December 2008

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Bridges' "The Christian Ministry"

Charles Bridges' work entitled “The Christian Ministry with An Inquiry into the Causes of its Insufficiency” is exactly what it claims to be. From exalted description of the majesty of the church in its divine origin, to detailed exposition of various different types of people that make up our churches with corresponding instructions on how to practically minister to each one, this is a complete work indeed. Yet do not think that in being so broad in topics it is shallow in its treatment of each—nay, Bridges' work is dug just as deep as it is wide. One cannot help but feel as though Bridges is speaking directly to him, jumping out of the pages, having himself first spent much time meditating upon these things and feeling them excruciatingly necessary in his own life. He has read much on the subject, evidenced by a majority of the pages having at least one-fourth of it consisting in footnotes, quotations, and further explanation.

This book originated in a letter written by Bridges “to a beloved friend upon the interesting subject of Ministerial inefficiency.” This is the main burden which motivated the writing of this work, and it is evidenced throughout. The work has two main concerns: 1) negatively, to point out error / malpractice causing inefficiency, both in our practice and in our person; 2) positively, to present the proper view of and proper method of carrying out the ministry so as to have a proper effect. These two concerns are separated into five main parts: “General view of the Christian Ministry”, “General causes in the want of success in the Christian Ministry”, “Causes of Ministerial inefficiency connected with our personal character”, “The public work of the Christian Ministry”, “The Pastoral Work of the Christian Ministry.”

One often feels that inquiring as to the causes of inefficiency in one's ministry is something that should never be done. There is often a sense of piety that seems to be connected to entrusting the results of one's ministry completely to the Lord, with no view whatsoever to fruit borne. This is partially true. Yet, this book argues, it is a legitimate pursuit to make such an inquiry, and one ought not be charged with blasphemy or unbelief for so doing. There is indeed a balance that is to be kept here and Bridges does so masterfully. Quoting another man, he writes, “If you have preached a considerable time in a place, and done little or no good, there must in all probability be some fault, not only in your hearers, but in you, or your sermons. . . . Inquire then where the fault may be.” (245-6) His words sting with accuracy, yet are soft and gracious.

Such poignancy is consistent throughout, drawing the reader to see his responsibility and helplessness, yet not ever failing to mention simultaneously the sufficiency that we have in God. He writes earlier on, “Conscious helplessness sinks under the depressing weight of responsibility. Faith links our weakness in immediate connexion with the promises of Almighty aid.” (17)

In this fashion, he first demonstrates the final guarantee we have of success, reminding us that “wherever the Gospel was sent, and so long as it was continued, the work of success invariably proceeded.” (72) The sovereignty of God ensures the minister that all whom the Father has chosen shall come. (John 6:37) The church being the program of God upon the earth has the guarantee of final success. However, one must not presume upon such success. It is to be won through means. “God is pleased to make himself known by the use of means. And when the means are used in subordination to his grace, he will honour the means.” (34) And so it is not a vain exercise to inquire as to the sources of inefficiency in a given ministry.

“The Christian Ministry” is likely to be more appreciated by someone in the work of the ministry, as he will thus be familiar “experimentally” with the pain of ineffective ministry, and will be greatly enriched by the wise counsel, godly insight, and refreshing balance offered here.




one thing is necessary

Well, I have successfully moved my blog over here to TypePad and I am really liking it! Thank you Carol!

I also changed the name of the blog to one thing is necessary. There is a constant danger of allowing our minds to "be led away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (2Co 11:3) Whether led away to false teaching or led away to a sinful lifestyle, or led away to religion instead of Christ, it doesn't matter. I hope that entries I post here will serve to highlight this one necessary thing in life: savoring the Savior of sinners.

I hope this to be a service to you. Until then,

grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2Pe 3:18)

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Matt Hauck (郝柏昇)

A once enemy now son, forgiven and freed by Jesus' blood, adopted and called by grace for glory.   (more...)