Guys, Don’t Follow Whitefield’s Example

Arnold Dallimore, in his two volume biography of George Whitefield, notes that Whitefield “wanted a wife who would never place her own desires above the demands of his ministry” (vol. 2, 105).

After marrying the widow Elizabeth James, Whitefield certainly tested her devotion to his ministry.

There was no wedding trip but he remained at her home at Abergavenny preaching twice a day throughout the area for the better part of a week, and then, leaving Elizabeth and her daughter Nancy there, he set out on a preaching tour that took him to Bristol and Gloucester and then to London.

After a month of this labor he returned to Abergavenny for the Christmas day, but the next morning he was on his way to Bristol and London again.

When almost five months of marriage had passed he described his manner of life in the words, ‘I sleep and eat but little, and am constantly employed from morning till midnight.’ Several other statements of a similar nature occur in his letters of these days and it is evident that he felt he had succeeded in his determination not to let marriage create the slightest hindrance to his ministry (vol. 2, 110).

It sounds to me like Whitefield may have been guilty of putting his own desires above the interests of his wife (Phil. 2:4). That isn’t exactly the kind of Christ-like love a husband is called to display toward his wife (Eph. 5:22-33).

A Quote That Changed My Life

Recently Justin Buzzard wrote about an A.W. Tozer quote that had a profound impact on him as a 20 year old. His post reminded me of a quote by Martyn Lloyd-Jones that I first came across as a somewhat new believer.

Superficial views of the work of Christ produce superficial human lives.

It comes from a series of sermons on Galatians 6:14 preached by Lloyd-Jones and later released as The Cross: God’s Way of Salvation. Lloyd-Jones’ sermons helped shaped much of my understanding of what Scripture teaches concerning the work of Christ. Ten years later I still think about that sentence regularly.

How Can Sinners Love a Holy God?

R.C. Sproul poses the question in The Holiness of God and then proceeds to answer it.

The simplest answer I can give to this vital question is that we can’t. Loving a holy God is beyond our moral power. The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy god, an idol made by our own hands. Unless we are born of the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him. He is the One who takes the initiative to restore our souls. Without him we can do nothing of righteousness. Without Him we would be doomed to everlasting alienation from His holiness. We can love Him only because He first loved us. To love a holy God requires grace, grace strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts and awaken our moribund souls (222).

One Year Later

In November 2009 I was ordained as an elder/pastor at Grace Bible Church in Escondido, CA. In the past year I’ve learned that I have so much more to learn about the gospel, life, and ministry. With that said, there are a few important takeaways from my first year of pastoral ministry that I’d like to share.

Keep your priorities straight

Pastoral ministry is important work, but it isn’t top priority in the life of a pastor. I’m called to be a follower of Christ first. Unfortunately it’s quite common for pastors to neglect their own spiritual health and growth while seeking to help others.

I’m also called to be a faithful husband and father. There’s a constant temptation in pastoral ministry to neglect your wife and children because you’re “serving the Lord.” That kind of thinking can destroy marriages and families. I would consider myself a failure in 30 years if I had a “successful” ministry, but my wife and sons doubted my love for them. A pastor who isn’t a leader in the home shouldn’t be a leader in the church.

Don’t be fooled by the smile

I encounter a lot of smiles as I greet people at the worship services on Sundays. However, many of the seemingly happy people with whom I interact are struggling on the inside. They’re wrestling with disappointment and depression; burdened with worry; overwhelmed by circumstances; angry with a spouse or child; dabbling with sin. They need to be loved, encouraged, and admonished but on the surface everything may appear to be OK. A simple “How’s it going?” isn’t going to draw out what’s really going on. As a pastor I need to take the initiative in asking strategic, and sometimes tough, questions. I need to make myself available and demonstrate that I care.

Keep the gospel at the center

The gospel is central to Christian belief. It’s also central to Christian living. All too often we pastors tell people what they ought to do, but fail to show them the ways in which the gospel provides the whys and hows of godly living. It’s critical that I help people understand that the gospel informs belief and behavior.

Overwhelmed?

1 Peter 5:6-7 has been very helpful to me this morning:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (ESV).