This article was written by IRBS Senior Fellow Dr. Fred Malone and published in Founders Journal, Winter 2000, pp. 10-16. The original may be found here: http://www.founders.org/journal/fj39/article2.html
We will publish it in three parts.
The Reformed Pastor
It is easy to be misunderstood when writing about “the reformed pastor.”Some are immediately turned off by the term, “reformed,” identifying it with certain denominations. Others might think of it psychologically–as a “reformed alcoholic” is a former drunkard who no longer imbibes, so a “reformed pastor” must refer to a former preacher who has gotten over it.
But, in following good historical precedent, I am using the word “reformed” to mean biblical. Obviously, I believe that historical reformed theology is the purest form of biblical theology. This is not a claim for perfection in either thought or practice. Rather, it is a clear admission of theological conviction. No theological expression, and certainly no pastor, can claim to be beyond improvement.
Paul himself was aware of his own inadequacies. When considering the weight of preaching as a savor of life unto life for some, and death unto death for others, he cried out, “Who is sufficient, adequate, for these things?” Then he answered himself, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who made us adequate as servants of the new covenant…. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be from God; and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 2:15; 3:5; 4:7). The hope of the reformed pastor is that he, with his inadequacies, is living proof that salvation is all of God, not man; a great comfort to honest men who know their own hearts and weaknesses.
The concept of the reformed pastor may be well explored in wonderful books such as The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter, The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges, the exceedingly great biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Shepherding God’s Flock edited by Roger Beardsmore, and Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Such books should not merely be read, but mastered in detail in the study and prayed through on the knees. In this article I hope to summarize some of the insights from these materials.
As suggested above, the very idea of the reformed pastor is odious to some. Historical revisionism among Baptists is at an all time high, denying that we have a reformed theological heritage. However, despite clear differences with reformed paedobaptists, it is a historical fact that both General and Particular Baptists have considered the reformation theology of Luther, Calvin and Westminster to be their basic biblical theology as well. One only has to examine the confessions and writings of early Baptists (including Philadelphia, Charleston, Sandy Creek, Separate and Regular Baptists, all of which helped shape Southern Baptists) to make this conclusion.
Baptists have never followed the reformers blindly. We clearly disagree with our Presbyterian and Reformed brothers on baptism and other ecclesiological issues. But until the twentieth century, Baptists generally embraced the heart of reformed theology, represented in the consensus of the Westminster and London Baptist Confessions, as their own biblical and historical heritage. Thus, Baptists have believed in “the reformed pastor.”
Today, pastors have a harder row to hoe, in some ways, than did our forefathers. We have distractions and hindrances that were unknown to previous generations. Of course, our forefathers did have a few small things to concern them, such as the threat of life and imprisonment! But the modern era does present many outside hindrances which make pastoral work challenging.
Today, our people are exposed to subtle forms of liberal theology and humanism in education, the errors of the charismatic movement in books and on TV, the infiltration of the higher life movement in this century with its false perfectionism and hyper-mystical expectations, the introduction of drama, dance, puppets, clowns and the pop-culture entertainment model into supposedly biblically regulated worship. Twentieth-century America witnessed the wide-scale abandonment of the Sabbath and Lord’s Day. Furthermore, the pastoral office has been debased and the local church is rarely regarded anymore as Christ’s only authorized organism to extend His kingdom on earth
Among the younger generation of professing Christians (who were once untaught latchkey kids,) there is the increased dependence upon the pastor as surrogate parent for quick answers via the telephone, fax machine or email. Besides all this, those who preach simple expository messages instead of exciting meet-your-needs messages are often considered boring or negative. Even our most faithful members are unknowingly affected by these influences which hinder, undermine, and distract the reformed pastor’s work.
How can a pastor who wants to be biblical in his life and ministry pursue such a calling in the third millennium?