Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Andrew Fuller's Advice to a Young Minister

As part of my devotional reading, I am thoroughly enjoying the volumes on Reformed spirituality edited by Michael A.G. Haykin. These books are a treasure of devotional encouragment and instruction. To date, I've been working through two of the volumes: A Consuming Fire: The Piety of Alexander Whyte and more recently, The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller.

Each volume includes a short biographical introduction along with a selection of excerpts from sermons and correspondence that illustrate the spirituality of the person. The reader receives bite-sized morsels of devotional sustenance.

Well, aside from plugging the books in general, I wanted to share one selection from Andrew Fuller. It's a letter to a young minister at his ordination (pp. 237-240). I was challenged and encouraged and thought many of you would be as well. For those interested in learning more about Fuller, you might check out The Elephant of Kettering blog.

To A Young Minister About to Be Ordained


Kettering, August 30, 1810

My dear friend,

As it is very doubtful whether I shall be able to attend your ordination, you will allow me to fill up the sheet with brotherly counsel.

You are about to enter, my brother, on the solemn work of a pastor, and I heartily wish you God speed. I have seldom engaged in an ordination of late in which I have had to address a younger brother, without thinking of the apostle's words in 2 Timothy 4:5, 6, in reference to myself and others who are going off the stage: "Make full proof of thy ministry: for I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand!" Your charge at present is small; but if God bless you, it may be expected to increase, and of course your labours and cares will increase with it. If you would preserve spirituality, purity, peace, and good order in the church, you must live near to God yourself, and be diligent to feed the flock of God with evangelical truth. Without these, nothing good will be done. Love your brethren, and be familiar with them; not, however, with that kind of familiarity which breeds disrespect, by which some have degraded themselves in the eyes of the people, and invited the opposition of the contentious part of them; but that which will endear your fellowship, and render all your meetings a delight. Never avail yourself of your independence of the people in respect of support, to carry matters with a high hand against them. Teach them so to conduct themselves as a church, that if you were to die, they might continue a wise, holy, and understanding people. The great secret of ruling a church is to convince them that you love them, and say and do every thing for their good. Love, however, requires to be mingled with faithfulness, as well as faithfulness with love. Expect to find defects and faults in your members, and give them to expect free and faithful dealing while connected with you; allow them, also, to be free and faithful towards you in return. There will be many faults which they should be taught and encouraged to correct in one antoher; others will be proper objects of pastoral admonition; and some must be brought before the church. But do not degrade the dignity of a church by employing it to sit in judgment on the shape of a cap, or a bonnet; or on squabbles between individuals, which had better be healed by the interposition of a common friend. The church should be taught, like a regiment of soldiers, to attend to discipline, when called to it, in a proper spirit; not with ebulitions of anger against an offender, but with fear and trembling, considering themselves, lest they also be tempted. Let no one say to another, "overlook my fault today, and I will overlook yours tomorrow;" but, rather, "deal faithfully with me today, and I will deal faithfully with you tomorrow."

I have always found it good to have an understanding with the deacons upon every case before it is brought before the church. Neither they nor the members have always been of my opinion; and where this has been the case I have not attempted to carry a measure against them, but have yielded, and this not merely from prudence, but as knowing that others have understanding as well as I, and may therefore be in the right. In this way I have been pastor of the church, which I now serve, for nearly thirty years without a single difference.

A young man in your circumstances will have an advantage in beginning a church on a small scale. It will be like cultivating a garden before you undertake a field. You may also form them, in many respects, to your own mind; but if your mind be not the mind of Christ, it will, after all, be of no use. Labour to form them after Christ's mind, and you will find your own peace and happiness in it.

Mercy and truth attend you and the partner of your cares! I am, etc.,
A. Fuller

2 comments:

Colin Adams said...

Thabiti,

I was just wondering whether my email regarding ten questions for expositors got through to you?

I was hoping for your input, if you had the time ;)

I've also been trying to get through to Mark Dever, but apparently, he's a busy man too!

Many blessings,
Colin

Pastor Randy said...

I think this is great advice for every young (and old) pastor. I am only 29 and have been the "Senior" pastor at my church for only 8 months. This was very encouraging to me. Thanks for the post and I look forward to seeing/hearing you at T4G next year. I was at Desiring God's Conference for Pastors this past February and was very challenged by your message. I pray God's blessing upon you and the ministry there at FBC.