The Necessity of Pastors Growing to Spiritual Maturity

Some years ago I read the following remarkable passage from Charles Finney’s Lectures on Revivals of Religion in a church staff meeting from the lecture entitled, “On Being Filled with the Spirit.” The whole passage still bears being quoted in full, and being known to each Bible college and seminary graduate. In it Finney was speaking of one of the effects of being filled with the Holy Spirit:

“You will be often grieved with the state of the ministry.”

“Some years since I met a woman belonging to one of the Churches in this city. I inquired of her the state of religion here. She seemed unwilling to say much about it, made some general remarks, and then choked, and her eyes filled, and she said: "Oh, our minister’s mind seems to be very dark!" Spiritual Christians often feel like this, and often weep over it. I have seen much of it, having often found Christians who wept and groaned in secret, to see the darkness in the minds of ministers in regard to religion, the earthliness, and fear of man; but they dared not speak of it lest they should be denounced and threatened, and perhaps turned out of the Church. I do not say these things censoriously, to reproach my brethren, but because they are true. And ministers ought to know that nothing is more common than for spiritual Christians to feel burdened and distressed at the state of the ministry. I would not wake up any wrong feelings towards ministers, but it is time it should be known that Christians do often get spiritual views of things, and their souls are kindled up, and then they find that their minister does not enter into their feelings, that he is far below the Standard of what he ought to be, and in spirituality is far below some of the members of his Church.”

“This is one of the most prominent and deeply-to-be-deplored evils of the present day. The piety of the ministry, though real, is so superficial, in many instances, that the spiritual people of the Church feel that ministers do not, cannot, sympathize with them, The preaching does not meet their wants; it does not feed them. The ministers have not depth enough of religious experience to know how to search and wake up the Church; how to help those under temptation, to support the weak, to direct the strong.”

When a minister has gone with a Church as far as his experience in spiritual exercises goes, there he stops; and until he has a renewed experience, until he is reconverted, his heart broken up afresh, and he set forward in the Divine life and Christian experience, he will help them no more. He may preach sound doctrine, and so may an unconverted minister; but, after all, his preaching will want that searching pungency, that practical bearing, that unction which alone will reach the case of a spiritually minded Christian. It is a fact over which the Church is groaning, that the piety of young men suffers so much in the course of their education, that when they enter the ministry, however much intellectual furniture they may possess, they are in a state of spiritual babyhood. They want nursing; they need rather to be fed, than to undertake to feed the Church of God.”

It’s my hope that Finney’s words will be taken seriously; they were not offered then nor now out of any sense of spiritual superiority to anyone, but as an incentive for anyone who is now serving, plans to serve or has served as a pastor to go forward with God, to spend time in his Word and prayer and make sure that each sermon has been preached to oneself first and foremost and each prayer is offered seriously in reverent conversation with the God who is there, that each request offered in prayer is asked with serious desire for it to be answered, and that each person who seeks the help of a pastor may find someone who has sufficient spiritual strength and love to help bear the burdens to Christ.

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