I have just struck a little treasure trove which (as a sure sign of age) I had no idea I had kept through the years. No idea! When I was appointed as Principal at Spurgeon's College in 1993 I received many personal letters (sometimes very personal) from a wide range of people, churches and organizations. It has been such a revelation to browse through them. One wrote a celebration poem, another a hymn, another sent a picture of Spurgeon and me! Many expressed surprise at my appointment - which I felt too. Some told me things about myself I had never heard before! I am humbled by the care so many friends and church leaders took in writing their reflections.
One of the longest letters came from Frank Goodwin, the minister who had baptized Carol in Chatsworth Way Baptist Church, W. Norwood. He later became President of the Baptist Union and I grew to know and greatly respect him. His four handwritten pages contain so many gems including some advice about the task of ministry.
'I'll not "congratulate" you for that would imply that there is something higher than the pastorate and that I cannot accept. However, I doubt there's a more demanding and necessary task than preparing those who have a call to the ministry. If I had any advice to give it would be:
- Encourage the power of communication, so many know but know not how to tell.
- Show them how to both lean on one's members and yet lead them.
- Encourage the remembrance of the Call for that can be a well of cool water in a hot dry spell.
- While one is there to serve, one is always Servant of God. He sets the agenda.
- All students should read P.T. Forsyth. His observation that the first task of the individual preacher is to enable to Church to preach has guided me and set me goals.