(Nineteenth in a series.)
The story of the county supervisor needs to be filled out more. You’ll remember she was the Search Committee member who hosted her committee’s interview of Mary Lee and me in her comfortable home; and that, as the interview began, she demonstrated she was sharp as a tack: if I’d killed my mother, she’d assume I had a good reason. Then a few weeks into our call there in Wisconsin serving her church, she informed me of the Sunday school teacher who had taught that Mormons were Christians.
As we settled in and time passed, we came to trust her judgment. She was no flatterer and demonstrated serious spiritual commitment.
My first year preaching, one Sunday morning she came after worship holding a very thick volume she wanted to lend me. She said my sermon the previous week had reminded her of a sermon preached by Charles Spurgeon on the same text. Might I enjoy reading it?
Up to that point, I’d never read a Spurgeon sermon, so I said I’d like to to borrow the volume (one among many volumes of Spurgeon’s sermons), and took it home to find out what Spurgeon had done with the text I’d had a hack at.
I’d read quite a bit of Edwards including a number of sermons, but with Edwards one can, in a way, find his superiority reassuring. Reading his sermons, you may well think, “No, I can’t write or preach a sermon anywhere near as deep and helpful as this. As a matter of fact, not even in the same universe. But Edwards is Edwards, and I’m not. He’s brilliant.”
Then, there are some of us who think, “You know, I had to work really hard to understand that sermon. I wonder whether his own congregation understood his sermons? What a mind!”
When you finish a sermon by Edwards, if you’re at all like me, you may be overwhelmed by the brilliance of his philosophical mind. There’s a reason Yale has produced a critical series of volumes containing his oeuvre, twenty-six volumes so far with the most recent selling for $138. Few of us have to convince ourselves our minds don’t dwell in the same universe, so we don’t waste our time envying him. It’s similar with Turretin and Owen.
But Spurgeon? His intellect is not of Edward’s parading sort. It’s not nearly as pretentious. I might actually label it “accessible,” except for the fact that when I finished reading the sermon on the text I’d had a hack at, I felt like shooting myself. So many windows provided to take a different and helpful view of the text. So many illustrations perfectly placed and stated. So many humble helpfuls. An overwhelming number of humble helpfuls.
After reading this first Spurgeon sermon of my short life, I wondered why I would ever write my own sermon? I despaired of my usefulness, and began to wonder what would be wrong with my reading Spurgeon sermons from my pulpit each Lord’s Day morning the rest of my life? I tell you the truth.
Sorry, but I’m not going to continue down this path. I was demoralized, but I recovered and only read a Spurgeon sermon one Sunday morning in worship, following that awakening. There are reasons not to preach the sermons of the past giants of the faith, but I’m not going to go into it, here. Just don’t do it. God has called you to shepherd your sheep, and the shepherd who doesn’t select and prepare the feed for his flock is abdicating his responsibility.
Of course, this (shall we call it) Spurgeon awakening only led me to trust my county supervisor more. But, as Dad used to say, “Truth and time walk hand in hand.”
And nowhere is time more revelatory than in the matter of the souls of the sheep.
Ask any pastor who has loved a flock or two how many of his ewes, lambs, and rams have shocked him as the years passed, both positively and negatively, and he’ll tell you it’s one of the most sobering things about pastoral ministry. You can think one person is hopeless, and then God’s Holy Spirit acts and it is astounding! You can think one person is a spiritual giant, and then he withers and fades, after a while becoming Chesterton’s half-Christian who has gone mad and become the anti-Christian.
Sadly, our county supervisor ended up opposing God, His Word, and His Church. It happened this way.
In time, this series will begin to chronicle the battle against sodomy in our denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA) back in the eighties (preceding our battle against sodomy in the Presbyterian Church in America thirty to forty years later). In the end, this battle was the cause of our churches leaving our denomination, transferring into the Presbyterian Church in America.
But a couple years before this cataclysmic moment in the life of our parish, there was an election in our county in which we were to vote for a judge to fill a judicial vacancy. Readers will remember this woman was a county supervisor, so naturally I asked her whom to vote for?
My inquiry came right after one of those running for the position announced that he was in favor of repealing laws against sodomy—and keep in mind this was back in the mid-eighties. At the time, most states had anti-sodomy laws, so for a candidate for the judiciary to announce he was in favor of repealing these laws was the bleeding edge of Democratic progressivism (as they would call it).
It would be another fifteen years before, in an interview published in Christianity Today, the theology and ethics professor at the PCA’s Covenant Theological Seminary, David Jones, climbed on the bus and publicly called for the repeal of all sodomy laws across our nation.
But back to our judicial vacancy. What was ther recommendation?
My most-esteemed county supervisor who had asked me to correct the Sunday school teacher and loaned me a volume of Charles Haddon Spurgeon sermons stated she would vote for the judicial candidate who wanted to repeal sodomy laws.
This was one of the most disheartening things that ever transpired in my first call. I had so respected this woman, but now? I asked her how she could support him while confessing Jesus Christ?
She responded that she thought “gays” should not be treated badly; that they should have civil rights, too.
I’m not going to spend time here responding to the tsunami of inanities and lies spun by Democrats and reformed seminary profs and celebrities alike which are now constant across social media. Anyone wanting to read why such statements are faithless and unloving can find loads of instruction we have written over almost twenty years now, particularly in our book, The Grace of Shame: 7 Ways the Church Has Failed To Love Homosexuals.
But do keep it firmly in mind that this was not 2023 or 2020 or 2015 or 2010 or 2005 or 2000 or 1995 or 1990.
This was the mid-1980s and my most-esteemed county supervisor who certainly was a f0rce to be reckoned with was stating her considered position that “gays” should be allowed to do what they wanted, sexually; and that the law should not prohibit them doing what they wanted, sexually—that thing God Himself condemns as an “abomination” and places next to incest and bestiality.
As I said, I was demoralized. It was so discouraging to see this intelligent civil authority sitting under my preaching of God’s Word, weekly; this soul who fed on Charles Haddon Spurgeon sermons, now caving to the rabid gay lobby.
It was the end of my trust for her, spiritually.
Sure enough, a few years later when our denomination turned to endorsing the acceptance of sodomites as church members and officers, and our elders called our yoked parish to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA), transferring into the Presbyterian Church in American, my county supervisor voted against the unanimous recommendation of the elders of the combined churches. Then, with a few souls she convinced by her magisterial influence and authority, she stayed back with the pagan Presbyterian Church (USA).
But more about that later. The thing to remember is that, concerning our Lord’s parable of the seeds and the soil, one in four of the seeds produces fruit.
Only one in four.
This is a rude awakening to those of us who serve as shepherds of God’s sheep. Pray for us. Encourage us. Love us. Hold our arms up when we grow weary.
(Nineteenth in a series.)
* * *
If you aspire to shepherd God’s flock, take a look at New Geneva Academy. The weight of responsibility for Christ’s sheep is heavy. NGA prepares men to depend on the Holy Spirit and bear that weight. Instruction is historical, doctrinal, personal, and thoroughly Biblical. Moving isn’t necessary. Get in touch with us and find out more.