Thursday, August 18, 2011
Just a Number
Recently, the sport of golf, traditionally thought of as an old man's game, has been taken over by youngbloods. This weekend, the PGA championship was won by 1986-born, Keegan Bradley. Just a few months ago, the best score ever recorded [by a healthy margin of 4 strokes!] at the US Open was shot by a 22 yr old. That was a truly remarkable accomplishment for someone in any year of life. But age is a funny thing, as we in the Church well know. Something I've been grappling with for some time, as a 'young' man pursuing the ministry, is the [pun intended] age-old question: when is a man too young to be a pastor? Here is a short list that might help provide some historic [and Reformed] perspective on that question:
Athenasius was 27 when he stood against the Arians at the first council of Nicaea; Ursinus and Olevianus were commissioned to produce the Heidelberg catechism at 28 and 26 resp; George Gillespie was called to the Westminster Assembly at 31; also called were John Bond , Peter Sterry , John Wallis [non-voting scribe at 28], Henry Wilkinson , Francis Woodcock , Archibald Johnston , and John Maitland -sent by the Scottish Covenenters to the Assembly at 28 [of course any of them may have been ordained at a younger age prior to this as well]; Joseph Caryl and William Greenhill, signers of the Savoy Declaration, were both not yet 30 when they began ministry; Jeremiah Burroughs was 31 when first appointed rector; John Whitgift, author of the Calvinistic Lambeth Articles, entered the chaplaincy at around 30; Heinrich Bullinger, primary author of the Second Helvetic Confession, began ministry at 24-25; John Calvin was ordained at 27 and within a year had published the first edition of his Institutes; Guido de Bres, author of the Belgic Confession, began his ministry at 30; Martin Bucer entered the chaplaincy at 30; Samuel Rutherford began his ministry ~ 27; Thomas Boston – licensed at 21, pastor at 23; Francis Turretin – pastor at 25; John Owen – ordained ~ 28; John Gill served as a pastoral intern at 21 and graduated to the full pastorate a year later; John Bunyan began preaching at 27; Franciscus Gomarus, who led the stand against Arminianism at the Synod of Dort, began pastoring at 24; Stephen Charnock - minister at 22; Peter Viret, known as "The Smile of the Reformation", said to have helped Calvin and two others author the Gallic [or French] Confession of Faith 1559, was called to preach at 20 by William Farel, who was himself ~ 30 when he joined the Cercle de Meaux, to help bring reform to the French church; Jonathan Edwards - called to the pastorate at 20; Benjamin Keach [Spurgeon's predecessor and one of the original seven Baptists to call for the General Assembly that lead to the London Baptist Confession of 1689] was called as pastor when 20; Melanchton was only 24 when he joined the Reformational fray by authoring his first two works in defense of Luther; John Willock [one of the 6 Johns responsible for authoring the Scots Confession] was about 27 when made chaplain to the Duke of Suffolk; John Row [another of the 6 Johns] was 25 when ordained as a minister; Thomas Cramner, primary author of the Book of Common Prayer, was appointed preacher at Jesus College before he turned 30; John Knox wasn't yet 30 when he famously guarded the pulpit of reformer, George Wishart, [himself within a year of the same age] with a giant two-handed sword; Richard Baxter – ordained at 23; Thomas Watson – pastor at 26; J.C. Ryle – ordained at 25; Abraham Booth was called to be a pastor while in his early 20's; Cotton Mather – full pastorate at 22; David Brainard – licensed and called at 25; George Whitefield – parish priest at 25; Asahel Nettleton – ordained at 28; Charles Wesley – ordained at 28; Henry Martyn began missions work in India at 25; AA Hodge did the same at 24; Charles G Finney began studying for the ministry at 29 [just checking to see if you’re still reading]; Andrew Fuller was a pastor at 21/22; J.L. Dagg, the first American Baptist theologian began pastoring at 31; William Carey – called at 24; Abraham Kuyper accepted a call at 27; Matthew Henry – called at 25; BB Warfield – called to the pastorate at 26 [though he refused]; Archibald Alexander - licensed at 19, ordained at 23; Charles Hodge – licensed at 23; Andrew Bonar - minister at 28; his brother Horatio was ordained at 29; RL Dabney - missionary at 26, pastor at 27; Spurgeon – ordained at 19; McCheyne – died at 29; Martin Lloyd Jones – called at 28; RJ Rushdoony - ordained at 28; JI Packer – ordained at 27; Francis Schaeffer – ordained at 27; In recent years, Ian Murray, entered the ministry at 24-25; R.C. Sproul – ordained as an elder at 26; and John MacArthur began the pastorate at Grace Community at 30. How many of your heroes are on this list?