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The Editorial

Indiana Jones & the chapel of rest

There is a great motorbike chase.

John Benton, Editor

Figure Image

It is in the 2008 film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Set in the late 1950s, professor of archaeology Dr Jones is riding pillion, chased by Soviet agents, as his young companion roars through the streets. Looking for a way to escape the Russian cars, they ride the bike into the university library (Yale?). As students scatter they swerve and skid under some tables, finally coming to rest in front of a geeky archaeology student who, unruffled, looks up from his book and proceeds to ask Dr Jones about a question that is bothering him. The professor answers, referring him to another learned author, and then remounts the motorcycle ready for a quick getaway. As they disappear from the library Dr Jones shouts back to the students something that has always stuck with me: ‘If you want to be a good archaeologist you’ve got to get out of the library!’ In other words you need to do some field work, you’ve got to see what’s out there and make some findings.

That has always remained with me because it makes me think ‘If you want to be a good pastor you need to get out of the study!’

Visiting the people

Of course a gospel minister must study the Scriptures and labour hard to prepare sermons. But he also needs to visit his people. He needs to know his flock. He needs to know what troubles they are facing. He needs to know what questions they are actually asking. He needs to listen before he speaks. He must do this, not least so that his pulpit ministry actually connects and scratches where his congregation are itching. Otherwise, instead of being direct and well aimed, his applications will be either very general (and therefore not very motivating) or will fly wide of the mark. Failure to spend time with people is, I suspect, still one of the greatest causes of sermons which put people to sleep despite the possession of much learning and ‘Bible handling skills’.

C.H. Spurgeon told the students at his pastors’ college to find time to get out of the study and into people’s houses, saying: ‘Remember the Scotch proverb – “A house-going minister makes a kirk-going people.”… Some of our brethren, who have not much gift in preaching, exert a great influence by their diligent pastoral labours. I had a visit, not long ago, from two deacons of a church that is without a pastor, and they said to me, “Could you tell us of a minister like Mr So-and-so?” I asked them what there was about that gentleman which made them mention him as a model, and they answered, “He works so hard for his church; he visits the people, and he throws all his energies into the cause!” I asked them, “Are there any ministers who do not do this?” They laughed; and that was the only answer I could get. I am sorry that I understood them only too well.’*

The frightening truth

The frightening truth is that congregations tend to become like their pastors. If a minister sees preaching as an end in itself and hardly involves himself with the people and activities of the church apart from Sunday services, then he will end up with a people who attend services but have little heart for anything else. The ‘one another’ commands of the NT might as well not be there. And without love we are nothing. It is the sure way to dead orthodoxy.

* C.H. Spurgeon’s Forgotten College Addresses, p.78, DayOne Publications 2016