The Ideal Ministry 7/11

In Memory of the 100th anniversary of the death of P. T. Forsyth this year (2021), I will outline his eleven points in the chapter entitled ‘The Ideal Ministry’ (as printed in The British Congregationalist, 18th October, 1906), in the book Revelation Old and New.

7. The Ideal Ministry: Flexibility of Thought

An Ideal ministry must not only be positive in its gospel, it must be flexible in its thought. It must be capable of preparing a new theology for the old faith. It must learn how to express the old reality in terms of the new age. It must speak the word of God in the language of the time. It must not be “stupidly good.”

It must read the signs of society and the thought of civilisation. The ideal minister must not only ask with some severity, “Where am I?” He must also ask with great sympathy, “Where is the world?” “Where is my generation?” He must conceive his gospel on a world scale, not on the scale of his own associates, on the scale of Lord Acton for instance, and not Lord Halifax.

Again we come back to the necessity of realising, of letting many books go, of arresting our mental hurry, and forcing ourselves to take as much time as to appreciate. Do we realise what it means, for instance, when we say, or hear it said, that without Christianity, Theism falls, and without God civilisation falls, and we have final anarchy however long deferred? Do we think, do we grasp our faith in such a way that we really see how this is so? It is not enough to believe it, or say we do?

Do we see how it must be so? Do we convince people as they can only be convinced by men who really do see their rational way through the great statements they make? Do we know how to put our gospel to the world scale of the great world drama?

Is it not the case that the capable people of the age tend to regard the ministry as not so much wrong (I wish they gave us that attention), but negligible, sometimes silly, the pets of groups, or the idols of the crowd. Why is it so? Why do we not grasp those people? An ideal ministry should compel, on the one hand, more attention, and, on the other, more antagonism.

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