Andrew Fuller's Wise Counsel to Pastors
Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), a “strict” Calvinistic Baptist theologian, had the heart of a faithful and loving pastor. As a practical and pastoral theologian, he wanted the Bible’s theology to inform and shape the whole of pastoral ministry.
Reflecting on Titus 2:15, “Let no one disregard you,” Fuller wrote a brief sketch titled “Ministers Should be Concerned Not to be Despised.” Based on his knowledge of Christ’s Word and the human soul, Fuller compiled a list of things pastors should do to keep others from despising them in their work of pastoral ministry. I’ve updated the language a bit and condensed the content, but here’s Fuller’s theologically charged and practically useful counsel:
Let No One Despise You in the Pulpit
1. Avoid artificial speech of every kind, especially that which is designed to impress others. Stay away from high sounding words, airs, and gestures meant to show others your learning or superiority.
2. Avoid all self-seeking. Never preach yourself. Preach only the Lord Jesus. Don’t seek the approval of men but desire God to approve of your life and doctrine.
3. Avoid all vulgarity and low wit or silly speech. The pulpit is not the place for low speech or light anecdotes designed solely to make people laugh.
4. Never advance sentiments without being able to support them by Scripture. Don’t think that forceful assertion can replace clear evidence from the Bible.
5. Beware that you don’t preach an unfelt gospel. If you do, others will notice, and they will despise you. The people will see that you scarcely believe what you teach.
6. Don’t let the fear of man keep you from declaring the whole counsel of God. Speak the whole of God’s truth in love, and you will commend yourself to every man’s conscience.
7. Never degrade the pulpit by rebuking individuals in your preaching. You must rebuke with authority, but the sins of individuals should be addressed privately.
Let No One Despise Your Behavior in the Church
1. Do not lord it over God’s people. Expect others to overrule your judgments in some cases, and learn to yield to them with cheerfulness when the difference pertains to non-essentials.
2. But always have a judicious opinion of your own. This is good on every subject, and when it’s an important subject, you ought to be firm and resolute in your declarations.
3. Do not put on an air of superiority. No men are more despised than those who strut about with lordly dignity, and give themselves consequential airs. Better to feel yourself a Christian and associate with other Christians than pretend superiority.
4. But preserve dignity of manner and demeanor. Pastors should never sink into low ridiculous behavior or coarse speech meant to be comical or whimsical. They should carry themselves with honor and grace.
5. Beware uselessly spending inordinate amounts of time with people lest they despise you. Look well to your visits. Preach from house to house.
Let No One Despise Your Conduct in the World
1. Let your conduct correspond to your preaching. The world will watch you. You may “put off” the “preacher” when you’re with unbelievers. But never “put off” the man of God.
2. Never be ashamed of Christ or His Word in any company. You don’t have to mention Christ on every occasion, but never be cowardly or timid about Him. Always be ready to speak plainly of the Lord Jesus.
See Andrew Fuller, The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (1801; reprint, Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 1988), 1:489-491.