I think about “the rhythm of desperation and deliverance” all the time.
A pastor who feels competent in himself to produce eternal fruit—which is the only kind that matters—knows neither God nor himself. A pastor who does not know the rhythm of desperation and deliverance must have his sights set only on what man can achieve.
—John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 54
Sometimes a minister tends to think too highly of himself as a clergy-man. He stands before the congregation; he, as God’s spokesman, pronounces the blessing; he is the holy person facing a congregation that is on a lower level. To prevent this attitude, it is well that he counteracts his sense of self-importance by affirming that he lives among brothers as a brother, and that he loves the congregation. May all God’s servants be of such a mind. Love of the congregation, and of brothers and sisters, is the highest incentive for administering that which is holy, and from which we may expect rich fruit.
John Newton on how to be humble when handling the treasures of Scripture:
To be enabled to form a clear, consistent, and comprehensive judgment of the truths revealed in the Scripture, is a great privilege; but they who possess it are exposed to the temptation of thinking too highly of themselves, and too meanly of others, especially of those who not only refuse to adopt their sentiments, but venture to oppose them. We see few controversial writings, however excellent in other respects, but are tinctured with this spirit of self-superiority . . .
I know nothing, as a means, more likely to correct this evil, than a serious consideration of the amazing difference between our acquired judgment, and our actual experience; or, in other words, how little influence our knowledge and judgment have upon our own conduct. . . .
[I]f we estimate our knowledge by its effects, and value it no farther than it is experimental and operative (which is the proper standard whereby to try it), we shall find it so faint and feeble as hardly to deserve the name.
Or, The Almost Inevitable Ruin of Every Minister and How to Avoid It, a message by Don Whitney to pastors and church leaders at the 2007 Omaha Bible Church conference.
I recommended this message earlier in the week, but it’s worth a post as well. Whitney begins:
Almost every minister knows another minister, if not several, you don’t want to be like. But the sad news is that regardless of your age or education or experience it is almost inevitable that you will become the kind of minister, elder, or leader, that today, you don’t want to be.
We’ll be ruined, or we’ll quit. Regarding the alarming stats about how many pastors quit pastoring, he observes that many will:
opt out for health reasons,
wash out in their private lives,
bow out realizing they misread the call of God,
bail out because of the stress being so great,
be forced out by their churches,
walk out from a sense of frustration and failure.
Still in the introduction, Whitney says:
Terrible things still happen…to ministers and ruin them. And there is an almost inevitable ruin of every minister. And it will happen to you, unless you avoid ruin by making progress. How do you make progress in the ministry instead of shipwreck?
To answer the question he heads to one of the most influential passages in the pastoral epistles, 1 Timothy 4:15-16. I’ve been marinating much in this passage since 2003 and recommend Whitney’s treatment.
Read answers from Al Mohler, D.A. Carson, and this one from Richard Pratt:
If I could wave a magic scepter and change seminary today, I’d turn it into a grueling physical and spiritual experience. I’d find ways to reach academic goals more quickly and effectively and then devote most of the curriculum to supervised battle simulation. I’d put students through endless hours of hands-on service to the sick and dying, physically dangerous evangelism, frequent preaching and teaching the Scriptures, and days on end of fasting and prayer. Seminary would either make them or break them.
It is of need that we are sometimes in heaviness. Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock.
A major part of pastoral ministry is preaching the doctrines of grace and managing an environment of grace. The latter is harder to accomplish than the former. It is more intuitive. It requires more humility and self-awareness.