized that he may have to retire and wait, with joy, for his summons home.  But his is also concerned with how he spends those days.

“Pray likewise for me that no gross imprudence or misconduct may stain the latter part of my life, but that I may be enabled to exemplify in myself what I have labored to inculcate upon others from the pulpit.”

He wanted to “finish well”.  His desire was to continue to live consistently with his faith rather than stumble and fall as one spiritually enfeebled.  He had seen others not finish well, and did not dare assume he would apart from grace.

“I have known good men in advanced life garrulous, peevish, dogmatic, self-important, with some symptoms of jealousy, and perhaps envy, towards those who are upon the increase while they feel themselves decreasing.”

He repeats this theme 2 years later.

“I wish to say from my heart, Lord, grant that the short uncertain remnant of my time may not discredit my profession, by pride or any evil tempers…”

I have heard of many who did not finish well.  They grew lax and fell into sin.  It is not a sin only of the aged, but for Christians of all ages.  But there is a particular danger to laxity when a fleshly motive, one’s career, is removed.

“I am sure that He does all things well, and that his choice for us will eventually be better than anything we can choose for ourselves.”

Here is the eye of faith, resting in God’s character and providence.  Sometimes we can rage because we encounter an unpleasant providence.  Note the word ‘eventually’ (or e-vent-u-al-ly as Manuel used to enunciate in Fawlty Towers).  Time will reveal that his choice was ultimately better than what we would have planned for ourselves.

In keeping with this idea- here is Steve Taylor’s song Finish Line from the Cornerstone Festival in 1994..

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