This is a fantastic little book on Christian ministry, from lectures given at the UK Inter-Varsity Theological Students’ Conference across 1964-1965. William Still was the pastor at Gilcomston South church of Scotland in Aberdeen for over 50 years.
This is a short and hard hitting book if you are considering entering full time Christian ministry. If you are already working as a pastor, it is a wonderful encouragement to stay on track.
God is the Gospel:
There are profounder things by far in the Bible than what is called ‘the simple Gospel’, although they issue from it. Indeed, in a sense, those who proclaim almost exclusively forgiveness of sins and justification, only make known the preliminaries to the best Good News, which is not that our sins are put away and that we are justified in God’s sight, wonderful though that is, but that God wants us for Himself and to that end brings us to the birth in Christ. After all, the death of Jesus, for all its wonder, is a means to an end, which is not merely that we may be right and clean but that we may be His, which involves personal relationship in love. (p51)
The judgement of God and the multi-faceted jewel of the gospel:
there is the darker backcloth to the Good News, namely, the penal and corrective judgements of God, upon which the scintillating diamond of the Gospel shines with a thousand facets. (p52)
Teaching the whole counsel of God is plain old hard work:
Once you are are convinced that your people need the whole Word of God, and you get over the shock to your indolent flesh that you are not in the ministry for an easy job, you simply roll up your sleeves, and, having gathered, or being in the process of gathering, the most helpful library of commentaries and reference books you can find, you get down to it: and book by book you give your people a balanced diet of the truth. (p52)
Still challenges to go beyond evangelistic froth and bring the whole Word to God’s people who willingly resist:
I could bring ministers of various denominations to testify that although the unconverted in their congregations made their lives miserable, the most fiendish persecutions have come from evangelistic people who wanted a perpetual preaching of that part of the Gospel which they thought (often wrongly) did not touch them, and who, when the Word of God in its fullness was unleashed upon them, went virtually mad with rage. There is nothing too vile for such people to do when their futile evangelistic round with its patronage of the unconverted has been ended, and the myth of their conceited superiority has been destroyed. It takes a courageous man in these circumstances to preach the whole Word of God without fear or favour, whoever it hurts – himself, his loved ones, his friends, or his enemies. (pp 14-15)
How dare a minister with a balanced view of the Word of God, and with full intention of ministering it, face such a people. I know many who would rather face a firing squad than a congregation of irate Christians upon whom the Word of God has been turned. I have known far greater cruelty to the Lord’s servants from such people than from nominal, unconverted church members who detest the Gospel. The devil always does a deadlier work through hardened Christians than through the unconverted, and gets far more diabolical pleasure from it, too. (pp 78-79)
Not everyone can thunder with power in preaching like a Luther or a Spurgeon, or a Lloyd-Jones, does that mean the average minister should not exert himself too much in preaching? Still’s answer is gold:
I am sure that the personality of the one who ministers is not unimportant. Nor do I believe that God calls us to be timid little mice, or ineffectual little ‘yes-men’ in the ministry. But this I know: that, as God can use those with no more than turnips for heads and make them exude the sweetest and most nourishing spiritual juices to their people, so He can take the most frightened and frightening little bookworms – boring little creates who bore into books all the week and bore their heads into manuscripts on Sundays so that they bore all the poor people who are bored enough to put up with them – and can make them both might and courageous. Like Jeremiah, for instance. God does not call us to this gigantic task to be flops.
The “boring” play on words is not a mandate for staleness:
If the Holy Spirit is not in our hearts, in our life and in all our teaching of the Word of God (and He will not be if our characters are not being moulded according to the moral and spiritual pattern of the Word), then we had been not open our mouths. For there is nothing so boring, stale, flat and unprofitable as holy things retailed in the absence of the Spirit. (pp 11-12)
Pray and keep praying, and get your flock praying for you:
We must challenge our people to pray for the ministry, and must see to it that however we meet, and whatever you call it, there is a backing, a support, a power-house of prayer behind our ministries. (p98)
The danger of being side tracked:
People who are too easily intimidated by the wickedness of any one generation and who panic over things which go wrong, are living so near their own day that they have lost the message of the ages which is full of such seeming disasters. It is they who run with their poultices and eyewash to meet the needs of the hour instead of abiding by the radical measures of the Word of God which gets down to the elements of the case. It is like trying to purify foul water at the tap, instead of at the reservoir or the poisoned stream. There is an application of the Word of God for even the most urgent contemporary situations, but if we get all hot and bothered about it, and myopically concentrate all our ministry on that, for ever moaning from our pulpits about the evils of the day, what are the hungry sheep going to feed upon the while? The devil is a master of sidetrack. (p108)
So we are to understand the difference between feeding sheep and warding off wolves:
A shepherd is no mere warder-off of wild beasts. To save the sheep from wild beasts and all other dangers is not to feed them; and if they are not fed, what matters whether they are safe or not? What is the good of being saved to starve? We must be saved in health and strength, unto maturity and power to reign with Christ in His kingdom. And for that we must be fed. Every temptation to be sidetracked from the task of eternity which is the task of the hour – your hour – must be seen in relation to the finished product. What is the end of what you are doing? The God-appointed end? (pp 112-113)
Another danger of course, is to pander to the goats:
The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness. Do we really believe that the Word of God, by His Spirit, changes as well as maddens men? If we do, to be evangelists and pastors, feeders of sheep, we must be men of the Word of God. (p8)