Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Reformed Pastor (in today's world)

Packer stated that The Reformed Pastor equips a person to be a revived ‘preacher, teacher, catechist and role-model.’ I have taken this description as its structure and looked at the reformed preacher, teacher and catechist, and role-model. However such a structure should not hide the fact that these aspects of ministry are not given equal measure in Baxter’s work. The Reformed Pastor is not a rounded description of the work to be undertaken by pastors but is essentially a plea for ministers to follow his program of home-visiting with catechisms.

For such a program to be a success the pastor will need to be a person of vital faith, ‘if the work of the Lord be not soundly done upon your own hearts, how can you expect that he will bless your labours for effecting it in others?’ Baxter pleads for pastors to be people of faith both for their sake and for the sake of those they serve. To remember the emphasis on being a role model is helpful in the regard.

Presumably Baxter did not speak much on the role of preaching in part because he was addressing people who were already convinced of its value. Certainly Baxter believed in the importance of preaching given his hour longs sermons on a Sunday and a Thursday. In A Quest for Godliness Packer comments on the emphasis of preaching amongst the puritans and sates that it ‘was the kind that made evangelicalism great in the past, and there seems little likelihood that evangelicalism will be great again without a return to it.’  Baxter does not the see the advantage of private teaching to public, noting that while preaching gives the opportunity to address more people at a time its achieves less success on the individual. He states, ‘I have found by experience, that some ignorant persons, who have been so long unprofitable hearers, have got more knowledge and remorse of conscience in half an hour’s close discourse, than they did from ten years’ public preaching.’

The challenge for those who seek to implement Baxter’s visitation-for-catechism model is how to take make this ancient practice work in a modern society, and even in different theological settings. It can be assumed that not all pastors will think that the Westminster Shorter Catechism is the ideal tool for such work, and so they may seek material they find more appropriate. As Marshall and Payne point out many churches have people whose gifting and knowledge would enable them to help in this task. Those organising the church program may look to see how the aims of such visitation are complimented by such things as small groups. Enthusiastic pastors may feel that people would benefit from more regular input that once a year and so adapt Baxter’s model so that they set up a cycle of training people who in turn train others (see 2 Tim. 2:2).

1 comment:

Mr Veale said...

About time you put this into a book Paul!