“There are no virtues wherein your example will do more, at least to abate men’s prejudice, than humility and meekness and self-denial. Forgive injuries; and ‘be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.’ Do as our Lord, ‘who, when he was reviled, reviled not again.’ If sinners be stubborn and stout and contemptuous, flesh and blood will persuade you to take up their weapons, and to master them by their carnal means: but that is not the way, (further than necessary self-preservation or public good may require,) but overcome them with kindness and patience and gentleness. The former may show that you have more worldly power than they (wherein yet they are ordinarily too hard for the faithful); but it is the latter only that will tell them that you excel them in spiritual excellency. If you believe that Christ is more worthy of imitation than Caesar or Alexander, and that it is more glory to be a Christian than to be a conqueror, yea to be a man than a beast – which often exceed us in strength – contend with charity, and not with violence; set meekness and love and patience against force, and not force against force. Remember, you are obliged to be the servants of all. ‘Condescend to men of low estate.’ Be not strange to the poor of your flock; they are apt to take your strangeness for contempt. Familiarity, improved to holy ends, may do abundance of good. Speak not stoutly or disrespectfully to any one; but be courteous to the meanest, as to your equal in Christ.”
When I was called into the ministry one of the few resources I had was Richard Baxters “The Reformed Pastor”.
It was a gift from my pastor who had modeled it’s contents without my knowing.
It is basically a long job description of what it means to be a pastor…and I believed it.
I was called to be a servant of God and men, a hard working, devoted servant with no aspiration to be anything but faithful.
There was little concern in my mind over denominations or affiliations, no thought at all about attending conferences, writing books, social media, politics, or networking.
It was all about Jesus and the people He gave me to care for.
If you wanted to be “somebody” you needed to find another line of work.
According to this model of ministry, you watched your life far more closely than anyone else’s.
You preached the sermon to yourself first…and you repented before your people heard you speak.
Your life was now their life and Gods…and you were called to pour yourself out to both.
You weren’t going to be well known or well paid…you only pursued this path if you were called and you checked to make sure the call had the right number.
You were never going to be “cool” or “hip” or fashionable again…you were going to be sanctified.
Those days and that model are leaving or gone and I’m having a very hard time getting used to that fact.
Now we strive to be like our corporate counterparts…sitting on top of the hierarchy, delegating “duties’, seeking cultural “relevance”, and endlessly self promoting.
We stay above the pews, untouchable and unaccountable because of our ‘position”.
The parishioners now judge us on the quality of our presentation and take their real spiritual cues from celebrity strangers.
The sheep are without a shepherd, but there is wi-fi available in the pasture.
We are becoming the church in exile, but we have a strong online presence.
“Can any reasonable man imagine that God should save men for offering salvation to others, while they refuse it themselves; and for telling others those truths which they themselves neglect and abuse? Many a tailor goes in rags, that maketh costly clothes for others; and many a cook scarcely licks his fingers, when he hath dressed for others the most costly dishes. Believe it, brethren, God never saved any man for being a preacher, nor because he was an able preacher; but because he was a justified, sanctified man, and consequently faithful in his Master’s work. Take heed, therefore, to ourselves first, that you he that which you persuade your hearers to be, and believe that which you persuade them to believe, and heartily entertain that Savior whom you offer to them. He that bade you love your neighbors as yourselves, did imply that you should love yourselves, and not hate and destroy yourselves and them.”
Baxter is dead.