By Elizabeth Prata
Sproul has passed on, Piper’s retired, JMac is aging, and Steve Lawson isn’t far behind. Voddie is getting there, and Washer had a heart attack. I frequently hear, “Where is the upcoming crop of pastors? Where are the next faithful men of God? What will we doooo?”
First, God never leaves us without a remnant. Elijah asked the same questions. God assured Him that 7000 had not bent their knee to Baal. No matter how it looks to us, God is always working and He has raised up or is raising up men of His own heart. All the time, everywhere.
Secondly, we are blessed with internet and opportunity to hear podcasts, streaming, Zoom and other methods of receiving Christian material from these more well known pastors. I love John MacArthur, he became a favorite along with Adrian Rogers, in my earliest walk. After leaving Joel Osteen behind! That’s the downside of so much availability online, false teachers abound. Web broadcast ministries also make it look like there are only a few good pastors out there. It highlights them to the good, but also shrinks our perspective.
Nationally visible preachers are not our own pastors. Celebrate them.
Third, here is some encouragement and comfort. If I may remind myself and all of us, that God has salted the world with hundreds and thousands of praying, preaching men. Godly pastors abound. They are doing what the Bible commands- feeding the sheep. I am personally blessed with four elders who are committed to teaching and preaching the straight word of God, who feed us faithfully every week, who labor visibly and invisibly, who pray, and who love. They are busy raising up and discipling younger men. They work with men and couples who leave to go on mission, or are sent by God as seeds for other ministries. They committed to being a sending church, and God has honored that commitment.
Now here: I follow a 70-something Tennessee pastor who has labored for 50 years, 45 of them in the same church. His name is James Bell. Over time he has raised up men, endured splits, turned to the Doctrines of Grace, counseled couples, reformed the church from deacon-led to elder-led, started a Christian school, preached and preached and preached. He has gotten with the times and used all means available to get the Word out there, including Youtube, Facebook, email newsletters and more.
Recently one of his congregants interviewed him about his long ministry. Their wide-ranging discussion is below. Pastor Bell offered perspective on his highs and lows, advice for younger pastors, retirement, and much more.
This was so encouraging. The responses were filled with grace and humility, a mark of decades of submission to the Lord and His word. May the Lord continue to bless this Pastor and all the others like him, laboring in corners of the map in submission to the command of God to feed His sheep.
Take heart. There are many pastors ‘out there’ who love Jesus and have not fallen. They are working hard, as under-shepherds for the One Shepherd, loving and preaching and laboring without fame and many times without notice. We may not know who they are, but they are there. Never fear, more than a remnant is here. Please be encouraged by the conversation below, and below that, a resource along these same lines.
Experience and Wisdom from 50+ Years of Pastoral Ministry – An Interview with Bro. James Bell
Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson – by D. A. Carson, book.
Review of “Memoirs” by my own pastor: “For me, a young and very ordinary pastor of a small church, this book was at times not just moving but almost overwhelming. This book focuses on the faithfulness of a pastor who, if it for his son Don Carson, would be utterly forgotten by this world. And it is in this theme that the book has its special power. It is one thing to read about the Spurgeons and Whitefields of church history, but it is often hard to relate to them without feeling somewhat discouraged about ourselves. In ‘Memoirs’, Don Carson has given us someone we can relate to in terms of the seeming insignificance of his ministry. Yet to hear of Tom Caron’s tears and prayers and burdens and discouragements is a powerful reminder that most of God’s work in the world is carried out through ordinary saints…like us.”