25 September 2014

You Must Die

William Still was pastor of Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen for over 50 years and was a friend and mentor to many who spent time studying in Scotland, such as Phil Ryken, Sinclair Ferguson, and my own dad. Rev. Still died in 1997, just a few months after leaving the pulpit.

Toward the end of his book The Work of the Pastor he lists five crucial "touchstones" for those who believe they are called to pastoral ministry. Four of them are: (1) know Christ at a deep personal level; (2) be sure of your call; (3) be patient and wait for the right timing and appointment in God's own good time; and (4) don't do it alone but rather be sure you are prayed into your place by other Christians.

The fifth is, to me, the most arresting, and I suspect the most needed today by a rising generation of young men wondering if they should enter the ministry. But while it applies uniquely to pastors, I believe what William Still says applies to all believers, and must be heard by us all. You don't find this in today's leadership books, even those by evangelical leaders.

Here are his words:
Fifthly--and most important of all--in your personal, intimate, up-to-date knowledge of Christ, secure in His calling, anchored, rooted to your right place, you must in fact die at the stake to all you are in yourself, bad and good.

Do not forget that while Jesus died with all our badness to take it away, He had to die to all the good He could have been and could have done in a long earthly life, in order that He might die with our badness. It is this, I am sure, that most, even perhaps the best-equipped ministers, find themselves not brave enough to rise to, or rather to get down to. We must die a total death to self. . . . We are to hand ourselves over to God like a defeated soldier surrendering arms--a living sacrifice. Far harder to live for Him a living death than to die for Him a death which is an escape or exodus.

If you ask why I rub this in, and make it seem so painfully hard, I answer, because I cannot make it sound too hard. It is far worse to do than you may have dreamed of. Many young ministers have come to me a year or two after they have been out in the ministry, having sought to put what they have learned into practice, and they have had a new respect for the hard things they were taught. This is a radical business. It is literally (no metaphor) a matter of life and death.

Let us put it in electrical terms. You have to die a total death to self to let the current of God's power through to others. . . . I know to my very great, sore, deadly, heartbreaking, agonizing cost, that the Word will never come through someone living. That person must be dead. (If you knew what deaths I have had to die to be here at all!) In fact, if we are not one hundred percent "with it," that is, with God in what He is doing through us, we are beating the air, wasting our breath, working for mere wages, with no product whatsoever for our pains. 
--William Still, The Work of the Pastor (Fearn, Scot.: Christian Focus, 2010), 121-23

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