Lessons for ministry from the life of Thomas Boston #1 – preparation for ministry


I’ve always had an interest in the life of Thomas Boston who was born in Duns, just 24 miles from where I grew up in Melrose.  His ministry in Ettrick, which began in 1707, must have influenced the culture of the Borders when I was growing up 260 years later.  The Borders region was, until recently, a very settled community and Boston led a local revival there and wrote his seminal work “Human Nature in its Fourfold State” which is still in print today.

His biography, by Andrew Thomson, was written over 100 years ago and has many useful insights for ministers today.  This week I’ll blog on five lessons I’ve learned from Thomas Boston: His Life and Times.

Lesson #1 – God prepares ministers in advance for the work of the pastor.

When he was 15 years old, Boston went to University in Edinburgh, completed his three year general undergraduate degree then went on to do a fourth year, specialising in theology.  He moved to Kennet in Clackmannanshire to be a tutor and there, aged 19, learned lots about the care of souls.  Boston writes:

I am convinced that God sent me to Kennet in order to prepare me for the work of the gospel for which he had designed me; for there I learned in some measure what it was to have the charge of souls; and being naturally bashful, timorous, and much subject to the fear of man, I attained, by what I met with there, to some boldness and not regarding the persons of men when out of God’s way.  There I learned that God will countenance one in the faithful discharge of his duty, though it be not attended with the desired success; and that plain dealing will impress an awe on the party’s conscience, though their corruption still rages against him that so deals with them.

I spent six years in Asia and I am convinced that God was preparing me to minister in a multicultural place and they don’t come much more multicultural than West Bromwich.  I also learned my own personal limits and the road to burnout.  It is good to be reminded that “God will countenance one in the faithful discharge of his duty, though it be not attended with the desired success.”  My ministry here is not about “success” but faithfulness discharged to the best of my abilities whilst walking close to Christ my rock and my salvation.

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