God’s people, notice that what makes John Bunyan so attractive as a minister is his love for the Lord and his love for fellow brothers and sisters. Make certain that your affections are set on Christ. Love the people of your local church too, knowing that the Lord is producing within you all an eternal weight of glory together. And, should you find that you have a pastor like Bunyan, then here is what you must do: Pray for him, praise the Lord for him, and boast in Jesus Christ, who is the true Shepherd and overseer of all His elect.
The life of John Bunyan proves, perhaps more than any other, that God indeed does not call the equipped, but rather equips the called. Bunyan understood the great grace he had been gifted in Christ, and he was eager to use every moment and every ounce of strength to preach this same gospel to others.
Learning to Love the Communion of the Saints
While one may find many pastors who love the Lord, it is an unusual blessedness to find a pastor who loves his congregation as well. It was just as difficult in Bunyan’s day to find true worshipers of God who loved the Lord and the people of God, likewise.
Bunyan, however, was a man who loved both the Lord and His Church. This love for Christ’s Bride allowed him to be effective in communicating Gospel truths. Since he truly loved the people he spoke to and wrote to, his great desire was to be plainly understood, rather than to be thought a great orator.
This love for God’s people was taught to him in some profound ways, as he relates within his autobiography about one day being encountered by women speaking of spiritual matters who belonged to the Bedford congregation he would soon join:
But upon a day, the good providence of God called me to Bedford, to work on my calling; and in one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door, in the sun, talking about the things of God; and being now willing to hear them discourse, I drew near to hear what they said, for I was now a brisk talker also myself, in the matters of religion; but I may say, I heard but understood not; for they were far above, out of my reach. Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; they talked how God had visited their souls with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported, against the temptations of the devil: moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular; and told to each other, by which they had been afflicted and how they were borne up under his assaults. They also discoursed of their own wretchedness of heart, and of their unbelief; and did contemn, slight and abhor their own righteousness, as filthy, and insufficient to do them any good.
… And, methought, they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me, as if they had found a new world; as if they were people that dwelt alone, and were not to be reckoned among their neighbours. Numb. xxiii. 9.
Bunyan recognized within those women something he had been missing: joy. He also recognized where the source of the joy he found within these women originated: Christ. These ladies had been drawn to Christ in salvation and had come to find their own wretched, miserable condition, and the perfect blessedness of Christ. It was from this river of joy that their words rushed forth.
The impact of this encounter upon Bunyan was striking. As he would soon discover, these women were members of the Bedford Free Church, which he would eventually join. A few years later, persecution would come against both himself and the church, but it was this first encounter with these women that would cause him to fall in love, not only with theology, but with the Lord and the fellowship of His people.
It has been often stated that doxology will never rise higher than theology. The two are always intrinsically linked. But, let it also be said that a pastor’s success in pastoring the flock entrusted to his care will never rise higher than the love, devotion, and care that he shows to that flock.