Thursday, March 04, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Continuity and Vitality from the Ordinary Means

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 32 Num. 34
“Continuity and Vitality from the Ordinary Means”
First Published: October 5, 1999

This week I have had the privilege of reviewing our congregation’s history in my mind as I taught the Officer Training course on Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night, and as I wrote some new material for our informational packets for prospective members. My heart is flooded with awe and thanksgiving when I think of God’s faithfulness to us over the years. But two words in particular stand out. Continuity and vitality.

Let’s take continuity first. Has it ever hit you that we have only had seven senior ministers since 1858? It really is astonishing when you think about it! But more than that, there has been a continuity of approach to ministry. Gimmicks and fads have come and gone in other churches. Theologies are changing all around us. Churches are trying all manner of schemes to attract members. But First Church has been committed for over a hundred sixty years to a simple and unified strategy for building the church: preaching Christ and him crucified. Sure, the numerous programs and ministries of the church have attracted and been a blessing to many. But at the very heart of what we are doing is the proclamation of the Word.

Generations of ministers and elders at First Church have been committed to the sentiments that C. H. Spurgeon expressed last century about how to build the church and draw people to Christ. He said: “Come, ye Christian workers, be encouraged. You fear that you cannot draw a congregation. Try the preaching of a crucified, risen, and ascended Savior; for this is the greatest “draw” that was ever yet manifested among men. What drew you to Christ but Christ? What draws you to Him now but His own blessed self? If you have been drawn to religion by anything else, you will soon be drawn away from it; but Jesus has held you, and will hold you even to the end. Why, then, doubt His power to draw others? Go with the name of Jesus to those who have hitherto been stubborn, and see if it does not draw them. No sort of man is beyond this drawing power. Old and young, rich and poor, ignorant and learned, depraved or amiable — all men shall feel the attractive force. Jesus is the one magnet. Let us not think of any other. Music will not draw to Jesus, neither will eloquence, logic, ceremonial, or noise. Jesus Himself must draw men to Himself; and Jesus is quite equal to the work in every case. Be not tempted by the quackeries of the day; but as workers for the Lord work in His own way, and draw with the Lord’s own cords. Draw to Christ, and draw by Christ, for then Christ will draw by you.”

In addition to continuity, the Lord has graciously granted us vitality. Our congregation is historic but not petrified! Have you ever stopped to think how God has chosen to use ministers, elders and members of First Church to play a significant role in establishing the PCA (the nation’s largest conservative Presbyterian denomination), Reformed Theological Seminary (a leading theological training center for evangelical ministry with campuses in Jackson; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Orlando, Florida), and Reformed University Ministries (a nationwide campus fellowship)? Each of these is at least partially indebted to the Spiritual energies of Christians who have been impacted by God’s Word in the fellowship of First Presbyterian Church.
Now, I hasten to say, that neither our continuity nor our vitality is a cause for pride. They are gifts given to us by God, and so we ought to give him the glory alone for them. But they are a trust and a bequest and a responsibility. All of us who serve the Lord here are indebted, not only to “Him who saved us” but also to the generations of faithful men and women before us. How will we show our gratitude to God? Let’s do it by prayer and faithfulness.

Your friend,
Ligon Duncan

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