Saturday, July 17, 2010

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.


Jonathan Hunt said...

Well said. Under innovations you could also list:

Advertising on classic FM
Advertising on London Buses (in the 70s)
Podcasting on itunes
Sermons on facebook
Television broadcasts on UCB
Video ministry

And there is much more - in fact, the bookshop itself in its own way was and is very innovative.

Lis Rowe said...

Blogs need "like" buttons, like on Facebook!!
I am one of those people converted at the Tab in the last 40yrs, and will forever be thankful to God for my time there and the ministry, especially that of the Sunday School.

Susanna Berry said...

I too was converted at the tab, as were my siblings(sister to JH). I agree no one/no church is perfect or above criticism, but I am so thankful for pm and his ministry there.

cath said...

Up here in Scotland plenty of us are very grateful for Peter Masters and his tireless work, and the Met Tab in general. Please don't let's go down the route of idolising fallible preachers and making figureheads out of earthen vessels who have nothing but what they were given -- but once in a while it's extremely refreshing to hear this kind of appreciation being voiced publicly. Thanks. (Got here via J Hunt's blog)

Gary Benfold said...

Jonathan - did they really advertise on Classic fm - a national station?

Martin Walker said...

Charismatic is a label I would use for myself but I think Peter Masters has made an outstanding contribution to the church, particularly with his commitment to evangelistic preaching. His Physician of Souls book doesn't need my recommendation but I too think it's got a lot to teach all pastors these days, I even recommended it to a friend. I love the fact that the Met Tab seems to have grown largely through evangelistic ministry - so inspiring.

Jonathan Hunt said...

Yes Gary, there was a month-long campaign in (as I recall) summer 1999.

It was not considered worthy of repetition and resources were directed elsewhere (possibly into TV ministry etc) but it did generate some responses.

It had a slogan at the end to tie in with the broadcaster: 'Metropolitan Tabernacle London - A 21st century church standing for 'Classic' Christianity'

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Gary said...
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Jakob Mortensen said...

Having been a member of the Tab for three years I can confirm what Gary writes. Peter Masters is always very warm and gracious. The times when I have seen him in his vestry, I have always left happy and refreshed.

pharmacy said...

To be completely chaste, I didn't understand the last point that you posted above... but in general, it was an interesting point of view.

Anonymous said...

Given Masters and his church's recent condemnations of TGC, FIEC, WEST and many mant others I have real concerns about them.

One of the strongest sets of condemnations in the NT is reserved for those who don't love the brothers (1 John 2:15-17).

Aware of the dangers of falling into that trap myself(!) I have to ask how we can consider these folk brothers when they consistently condemn and label as false teachers men who I know to be godly Christians? What more obvious act of not loving your brothers can there be than constantly calling them false teachers and liberals?

Mr T George said...

In response to Andrew Evans statement, can I ask the question: "what if they are liberals or false teachers?"

God forbid, I should someday stray into false teaching or unbiblical association with heretics, I would like someone to please, please, tell me.

Would you not like to be told that you are in error? Especially if you are a preacher with responsibility over souls. How awful would it be if you taught error that dammed souls to hell because some Christian 'brother' was too 'brotherly' to 'condemn' you.

I think the Apostle Paul puts it best in 2 Thes 3:14-15 "if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."