The Christian Workers’ Oasis: Futile Ministry?

5 12 2006
Now that I’ve got the blog up and running, I’m going to try to devote certain days to certain topics, perhaps on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Tuesdays will be devoted to The Christian Workers’ Oasis, where I will share some of the things which keep me going in ministry, and encourage me that ‘our labour in the Lord is not in vain’.

At the moment I’m reading Charles Bridges’ classic work on The Christian Ministry published by Banner of Truth. Written in the middle of the Nineteenth Century by an Anglican minister, it is full of practical and devotional help, and has been proving a rich source of encouragement for me.

While some of the cultural references and ilustrations are a little dated, one of the beauties of this book is its detachment from current trends in evangelicalism. There is no mention here of ‘envisioning’, ‘paradigm shifts’ or ‘postmodernism’ – all pieces of jargon which are often exhausted in contemporary ‘ministry’ books – but rather a straightforward presentation of the work of a servant of God, and the pressures which it brings.

One of Bridges’ most endearing features as a writer is his blend of realism and aspiration. In one section on the discouraging influence of seeming ineffectiveness in the ministry he writes:

‘We must…remember that present success is not always visible. Appearance must not be the measure of the real result. There is often an undercurrent of piety, which cannot be brought to the surface. There may be solid work advancing underground, without any sensible excitement; as we observe the seed that produces the heaviest grain, lies longest in the soil. We are not always the best judges of the results of our ministry.’

Sometimes (most of the time?) I need to hear things like that. Pastoral ministry very seldom privileges us with a sense of completion, closure, or even usefulness. Things are always in process, and results are not always tangible. But God is working, in His way, and at His pace. Perhaps other Christian workers need to hear this too. I think discouragement is universal among us, but ‘under all our trials we must be careful that no present apparent failure weaken our assurance of the ultimate success of faithful and diligent perseverance’.

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Final words on Peru

1 12 2006

Over at our other blog I’ve posted a final entry to sum up our time in Peru. It can be found here.