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One of the most popular criticisms made against Reformed Christians and pastors is that they put way too much emphasis on learning, reading and teaching and way too little emphasis on “real ministry”. Now “real ministry” is defined in a number of ways by these critics, but the allegation routinely leveled against us from many quarters of Christendom is “there is no problem too big for us to recommend a book for.”
Is there any merit to this charge, and if so, how should we answer it?
My first response is that I really wish it were true. I am afraid that the stereotype of the well-read studious Reformed Christian is nothing more than a gross caricature. There are a few men and women I know who might fit that description, but I fear that the reality is that only a fraction of people in the Reformed world really care about or make the time to pursue any kind of study outside of Sunday morning worship. It is obvious that for the most part, people are not reading, they are not making time for any extra pursuit of Biblical or theological knowledge and they are satisfied to drift along not growing or maturing in any significant way. Read more
I think I’m ready to come out and say it. I don’t like stories with happy endings. If you know me, you know I love stories. I really enjoy novels, and movies, and even well-done television series. I have have argued for the indispensable value of stories and defended fiction in many places. Students of the Bible and pastors especially must embrace and enjoy good stories. Stories train us to understand the narrative of the Bible. They stretch our imagination in all kinds of helpful ways. They allow us to live out other people’s lives, to sympathize with other sinners to see and appreciate God’s creation at different levels and from different angles. Stories are good for us.
But I’ve gotten to the place where I’m bored with stories that have happy endings. I don’t mean that you have to agree with me, or that you can’t enjoy them, and I may come back around and find some enjoyment in them some day. Yet for now I’ve come to the conclusion that most of today’s stories that have happy endings are false stories. They don’t picture the world the way it really is. They don’t properly account for the wickedness and the depravity of man. They don’t deal with the depth or the width or the height of God’s mercies because mercy in these stories, when it comes, is trite. Cheap grace is easy and light. It’s never painful, and never demands anything of anyone. Read more
In the well-known parable of the soils Jesus prepares His disciples for all the various responses to the gospel that they can expect to see. He also warns them against exhibiting the kind of hardness and distractedness that produces infertile soil for the the seed of the word of God. With this parable we also see an illustration of the liberality with which the Sower scatters the seed, and the careful, gradual, incremental growth of the kingdom.
At the end of Luke chapter 7, Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to join him for dinner, but it is an unwanted guest who arrives and steals the spotlight. A woman of ill repute interrupts the party to shower Jesus with her worship and service, while Simon scoffs. As it turns out, the uninvited woman shows Jesus greater hospitality than the man of the house, and while she may have transgressed various social boundaries in doing so, it was Simon who violated the higher standards set by love.