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Iain Murray on the best use of pastors' time

November 4, 2009

Mark Dever’s most recent 9marks interview is with Iain Murray of the Banner of Truth Trust. Iain Murray has himself authored many books, including an important biography of Jonathan Edwards from a confessional and evangelical perspective.

I thought that this aged saint’s advice concerning the pious use of our time was most helpful:

Dever: What good things are, do you think, common distractions you find among pastors today? . . .

Murray: . . . It may be hard to generalize. I think. . . we need to know ourselves, and some men certainly are spending far too long on websites and computers [Dever interjects, “Listening to interviews.” Murray responds, “Yes.”]. I think the right use of our time is probably the first priority for pastors, and we need constantly to be reviewing it. And It’s interesting that John Stott would be aside one day a month to get quite out of his schedule and self-examination. That was an old Puritan practice, wasn’t it? We can get caught up in our routine, but to check are we giving our time to the best things? Sometimes controversies take up far too much time, and I am sure the devil, one of his aims in stirring controversies, is just to distract. And there can be important controversies, but they may be all over in 5 or 10 years, and that time we can’t recover that we’ve lost. Dr. Lloyd-Jones was very strong in insisting that we shouldn’t let others set the agenda, and that this was a major mistake for evangelicals. And in that regard he was concerned with evangelicals giving too much concern to responding to liberals, answering it with our own scholarship. However that’s done, he would say, “That’s not the first thing.” We need our best minds, our best instructors on the fundamentals of preaching of the gospel and so on.

Dever: Other precedents in history you think should be instructive for us today? . . .

Murray: No minister I’ve ever read has come to the end of his life regretting that he prayed too much or that he was too much in the Scripture. We can be in the Scripture in an intellectual way and not in it in a devotional, prayerful way. And that’s the thing that strikes about M’Cheyne and Bonar and these men. Their reading of Scripture was bathed in prayer, and it was part of their communion with God. And I think Adolphe Monod’s little book, A Pastor’s Farewell, dying he gave his final thoughts about Bible reading and prayer, and these are the sort of things he says, you know, we can’t give too high a priority to that, and we can easily get our time stolen by secondary things.

To order the set Iain Murray mentions of Calvin’s Tracts and Letters, see the Banner of Truth website.

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