Lessons for ministry from the life of Thomas Boston #3 – time and scale in ministry


This is the third in a series of five posts on lessons for ministry from the life and times of Thomas Boston.

Lesson #3 – it takes time to turn a whole parish to Christ.

Boston’s first “placement” was in a tiny village near Coldstream in the Scottish Borders, Simprin was home to only 70 adults.  The place was a spiritual desert and it took seven years to turn the place to Christ.

It was reasonable that one of his earliest measures should be the visitation of every household in his parish, not only that he might endeavour to win the confidence of his people in his good intentions, and that they might be convinced of his earnestness of purpose, but that he might ascertain for himself the amount of their Christian knowledge and their general moral and religious condition.  The diagnosis was disappointing and saddening.  The whole truth had not been told him.  Their ignorance was such that they needed to be instructed in the simplest elements of divine truth, and their indifference to everything spiritual and heavenly was proportion to their ignorance.  Their thoughts were bounded by the ploughing of their fields, the sowing of their seeds, and the gathering of their crops, in the circle of the seasons.  Two facts revealed much.  In all that parish, with its seventy ‘examinable’ persons, he could find only one house in which there was the observance of family worship. …We are now to see what it became under his ministry, and by what means, in the following seven years.

The small parish, by modern standards, where I am minister, has around 3000 souls and the distraction of TV instead of growing things.  How will it be turned to Christ in seven years?  I’m two years in and am just scratching the surface.  A buzz word I’ve picked up from the entrepreneurs on “The Dragon’s Den” is for anything we do to be “scalable”.  It must be easily replicable.  This is the theory behind our small groups.  Time will tell if the gospel can have the same effect here as in Simprin.  It might take a little more than seven years to see all houses in the parish having daily devotions.

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