Thursday, January 24, 2008

Getting a Jump on February

There is one week left in the January portion of The Puritan Reading Challenge. If you have not yet started you could read Richard Sibbes' The Bruised Reed easily, if not deeply, in the next few days. At 128 pages this would be less than 20 pages per day.

Looking forward to February we will be reading John Flavel's The Mystery of Providence. Since I have finished January's reading, and since February's book is 221 pages packed into 29 days, I wanted to get a jump start in learning about Flavel (1628-1691). My main source is Meet the Puritans by Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson. After reading about the trials and tribulations of this Godly man I wonder why it is that we see less courage and determination in our leaders today.

As a non-conformist, Flavel was forced out of his pulpit, but continued to preach in homes, in forests, and even on low tide rocks. All of this was done at risk of arrest and imprisonment. At the same time he lost three wives and at least one child to death. His final words this side of glory, even after a life of suffering, were "I know that it will be well with me".

How many of our peers today abandon the ministry for much less in the way of affliction and trouble? The average pastoral tenure, at least in Southern Baptist churches, grows shorter and shorter. Somebody gets their feelings hurt, and "poof" the pastor is either off to greener pastures or out of the ministry all together.

Maybe, just maybe, what we need today is for the preaching of the Gospel to be outlawed similar to what happened in 17th century England. Gone in a flash would be those who preach the "prosperity gospel" or those who distort God's Word for other insincere motives. Those who remain, even if banished to forest glades or deserted coves, would exhibit the faith and faithfulness of John Flavel and his colleagues.

Maybe, just maybe.

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