For most of the last week, a number of folks have been chiming on John MacArthur’s critique of Darrin Patrick’s book, Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission. If you’ve been following it at all, MacArthur says that he was shocked by the following passage:
The man who is experiencing head confirmation [of his calling to pastoral ministry] is thoughtful about his own philosophy of ministry, his own ministry style, his own theological beliefs, his own unique gifts, abilities and desire. In short, there is uniqueness to the way he wants to do ministry. Unlike many young men who know much about what they are against and little about what they are for, the man who is experiencing head confirmation thinks through very carefully and deliberately, What am I for with my life and ministry? What are my specific burdens for the church? How can I best serve the church in these areas? (Church Planter, page 37, emphasis in original)
MacArthur’s take on this section is that Patrick is suggesting that “everything about one’s ministry (Patrick expressly includes “his own theological beliefs“) needs to be self-styled and individualistic” (source). What he suggests is that what this paragraph (and indeed the whole book) is calling for is a radical individualism.
Having read both the book and MacArthur’s concerns, I believe that his take is uncharitable at best, but I can understand how one could make this conclusion. However, my point is not to defend the book, nor is it to criticize John MacArthur, who is a godly man and a great Bible teacher.
What concerns me is something that caught my attention in the follow-up post on the Grace to You blog.
After rightly calling out those who have been (perhaps) overzealous in their responses to MacArthur’s critique as needing to be a little more thick-skinned and to remember that Scripture is our authority, the author writes the following:
John has more than fifty years of preaching faithfully, more than forty years in the same pulpit—don’t you think you ought to listen? Don’t despise the older generation; don’t dismiss their wisdom; don’t ignore their criticisms of you. Proverbs is full of wisdom like that: “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence” (Prov. 15:31-32; cf. 10:17;12:1; 13:18; 15:5).
Now here’s where I agree entirely. John MacArthur has been in ministry for a long time. He has a great deal of wisdom to offer, much of which is well worth heeding. Older men who have been in ministry can an invaluable resource to younger men and we would be foolish not to give them our ear.
That said, one’s experience does not make a man infallible. We are all subject to error and we must be careful to recognize this, especially when we comment on what we perceive to be the errors of others lest we fall into pride.
This is why the Apostle Peter in addressing both older pastors and younger men:
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you… (1 Peter 5-6)
Pride is an equal opportunity sin. It doesn’t discriminate against youth or experience. Any of us, whether because of the arrogance of youth or through the subtle danger of experience, can easily be ensnared by our pride if we’re not watchful. And the result is we look and act like this:
I don’t want my contemporaries to fall into that trap. I don’t want it for myself. And I don’t want it for those who are ahead of us in the race. God, help us, please.
(Video HT: Z)