Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wisdom from Sinclair Ferguson

Last week I listened to Sinclair Ferguson's seminar "Preaching the Word: Reflections at Sixty." It was a joy to listen to the reflections on ministry, theology and hear stories about John Murray, William Still, John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

One thing he noted as a common thread between the godly pastors was that despite all their great differences in education and background they were men of deep and broad prayer lives. Deep as they prayed but broad in the number of people they prayed for over the years.

Here are some of the quotes I jotted down:

"The most difficult thing to get the evangelical church to do is to pray." 
"Most of us waste most of our time reading books that are at best third rate. Why? Because they are cutting edge, because they are now, because people are postmodern today. The result: we know all about postmodern people but we are very shallow on understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ." 
"The reason that most of us as evangelicals have so little time for the early fathers is because we would never be so worked up about Christology as they were and we would never be so worked up about the Trinity as they were. Which means if its true we are the ones verging on heresy." 
"We actually think that the Holy Trinity is the most speculative and the least practical doctrine of our theology. But those who are wiser than we, believe it is the least speculative and the most practical. And the one who most believed that was of all the theologians... was the Lord Jesus Christ." 
"A firing of one's devotion in these areas leads to the profoundest applications." 
"Often lacking in our ministry is our Christ is not big enough to propel the indicatives in our lives." 
"When people say your not practical enough the real problem is probably that you are not being Christocentric enough; not being Trinitarian enough. Because being real practical is not a matter of saying here are three things you need to do, being really practical is so exalting God, the Trinity, the work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that people are carried out into practical application."

He spoke generally about the lack of depth in preaching. He noted he often goes to seminaries and preaches and is complemented on what depth he brings but then thinks to himself, he'd dare not tell them he preached that a few weeks ago at his church in an evening service. To me, it was the testimony to how much a pulpit ministry can grow in a church.

He had a few good comments about mentoring and pouring your life into someone as was done to him.

He remarked on his education in Scotland under professors who were unbelievers teaching Hebrew and higher critical theory but not loving the Bible and the God of the Bible. It was a challenge to his seminary audience not to take their education for granted, particularly the joy of learning Hebrew under men who love the God's Word believing it is written in Hebrew.

He also make remarks about catechisms as a 'velcro' or a grid to lay down thoughts on for deeper growth (AMEN! Motivated me to keep working the catechism with my girls).

He pointed out that a young man in Calvin's Geneva, with all the Catechizing that was going on in the Reformation, would have a better understanding of doctrine and Scripture than the seminary graduate today.

He also remarked that Romans and John's Gospel are sort of the catechism of the NT--they lay the thought pattern of major categories of doctrine. He remarked that what Romans does for redemption/salvation, John's Gospel does for Christology.

He encouraged Christians to outline books of the Bible and not just read them for 'what they are saying to us' in a sort of autobiographical way.

I particularly appreciated his remarks about seminary professors and pastors. He said something to the effect of 'don't go to be a seminary professor thinking its a step up--it's really a step down from the pastorate.' In fact I once wanted to teach in college or seminary and often thought of it as 'a step up' and more 'noble' particularly because of the scholarship involved. Yet, God's higher offices are in the church.

I loved what he said when he quipped: 'the difference between the seminary professor and a pastor is this: a seminary professor is like a magician. He stands of stage and dazzles people by putting the swords into the box' Then on the struggles of the pastorate: 'the pastor is the guy in the box, having the swords put into him'.

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