Train Wrecks in the Evangelical Pastorate

Three seminarians and I are reading through Charles Spurgeon’s classic, Lectures to My Students.  His very first chapter is “The Minister’s Self-Watch.”  He is concerned with preachers who are “poor in grace.”  Spurgeon lists three primary areas of self-watch:

  1. It should be one of our first cares that we ourselves be saved men.
  2. It is of the next importance to the minister that his piety be vigorous.
  3. Let the minister take care that his personal character agrees in all respects with his ministry.

Numbers 2 and 3 on his list are expected.  But 1 seems to be as out of place.  Why would he include this element of a minister’s self-watch?  Incidentally, many others have warned about this.  One example is Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor.  Well, two examples may help you understand why . . .

On November 2, ABC News reported that Jim Swilley, founding pastor of the mega church Church in the Now in Conyers, GA, announced he’s gay to help stem the tide of recent gay suicides. 

On November 9, ABC News reported that two evangelical pastors are now atheists.  “Jack” is a Southern Baptist with more than 20 years in ministry.  “Adam,” a pastoral staff member in a small evangelical church.  They are both serving as pastors while atheists.  How?  By sticking to the parts of the Bible that speak about being a good person.  Why do they continue in the pastorate?  Because of a “lack of marketable skills,” according to “Adam.”   Jesus had a word to describe men like “Jack” and “Adam”: hireling (John  10:12, 13, NKJV). 

While these men are a disgrace to the pastoral office, every pastor must maintain a vigilant self-watch.  We must heed the advice of the Apostle Paul and others like Spurgeon and Baxter, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.  Persist in this, for by so doing you will both save yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).  Pastoral ministry needs fewer of these moral and doctrinal train wrecks.


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