I want to be a Reformed Pastor

Being a Reformed Pastor is not the same as being a “reformed pastor”. The latter is a particular understanding of the doctrines of the grace of God as taught in Scripture and recovered in the period known as the Reformation. These doctrines are then articulated and expounded in such a way that one sees the glory of God in salvation being magnified by the message of Scripture. All the contributors to this blog affirm and believe the biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty in salvation and that man’s chief end is to revel in the glory of His supreme majesty in every expression of life and ministry. However, a strong qualification must be given at this point: reformed theology is not what Richard Baxter had in mind when he titled his work The Reformed Pastor.

J. I. Packer notes this well in his introduction to the Banner of Truth edition, “By ‘reformed’ he means, not Calvinistic in doctrine, but renewed in practice.” Baxter writes, “If God would but reform the ministry and set them on their duties zealously and faithfully, the people would certainly be reformed. All churches either rise or fall as the ministry doth rise or fall (not in riches or worldly grandeur) but in knowledge, zeal and ability for their work.” Therefore, even the Methodist leader Francis Asbury could write in his diary (August 19, 1810), “O what a prize: Baxter’s Reformed Pastor fell into my hands this morning.” Baxter’s chief concern was the reformation of the Christian ministry.

The pastors of our day greatly need to take up The Reformed Pastor and devour its message. After we have read it, we need to cry out to the Lord and repent of our laziness, our poorly thought out sermons, our disregard for the wellbeing of the flock and our desire for more numbers in the pews when we have not been faithful to the numbers we presently have. After we repent we need to shepherd the flock in such a way that the genuine character of our ministry and our deep love for the people of God is readily seen. The pastor who sees his sole task as to preach isolated sermons and not shepherd the lives of his people is a fool and has made a giant leap over such texts as Ephesian 4:11-12 and 1 Peter 5. Furthermore he may be called a preacher but please don’t call him a “pastor.” He may travel the circuit as a fine teacher of Scriptural truths even garnishing the title of “expositor” but please don’t call him a shepherd if he has neglected his calling.

When I graduated from seminary, my father-in-law painted a marvelous watercolor of Baxter’s church at Kidderminster. That painting has hung outside the doorway to my study since I began ministering to the wonderful flock I serve at Grace Church. Everyday when I walk into my study to prepare for Sunday’s sermon, I am reminded that there once was a man who was deeply flawed like me yet left a legacy of pastoral faithfulness. He reminds me that being a minister of the gospel is more than crafting sermons with exegetical precision and delivering them with homiletical excellence. Like Baxter following the example of the Apostle, I need to walk beside my flock so that I can admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak and be patient with all (cf. 1 Thess. 5:14). May the Lord who called us to this ministry stir our hearts by the faithful testimony left us in Mr. Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Paul

    I have enjoyed your series!


  2. Thanks Caleb,

    I hope to provoke a renewed interest in this little gem. One idea is for pastors to take their leaders or elders through the book. As for me I have made a habit of reading through it every Saturday night in preparation for the Lord’s day and also taking young men through it who are preparing for ministry. I would love to hear what others have done.

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