Middle school was a crisis time for me. Bespeckled with Coke-bottle frames and sporting braces and a bowl-haircut, I was the poster-child for the socially awkward.
What I longed for as a shy, self-conscious seventh grader was the proverbial “friend who sticks closer than a brother”—an encourager and advocate, someone who could speak comfort and counsel to my preteen circumstances and spirit. Happily, God provided several such relationships for my tender heart.
But for many pastors, ministerial peers and close comrades at arms are rare and fleeting. Many toil long years with no one other than their spouses to say, “I know what you are going through.”
If you find yourself in that situation or even if not, let me commend to you some good friends of mine, the Puritans. Yes, the Puritans—the people whose very name evokes images of prudish zealots, branding scarlet letters on all they deemed deviant.
This unhistorical, erroneous portrayal is most unfortunate. Indeed, a pastor will not find more valuable “tools” for his work in the ministry than the writings of these long dead, but still relevant, men of God.
Need accountability and instruction in pastoral ministry? Obtain a copy of Richard Baxter’s Reformed Pastor. His humble example of investing in the life of his flock will inspire and edify.
Need to appreciate your own conversion and call to suffer for Christ? Consider the life and writings of John Bunyan. Challenge yourself, as I have with my students in the past, to write your spiritual autobiography in the style of Bunyan’s classic, A Pilgrim’s Progress.
Need proof and prompting to rely more on Christ’s power and sufficiency? Peruse Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed. When we are tempted to toil in our own power, we can read Sibbesian admonitions such as, “How many good purposes stick in the birth and have no strength to come forth! all which shews how nothing we are without the Spirit of Christ.”
Need an encouragement in your prayer life? Try Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers. These anonymous entreaties guide us to exalt God in His greatness and grace, all the while understanding more shockingly the depravity of our own hearts.
Need a challenge to think more deeply about the immensity of God’s provision of salvation? Spend some time in the works of John Owen, perhaps the greatest Puritan theologian.
Need to be spurred to impact your world for Christ? Study someone like Cotton Mather, who set a moral tone for his nation.
Need to find an example in the faithful proclamation of the Word? Read the sermons of any of the Puritans, or even people in the Puritan tradition, like Spurgeon. Read their biographies, and witness first hand their commitment, sacrifice, godliness, and faithfulness to God’s call on their lives.
Sure, to engage the Puritans, you will need to arm yourself with a thesaurus, as well as time to digest their rather intense and intricate prose.
But I assure you it is worth the effort. You will not find a better lifelong companion in your ministry than these friends.
A native of Austell, Ga., Bryan Cribb came to Anderson University following a five-year tenure at Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Ga. Dr. Cribb holds a BA in political science and a BS in mathematics from Furman University in Greenville, S.C. After being called into the ministry, he received his master of divinity in biblical and theological studies and his doctor of philosophy from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. His primary emphasis in PhD work was Old Testament theology, with minor areas of study in New Testament theology and Old Testament languages.
Dr. Cribb is married to Elizabeth, and they have three sons—Daniel Luther, Josiah John, and Nathanael Bryan. Elizabeth is an RN and a stay-at-home mom, who also holds a master of divinity degree from Southern Seminary.