A Model of Pastoral Ministry

A Role Model

Question: Who has been a leadership role model for you (outside of Biblical characters) and what have you learned from him/her?

Answer: The leadership role model who has done the most to shape my ministry is Richard Baxter. Richard Baxter was a pastor in the 1600’s who served a local church in Kidderminster, England. He was much admired as a pastor by the Wesleys.

“John Wesley’s father Samuel, once a nonconformist wrote: ‘I wish I had [The Reformed Pastor] again: Directions to the clergy for the management of their people which I lost when my house was last burnt… [Baxter] had a strange pathos and fire.’”

“John [Wesley] himself told the Methodist Conference: ‘Every travelling preacher must instruct them from house to house… Can we find a better method of doing this than Mr. Baxter’s? If not, let us adopt it without delay. His whole tract entitled The Reformed Pastor, is well worth a capable perusal.’ On another occasion he challenged his preachers: ‘Who visits the people on Mr. Baxter’s method?’”

“Charles Wesley and William Grimshaw of Haworth conversing together agreed that preachers should ‘visit from house to house, after Mr. Baxter’s manner.’”[1]

A Living Example

Baxter was a living example of all he wrote in his book, The Reformed Pastor. By “reformed,” Baxter meant “revived.” His book was originally written to clergy in his area and appealed to them to rediscover their calling as shepherds of souls – to really care for their flocks as Christ loved the church. The book is moving and was used of God to pour conviction on my soul as a pastor. However, mere words often fall flat. There must be a life behind those words that matches their eloquence. His was such a life.

Baxter was known throughout England as a godly man. He sought to live a life that was above reproach and one that could never be attacked as hypocritical. Like Wesley would a century later, Baxter lived a modest life because it was more important for him to give his money to the poor, as well as to purchase books and Bibles for them.

Loving Pastor

He truly loved his flock at Kidderminster. He developed the practice of visiting every family in his church at least once a year at their home (over 2,000 people). There he would pray with them, make sure they knew the life-transforming truths of the faith, and see about any areas of their lives in which they needed help. He did not then leave them, go home, and forget about them. They were continually on his heart.

His preaching and teaching concentrated on the essentials of Christian doctrine and holy living. He did not have time for those who focused only on divisive and nonessential matters. His view was that life was too short for such things.

His Impact on My Ministry

These are some aspects of his life and teaching that have impacted mine. Though my ministry falls short of his, humanly speaking, it is my goal. I have tried to develop a ministry that ministers to the deepest needs of those entrusted to my care. I want to create a warm and friendly environment where folks can share their hopes, joys, fears and struggles with me. Throughout my years of teaching, I have attempted to concentrate on those things that matter most, those things of eternal significance, such as knowing God and his Word, living holy lives, and bearing witness to Christ as salt and light in every sphere of life. Baxter has helped me expand my view of ministry.

How does this relate to leadership? Well, Baxter modeled what he taught. God has been unfolding before me the idea that our lives must be lived with profound consistency. If I say something from the pulpit, in a Bible study, or in a one-on-one discipleship experience, and then live in a way that is inconsistent with what I’ve said, then I have demonstrated poor leadership indeed. Why? Because my hypocritical words will soon begin to fall on deaf ears, and rightly so. Leadership must be regularly and consistently lived and modeled before those one is leading, and that is one of the most important things I have learned from Richard Baxter.

[1] From J.I. Packer’s Introduction to The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter. Page 15.