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Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers

October 24, 2007

You need to listen to the Reformed Baptist pastor Albert Martin on the call to ministry. This is something we do not take seriously enough. After listening to Martin on this subject, I fear too many have been catapult into ministry. The fundamentalist bar is far too low. When we push unqualified men into ministry through ordination or encouragement, we are hurting Christ’s church. We ought to have enough concern for Christ’s church to tell those who are not qualified not to go into ministry. May our ordinations never become merely “rubber stamps.”

And Martin does a very thorough job of describing what kind of man is qualified to ministry. In his third lecture, “Necessary Mental Gifts,” his application is quite convicting. Here is one little part (keep in mind that the whole lecture is quite good):

A man who does not have a deep, pervasive, religious subjection of mind to the authority of Scripture has never been called of Christ to the office of the ministry. . . .

Do your dealings with the Scriptures evidence that you have a mind that has been brought into that posture of reverent submission to the absolute authority of Scripture? If so, you will never be found using Scripture as a occasion for punning or for joking. Never using Scripture as an occasion to create laughs or giggles, and if you ever do it, your heart will be so smitten, you will feel like you’ve fallen into a cesspool until you confess it to the Lord and make it right with those around you. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve cleared the average bible school and seminary three quarters of the young men who are there, who can sit around in dorm . . . sessions and make jokes on the Scriptures and then think they’re going to get up in the pulpit and have that word come as a living fire and burn into the hearts of men–it’s a prostitution of the very concept of ministry and an abomination in the sight of God . . ..

Then Martin starts to discuss the importance of knowing the content of Scripture.

[One of the tragedies] of the ministry in our day is that our Lord would have to say to so many who stand in pulpits, “You do err, not knowing the Scriptures.” . . . I’m just talking about an acquaintance with the basic contents of those sixty-six books which were given to us by divine inspiration, which are the sum and substance of the tools of a man’s ministry. . . . If you claim that God’s hand is upon you for the ministry, and you spend more time in front of the T.V., reading Life and Time magazine and Popular Science and Sport’s Illustrated, you’re kidding yourself. Either you’re being grossly disobedient to your call, or God has never begun to lay his hand upon you. . . .

One of the ambitions of the every single aspirant for the ministry should be to have it said of him, as it was said of Apollos, Acts 18:24, “He was mighty in the Scriptures.” What greater thing can be said of a servant of Christ? . . . And i think again the thrust in so many of our seminaries today on course after course on pastoral counseling and the pastor as administrator and all this is reflected of the fact that we have drifted from this perspective. . . . We don’t believe [the Bible is sufficient to furnish us completely for every good work of the ministry] in our day, and our unbelief is written in the area of our deflected emphases; putting the emphasis here and there. . . . So I, for one, will have no part in laying hands upon any man, no matter how well he may speak; . . . unless there’s evidence he has a grasp on the basic content of Scripture, he has no business yet assuming that awesome role as a leading teaching ruling elder.

Martin contrasts those who really feed the people of God with an abundance of Scripture and those who simply get by with being “clever.” And he goes on there from there. You should–you must–listen to this. May the Lord so gift us who desire the work of the ministry.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ryan DeBarr permalink
    October 25, 2007 7:51 am

    I think one of the biggest reasons that Fundamentalism finds itself in the sorry state that it is in, is that as you said, “I fear too many have been catapult[ed] into ministry.” The same is true of Pentecostalism, various folk variants of Christianity, the fundamentalist wing of the SBC, etc. Men are given great responsibility and power before they learn how to handle it.

    In my own beloved corner of the SBC, we do a better job of being studious but that is only part of what goes into being a minister of the Gospel. I’m inclined to believe that men should reach the age of 30 and have shown the ability to support themselves before being given control of a church. There are exceptions… but they should be recognized as such.

    Very rarely in private industry do you see such young, untested men being given responsibility.

  2. October 25, 2007 11:20 am

    It seems to me that there are two issues being mixed here; a reverent spirit, and Biblical knowledge. Certainly the first applies, but I’d tend to be careful about demanding encyclopaedic Biblical knowledge out of a prospective elder just might get people who are book smart, but not reverent.

    A third issue comes out then; are they able to take a fresh look at a passage and see something they haven’t seen there before, or are they prone to simply pushing their agendas? I’ve seen WAY too much of this!

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  1. Albert N. Martin’s parting words of counsel « Immoderate

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