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Pastoring

Why the SBC needs more James Boyces

James Petigru Boyce (1827-1888) is a name all Southern Baptists should be familiar with. Granted, in the 2020 cancel crusade, some may have heard of him, albeit in a negative light. Yet, the SBC would do well to have more men among our ranks like James Boyce.

Boyce is a Southern Baptist legacy. Not only was he elected president of the SBC 9 (yes, NINE!) times, he also almost single-handedly (in many regards) founded and helped keep the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary afloat during its early years.

Dr. Tom Nettles, in his biography of Boyce (James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman), lays out Boyce’s 6 Characteristics of a Successful Pastorate. This is the focal point of today’s blog. These can be found on pages 360-361 in the book.

The two chief duties of every pastor are the “preparation and delivery of sermons” and “the development and execution of a strategy by which the people might grow in holiness and in serious work for the cause of Christ.” These two chief duties should manifest themselves in 6 characteristics, which I will list in just a moment.

Before I do let me say two things. First, I understand Boyce’s shortcomings. It goes without saying that those should not be repeated by Southern Baptists who are privileged enough to live in the 21st century. Secondly, I say unequivocally that if we had more men in our ranks in the SBC today who were like James Boyce, we would be much healthier.

How can I say this? One reason is because of these 6 characteristics Boyce gives of a successful pastorate. Boyce understood that a pastor is not an entertainer. He is not a social capital investor. He is to be a qualified man (yes, we have to say that in today’s SBC), charged by God to shepherd the flock so that they may grow to maturity.

Recently, Dr. Tom Ascol said, “the Southern Baptist Convention needs to be led by pastors.” And I follow that up with both an “Amen!” and a hope that those pastors would be like James Petigru Boyce. Would to God that we had more men in the SBC that would exhibit the following characteristics:

Soul-winning– the offer of the gospel must be made clear by the pastor. Obviously, Boyce would be the first to say that “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9). But he would also be emphatic upon the means of calling sinners to repentance.

The pastor should be a leader and model in this regard. What people need today is what that needed in Boyce’s day: the uncompromised, undiminished, undiluted gospel of Jesus Christ.

Instructing the flock in the “doctrine and duties of God’s word.” Boyce saw the importance of theological education. But learning theology isn’t just for pastors. Pastors need to be able to communicate sound theology to the church. Pastors must be able to teach sound doctrine and all that accords with it (Titus 2:1-10).

“Under God, [pastors are] responsible for the increase of holiness, Christlikeness, in the congregation.” Boyce said this aspect of ministry is “one of the most important tests” of a successful ministry. So what if our people know “sound doctrine” but don’t live holy lives?

We need pastors that are not afraid to preach biblical holiness – something the Bible does not whisper about. God hates sin and it’s okay to preach against it.

Equipping saints for the work of ministry.“A successful pastor will aid each member in finding what work of the kingdom he is fit to do and exhort him to do it ‘faithfully and efficiently’.” Not all people are called to be pastors. But all Christians are part of the body of Christ.

Their work for the kingdom may or may not be seemingly as glorious as other work. But the point remains: we are all called to work for the glory of God. A pastor must help the people of Christ find their work and then help them do it with joy.

And I might add that with a theological grounding and aptness to work, may Christians have a backbone. Boyce certainly had a backbone. May pastors learn to teach their people to stand on and by their convictions even in the face of the continual cultural onslaught. We do not need flakey men. We need faithful men.

Help church members give according to their means. Admittedly, this one probably arises from Boyce’s many years of endless fundraising for the Seminary. However, it is still a good point. Boyce wanted Believers to understand “the great blessedness to be experienced in giving.”

Boyce himself was a wealthy man who understood money. He was also very generous. “Boyce knew well that for work to be supported, pastors needed to encourage the giving and should instruct in biblical truth concerning issues of stewardship and the reality of storing up treasures in heaven…”

I think Boyce would be both amazed at the concept of the cooperative program and ashamed as to its mishandling at times today. We need pastors that care about good stewardship and teach their people the same.

“Develop the power of prayer among his members.” Boyce said, “[Pastors] will instruct them in the duty and joy of private as well as family prayer while encouraging them to unite in the prayer meetings of the church.” Boyce, a staunch believer in God’s meticulous providence, was also a firm believer in the truth of God working through His people’s prayers.

A pastor should exhort his people in this wonderful means of grace, which includes family prayer. Pastors ought to instruct their people in the blessedness of family worship.

Of course, the above list is not exhaustive. But I do think it’s helpful to consider Boyce’s perspective as a proven man of faith.

I do not think it a coincidence that Boyce has come under attack today, even by some within Southern Baptist ranks. If we can focus on Boyce’s sins instead of his proven character, then perhaps we will forget these exhortations toward how to be a successful pastor. But if we forget these characteristics of a successful pastorate, we are sunk.

So, let us endeavor to have more Boyces in our pulpits. Make the pastorate manly again.

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