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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
Jesus deliberately commanded His men to do something that was beyond their ability and resources, and even beyond their ability to reason or predict exactly how this was going to work out. He does this right after sending them out to preach the gospel and heal, commanding them to take no provision, make no plans, not to even take a change of clothes. These events show us that God commands us to do things that are far above our capabilities, and that His commands have a built-in promise that He is going to provide for that which we lack.