The Object of the Christian Ministry
In an oft-quoted passage, Charles Spurgeon reflects on the nature of his calling as a pastor:
“I am occupied in my small way, as Mr. Great-heart was employed in Bunyan’s day. I do not compare myself with that champion, but I am in the same line of business. I am engaged in personally-conducted tours to Heaven... It is my business, as best I can, to kill dragons, and cut off giants’ heads, and lead on the timid and trembling. I am often afraid of losing some of the weaklings. I have the heart-ache for them; but, by God’s grace, and your kind and generous help in looking after one another, I hope we shall all travel safely to the river’s edge. Oh, how many have I had to part with there! I have stood on the brink, and I have heard them singing in the midst of the stream, and I have almost seen the shining ones lead them up the hill, and through the gates, into the Celestial City.”
The heading of that chapter in Spurgeon’s autobiography is appropriately titled “Seeking the Souls of Men.” It was a passion shared by his contemporary, Horatius Bonar, who decried the lukewarm hearts of ministers who are “theoretically orthodox,” yet show little concern for the souls under their care. Bonar writes:
“[T]he object of the Christian ministry is to convert sinners and to edify the body of Christ. No faithful minister can possibly rest short of this. Applause, fame, popularity, honour, wealth; all these are vain. If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry itself is vain.”
Bonar continues with a series of questions that might pierce the heart of any minister:
“The question, therefore, which each of us has to answer to his own conscience is, ‘Has it been the end of my ministry; has it been the desire of my heart, to save the lost and guide the saved? Is this my aim in every sermon I preach, in every visit I pay? Is it under the influence of this feeling that I continually live, and walk, and speak? Is it for this I pray, and toil, and fast, and weep? Is it for this I spend and am spent, counting it, next to the salvation of my own soul, my chiefest joy to be the instrument of saving others? Is it for this that I exist; and to accomplish this would I gladly die? Have I seen the pleasure of the Lord prospering in my hand? Have I seen souls converted under my ministry? Have God’s people found refreshment from my lips, and gone upon their way rejoicing? Or have I seen no fruit of my labours, and yet am I content to remain unblest? Am I satisfied to preach, and yet not know of one saving impression made, one sinner awakened? Can I go contentedly through the routine of ministerial labour, and never think of asking how God is prospering the work of my hands and the words of my lips ?
h/t Rob Edwards
Ben Ciavolella is a student at Westminster Theological Seminary. He works as a publishing assistant and editor for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.
Words to Winners of Souls by Horatius Bonar
"Learning the Gospel from a Nineteenth Century Scotsman" by John Biegel
"A Resolution for the Church" by Zachary Groff
"Affliction Evangelism" by Aaron Denlinger
"Defending Door-to-Door and Open Air Evangelism" by Al Baker
A Workman Not Ashamed: Essays in Honor of Albert N. Martin, ed. by David Charles and Rob Ventura
Evangelism, ed. by Jeffrey Stivason
 Ibid., 5f.