When I was a kid growing up in church, it seemed to me that the pastor of the church was the main one doing the work. Of course, there were Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, ushers, and other volunteer workers, but everyone expected the pastor to do all the “pastoral work” in the church. Somewhere during my life, there was a transition to the emphasis on “every member a minister” where the pastor(s) of a church were responsible for equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.
Why this brief history lesson? When you read our book of the month for October, Words to Winners of Souls, you will notice that his message seems to be written directly to pastors of churches. They were the ones who were doing the “soul-winning” in the church. Bonar lived and ministered during the nineteenth century in Scotland. So the message of this little book was directed at the pastors. But in our time, this is a message that every believer needs to hear since we are all expected to be winners of souls.
What does he have to say to us? Plenty. It’s less than 80 pages long, but Bonar challenges you to think about your life and your priorities. Everyone should be evaluating their work in the church by the standard of how our efforts are helping the lost to be won to Christ, and the saved to grow in Christ. Bonar states, “If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry is in vain.”
In the second chapter, “The Minister’s True Life and Walk” Bonar takes aim at how we live our life. He gives you a lot to think about when it comes to your devotional life. Do you spend quality time with the Lord, in His Word and in prayer? Or, do you just try to fit it in somewhere? “A ministry of power must be the fruit of a holy, peaceful, loving intimacy with the Lord.” If we are to have success in our ministry, it will depend “on the holiness of our life, the consistency of our character, the heavenliness of our walk and conversation” (meaning, the way we live).
The fourth chapter is the longest, and it deserves a slow and careful reading. Several pages are devoted to the words of a document of confession of ministers in the Church of Scotland in the seventeenth century. They are full of short confessions of failure in the work of the ministry. You would do well to underline those where you yourself fall short. If you’re like me, there will be way too many! It’s a chapter that would profit us to read often as a reminder of our responsibility to be obedient to our Lord and Savior. Here’s a sample:
- Abusing of time in frequent recreation and pastimes and loving our pleasures more than God
- Not improving in prayer and fellowship with God
- Exceeding great selfishness in all that we do
- Speaking of Christ more by hearsay than from knowledge and experience
Bonar concludes the chapter with more than a dozen statements of which we may be guilty, at least some of the time if not much. Things like being lazy, unspiritual, cold, and selfish. And the list goes on. It will make you think.