Leaders are readers. Christian leaders first read the Holy Scriptures as they guide us in all things. Beyond this, reading classics by godly leaders in the past can offer wonderful yet convicting assistance to our growth.
One of the classics that every pastor or Christian leader should read (and read again) is the Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter. Baxter wrote the book due to illness to call fellow ministers to an awakening ministry.
This past week I had the honor and responsibility of gathering with a group of pastors on a task force to consider the continuing decline in evangelistic impact among Southern Baptists. Ed Stetzer provided helpful data to give us a grasp of the issue and our context. Again and again pastors (and I) agreed that we need a fresh touch from God. We tend to see an issue like declining baptisms and immediately think the answer is a new strategy, a new program, or the like. History would tell us the key is the Spirit of God falling on men of God who became ablaze for God and led movements of God. One such man is Richard Baxter.
Baxter and his church experienced powerful waves of revival during his ministry with many coming to Christ. Here are a few excerpts to see this faithful pastor’s heart.
He argues that the personal work of witness and spiritual growth is central to the pastoral work:
“1. That people must be taught the principles of religion, and matters of greatest necessity to salvation, is past doubt among us. 2. That they must be taught it in the most edifying, advantageous way, I hope we are agreed. 3. That personal conference, and examination, and instruction, hath many excellent advantages for their good, is no less beyond dispute. 4. That personal instruction is recommended to us by Scripture, and by the practice of the servants of Christ, and approved by the godly of all ages, is, so far as I can find, without contradiction. 5. It is past doubt, that we should perform this great duty to all the people, or as many as we can; for our love and care of their souls must extend to all. If there are five hundred or a thousand ignorant people in your parish or congregation, it is a poor discharge of your duty, now and then to speak to some few of them, and to let the rest alone in their ignorance, if you are able to afford them help. 6. It is no less certain, that so great a work as this is should take up a considerable part of our time.”
He argues that every Monday and Tuesday from morning to night should be given to personal work of sharing Christ and teaching believers family by family.
Baxter, Richard (2010-07-22). The Reformed Pastor – Enhanced Version . Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.
He gives a strong word to the training of youth in general and ministry students in particular:
“Again, therefore, I address myself to all who have the charge of the education of youth, especially in order to preparation for the ministry. You, that are schoolmasters and tutors, begin and end with the things of God. Speak daily to the hearts of your scholars those things that must be wrought into their hearts, or else they are undone. Let some piercing words fall frequently from your mouths, of God, and the state of their souls, and the life to come. Do not say, they are too young to understand and entertain them. You little know what impressions they may make. Not only the soul of the boy, but many souls may have cause to bless God, for your zeal and diligence, yea, for one such seasonable word. You have a great advantage above others to do them good; you have them before they are grown to maturity, and they will hear you when they will not hear another. If they are destined to the ministry, you are preparing them for the special service of God, and must they not first have the knowledge of him whom they have to serve? Oh think with yourselves, what a sad thing it will be to their own souls, and what a wrong to the Church of God, if they come out from you with common and carnal hearts, to so great and holy and spiritual a work! Of a hundred students in one of our colleges, how many may there be that are serious, experienced, godly young men!”
Baxter, Richard (2010-07-22). The Reformed Pastor – Enhanced Version (pp. 5-6). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.
This reminds me as a teacher to push my students not to know about Jesus primarily, but to know Him.
He challenges pastors to live what we preach:
“It is a palpable error of some ministers, who make such a disproportion between their preaching and their living; who study hard to preach exactly, and study little or not at all to live exactly. All the week long is little enough, to study how to speak two hours; and yet one hour seems too much to study how to live all the week. They are loath to misplace a word in their sermons, or to be guilty of any notable infirmity, (and I blame them not, for the matter is holy and weighty,) but they make nothing of misplacing affections, words, and actions, in the course of their lives. Oh how curiously have I heard some men preach; and how carelessly have I seen them live!”
Baxter, Richard (2010-07-22). The Reformed Pastor – Enhanced Version (p. 7). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.
He warns ministers about the treachery of satan:
“Take heed, therefore, brethren, for the enemy hath a special eye upon you. You shall have his most subtle insinuations, and incessant solicitations, and violent assaults. As wise and learned as you are, take heed to yourselves, lest he outwit you. The devil is a greater scholar than you, and a nimbler disputant; he can transform himself into an angel of light to deceive: he will get within you, and trip up your heels before you are aware: he will play the juggler with you undiscerned, and cheat you of your faith or innocency, and you shall not know that you have lost it; nay, he will make you believe it is multiplied or increased, when it is lost. You shall see neither hook nor line, much less the subtle angler himself, while he is offering you his bait. And his bait shall be so fitted to your temper and disposition, that he will be sure to find advantages within you, and make your own principles and inclinations betray you; and whenever he ruineth you, he will make you the instruments of ruin to others.”
Baxter, Richard (2010-07-22). The Reformed Pastor – Enhanced Version (p. 14). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.
I hope this whets your appetite to get a copy of this fine book and begin reading today.