Temptations pastors face (2)

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:

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When I had been working for a government for a few years, I came across this quote, to the effect that, “Every problem you come across has an answer which is easy to describe, easy to apply and dead wrong”. Ministry, from what I can see, is no different, be it:

  • Resolving all the pastoral issues we face by following ‘Biblical Principles’ (Bill Gothard)
  • Resolving all the evangelism issues we face by either dumbing down the Gospel message (Bill Hybels, Rick Warren) or in the other direction, ‘preaching the Law’ (Ray Comfort - bear with me on this one).
  • Resolving our ministry issues generally through ‘signs & wonders’ (John Wimber).
  • Resolving our frustration at the political environment through whatever direct action comes to mind (January 6th might be a case in point).

What these approaches have in common, and I include Ray in this, is an over-realised eschatology, to use Justin Peters’ term, which cannot live with the challenges of the ‘not yet’. This is painfully clear with the Word of Faith types but the issue is not limited to them.


Further to earlier, my specific comments on Ray, in increasing order of importance:

Does ‘altar call evangelism’ actually work these days, at all?
This is something Ray owes to Charles Finney (actually, he owes rather a lot to Finney, from what I can see). It sits in contrast with Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who would preach a Gospel message, not have an altar call (the ‘standard model’ of evangelism, certainly in the Pentecostal environment I grew up in) … and then see who responded over the next week.

How important is personal friendship?
Which is the context of how most adults come to faith, from what I can see. It’s from the sustained witness of friends or family, rather than a one-off hit of the law, that people seem to respond to.

In reaching out with the Gospel, is the Law the best place to start?
In our current settings, faith often has to be lived out alongside its preaching. Works of mercy, works of justice, signs and wonders are not the Gospel, but they often accompany its preaching, and make the messenger as well as the message credible. E.g. the Alpha course introduces Jesus, then explains why He had to die. This is not the pattern of Romans, but it is the pattern of 1 John.

There is no sense, with Ray, of the need to ‘count the cost’
Or rather, it’s not obvious. He might think that if someone is sufficiently convicted, then counting the cost won’t be necessary. But Jesus’ own example, telling people to count the cost, suggests otherwise.

To summarise, I absolutely agree with the need to preach the Law, but if evangelism were as simple as Ray sometimes makes it out to be, he’d still be in Cathedral Square (in Christchurch, New Zealand; where he started out).