“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
By Revd Dr Mark Pickles
The mark of the hired hand is flight, the mark of the Under Shepherd following THE Good Shepherd is to give his life (in sacrificial service, not of course in redemptive sacrifice) for the flock to protect the flock from wolves, no matter how fierce a battle and how great a cost that entails.
John Piper, in his address at the Bethlehem Conference on the life and ministry of Charles Simeon, an Anglican minister in Cambridge in the 19th century, a person who exemplified more than most what faithful endurance in the face of prolonged and bitterly hostile opposition looked like, said:
‘One of the pervasive marks of our times is emotional fragility. I feel it is as though it hung in the air we breathe. We are easily hurt. We pout and mope easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. And our commitment to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened , and it seems we have little capacity for surviving and thriving in the fact of criticism and opposition.
‘A typical emotional response to trouble in the church is to think, “If that’s the way they feel about me, then they can find themselves another pastor.” We see very few models today whose lives spell out in flesh and blood the rugged words, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various trials” (James 1:3). And if you think that you are not a child of your times just test yourself to see how you respond in the ministry when people reject your ideas.”
Piper is right. Sometimes it is just easier to walk away than to stay and fight.
I fear that on of the consequences of the latent congregationalism that has influenced many Anglican evangelicals is that many ministers may take this to heart as regards the local congregation but have far less of a sense of commitment and obligation to the denomination. Again sometimes it is just easier to walk away than to stay and fight but what of the flock that are then left even more vulnerable to attack from wolves, who move then move into the space that has been vacated?”
A few years ago, ‘WWJD’ (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets were very common but as way of helping us explore this question, I want to ask instead ‘What Would Jeremiah Do?’
Right from the moment of his calling by God to be a prophet it was clear that Jeremiah’s ministry was going to be one of conflict, opposition and struggle:
“Behold I have put my words in your mouth. See I have you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant …And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar and bronze walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you , but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1:9-10, 18-19)
Jeremiah’s whole ministry is set within the context of disobedient, rebellious Judah whose kings, priests, officials and people persistently reject Jeremiah’s call to repent and turn back to God and his warning that the judgment of God is imminent and will common them if they do not repent.
Jeremiah has to endure great personal hostility and animosity directed against him: