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“There is nothing new under the sun…”

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The Reformed Pastor
Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter, a 17th century pastor, wrote down his thoughts on ministry in a book called “The Reformed Pastor”.  I haven’t finished the book yet, but something I read last night caught my eye and I thought I would share my thoughts briefly.  Baxter wrote this book in a very rigid outline.  Under the heading “The Acts of the Minister” is the subheading of “care and oversight over every member of the flock.”  The author, in telling about the purpose and duties of a pastor as it pertains to the families of the Church, writes this:

“The life of religion and the welfare and glory of the church depend much on family government and duty…The good that is begun by a faithful minister in any soul in a family may be stifled by a careless, prayerless, and worldly family life.  On the other hand, if you can get the rulers of families to do their part, taking up the work where you leave off, helping the members of their families forward with their spiritual growth, what great abundance of good might come of it.  I beg you, therefore, do all you can to promote this in your families, if you desire the true reformation and welfare of those in your parishes.”

In 1656, Richard Baxter penned these words about the importance of the family.  Pastors, he says should (1) get information about the families in your congregation; (2) Spend time with them; (3) If you find any family unable to pray because of ignorance or lack of practice, train them to study and get their hearts affected; (4) see that each family has books other than the Bible and reads them [if they don’t have them, buy them some]; (5) Train them to spend the Lord’s day undistracted, and how to spend time after the assembly in study.

Over the last six years in ministry, I read a lot of books on basic principles of youth and children’s ministry, methods and ideas for spiritual growth, and cultural trends in youth and children.  On recommendation from Northland, I read Think Orange (2009) which was a strategy to get the Church (the light: yellow) to come alongside the Home (the heart: red) to disciple and train kids up in the faith.  It was a detailed and well thought out book.  Reggie Joiner, former children’s minister at Northpoint, knows how to run a children’s ministry.  On recommendation from Glen Park in Wichita, I read the book Shift: What it taeks to finally reach families today.  This book emphasizes a method that equips parents as leaders in the faith, and looks at life as a series of milestones.  Brian Hayes writes a great practical book that is really helpful in showing a healthy methodology for ministry.  There were others that helped but these will do.

I had a desire to lead a ministry that these books put forward, but a lack of unity and teamwork, a lack of prep and study, and differing visions that stood in the way of the church aiming for this goal.  I would have loved to implement and enact some of the principles set forth, but as I read Baxter’s book, I have really got to thinking about “new” stuff.  In our youtube generation, where whatever happened most recently is the greatest thing ever, we are fascinated by the newest thing out there.  We, as ministers, leaders, and pastors, must not neglect the old wisdom.  He saw the importance of training the family and if your church doesn’t work to train and pour into the family unit, challenge the leadership to start something.  It wasn’t just Reggie Joiner or Brian Hayes that saw the importance of family ministry.  It wasn’t just the last 10 years that made ministry to the family a priority.  It was a 17th century pastor that argued that we should be investing in families.  I agree with Baxter that the health of the church is displayed in the home.  Training the family (not just the kids or youth, but the family unit) needs to be the Church’s no. 1 priority moving forward!

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