Reflections on Ministry

The experience of being in part-time ministry over the last few months has been an interesting one. It could be amply described by the phrase “out of my depth”. It is tempting to give the impression that I know what I am doing most of the time. But frankly, I don’t. The experience has been cushioned by the fact that there have been no major crises – just the odd ‘blip’ – but the feeling of things being not quite under control is not very pleasant.

So, off the top of my head, here are some issues I find create the sense of ‘floating’:

  1. Preaching. It was difficult to adjust to the metronome of weekly preaching. I have had weekly deadlines before in my previous profession. However these were usually of the work-in-progress kind. When one steps up to preach, it must be a finished article. The preacher is serving up the best spiritual meal he can.
  2. Personal spiritual life. As one who now has complete control of his day there is all the more reason to pursue the spiritual disciplines. However, it is just as difficult to be disciplined now as it ever was.
  3. Holiness. A pastor, like it or not, models the holy life for the flock. I am more aware now of my want/lack of this than ever.
  4. Handling people. The honeymoon is over. Impatience is rising. “Get a grip!” pops into the mind often. Keeping clear, open lines of communication is essential. Love the brothers and sisters.
  5. Leadership. “Who me?” I’m now the guy who didn’t step backwards. I want to see the people living lives of positive definite worship of God, publicly and privately. What does this mean for my task?
  6. Family. Taking care to spend enough time with my wife and daughter. They are beginning to expect me not to be around. Not good.
  7. Time-management. Related to 6. The adage goes, “There’s always time for the things you want to do.” Trouble is that I keep running out of time for the things I know I should do. Sluggardliness needs to be controlled.
  8. Future. When I finish studies, what do we do then? What are the implications for the family? Will they like them? Over the last few years we have learned to expect a much closer time-horizon beyond which we can’t see. It would be nice to know. But much more important to learn better that the LORD is my Shepherd.

But enough time-wasting! Back to work!

Reflections on Ministry


Calvin quotes Augustine in his Institutes (II.iv.8, Battles):

Scripture, if diligently searched, shows…

That’s such an important if, don’t you think?


Another Planet

At Derwent Free Church we have a bunch of kids, aged from 6 to 11, who have started coming to our evening services. We didn’t go looking for them, we didn’t invite them – they just came. They have kept coming for the last four or five weeks. We don’t have a fancy service or anything, just simple hymns, prayers, scripture reading, sermon, tea/coffee afterwards. But they have kept coming.

I asked one of the boys (aged 8 or 9) of them directly, Why do you keep coming?

He answered, I like coming. It’s like going to a different country.

I was quite taken aback. I expected him to like the biscuits or something.

Some would say that, yes, a Reformed Evangelical church is on another planet, irrelevant, disconnected from the real world. Surely it needs to change!

But isn’t it striking that this kid recognises a big difference from his normal existence, and keeps coming back?

Another Planet

Music Quiz

From Jon

Don’t you just hate these things? Well, here goes…

Amount of Music on my computer: About 22GB in iTunes. But wait! There is good reason. I just took charge of my brother’s old PowerMac G4 and it is full of his gubbins. Well, about 12GB of it. Of the rest, about 7.5GB is music.

The last CD I bought: Dookie – Green Day, about 6 months ago. I’m still a punk rock fan at heart and this fits pretty well.

Item playing right now: None. I can’t work with music. If you had asked me last week, you might have got me listening to Celine Dion. It was sunny, my elderly neighbour had her windows and doors wide open, and had the volume cranked RIGHT UP. Weird that ‘ASBO’ should pop into mind when thinking of an elderly person.

5 songs I listen to a lot:
I don’t listen to much music nowadays, but I looked on iTunes to see which came out as most played….

  1. Caught by the Fuzz – Supergrass. 2m 16s of fun. Like the guitar work.
  2. Then I Met You – The Proclaimers. Bit embarassing really. Susan must have been using this machine.
  3. Yellow – Coldplay. I liked Parachutes when it came out. But seems to have spawned a number of sound-alike bands which are boring.
  4. Walking Blues – Eric Clapton. From the Unplugged album. I mess about with blues on my own guitar. I can almost play along with this.
  5. Psalm 128 – Ian White. I first started to listen to Ian White’s psalms in the mid 80’s. As a bit of background, I generally don’t like ‘Christian’ music at all. I tend to think that there are too many young people writing on Christian themes (which is fine in itself) but who then think they are in a ‘worship ministry’, and the rest of us are supposed to join in and be encouraging. But frankly there’s too much of themselves and not enough of Christ. However, White took the psalms virtually word for word (using the NIV) and put them to music. Volumes 1 and 2 were especially good. Susan and I played them a lot on out honeymoon.

Five people to whom I’m passing the baton:

Any five who read this and feel like telling us.

OK, I’m a wimp.

Music Quiz

Update on Misery

I’m tired. I’m in the middle of working towards my exams mid June. Every semester I say to myself, “Next semester will be better!” Why? Because I seem to get to the end not having made the progress through the coursework I wanted to.

I said it in an especially vigorous fashion last semester, probably with a hat on, and here I am worse than ever! Big problems with Hebrew Grammar. Funny thing is, I have no idea how it happened. Did I sleep for 3 months?

Hey ho.

* * * * *

I was encouraged by this:

[Self examination] is displeasing to the pride of the heart, because wandering thoughts are apt to intrude, and because of the deceitfulness of the heart. When a Christian first looks into his heart he sees nothing but confusion — a heap of sins, and very little good, mixed up together; and he knows not how to separate them, or how to begin self examination. But let him persevere in his efforts, and order will arise out of confusion.

(From A. Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience p.222, where he quotes from a conversation Rev. Edward Payson (1783-1827) had with his daughter while he was on his death bed.)

Quite useful to remember, I think.

However, seconds later I read this:

…when young Christians make confessions, unless there is an obvious call for it, it commonly proceeds from one of the following motives: either they wish to be thought very humble, and to possess great knowledge of their own hearts; or they think it is a fault which the other has perceived, and they are willing to have the credit of having discovered and striven against it; or they confess some fault from which they are remarkably free, in order to elicit a compliment.

(p.222 again, quoting from the same dying man.)

Now, each of these motives are worth bearing in mind, I suppose. However, my first reaction to this passage was, “Having given us the benefit of his wisdom about looking into one’s own heart, he has now begun to look into other people’s hearts!” Am I right in this? Is this a danger of too much introspection?

But whatever! Not nearly as interesting as weak pe gutteral verbs.

Update on Misery