Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Being ordained

On Sunday I was ordained as a deacon in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. There were a number of aspects of the service which people raised with me afterwards (having heard what I said), thinking that they might have been problematic for me to agree with. There were also a number of fantastic things which I promised and which were said. Over the next few days I’m going to raise a number of those things, outline my thinking, and hopefully explain why evangelicals should not be afraid of committing themselves to work within traditional denominations (although my co-blogger might disagree).

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Lessons in Ministry from Thomas Scott

John Newton is famous as the slave trader who was converted to Christ, gave up the slave trade and penned the famous Amazing Grace. Newton spent many years as a parish minister and part of that time he was in the neighbouring parish to a man named Thomas Scott. Scott was actually not a Christian when he went into the ministry. In his autobiography he mentions three reasons why he became a minister. First, he thought it would be an easier life than working on his father’s farm; second he thought the life of the ministry would give him time to read – the great passion of his life; and thirdly, he thought that being a minister would give him the chance to distinguish himself as a literary man – as ‘he felt within himself the capacity for success’. Now, thankfully Scott was converted to a genuine faith in Christ and became a very effective minister.

This is an account from Scott’s diary that illustrates how poor view of ministry was:

In January 1774 two of my parishioners, a man and his wife, lay at the point of death. I had heard of the circumstances, but according to my general custom, not being sent for, I took no notice of it; till one evening, the woman being now dead, and the man dying, I heard that [ the neighbouring minister] my neighbour Mr Newton had been several times to visit them. {so even though these people were not in Newton’s parish – he had made the effort to see them} Scott continues: Immediately my conscience reproached me with being shamefully negligent, in sitting at home within a few doors of dying persons […] and never going to visit them…This reflection affected me so much, that without delay, and very earnestly, yea, with tears, I besought the Lord to forgive my past neglect. {from Thomas Scott, The Force of Truth (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1984 [1779])}

Contrast this to that of Paul in 1 Thess 2:7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

The need for the preacher to be interesting

"If men's minds are wandering far away they cannot receive the truth, and it is much the same if they are inactive. Sin cannot be taken out of men, as Eve was taken out of the side of Adam, while they are fast asleep" (Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, p. 127). HT Doug Wilson.

conversation with a three year old...

3 year old: How did Jesus rise from the dead?

Me: God rose him.

3 year old: But God is Jesus…so he rose himself.

Me: Yes, well, ice cream is melting I better go. Good night...

Thursday, 17 January 2008

1 Thess 2:8

I have often thought about what Paul means in this verse by the idea of 'sharing our own selves'. I guess I used to think that it referred to Paul (and his colleagues') openness about their struggles and anxieties. That is certainly a Pauline trait, but two things count against it. A quick scan of the use of the other uses of the Greek word translated 'share' here show that it is more often used of an actual giving or imparting. And this, secondly, fits with the next verse - connected by 'for' - where Paul points to their labour and toil. Paul and his associates shared their selves by giving themselves in hard labour to bring the gospel to the Thessalonians free of charge.
Ministry means loving people enough to work flat out for them.