Six Features of an Attentive Minister

 Posted at Reformation Scotland:

The work of the ministry requires constant care and attention. Yet there are plenty reasons why a pastor might lose heart in the work of the ministry, since discouragements are many, and personal corruptions are active. The Covenanting minister William Veitch (1640–1722) was aware of these burdens. He identified Archippus as a minister who seems to have flagged and even become lazy in the work. Paul sends Archippus a brief word of exhortation in his letter to the Colossians: “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Col. 4:17). Veitch, speaking as a minister to fellow ministers, deduces that great attentiveness is required in ministers if they are to carry out their ministerial responsibilities rightly. In the following updated extract, Veitch gives six features of the attentiveness which Paul urged Archippus to show in his work.


The first thing necessary to enable a minister take heed to his ministry is wisdom and knowledge, not only in the doctrinal but also the practical part of religion. I think both of these are needful to make a minister “apt to teach,” or else his ministry will be more art-work than heart-work. The ministers of Christ must be men of knowledge, for they are watchmen, and watchmen must have eyes in their head. They are to point out to the people their way, their danger, and their duty. If they are blind, what hurt comes to the church! “The leaders of this people cause them to err, and they that are led of them are destroyed” (Isaiah 9:16).

Ignorance causes error, and error destruction. That is why the apostle said to the elders of Ephesus, “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost made you overseers, to feed them,” i.e., with knowledge and understanding, so that they may be soundly principled and right in the faith. The reason is, “for grievous wolves will enter in among you, speaking perverse things to corrupt your people, and to draw disciples after them” (Acts 20:28–30).

Ministers should be like the creatures around Christ’s throne, full of eyes within and without, before and behind. Within, looking to the frame and constitution of their own hearts. Without, to the duties they ought to perform and the snares and dangers they must beware of in following their duty. Before them to God, for counsel and direction. Behind them, to the flocks which they lead. “The priest’s lips should keep knowledge,” says Malachi, and so every minister is (as it were) the treasurer of the place where he is. If ministers lack this treasury of spiritual knowledge and wisdom, they will not be able to distinguish rightly between truth and error, sin and duty. They cannot instruct the ignorant, resolve doubts, quiet the troubled conscience, feed the hungry, and comfort the discouraged. Let Antichrist have blind and ignorant watchmen: our Lord Jesus Christ should have ministers who are thoroughly furnished for every good work.


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