Newton’s Comfort for Christian Bloggers, Writers, and Preachers

Taken from the diary of a friend of John Newton’s, recounting a personal conversation they enjoyed:

January 26, 1804 —

He [Newton] told me that after he was settled at Olney [his first pastorate], and had preached six sermons, he thought he had told them his whole stock, and was considerably depressed.

“But,” he said, “I was walking one afternoon by the side of the river Ouse; I asked myself, How long has this river run? Many hundred years before I was born, and will run many years after I am gone. Who supplies the fountains from whence this river comes? God. Is not the fund for my sermons equally inexhaustible? — the word of God. Yes, surely. I have never been afraid of running out since that time.”

I asked if he had consumed all the variety in the Bible now he was an old man and an old minister. He smiled, and said, “O no, Sir; O, no, Sir.”

Inside Spurgeon’s Head

What follows is a rare glimpse into the inner-workings of Charles Spurgeon’s brain while he preached, as he explained in Lectures to My Students [(Carter and Brothers, 1889), 2:27-28]:

The Spirit of God acts also as an anointing oil, and this relates to the entire delivery—not to the utterance merely from the mouth, but to the whole delivery of the discourse. He can make you feel your subject till it thrills you, and you become depressed by it so as to be crushed into the earth, or elevated by it so as to be borne upon its eagle wings; making you feel, besides your subject, your object, till you yearn for the conversion of men, and for the uplifting of Christians to something nobler than they have known as yet.

At the same time, another feeling is with you, namely, an intense desire that God may be glorified through the truth which you are delivering. You are conscious of a deep sympathy with the people to whom you are speaking, making you mourn over some of them because they know so little, and over others because they have known much but have rejected it.

You look into some faces, and your heart silently says, “The dew is dropping there;” and turning to others, you sorrowfully perceive that they are as Gilboa’s dewless mountain. All this will be going on during the discourse.

We cannot tell how many thoughts can traverse the mind at once. I once counted eight sets of thoughts which were going on in my brain simultaneously, or at least within the space of the same second. I was preaching the gospel with all my might, but could not help feeling for a lady who was evidently about to faint, and also looking out for our brother who opens the windows that he might give us more air. I was thinking of that illustration which I had omitted under the first head, casting the form of the second division, wondering if A felt my rebuke, and praying that B might get comfort from the consoling observation, and at the same time praising God for my own personal enjoyment of the truth I was proclaiming.

Some interpreters consider the cherubim with their four faces to be emblems of ministers, and assuredly I see no difficulty in the quadruple form, for the sacred Spirit can multiply our mental states, and make us many times the men we are by nature. How much he can make of us, and how grandly he can elevate us, I will not dare to surmise: certainly, he can do exceeding abundantly above what we ask or even think.

Yes, and especially so if you were a genius to begin with.

Understanding the Relationship Between Pulpit Ministry and Women’s Ministry

I find it interesting to talk to different folks about the relationship between the weekly pulpit ministry and the place of formal women-to-women teaching ministry. Even among complementarian churches, the range of opinion is really quite surprising. As I look around the church it appears to me that at the very least there are six categories of how the relationship between the two ministries is defined. I have numbered them here for no other reason than to make them easy to reference.

Here’s a list of the varying opinions that I see:

  1. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men is sufficient for women too, therefore while organic women-to-women relationships are important in the church, a more formal women-to-women teaching ministry in the church is not.
  2. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men is sufficient for women too, therefore the women-to-women ministry in the church is focused on application and domestic excellence, and theological training is of less importance.
  3. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men is sufficient for women too, yet out of the strong pulpit ministry emerges a necessary women-to-women teaching ministry, it echos the theology of the pulpit, and requires that women also be trained theologically for the teaching task.
  4. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men on Sundays is vital to women, but it is an entirely different context than women-to-women teaching ministry, therefore the two teaching ministries should not be connected or compared or contrasted but left alone as individual expressions of teaching gifts.
  5. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men IS NOT entirely sufficient for women, it is weakened by a lack of female perspective, therefore formal women-to-women teaching ministry is a necessary supplement to the preaching, and to do this well women must be trained theologically for these teaching roles.
  6. The preaching of the word by called and equipped men IS NOT entirely sufficient for women, therefore to reach women, women are needed to preach to the church at least on occasion.

What other categories have I missed? And where would you fit in your understanding of the categories? I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments to this post.