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Sinclair Ferguson’s Best Lessons from A Lifetime of Pastoring

Was about to settle down to Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed and C.H. Spurgeon’s An All-Round Ministry, when the Principal posted a link to this video of Sinclair Ferguson speaking on his Best Lessons from A Lifetime of Pastoring, at the Desiring God Conference for Pastors 2014. He was only given 8 minutes?! Gimme 8 hours!

Some hopefully accurate notes:

Ourselves and our church family

The most important thing I’ve learned is absolute centrality of love for God’s people (1 Timothy 1:5 – the goal of our charge is love drawn out of a faith without a mask and a good conscience). This is more important than our gifts because gifts without love is like a clanging gong. This is especially important for younger men who go into ministry for the truth (without love) – the only people who will gather around us then will be people who have been poorly taught (because there is no concept in the Bible of truth without love) and cranks.

Love is not a virtue we work out but the first fruit of the fruit of the Spirit which the Spirit brings us. So you would say,”I cannot but love them.”

Love understands the dimness of people, the slowness of people, and is willing to be patient with them.

C.S. Lewis said:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

This is the really costly thing about ministry. Preparing sermons can be very painful, but love is even more painful.

Ourselves and our preaching ministry

Listen to our own preaching – not listening to the recording but listening while we are preaching. When we are preaching, there is no one more under this ministry of the Word than we are. And it is that that will communicate to the congregation that it is not that we are masters of preaching but that we are mastered by it.

Edward Clowney asked Martyn Lloyd-Jones,”When do you know that you are preaching in the power of the Spirit? Is there some elation?” The reply,”You know you are preaching in the power of the Spirit when you are conscious that you are sinful and hopeless and weak.” And this is will be evident to the congregation in the manner of our preaching.

And this is important for this slightly scary reason: over the long haul, people will start to associate us with the Lord Jesus, and they will begin to associate the way what Christ is like with the way we preach his Word. This is why you will notice that often congregations who have sat for a long time under a strong ministry of the Word will begin to take on the personality of the minister. Why should that happen when we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ? Because people associate the style of the minister’s ministry with the master’s ministry. Because his is the voice and the person through whom that ministry most frequently comes to them.

Ourselves and our walk with God

The privilege of living the whole of our lives in the presence of our triune Lord.

As a teenager, in quick succession, I encountered three things: (1) “The Practice of the Presence of the Lord” by Brother Lawrence – it is a slightly better title than it is a book; (2) my minister William Still said to me that I should always keep in my heart a sanctuary for the Lord that is hermetically sealed from everything else; (3) John Owen’s “On Communion with God the Trinity“.

The outward activity of God the Trinity to his creation linked to what the early fathers called Appropriations – in Scripture, while the whole Trinity is involved in activity towards us, one member will take the lead. If this is true, then our fellowship with God is not with God the monolithic block but it is fellowship with God that Father who has designed creation and adopted us into his family and there are things that we praise God the Father for particularly; the Son who has died for us; the Spirit who dwells in us and makes our hearts a home for his Son.

Personally, this was the most important of these three lessons out of which the other two flow: conscious that I am not alone, conscious that I am an adopted child of the Creator, conscious that I am one for whom Jesus was not ashamed to die and call brother; conscious that the Spirit transforms our lives into light in the Lord. So we are not spending our lives sticking pastoral elements on to them, but because of the Trinity, we have actually become pastors.

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