J. I. Packer points to the influence of Baxter on his ministry writing that ‘[m]y sense of being called to preach the gospel, teach the Bible, and shepherd souls could have been learned from the Anglican ordinal that was used to ordain me, but in fact it crystallised out through my study of Baxter’s own ministry and his Reformed (we would say, Revived) Pastor.
The emphasis of Baxter’s thought was on the concept of the pastor being reformed—as can be seen in the fact that on the title page of the original ‘Reformed’ was printed in much larger type that the other words. Packer uses the term ‘revived’, when speaking of the vision Baxter had for pastors, because for Baxter “a ‘reformed’ pastor was not one who campaigned for Calvinism but one whose ministry to his people as preacher, teacher, catechist and role-model showed him to be, “as we would say, ‘revived’ or ‘renewed’.”
Baxter’s ministry in the town of Kidderminster, a weaving town of around two thousand adults, was transforming. Packer points out that Baxter ‘filled the parish church with over half the population twice a Sunday, saw hundreds of conversions, established family devotions in most homes, nurtured his young people, trained layfolk as witnesses and prayer warriors and, with the help of an assistant, gave every family two separate hours of catechizing each year, using the Westminster Shorter Catechism as the text.’
Baxter had formed the Worchester Association, a weekly meeting of neighbouring ministers, in 1653. He had been invited to speak at a day the association had set aside for humiliation and prayer in December 1655. Ill-health, however, prevented Baxter from fulfilling this engagement. As a result he wrote down an expanded form of what he had intended to share, which was published as The Reformed Pastor in 1656. The whole book is a reflection on the Apostle Paul’s instruction to the Ephesian elders to feed the church of God (Acts 20:28).
In the next few blogs I am going to think of Baxter's guidelines regarding being a 'preacher, teacher, catechist and role-model' (to use Packer's outline).