Sunday, April 06, 2008


What makes a good minister? I don't know, but I have some ideas. These are not the only virtues required to be a good minister, but Im sure it counts for something.

Today I marked a trial service. On the panel was a minister with 40 odd years experience, a local preacher with over 50 years experience, a theology professor, a well recognized local preacher and me. As we gave feedback to the minister in training, our comments were shrugged off as "old-fashioned", "out of date" and "not where modern people are". And so I thought: A sign of a good minister, no, let's go further, a good human being is to adopt a teachable attitude.

I had to learn this the hard way. Coming into the ministry I wanted to change the world and wanted to get the "training" out of the way as soon as possible so that I could get on with business. Then I worked in Ventersdorp, Soweto and the streets of Johannesburg and slowly discovered that the world didn't fit into my pocket. I met Tim Attwell, who although is a library on legs, is always willing to listen and able to express appreciation for perspectives other than his own. I remember sitting next to my friend Rory Dalgliesh at the Synod which recommended us to be ordained. Rory knew my journey. I turned to him and said "I don't know if I am ready to be ordained." I'll never forget his words. He said "Wes, at the start of your journey when you wanted to save the world you weren't, but now you are".

I know I am not always teachable, and I pray that people will point out when I build my kingdom based on my own arrogance. But I felt cheated today. I might as well have stayed in bed, because this was not a learning experience for this person. It was just another hurdle on the road to ordination.

To be a good minister, one needs to be teachable. If you aren't, you can't listen. If you can't listen, you can't serve.


digitaldion (Dion Forster) said...

Hey Wes, I know what you mean. I have experienced a few things worse than not being willing to learn in my years of training ministers... One of them is persons who do not love Jesus, people who have low morals, or those who just abuse the Church, and then blame everything and everyone else when they have to face the consequences...

Don't let this stuff get you down. It got to me far too often...

You're a gift!

Hope Matt is feeling better, and know my prayers are with you tomorrow!


PS. Tomorrow I will start a new 'learning curve' of my own. I am a little nervous. I got quite comfortable with knowing how to do the things I did, now, I feel that I know nothing and will have to learn it all from scratch...

Steven Jones said...

Hi Wessel

I've been under the whip a bit the last few weeks, and as a result have been quiet in the blogosphere. But as the man who believed he was abducted by aliens in "Independence Day" said at the end of the movie, "I'm Baaaaack!"

On a serious note, I was on the receiving end of the trial service markers, having done my second trial service as a candidate this past Sunday. And one thing that I realise is that when these panels comprise over 100 years of combined preaching experience, compared to me not yet having 100 weeks under the belt, maybe - just maybe - they know a little bit more than me about how things should be done!

So just as a husband should always have the last say in the house (yes, dear), so an "appie" minister should also have the last say in his trial service evaluation (yes, Sir / Ma'am).

As for your comments being regarded as "old fashioned, out of date, and not where modern people are", perhaps we need a little bit MORE "old-fashioned, out of date" values in our lives rather than trying to bend our ways to "where modern people are" all the time.

As an accountant who started his training 18 years ago, I still find that there is much to learn. When I was doing articles, I was completely useless in my first year, not much better by the time I got to my third, and only started becoming useful when I was in my fifth. Given that probation for ministry is for a similar period of time, I can only assume that the same process of "gradually diminishing uselessness" applies.

It is also true that while I developed my own "style" once I had qualified as an accountant, I still needed to learn from those who had gone before. There are rules that need to be learnt and stuck to, no matter what. I also thought that writing up books manually was "old-fashioned, out of date, and not where modern accountants are" in the age of computerised accounting systems, but it was nearly 15 years later when a computerised accounting system crashed in the most spectacular fashion that I was able to sort things out - by going back to the old, manual "T-accounts" and reconstructing what the entries SHOULD have been while the newly-qualified guys looked at me as though I was some sort of magician.

And when I hear one of our Local Preachers (who has been on full plan since 1950) read Scripture as though it is God Himself speaking those words, I might just be able to learn something from him. Almost all the ministers who have had a significant influence on my life, and have given me much-needed guidance and inspiration during my fledgeling ministry were all ordained while I was still in nappies (I am now nearly 39).

These "old fashioned" ministers are still in love with their wives after 40 years of marriage. If faithfulness, integrity, and steadfastness to God's Word is being "out of date", I want to know where I can sign up. If being "not where modern people are" means not compromising on the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, then that's the kind of minister I want to be.

Wessel, take it from someone who is still in "early days" in this wonderful calling called ministry - if you are being accused of being "old fashioned, out of date, and not where modern people are", you must be doing something right!

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