I recently completed an assignment for Dr. Haykin that involved reading Andrew Fuller’s ordination sermons. The exercise was both academically profitable and spiritually edifying. The following is an example of one of many nuggets gleaned from Fuller:
“Live the life of a Christian, as well as of a minister.—Read as one, preach as one, converse as one—to be profited, as well as to profit others. One of the greatest temptations of a ministerial life is to handle Divine truth as ministers, rather than as Christians—for others, rather than for ourselves. But the word will not profit them that preach it, any more than it will them that hear it, unless it be “mixed with faith.” If we study the Scriptures as Christians, the more familiar we are with them, the more we shall feel their importance; but if our object be only to find out something to say to others, our familiarity with them will prove a snare. It will resemble that of soldiers, and doctors, and undertakers with death; the more familiar we are with them, the less we shall feel their importance. See Prov. 22:17, 18; Psal. 1:2, 3.”
Fuller, “Spiritual Knowledge and Love Necessary for the Ministry,” Works I, 481
Fuller’s exhortation to live the life of a Christian, not just a minister, planted firmly in my mind. Thus, days later, when reading Paul Tripp’s new book, Dangerous Calling, I was struck by the similarity of the two messages. Tripp articulates:
“Ministry had become my identity. No, I didn’t think of myself as a child of God, in daily need of grace, in the middle of my own sanctification, still in a battle with sin, still in need of the body of Christ, and called to pastoral ministry. No, I thought of myself as a pastor. That’s it, bottom line. The office of pastor was more than a calling and a set of God-given gifts that had been recognized by the body of Christ. “Pastor” defined me. It was me in a way that proved to be more dangerous than I thought…My Faith had become a professional calling. It had become my job…It shaped the way I related to God. it formed the relationships with people in my life…So we (pastors) come to relationship with God and others being less than needy. And because we are less than needy, we are less than open to the ministry of others and the conviction of the Spirit. This sucks the life out of the private devotional aspect of our walk with God.”
Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling, p.22-23
Roughly 200 years passed between Fuller’s sermon and Tripp’s book, yet the problem addressed is much the same. Pastors are tempted to see themselves as pastors, as somehow less needy of God’s grace. In light of this timeless problem, Fuller’s admonition remains as pressing as ever. Pastors, “live the life of a Christian.”
Dustin Bruce is originally from Monroeville, AL and is a graduate of Auburn University and SWBTS. He lives with his wife Whitney in Louisville where he is pursuing a ThM in Church History at SBTS.