Today I sat down and re-read the 1900 Fulton Confession of Faith. It is a hobby of mine to read (and re-read) from our ministers of yesteryear and Baptist history in general. The Primitive Baptist Church of Jesus Christ has a rich heritage that I hope all of it’s members appreciate. The Fulton Confession of Faith is essentially the 1689 London confession of faith with an added preface, general address, footnotes and appendix. I have read it before, and spot read sections multiple times, but a portion of the general address especially convicted me upon reading it today. It is section 7 of the general address. Section 7 discusses the support of the ministry, and more specifically in connection with my conviction, the work of both pastor and evangelist. Below is the section of the confession that has occupied my mind for most of the day. I have italicized and emboldened certain portions for added emphasis.
Begin Quote: “7. The Care and Encouragement and Duties of the Ministry is a subject of too great magnitude to be passed by lightly. It is very thoroughly [covered], however, in the London Confession of Faith, approved by this convention. We most earnestly request a careful study of the subject in that document (read Confession, Chapter XXVI., Section 10. See also Minutes of Black Rock Convention.) It was evidently the belief of our London brethren, supported by the Holy Scriptures, that ministers of the Word should give their entire time, energy, and talent to their ministry, and the brethren should divide with them a sufficient portion of their living to keep them and their families who are not capable of self support above want. It is a positive fact that our appreciation of any object is increased by the amount of care and labor we bestow upon it. It is natural for a mother to love her babe, but as she cares for it from day to day the intensity of her affection increases. A father and mother may take a child not their own to rear, and at first feel a slight indifference, but nights of watchful solicitude and days of toil and care will render that child so dear that they with difficulty distinguish it from their own children. So a church that cares for her pastor loves him better and appreciates his service more than one that does not. There is a holy relation between pastor and evangelist that should not be ignored. The pastor should welcome the evangelist and his labor and show him due courtesy and consideration. In return the evangelist should remember that it is the pastor’s duty and privilege to preside over the church and administer its ordinances. No evangelist should assume to administer any ordinance in the church when the pastor is present unless he is specially requested to do so by the church and pastor. The work of an evangelist is indispensable. Without such work the gospel kingdom would be extended no farther, as it is the chief work of an evangelist to introduce the gospel where it is not known. And to organize churches there should be no lack of appreciation of either pastor or evangelist, as both are indispensable in the upbuilding and progress of the church and authorized by the Word of God. (See Ephesians 4:11.) If the claim of Primitive Baptists be true, no one has access to baptism, the elements in the Lord’s Supper, or any other gospel privilege where there is no Primitive Baptist church or ministry. In view of the vast territory in our own country that is absolutely ignorant of Primitive Baptist doctrine, and therefore totally destitute of church privileges, and as the redeemed of the Lord are among every nation, kindred, tongue, and people under heaven (Rev. 5:9) we behold the great necessity of stirring our people up on this subject.
This clearly demonstrates that we claim too much or do too little. We earnestly solicit our people to encourage the work of an evangelist. Not to spend his time in visiting large and well-organized churches, but to labor with the feeble and destitute churches and in places where there is no church. The churches should lovingly, freely, and faithfully contribute of their carnal means as God has blessed them to the support of brethren engaged in this needful work. We would not be understood to regard that there are degrees in the ministry, but different lines of work in the same office.
It is the special duty of the deacons to superintend the financial interest of the church. They should have control of the church treasury and expend it in serving tables. First, the table of the Lord. Secondly, the table of the poor. Thirdly, the table of elders that labor for them. They should receive the donations from the brethren and keep a correct account of same and report to the church, that it may know who are bearing the burdens of the church. The object of the deacons is to equalize the burdens of the churches. (See Practical Suggestions to Primitive Baptists, by Elder Cash.)” End Quote
How convicting! A few thoughts I would like you to consider from the portions emphasized in the above quote. First, the above quote rightly defined the gift of evangelism as to introduce the gospel where it is not known. Though it is true that some men have the gift, and grace, to travel great distances to preach the gospel to different churches, the actual gift of evangelism involves taking the gospel where it had not previously been, or to a person who had not previously heard. Secondly, we as humans, and preachers, naturally tend toward the larger congregations and more well known meetings. Yet the above writer so able makes the point that our efforts would often be better spent attending to the smaller congregations that are in need of help and encouragement, as well as other areas where there is no church at all. It is most certainly not sinful, or wrong, to attend the larger meetings. I have been enriched often by such events. But am I expending myself to the service of God or am I seeking benefits for self. If we are honest with ourselves, we can often turn church events into “proms and parties” while losing site of the true reason that we are gathering to worship. Rather than seeking either national influence or hedonistic driven worship, our focus should be the true Biblical mindset of desiring glory to God, and through that desire, the furtherance of his kingdom. Again, this is not to say that all well known annual events are bad, but the above quote should leave all of us asking Lord, is it I? Lastly, may it never be said of us that we claim too much or do too little. May God grant us all a servants heart with a Biblical, kingdom perspective.
Originally published May 2015