“I wish my letters may be a bridle to you and yours a spur to me.”
Those words came from the pen of John Newton to a much younger John Ryland, Jr. Newton was almost 50 when he wrote these words, and Ryland was only around 20. Ryland was just beginning in the ministry and Newton had been converted and laboring for the Lord for almost as long as Ryland had been alive.
It seems to me that Newton’s relationship with Ryland should be one that is emulated all throughout our churches.
Those that have been believers for quite some time can and engaged in ministry for a decent season can have a tendency to get calloused and thereby complacent. They (am I at the point of saying “we”?) sometimes need to be spurred on by those young whippersnappers that have zeal, youthful vigor, and really crazy ideas.
Those that are just setting out in living the Christian life and in engaging in Christian ministry can have a tendency in their zeal to act to hasty, think too black and white, and many wear themselves out quickly. We (yeah, I’m still going to claim to be a young whippersnapper at only 30) need more seasoned men and women to bridle us.
Every Newton needs a Ryland. And every Ryland needs a Newton. It takes humility for both parties to see this. I pray that the Lord may raise up many relationships like this within our churches.
He may not appreciate being the “seasoned minister” but my friend Terry has often been my Newton. There were many times that through email correspondence he would “reign in” my youthful vigor with seasoned words of encouragement. I owe a good amount of my Christian growth and irenic spirit to not only folks like Newton but men in my life like Terry.
If you are a Newton I encourage you to pursue a Ryland to pour your life into and also one to be spurred by. Allow yourself to be rebuked by his/her passion and boldness. Have patience with his youthful zeal—commend it, but reign it in.
If you are a Ryland I encourage you to pursue a Newton to learn from. Allow yourself to be trained and seasoned by these gracious men/women. Do not be so arrogant to think that you know things far better than someone that has probably already lived your life. But also do not be afraid to ask questions and spur this man/woman on in the Lord.
One last thing of note. Newton pursued a young Ryland via letter writing. He called him on his youthful arrogance but encouraged him with warm affection. The Newton’s of the world will probably need to be the ones that pursue the Ryland’s…it seldom will work the other way around.