It used to be commonplace for Christians, especially pastors, to remind each other that what matters is ‘faithfulness, not numbers’. By this was meant that we are called to obey and teach the truth of Scripture, without compromise; the question of how many people (if any) join us is not one that need trouble us, as it is ‘God who gives the increase’. Our job is to be faithful; we can leave the numbers to the Lord.
It is the preacher’s duty to remind people of the reality of judgment and of hell.
This is neither a pleasant nor an easy responsibility to discharge. We tend to go to one of two extremes: either we neglect the subject altogether, as too difficult, or we harp on about it constantly without speaking enough about the love and mercy of God in Christ and without a due sense of compassion for the lost.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, minister of Westminster Chapel in London in the middle of the twentieth century, saw himself primarily as an evangelist. In 1942, he spoke at a conference of leaders of the Crusaders’ Union (a popular Christian youth movement) on the subject of modern evangelism. What he said is still relevant and helpful.
Firstly, he urged his listeners to avoid two extremes – that of the ‘perfectly orthodox’ whose work shows no fruit, on the one hand, and those, on the other hand, who appear to obtain ‘phenomenal results’ which do not in fact last.
Are you thinking of training for pastoral or preaching ministry? Then do make sure that you come and talk to us at LTS. One excellent way to do this is to come to see us in action on one of our new Visit Days. Dates for this autumn term are:
Friday 18 October (Contemporary Issues)
Thursday 21 November (New Testament)
Tuesday 3 December (Systematics)
A couple of new items have just gone up on the site:
1. on the 'articles' tab, a piece by a former LTS student, who finished the course here in recent years, on his experience of starting a new pastorate ... and that of his new wife;
2. on the new 'bible notes' tab, an item by Vice-Principal David Green, Lecturer in Old Testament, giving a new look at a well-known verse in Deuteronomy.
Does the Christian need to know very much about his faith, in order to live fully for Christ? And how about preachers and pastors – how much do they need to know in order to exercise a fruitful gospel ministry?
Jonathan Edwards, minister in New England in the eighteenth century, believed that Christians need more than a superficial knowledge of Christian doctrine. Indeed, he argued, it was only through growth in doctrinal knowledge that a Christian could really make progress in his faith.
See my review of some recent commentaries on Paul's letter to the Romans on the reviews tab of this journal.
One of the greatest dangers in Christian ministry is comparing ourselves with others.
This is a terribly easy trap to fall into. I find myself doing it far too often. Hearing an effective presentation of the gospel, or a clear and well applied exposition of a text, makes me lament the defects in my own preaching. Reading of large churches growing even larger, or of the vibrancy of the family-orientated congregation in the next town, creates a sense of despondency over one’s own rather smaller gathering of believers.
Paul the apostle urged his trusted associate Timothy to ‘give himself to reading’, an instruction most naturally taken to refer to the public reading of Scripture in the meetings of Christian believers (1 Tim. 4:13). Since earliest times, such reading has been a standard part of the church’s corporate worship. How is it faring in our own age?
A thanksgiving service for the life of former LTS student Ravaka Rajo, from Madagascar, was held last Saturday at Trinity Road Chapel in Tooting. It was a God-honouring time - of sadness, as we reflected on the loss of Ravaka and what that must mean to his family and friends left behind, but also of thankfulness for all that the Lord had done in and through him. We continue to pray for Ravaka's widow, Liz, and their children, Anna and Jonathan.
Here is the text of the tribute that I gave at the service on behalf of LTS.