Friday, 8 May 2009

Life and character

In 1997 while working as a Vicar in Hirwaun, near Aberdare, a friend of mine bought me a book called “Pastors and teachers” by Derek Prime. I have read many books on the subject and initially I thought this would be another run of the mill ‘how to do it’ books by those who have had a phenomenally successful ministry. I can’t remember too much of the book but one chapter in particular struck me. It was Chapter 2 “Life and character” and it is pertinent to the last two blogs I have written on the subject. Here is what Derek writes:

“We may be tempted to by-pass this chapter, because we know what it is likely to say. We may excuse this reaction by suggesting that our concern is to get down quickly to the practicalities of the ministry. But there can be – sadly – a difference between knowledge and action. We need reminding of the most important things even though we know them already (cf 2 Peter 1:12-15). What is more, nothing is more practical and down-to-earth than the people we are. It is the subtle enemy of our souls who tries to make us think that God’s requirements concerning our life and character are either unimportant or altogether too familiar. Robert Murray McCheyne – the godly Dundee minister who died so young – puts our subject into proper perspective in two of his most telling statements about a minister’s personal life:

First, “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.”, and, second, “How awful (i.e. full of awe) a weapon in the hand of God is a holy minister.”It was appropriate for a former Bishop of Durham, Henley Henson, to say in an ordination charge, “We are pledged to a consecrated life, not merely to the pursuit of a profession.” Paul rightly appeals to Timothy, the young shepherd and teacher, as a ‘man of God’ (1 Timothy 6:11)

Whatever else a shepherd and teacher provides for God’s people, he is to give them an example to follow….. John Thornton, a wealthy Christian merchant and benefactor of good causes in the early 19th century, wrote to Charles Simeon at the beginning of his ministry: “Watch continually over your own spirit, and do all in love; we must grow downwards in humility to soar heavenward. I should recommend your having a watchful eye over yourself, for generally speaking as is the minister so are the people.”"

I was deeply affected by this chapter and now as I write about the importance of who we are as Christians it has once again come to mind. What is true of the minister is surely also true of anyone who takes seriously the charge of Jesus to be witnesses. If we are to be effective in carrying out his command, then our character is as important as our message.

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