John Angell James (1785–1859) was the pastor of Carrs Lane Congregational Church in Birmingham, England for fifty-five years. In 1847, he published An Earnest Ministry: The Want of The Times. Oh, how I wish I could require every pastor to read it.
James’ heart burns for passion in the pulpit. He’s on point with what’s necessary for heralding Christ. He knows that it’s not until the preacher’s heart is right that his sermon will cut straight. Listen to what he says is “the essential qualification” for earnestness in the ministry:
I trust our churches will ever consider piety as the first and most essential qualification in their pastors, for which talents, genius, learning, and eloquence, would and could be no substitutes. It will be a dark and evil day when personal godliness shall be considered as secondary to any other quality in those who serve at the altar of God.
But still there is something else needed in addition to natural talent, to academic training, and even to the most fervent evangelical piety, and that is, intense devotedness. This is the one thing, more than any or all other things, that is lacking in the modern pulpit, and that has been lacking in most ages of the Christian church. The following sentence occurs in a valuable article in a late number of the British Quarterly Review—“No ministry will be really effective, whatever may be its education, which is not a ministry of strong faith, true spirituality, and deep earnestness.” I wish this golden sentence could be inscribed in characters of light over every professor’s chair, over every student’s desk, and over every preacher’s pulpit.
Let us pray for and pursue such devotion.