There are not enough good pastoral role models. It’s true. Oh, there are some good ones out there, and many of them have quite a following among the collegians, seminarians, and young pastors who find them. But it’s unfortunate there are not more good pastoral role models, or perhaps better, more role models who have the ability (or platform) to influence younger ministers. Many of the godly role models out there are laboring in small churches in sometimes obscure locales. Because these brothers do not write books, speak at all the prominent conferences, and preach in seminary chapel services, aspiring and less experienced pastors are unable to benefit from their wisdom and influence.
Because of this vaccuum, many younger (and seasoned) ministers turn to the examples of faithful pastors from bygone days. This is possible because of the faithful ministry of publishers committed to reprinting works of historical import (e.g. Banner of Truth, Particular Baptist Press) and the growing number of resources available on the internet. Resources like, Lord willing, this very weblog!
I believe contemporary pastors can learn much from the life of Andrew Fuller. My friend and fellow contributor, Paul Brewster, has written a much-lauded dissertation on Fuller’s pastoral theology, and many of us expect to see a published version of that work in the next two or three years. Of course there is the forthcoming multi-volume Andrew Fuller Works project, as well as other versions of Fuller’s writings available through Sprinkle Publications or, more recently, Banner of Truth.
This is what one notable biographer says about Fuller’s pastoral priorities:
Thus he prosecuted his pastoral and ministerial work, most grateful and joyous when he had experienced “a good time” in preaching or in prayer, and most deeply dejected when he had felt no “tenderness of heart” in conducting the public services. He was a constant visitor, especially at the houses of the poorer members of his church, and acknowledged that he gained much good from the practice. The griefs and sorrows of his people became his own, and he entered into their joys with all his heart. Knowing that the success of his work depended in no small measure upon his own spirituality, he hungered and thirsted after righteousness. Every hour of the day the care of the church was upon him. He thought but little of popularity, but earnestly desired to accomplish great things for the glory of God.
[Andrew Gunton Fuller, Men Worth Remembering: Andrew Fuller (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), pp.57-58, available online here.]
What a contrast to what we too often see in today’s pulpits. In a day of CEO pastors, virtually prayerless ministries, never-ending church growth seminars, and the proliferation of what some have called our “therapeutic culture,” Fuller’s model of simple, Christ-centered faithfulness resonates with those longing to find a better–and more biblical–approach to pastoral ministry. May we all benefit from his example and the examples of countless others, whether they be other historical role models, contemporary pastors laboring in those fields deemed less “strategic” by wordly standards, or even those dozen or so “Reformed Rock Stars” to whom so many in my generation rightly look for pastoral wisdom.