Am here at Haven Pwllheli (oh joys) for New Word Alive week 2. First time our kids have come to one of these sorts of things – and thankfully, despite their initial fears, they are having a ball. So that’s a relief. Here doing the Rough Guide to the Bible in the mornings – but fortunately have nothing else on – so can chill and go to what i want.

Highlight so far is Hugh Palmer’s grilling of Don Carson on his last night here. They’d done the same last week so they’d had some practice. But they were responding to loads of questions sent in – and it was fab. Of course, saying that Carson was off the cuff is not strictly accurate. He’s written books on pretty much every key issue that people ask about these days, with the result that he simply needs to locate the relevant responses from his internal hard drive of publications. But it was fun – there was a lot of healthy banter – and wide-ranging: covering topics such as:

  • in a contest between him, Mark Dever, Tim Keller and John Piper who’d win (his answer was the one who is 6 ft 4 and younger and heavier than the others – if you didn’t know, that’s Dever) 
  • has the reformation finished?
  • the federal vision
  • new perspective(s) on Paul (see this month’s Q treasure map)
  • advice for people thinking about ministry and what is a ‘calling’
  • the recent atonement debates
  • when should you leave a church that is not functioning well in the gospel
  • ecstatic experiences and fainting in the spirit. 
  • etc etc etc

It was a masterclass. But a few things particualrly struck home and are worth repeating:

His own calling to ministry

The Bible is full of different precedents for how God calls people toministries. So it is hard, if not actually unhelpful, to come up with a rigid template for how this should happen. Which is a relief because life just isn’t like that. From his own experience, he spoke of a number of different people and incidents that were involved in him leaving his Chemistry and Air Pollution work and getting ordained and into theology. Someone suggested he should think about it – he said no – but the seeds were sown. He heard people talk about it (quite apart from his own father – see previous post on his memoir about his father). Finally clinched by a sermon from a missionary to Haiti on Ezek 22 – who will stand in the gap? And that did it.

Preparing for Leadership

Asked how to prepare for ministry as an elder or leader in the church. He gave some great tips. All need a older mentor ideally who can lead them through study and apprenticeship. They should aim for a number of things to be thought through:

  1. Learn (by study and listening) how to understand and to defend the core essentials of the Christian faith and gospel
  2. Learn (by study and listening) how to understand and to defend the secondary issues that form the hallmarks and heritage of the particular denomination and churchmanship that you are working in.
  3. Learn (by study and listening) how to understand the times and particular pressures on contemporary believers (whether from the wider culture, through doctrinal challenges and social mores) and to be able to apply the word into this situation.
  4. Be devoted to people: ministry is not about crafting fine artistic sermons – ministry is about playing a part in God’s transforming work in people’s lives.
  5. Must be willing and able to give time. No good being an elder if you can’t sacrifice time and energy for the work – it’s not enough to simply have your name on the leadership roll if you never do anything about it.

This will entail reading and study – Wesley used to give a reading list of 50 basic books that all those he was preparing for ministry had to know WELL! And that was just stage one!

The upshot is that if you are not prepared for all of this – then DON’T DO IT! Very helpful indeed.

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