John Newton: Ministry on My MindAugust 12, 2009
“Ministry on my mind” by John Newton (Reviewer: Paul McFarland)
Over a period of 8 months, following a conversation with friends, John Newton found himself increasingly drawn to the work of the ministry. So for the six weeks which led up to his 33rd birthday (when he resolved he would make a decision) he wrote down some “miscellaneous thoughts” on the subject, which have come to be published in this 25 page booklet.
It is clear from the outset that Newton has a strong desire to enter the ministry, however he clearly has not yet made up his mind. As he looks through the various verses he remains confident that God has called him, while at the same time honestly tests himself against scripture, remaining suspicious of his own judgment. It is refreshing to see some of Newtons reasonings, fears and concerns about this weighty decision. He discusses his own weakness, general human weakness, the cost of taking up the call, the origin of the call, and the diligence required if he is to be faithful to the call.
He makes a clear case that the call of God is not something mystical, and in his writing it becomes apparent that he was already involved to some degree in speaking and discipling. However he also writes that it is not a matter of simply assessing/weighing up gifts in a calculated materialistic manner. He writes: “in many places the call to office seems to have been previous to the power necessary to execute it”. This provides him with the confidence to proceed in faith “for it is nowhere said, we may expect to possess strength today, suitable to the work and trial of tomorrow.”
In the end Newton is persuaded by scripture and conscience that the call is of God. He resolves to be faithful to God and His call, living in a manner appropriate to an ambassador of God and declaring the full truths of Christ.
No doubt these “miscellaneous thoughts” would have provided great comfort and strength to an older Newton looking back in times of distress, doubt or discouragement.
I would recommend this booklet to anyone considering entering the ministry (especially the pastorate). Both as a model and a challenge to take a balanced and critical look at what they might consider to be God’s call. I have found myself writing down notes on certain dates regarding different directions I have felt led, but nothing to the extent found in this booklet. As a result I have been challenged by Newton’s dedication and thoroughness, to put more of my rambling thoughts down on paper, hopefully allowing me to see them more clearly. I will treasure this little book.
(John Newton, Ministry on my mind: John Newton on entering pastoral ministry, transcribed Marylynn Rouse, Stratford-upon-Avon: The John Newton Project, 2008), ii+31 pages; ISBN: 978-0-9559635-0-6.)
Paul McFarland is a member of Ballymoney Baptist Church.