It seems that so much of the church's health rides on the health of the pastors/elders and the men of the church. And that's by God's design.
Pastors and elders are to be examples to the flock in everything (1 Tim. 4:12b). They are rightly looked to as a model of Christian faith, conduct and virtue. And their prominence and teaching role in the congregation more or less guarantees that they will impress their character upon that of the congregation. The congregation, over time, will think and act much like the elders/pastors think and act. Which is to say, over time they will think and act more like Jesus if that's the pastors' manner, or they will think and act in ways well beneath the calling of Christ if that be the pastors' way of life.
This makes reforming the man in the ministry of paramount importance. Will he leave the imprimatur of Christ on the people of God, or will he leave them stamped with the stains of his deficiency and unprepared to meet Christ on the Day of Judgment? Each time we enter the pulpit, each time we gather as the church, we confess our belief in the coming Day of the Lord. We need the kind of reformation of pastors that makes such faith in the coming Day clear in our lives, our pursuits, our preaching, etc. Here's how Lemuel Haynes expressed it in one ordination sermon:
[His preaching] is not to display his talents; but like one who feels the weight of eternal things, he will not address his hearers as though judgment was a mere empty sound; but viewing eternity just before him, and a congregation on the frontiers of it, whose eternal state depends upon a few uncertain moments; Oh! with what zeal and fervor will he speak! How will death, judgment, and eternity appear as it were in every feature, and every word! Out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will speak. His hearers will easily perceive, that the preacher is one who expects to give account. He will study and preach with reference to a judgment to come, and deliver every sermon in some respects, as if it were his last, not knowing when his Lord will call him, or his hearers to account. —We are not to suppose that his zeal will vent itself in the frightful bellowings of enthusiasm; but he will speak forth the words of truth in soberness, with modesty, and Christian decency.The reformation of the African-American church--again, the entire church--will come when the men who shepherd her "feel the weight of eternal things" and leave off vain and trivial trifles. Eternity will press itself into their personal lives and will overflow in their public ministry. Fitness for heaven will be their grand theme. He will disdain the praise and applause of men, the diversions of the world, and the trappings of a perishing society, and choose instead the ineffable joys of glory in the presence of the Father and the Risen Lamb!
You don't get this at convention meetings, or seminaries for that matter. You get this primarily by sitting at the Master's feet, seeing the world the way He does, and usually through the careful discipleship and training offered by a godly, seasoned, serious pastor. The Lord and the church train men for this kind of ministry.
A couple weeks ago, a small swirl was created when Bro. Piper issued a call for ethnic minorities to join his staff. Now I, for one, would send every prospective African-American pastor I know to Bethlehem to learn from John. I would send every prospective African-American pastor I know to the internship program at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Both of these congregations and pastors give themselves to training future pastors, and I'd have no problem flooding their efforts with young ethnic brothers. Never mind the politics of race or the angst of affirmative action. We want the church reformed according to the Word of God and that will require reforming the men who lead her--"by any godly means necessary!"
I wish every solid African-American church had a similar training effort. But even lacking that, I would send every prospective African-American pastor I know to learn from Ken Jones, Tony Carter, Michael Leach and a thousand other faithful shepherds laboring in anonymity with the weight of eternity resting on their hearts and minds.