Archive for the ‘Iain Murray’ Category

Ministry Charles Brown

Charles J. Brown.  The Ministry: Address to Students of Divinity.
Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006. 112 pp.

I started reading this book during a break in ministry as a devotional to refresh my soul. I had this book for a few years now and I thought I finally get around to reading it.  It turns out that the book really ministered to my heart and I was glad I read it.

The book has a biographical introduction to the author Charles Brown that was written by the biographer Iain Murray of Banner of Truth. I found the biographical sketch helpful since I didn’t know anything about the author before I read the book and learning a little more about this largely forgotten nineteenth century Scottish preacher prepared me to want to read the rest of the book in order to learn more from a great man of God and faithful minister of four decades. The book was an adaptation of several addresses that Charles Brown delivered for the Free Church of Scotland with attention towards ministers and seminarians.  The first chapter argues for the connection between Godliness and Christian ministry, the second on public prayer, the third on preaching and the fourth on elements of pulpit power.  There is an appendix that ought to be a chapter in of itself on various other aspect of pastoral ministry followed by one of Brown’s sermon that is a great example of Gospel driven preaching.

The book is short and is a plus in many ways: first it is the perfect size for a pastor’s devotional. Secondly, the author is concise and to the point.  Thirdly, its spiritual impact is greater than its size; in reviewing this book I was pleasantly surprised how much of the book I highlighted that fed my soul. The following are some of the valuable gems in the book:

  • Reverend Brown is a man of deep prayers. For instance, he devotes a while chapter to public corporate prayer. I appreciate his practical and pastoral reasons for short public prayers.  He doesn’t merely give a pragmatic argument but argues for the benefit of the spiritual well being of the congregation.  Even when he talks about sermon preparation and visitation he talks about the importance of prayers.
  • Brown presented an excellent two point argument for the importance of godliness in the ministry but he doesn’t just leave the readers there; he had some helpful practical hints to strive for personal holiness such as reading more works that are more personal and experimental in character.  I love also seeing Brown’s recommendations, which are all Christian classics and one that stood out to me is his recommendation to read Rutherford’s Letter’s since I didn’t know it had such an effect on Brown.  I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for Rutherford’s work, which previously I have known about only as the man who wrote Lex Rex.
  • I love his illustration of the Word of God being like a gem, arrow and bait in that it is what the minister must master if they are going to preach evangelistically and powerfully.
  • Brown is against manuscripting a sermon; he argues that one should have an outline instead in order to ensure that one is able to look at the eyes of people and to ensure what Brown quoted from John Livingstone as saying “I was more helped in my preaching by the thirsty eyes of the people than anything else.”  Livingstone’s quote must have made a profound impact on Brown since he quoted him twice in the book.
  • I have always felt that as a preacher I should spend more time and effort preparing a conclusion well than the introduction given that it’s important to “land” the sermon properly and to drive home to the hearers a call to respond.  It is wonderful to see a successful preacher with forty one years of experience affirming my conclusion.
  • Brown did share his one regret in ministry was that he wished he got to ministered to the younger members more.  A lesson well taken.

I definitely recommend this book for pastors young and old to read.  I also recommend this for lay people to get this as a gift for their pastors.

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Shepherds Conference

Recovering from this year’s Shepherd’s Conference.  It was so encouraging, edifying and equipping!

The last evening on Friday John MacArthur made a major announcement that Shepherd’s Conference next year’s theme is going to be on the doctrine of Inerrancy.

There’s going to be a lot of big name speakers (not that it’s big name in of itself is important, but names of men whom God have used mightedly because of their faithfulness).  It’s anticipated to be the biggest Shepherd’s Conference ever.

Here’s the promotional video:

There’s going to be RC Sproul, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Paige Patterson, Carl Trueman, Al Mohler, etc.

It’s going to be March 3rd-8th, 2015.

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this biography, though the author insists throughout the work that this is really not a biography of Spurgeon per se, and was written to fill in the gaps that is often left out concerning the real Spurgeon that is contrary to the popularized image of Spurgeon according to the perception of mainstream Evangelical  and some biographies out there.  In commenting about the deficiency of some of the biographies about Spurgeon, this work notes how some of the popular biographers have not grasp or understood the significance of the theology that have driven Spurgeon.  Spurgeon in his life was a man of God that was not only a gospel preacher to the masses but also a man of God who would take a stand for the truth of God’s Word.  Throughout his lifetime, the “forgotten” Spurgeon was involved with three major controversies which the book discusses about, concerning baptismal regeneration, hyper-calvinism and the Down Grade Controversy.  A fascinating fact that I was not aware of before reading this book was the author’s observation that in the baptismal regeneration debate, Spurgeon did not expected much support from certain religious quarters which ironically did affirm and supported Spurgeon’s concern, while in the Down Grade Controversy Spurgeon expected support from certain quarters (Evangelicals) that in the end not only materialized but turned out to be against him.  Even his own brother who was a minister disagreed with him and readers might be shocked to learn of this contrary to the image of Spurgeon as always being popular.  It is the down grade controversy which most people remember of the three, but knowing what the others were about also allow readers to better situate Spurgeon in his context, and perhaps a more balance understanding of Spurgeon when it comes to controversy.  Perhaps the part of the book that I found most fascinating what the closing chapter that talked about the fate of Spurgeon’s church after his death.  It was a painful thing to hear of how those who took up the ministry after him including his son, moved away from the theology that Spurgeon has embraced.  It is probably the most sobering part of the book for me, as I think back to campus ministries that I have been involved with in the past that has been so strong biblically and numerically only to have it handed off to others that eventually would not agree with your distinctives or emphasizes (and even hostile against it, or disregard what precious truths that has motivated the first “generation”!).  It was saddening to read this last portion of the book.  I cannot help but to think of the historical lesson here as it relates to our day and age.  This is the second work that I read by Iain Murray, the first being his most recent work on John MacArthur.  I think Murray is a great biographer, and I can’t help but to think about Grace Community Church after John MacArthur, or any other famous pastor for that matter (John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, etc).  The ending of the book allow me to have some soul searching of whether or not as a young pastor, my goal should be to become a famous great preacher.  It made me think about how some people follow preachers just for the sake of the man’s fame rather than really seeing the man’s theology coming from the Scripture itself.  The real tests at times, seems to come about after a man’s death and his ministry/church carries on without him; where will the direction go?  Will the saints still be faithful to what is biblical?  Who will take over and will they be able to fill the mighty shoes left behind, while being faithful to the Word of God and have the ability to lead the body?  It makes me think much about the issue of a Christianity that is driven more by personality and charisma though those that lead are orthodox; as in the case of the Hebrews escaping Egypt in the Exodus, people have an uncanny way of making their own idols even in the midst of God’s great works.

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The author Iain Murray, a wonderful Christian biographer, has taken up the task of writing a biography of the preacher John MacArthur. Even at the very beginning of the book, Murray makes it clear that the work is intended to be just a sketch of MacArthur…’s life and that a full complete biography evaluating his life and contribution is probably best done after MacArthur’s passing. Coming at 240 pages, this “sketch” reminds me of William White’s biography of the great apologist Cornelius Van Til while he was alive; the more critical biography that evaluates everything after all is said and done came later. One thing I did appreciate of Murray’s biography of MacArthur here is that while Murray is appreciative of MacArthur’s ministry, the work is not just about hero worship of this preacher. In fact, Murray in the book gently questioned MacArthur’s dispensationalism (the author is Covenantal in his theology), and wished that MacArthur would have addressed styles of worship more (the author favors more congregational singing without instrumental accompaniment). Given the rift between Covenantal and Dispensational camp, the fact that this work was by one who lean Covenantal in his theology is intriguing to me. Murray’s biography was overall charitable and saw the admirable thing about MacArthur was his high devotion to the Word and preaching the Word accurately. One thing I did like about this book is that it gave the background and a more complete story beyond just rumors and hearsay behind several important events that MacArthur was involved with (the famous Supreme court case concerning the “clergy malpractice,” the response to Packer and the ECT, Lordship controversy, Charistmatic Chaos, etc). One further appreciate MacArthur as an Evangelical leader from these snippets in the book. The other thing I appreciated about this book is that the book is as much about John MacArthur as it is about the men of God and family behind John MacArthur that made his ministry what it is. The author’s discussion of important and humble helpers throughout his life should remind the reader that MacArthur’s status as an Evangelical leader was not the result of a one man celebrity show. In fact, reading the biography one can’t help but to note how normal much of MacArthur’s life is at times. Here is where the readers need to acknowledge that whatever success MacArthur has in his in his ministry is really the result of God’s blessing. The wise men who are MacArthur’s advisers, editor, fellow elders and day to day men and women of his church with the hunger of God’s Word and sharing God’s Word used his materials and shared the products of his work to their friends and eventually all across the world. Many people around the world still benefit from his free sermons online and hearing him on the radio as the book make it clear going over several letters sent to the Grace to You program. I know this to be true in my own life as well, when as a fifteen year old unchurched atheist in a buddhist household, I started reading the Bible for the first time and listening to MacArthur and many other preachers on the radio that the LORD eventually used to save me a sinner, who now trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior from my sins. That is not to say that I can’t wait for a biography that’s more critical in it’s full evaluation years down the road when MacArthur is at home with the Lord (what are we to make of the Driscoll affair? should MacArthur throw down the gauntlet that every self-respecting calvinist should be premillennial? etc), something that is like John Muether’s biography evaluating Cornelius Van Til decades after his death. But this should not take away the legacy of this preacher and what he has contributed to the kingdom of God for all of eternity. I imagine that when MacArthur finally passes away, we will still be amazed at how many people have gotten saved, grown, discipled and challenged by this preacher and author. I know I am one of them. Read this book…don’t worship a man, but thank the Lord for a servant of His Word and flock.

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 Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

Reading this book by Iain Murray made me have to put the book down at times because I got angry.  I actually got angry reading this book, to read of the comprimise of the Evangelical faith that is documented in the book.  Particularly, the part about Billy Graham was by itself to upset anyone reader who respect him yet also have a high view of Biblical doctrines and the Evangelical faith.

This book has also been reviewed by someone here

This book is largely a narrative of the how Evangelicals have become wishy washy, particuarly in English circles.  It was sad to read Murray’s documentation of what Alister McGrath, Mark Noll and J. I. Packer has to say.  By time the book started talking about the Ecumenical movement, I was furious at how Evangelicals could be so naive at best and wolves in sheep’s clothings at it’s worst.

It is a reminder as I read this of how much it is important to walk in His Word and define what is a Christian not according to what others would want to hear but WHAT THE BIBLE says.

For those that do have a place in their heart for Evangelicals in England, this book is an essential read of one man’s perspective of the last fifty years.

I just wished the book went over more about Martin Lloyd-Jones.

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