I’ve been reading Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor over the past month. It’s an incredibly long book, and an incredibly slow read due to his stiff language use. But within that has been many encouraging and challenging pieces.
Baxter has a helpful perspective on where to focus your attention when it comes to Christian ministry. He writes particularly with pastors in mind, but I extend this toward all of Christian ministry, and therefore all of life for Christians, because I believe that is most helpful.
1. Conversion of the unconverted.
“I confess, I am frequency forced to neglect that which should tend to the further increase of knowledge in the godly, because of the lamentable necessity of the unconverted. Who is able to talk of controversies, or of nice unnecessary points, or even of truths of a lower degree of necessity, how excellent whatever, while he sees a company of ignorant, carnal, miserable sinners before his eyes, who must be changed or damned?”
2. Care for the sick.
“So great is the change that is made by death, that it should awaken us to the greatest sensibility to see a man so near it, and should excite in us the deepest pangs of compassion…when a man is almost at his journey’s end, and the next step brings him to heaven or hell, it is time for us, while there is hope, to help him if we can.”
3. Admonish the sinful.
“It will be necessary to speak with the greatest plainness and power, to shake their careless hearts, and make them see what it is to dally with sin; to let them know the evil of it, and its sad effects as regards both God and themselves.”
4. Not for personal gain.
“Self–denial is of absolute necessity in every Christian, but it is doubly necessary in a minister, as without it he cannot do God an hour’s faithful service.”
5. Eternal things are the most necessary.
“Life is short, and we are dull, and eternal things are necessary, and the souls that depend on our teaching are precious.”
6. All things in humility.
“Pride is a vice that ill becomes them that must lead men in such an humble way to heaven: let us, therefore, take heed, lest, when we have brought others there, the gate should prove too strait for ourselves.”
7. All things in love for people.
“We must let them see that nothing pleases us but what profits them; and that what does them good does us good; and that nothing troubles us more than their hurt. We must feel toward our people, as a father toward his children: yes, the tenderest love of a mother must not surpass ours.”
8. All things with patience.
“We have to deal with distracted men who will fly in the face of their physician, but we must not, therefore, neglect their cure. He is unworthy to be a physician, who will be driven away from a frenetic patient by foul words.”
9. Dependence on prayer.
“Prayer must carry on our work as well as preaching: he preaches not heartily to his people, that prays not earnestly for them. If we prevail not with God to give them faith and repentance, we shall never prevail with them to believe and repent.”
Hope this is as helpful for you as it was me.