Seven Good Things about Peter Masters
PM has been criticised quite a bit in the blogosphere recently, some of it fair, some of it not so fair. No-one is perfect, no-one is beyond criticism. But we're not to be unbalanced, and certainly not to be untruthful. Therefore, here are seven things about Peter Masters that, in my own opinion, are causes for thanksgiving.
1. Personal graciousness. I know very well that he does not always 'come across' as gracious in his polemic messages and articles. But the fact is, I met Dr Masters only once, more than thirty years ago at one of the very first Tabernacle Summer Schools. I found him warm and welcoming, shy and self-deprecating - in a word, gracious. My friend Jonathan Hunt tells me that he is still the same, and I've no reason to doubt that. Thank God for his personal graciousness.
2. Passion for souls. When he went to the Tabernacle in the 70s, it was in a very poor state numerically. He set about changing that not with a ministry that drew believers from other churches but with robust evangelism. His work with Sunday Schools, his production of evangelistic materials in new and attractive formats, his determination that his congregation should be a working, soul-winning congregation, his regular evangelistic preaching - all of this is witness to a passion to see the Lord Jesus Christ glorified by the salvation of sinners.
3. Evangelistic preaching. Evangelistic preaching - a regular, weekly gospel sermon - is very much out of vogue today. Various arguments are produced against it; but the biggest reason, I'm convinced, why men do not do it is that they do not know how to do it.
Peter Masters has both argued for evangelistic preaching and modelled it for forty years or so. His book 'Physicians of Souls' (and there's another edition, called 'Physician of Souls'- note the difference) is, quite simply, brilliant. Every pastor/preacher should read it and attempt to imitate it. Masters' evangelistic preaching has produced an audience for it (I mean, unconverted people come); and it has produced fruit, with hundreds converted during those forty years.
4. Consistent ministry. Have you noticed how, every few years, new ways of growing congregations are produced? Some of them are better (more effective, or more Biblical, or both) than others; but one thing is sure: chopping and changing every few years will never work. Peter Masters knew what he wanted to do, and has done it consistently, and fruitfully. We've reason to be grateful to God for that; he has shown that the gospel without frills is still powerful under God.
5. Robust Calvinism. Like Spurgeon, I'm a Calvinist because it's a nickname for Biblical truth, not because of any particular fondness for the Reformer. So, I think, is Peter Masters. His Calvinism, like Spurgeon's, provokes and sweetens and empowers his evangelism, rather than restricting it. He has shown (again) that Calvinism really can build an inner-city congregation even in the 20th/21st Centuries; that it can be preached evangelistically, and that it does build up the souls of the saints. Thank God for that, too.
6. Willingness to innovate. I think the Tabernacle was the first Reformed ministry to make use of posters on the Tube. Superbly illustrated in cartoon-style by Lawrence Littleton Evans, they were brilliantly contemporary, gently provocative and successful in getting people to hear the gospel at 'The Tab'. Some years ago when we asked permission to do our own leaflet based on a 'Tab' poster called 'Why not hear the gospel?', the permission was readily and warmly given. Then again, Masters' own magazine-style evangelistic booklets were innovative and clear. Everybody's doing them now; but they weren't then.
7. Stand against charismatic issues. Masters has consistently warned against the dangers of charismatic doctrine with its supposed gifts and revelations, and has been one of the very few prominent evangelicals to do so. Most non-charismatics seem content to stay aloof and stay silent, and even to criticise cessationists. Masters has argued theologically and Biblically for the temporary nature of the sign gifts and has done so convincingly. Indeed, I abandoned my own charismatic views at the Tab Summer School I mentioned earlier under the compelling arguments presented (on that occasion) by Stuart Olyott. To this day I know of no other significant Reformed conference that has taken this line. Our charismatic friends lose no opportunity to promote their views (and rightly so, since they believe it to be the truth of God); but on this side of the debate, we try to stay neutral. Masters has not stayed neutral, and for that I am grateful to God.