Your Christian temperament can be a blessing & a curse

My dad used to tell me (or was he warning me?) that a man’s greatest strength can also be his greatest weakness. Charles Bridges elucidates this axiom in the context of Christian ministry. The text is addressed to pastors but it’s extremely relevant for Christians in any walk of life:
We may here also refer to the influence of our Christian temperament upon the character of our Ministrations. It is natural, and under due regulation important, to carry the peculiar bias of our mind into our Ministry. Every man is formed to think, and speak, and write in a manner of his own; and he will be far more useful in preserving his own manner (improved by comparison with others, but never wholly forsaken), than by enslaving himself to some popular mode. But let it be known, watched, balanced. It has its evils as well as its advantages. A speculative mind is apt to speculate in sacred Ministration-to discuss subjects in a train of argumentation, which divests them of their heavenly unction and simplicity. An accomplished mind may be in danger, even in the evangelical field, of furnishing more food for the imagination than for the immortal soul. A doctrinal Preacher mainly confines his Ministration within his favorite chapters and class of subjects. An experimental Preacher, awakened by the terrors of the law, will imbue his preaching more with the character of alarm, than of tenderness. Or if he has been “drawn by the bands of love,” he may be led almost unconsciously to omit the “persuasive” influence of “the terror of the Lord.” A practical Preacher having seen the loose profession resulting from exclusive views of doctrine or experience, perhaps leaves his statements bare, or imperfectly connected with either. An applicatory Preacher may fail in giving clear and connected statements of doctrine. A discriminating Preacher may be in danger of perplexing his hearers with refined distinctions, drawn more immediately from his own spiritual exercises, than from the clear system of the word of God. A decided Preacher will need a deep tincture of humility, forbearance, and love; else his “zeal will be without knowledge,” and his labor prove the occasion of almost unqualified offense. It is therefore an important exercise of Ministerial wisdom, not to frame our preaching to the bias of our own mind, without great self-distrust, much earnest prayer, and a clear persuasion, that it embraces within its range, alike I the converted and the unconverted, and is equally calculated to awaken and to establish; to “add to the Church,” and to strengthen in the Church, “such as shall be saved.”
-Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry (Banner of Truth Trust, 2006 reprint), 308-09.

Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Lead pastor at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian, theological Luddite, and long-suffering Atlanta Falcons fan. A student of one book.

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