I have always found Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor to be a deeply convicting read, the kind of book that not only gets under the skin, but in sentence after sentence stabs the conscience wide awake.
One thing that Baxter does well is to underline the need for integrity in pastoral ministry. He does so by asking a series of probing questions along the following lines:
- What good is it to warn of the danger of sins from the pulpit if we then indulge in and tolerate sins in our thinking, affections, and behaviour when out of the pulpit?
- What are we really telling people when we cut the throat of a sermon with the use of careless words during the week?
One latter day Reformed pastor (in Baxter's and the confessional sense of the word) has made the following helpful comments about our speech:
How we use our tongues provides clear evidence of where we are spiritually...What comes out of our mouths is usually an accurate index of the health of our hearts.
Teachers should be conscious of the weight and potential influence of what they say because words lie at the heart of the teaching ministry. To have an unreliable tongue is likely to provide a destructive model for those who are taught. The potential for multiplication of influence requires a canon of judgment that takes the measure of both responsibility and opportunity into account.