• Brian Self

Our Mental Furniture

The article today is primarily aimed at my fellow pastors but the application is for everyone. I have been reading through Charles Bridges’ book The Christian Ministry. I try to read one book a year on pastoral ministry so I can sharpen my understanding on pastoral care for the congregation I serve. On page 35 in footnote 4 of his book he quotes from someone he calls Mr. Scott: “The object of all your studies should be neither celebrity, advantage, nor knowledge, for its own sake, but furniture to enable you to serve God in your generation.” This stood out to more for a few reasons that I want to draw out below.

The first question that must be asked of us who serve as pastors is this, “What is the goal of our studies?” Why do you spend hours each week in study whether it is sermon preparation, bible study preparation, or general reading? The answer to that question is important because that reveals how we are using the gifts and abilities the Lord has given to us. For me personally, I read and study each week for two primary reasons. First, I want to feed the congregation I serve a faithful, healthy diet of the Holy Scriptures on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. I desire to be the workman that Paul mentions who does not need to be ashamed and rightly handles the Word of truth. Second, I read and study each week beyond that preparation to keep myself fresh and sharp. I have had the honor of serving the same congregation for almost 6 years. I do not want to grow stale spiritually or mentally so that they feel like they are hearing the same thing over and over again. So, the object of my personal studies is to serve the congregation the Lord has blessed me with in my generation. We should not see, as this Mr. Scott noted, our studies as a means to gain fame in our little world of celebrity. We should not see our studies as a means to lord it over our congregation as if we are a super hero. We should aim at blessing our congregations from the fruits of our study because this serves God in our generation.

A second question to consider then is this, “What furniture are you setting up in your mind?” In other words, what does your mental or intellectual furniture look like? I remember reading a few years ago the book The Pastor-Theologian. I cannot locate the reference but the authors made the point that we, as pastors, should not expect to grow in spiritual knowledge, understanding, and be used in the work of the local church as theologians if we spend more time on Netflix than in the Scriptures and in study. We must be mindful as pastors where our time is devoted and how we are utilizing that time. Not every pastor will have the same time as others. There are faithful brothers who have to work hard at a full-time job while pastoring, and I am sure that is hard. I am not addressing them when I say if you spend more time surfing Facebook, Instagram, or whatever else during your day than in pastoral care, study of the Scriptures, or reading then you are not supplying yourself with faithful intellectual furniture. The pastor’s furniture must look rightly ordered and beneficial for the office of the pastor. What does that mean? Read. Read at least one book a month. Read and reflect, and then read and reflect some more. It can only bless your congregation and your own life in the end more.

As I said, the main application can apply to any believer. For those not in pastoral ministry, what you supply as your mental furniture will affect your ability to serve God in your generation as well. We all would do well to heed the words of Mr. Scott. Let us all, pastor and congregant alike, pursue faithful intellectual furniture for the purpose of serving God in our generation. Especially this generation that needs to hear the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ more than the latest Facebook thread or Tiger King drama (I still don’t plan on watching it).

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