A Spiritual Brotherhood

We need a spiritual brotherhood of brothers in the ministry, spread throughout the nation and the world.

There are many others ways in which “God does great things when ordinary ministers of the gospel are bound together as blood brothers, to live and die together.” If Gospel ministers would ask God to increase in their hearts and minds a desire to intentionally integrate themselves into such spiritual brotherhoods, I am certain that we would be encouraged and astonished by what great things God will do through them.

 

A number of years ago, Sinclair Ferguson made the observation that “the Puritan movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries…underlines for us the significance of spiritual brotherhood in the movements of the Holy Spirit.” The more we study the writings of the great pastors/theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the more we find a close interconnectedness–not to mention a mutual sharpening–that existed among the Puritan pastors/theologians. Perhaps, this has been one of the most overlooked aspects of the Puritan movement as a whole. In the same lecture in which he made that observation, Ferguson went on to make an application of that fact for pastoral ministry in our day. He suggested:

“We need a spiritual brotherhood of brothers in the ministry, spread throughout the nation and the world. Yes, one the spiritual father of another, and another the spiritual brother of another-no hierarchy, no formal supremacy, not seeking to establish their own kingdoms in this world, but bound together by the gospel to establish the kingdom of Jesus Christ in a world that is in such desperate need. I dare say that God ordinarily does great things when ordinary ministers of the gospel are bound together as blood brothers, to live and die together. Then God has in His hands the kind of vessels He is pleased to use as vessels of honor for his glory.”1

During my time in the pastoral ministry, I have certainly been on the receiving end of the blessing that comes from such an interconnectedness and collective brotherhood. The Lord has graciously surrounded me with some incredibly gifted, wise and godly ministers. While I can, in no objective way whatsoever, measure the end result of such friendships and ministerial fruit, I can observe tangible ways in which the Lord has used this spiritual brotherhood. Here are a few:

  1. The Impartation of Experiential Wisdom Through Counsel.There have been countless times when I have reached out to one of the ministers with whom I stay in contact on a regular or semi-regular basis in order to get counsel about a particular situation in which I find myself. I have also been on the receiving end of the request for counsel from one of these brothers. Just as Christians cannot live the Christian life without one another, Gospel ministers cannot carry out Gospel ministry with care and skill without the aid of other Gospel ministers. I can only imagine how many mistakes have been avoided on account of such mutual counsel. It almost always proves to be the case that when I am facing a particularly challenging pastoral case, one of the men with whom I stay in contact has already been through that same case–or some case that is similar in nature. The old adage about not reinventing the wheel holds true here. Why try to pull yourself through difficult situations without seeking counsel from those who have more biblical, practical and experiential experience than you have? This is one of the greatest benefits of a spiritual brotherhood between ministers.
  1. An excerpt from Sinclair Ferguson’s lecture “The Puritans: Can They Teach Us Anything Today?” delivered at the dedication of the Purtian Research Center at PRTS on October 20, 2005.

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