No, not that secret life…I’m talking about the private worship life of the pastor. Diane Langberg lent me a book by one of her favorite dead pastors: Rev. Handley C.G. Moule, Bishop of Durham. The book, To my Younger Brethren: Chapters on Pastoral Life and Work, considers three arenas of the young pastors life: their “inner and secret life and walk with God,” their “daily and hourly intercourse with men,” and their “official ministrations of the Word and ordinances of the Gospel.”
Here’s what he has to say in the first chapter about the hindrances to private worship (I removed some archaic language):
My…reader…knows as well as I do, on the one hand, that a close secret walk with God is unspeakably important in pastoral life, and, on the other hand, that pastoral life…is often allowed to hinder or minimize the real, diligent work (for it is a work indeed in its way) of that close secret walk [with God].
Moule makes it clear that the primary work of the pastor starts with their relationship with God–not their beliefs, exhortations, or activities. Moule goes on to identify some of the hindrances:
The new [pastorate], the new duties, and opportunities, if the man has his heart in his ministry, will prove intensely interesting, and at first, very possibly, encouragement and acceptance may predominate over experiences of difficulty and trial. Services, sermons, visits to homes and to schools, with all the miscellanies that attend an active and well-ordered parochial organization–these things are sure to have a special and exciting interest for most young men who have taken Orders in earnest. And it will be almost inevitable that the [pastor]…should find “work” threatening rapidly to absorb so much, not of time only but thought and heart, that the temptation is to abridge and relax very seriously indeed secret devotion, secret study of Scripture, and generally secret discipline of habits, that all-important thing.
Like Chambers, Moule sees “spiritual success” as dangerous (My Utmost, April 24). But he doesn’t stop with this danger. He points to another: loneliness. The young pastor leaves University and its social life to comparative aloneness. Yes, he may have friends and elder brothers in the Lord. But ministry brothers are busy and congregants, though friends, are one of many needing ministry. He says,
So the sens of change, of solitude, in such part of his life as is spent indoors, may be, and, as I know, very often is, real and deep, sad and sorrowful, and in itself not wholesome….Solitude will not by itself, If I judge rightly, help him to secret intercourse with God. A feeling of solitude, under most circumstances…drive a man unhealthily inward, in unprofitable questionings and broodings, or in still less happy exercises of thought. Or it drives him unhealthily outward, quickening the wish for mere stimulants and excitements of mind and interest. (he goes on to broach the subject of masturbation, I think)
Moule exhorts his reader to watch for the dangers of pastoral activity and the dangers of pastoral loneliness and not to avoid his private, intentional devotional life. He says, even 10 minutes of deliberate devotions are better than long and mismanaged time. He provides this warning
Your life and work will, in the Lord’s sight, be a failure, yes, I repeat it, a failure, be the outside and the reputation what they may, if you do not walk with God in secret.