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Words to Winners of Souls

by Horatius Bonar

Buy the book: Horatius Bonar. Words to Winners of Souls

Release Date: January, 1995

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Horatius Bonar. Words to Winners of Souls

The Consciense of a pastor

I received a copy of Bonar's small volume while attending a Billy Graham School of Evangelism. Nearly didn't read it, but picked it off my "to read shelf" as an evening devotional. It is a superb touchstone for the faithfulness of one in full-time Christian ministry. Bonar provides a conscience for a pastor. It is as if he has been following the minister around and knows where he has been shirking his/her duty as a shepherd to one of God's flocks. Highly recommended for all pastors as an occasional check on our faithfulness and effectiveness as a shepherd.

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Words to Readers of Bonar

Well, the first thing I should say is, put your crash helmet on before you open this slender volume. In fact, that might be the only thing I should say--but I'll push onward. Bonar opens the book with an appeal for ministers who are awake. That is, he laments the state of a church that has convention centers full of clergy, but barely a bathtub full of true shepherds. Did someone say, "ouch?" From there he moves on to paint a portrait of a "living ministry," that is, a ministry that is alive with passion and awake to the realities of heaven and hell, sin and salvation, meaning and futility. Then he proceeds to rub our noses in the picture that he's painted. Again, ouch--Bonar seems to have few hesitations about kicking a man when he's down--with golf shoes on, no less. In chapter 3 Bonar begins to name, with great candor and force, what he calls "ministerial defects." That is, those areas of pastoral ministry which are most vital, but most neglected. One has the sense that if he were to walk into the "offices" (as they have come to be called) of most pastors today--he would reveal his Scottish blood and take a broad sword to their hineys. In chapter 4, one of the most moving and inspiring (and humiliating) chapters I have ever read, Bonar quotes the Scottish Ministerial Confession of 1651. This is, in short, a corporate confession of the varied (and detailed) sins of the ministers of the church of Scotland. This alone is worth the book. It is telling, convicting (in the truest sense of the word), and I think, exemplary. In the final chapter, Bonar ends on a more hopeful note (the hug after the beating) and points us to a vision of revival in the ministry. So, why only 4 stars? Well, most simply put, I'm not sure that Bonar captures the fullness of the Biblical motivation for ministry. In fact, I'm sure that he doesn't. His motivation (at least in print--were we to have a conversation over blood pudding he might nuance a bit) is that the blood for lost souls is on the heads of negligent ministers. True, in some sense, but not complete. At times, his motivational powers come more from the heat of hell than from the warmth of the gospel. It is a fiery, penetrating, and exposing blow at ministerial laziness and presumption, but there are times when his fire can drive, not to Biblical ministry, but to despair, and to ministerial imbalance. So, read with this in mind. But by all means read. And re-read. Only make sure that your helmet meets Federal safety standards--you'll need all the help that you can get.

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