Rick Warren. Mark Driscoll. Bill Hybels. John Piper. All pastors who have influenced many in the 21st century through their writings.
While not part of the canon of Scripture, I enjoy reading early Christian writers. It helps me understand church history, and it builds my faith through reading the insights of faithful saints who have gone before me.
The other day I had lunch with a friend, who runs a youth ministry in a different community. While I was waiting for him to arrive, I read Ignatius’ letter to Polycarp. Ignatius was bishop (similar to a modern day pastor) at Antioch, Polycarp at Smyrna. The letter was penned while he was en route to be martyred in Rome.
One phrase caught my attention: “I entreat thee, by the grace with which thou art clothed, to press forward in thy course, and to exhort all that they may be saved.”
Clothed in grace. Pressing forward. The Gospel.
This was “iron-sharpens-iron” encouragement from one brother to another, both ministering in different parts of the Roman Empire. There was something poignant about reading it, given that two brothers ministering in different parts of Northern Ontario were about to share a meal.
So playing Ignatius to his Polycarp, I shared the quote with friend. And now I share it with you.
“I entreat thee, by the grace with which thou art clothed, to press forward in thy course, and to exhort all that they may be saved.”
A grace-driven, full-court press, gospel-focused life: it’s the way Ignatius went to the grave and it’s the way I want to live.
Justin Taylor, from the Gospel Coalition says, “Many of our Evangelical forebears read the Fathers and that reading enriched their lives and thought. We need to do the same to help us meet some of the great challenges of our day.”
So go ahead and read Warren, Driscoll, Hybels, and Piper. But enrich your life by reading some of the early “church fathers” as well.
For the record…you can read Ignatius’ letter to Polycarp here:
You can read Justin Taylor’s blog, “Reading the Church Fathers: A Beginner’s Guide” here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2010/09/02/reading-the-church-fathers-a-beginners-guide/