What should be inscribed on the tombstone of a pastor?

As I journeyed home from Zambia, Jim and I had a quick stop in England once again for a shower, bed, and fellowship with the Walkers.  As Jim and I spent time with our dear friends and fellow pastors, Austin and Jeremy Walker, I began to remember previous trips to visit them and all I learned from them about the faithful English pastors of old.  One of the most impacting historical tours they took me on, was to go to Bunhill Fields Cemetery just outside the city of London.  This cemetery is just outside the city limits because these graves are marked as dissenters (NonConformists), those who would not submit to the corrupt religious authority of their day.

Yet, in this cemetery you will find some of the most faithful pastors who proclaimed the gospel amidst trying days.  Men like: John Bunyan, John Owen, and Issac Watts, all have graves marked in this legendary resting place.  Seeing there famous graves is not what impacted me the most.  It was seeing the grave of a lesser known pastor, named Joseph Hart.  I was so deeply impacted by the inscription of his grave as uniquely different from so many others.  Joseph Hart’s grave stone reads as follows:

Joseph Hart was by the free and sovereign Grace and Spirit of God raised up from the depths of sin, and delivered from the bonds of mere profession and self-righteousness, and led to rest entirely for salvation in the finished atonement and perfect obedience of Christ.

Pastors, Joseph Hart’s grave captures the essence of who we are in Christ and why we have given ourselves to pastoral ministry.  It is not for the praise of men, the earthly rewards we might receive, nor the fame and notoriety many a popular preacher gets, especially in our culture today.  We labor, die a little every day, and give ourselves to this labor of love because we, “by the free and sovereign grace and Spirit of God were raised up from the depths of sin and led to rest entirely for salvation in the finished atonement and perfect obedience of Christ.”

Dear brothers and fellow pastors, do not lost sight of for whom and what we labor to preach Christ and shepherd his people.  Begin now to consider how you wish to be remembered.  Will you want a tombstone like John Wesley (just outside Bunhill Fields) and so many others with monuments and flowery words that articulate all you accomplished for Christ?  Or, will you wish to be forgotten if it meant that Christ would not be to future generations?

Posted in The Pastor's Soul
2 comments on “What should be inscribed on the tombstone of a pastor?
  1. Hart isn’t _that_ obscure. Here’s one of his hymns (lightly edited):

    A MAN there is, a real man,
    Who once on Calvary died.
    His blood for guilty sinners ran
    From hands and feet and side.

    2 This wondrous Man, of whom we tell,
    Is true Almighty God;
    He bought our souls from death and hell;
    The price, His own heart’s blood.

    3 That human heart He still retains,
    Though throned in highest bliss;
    And feels each tempted member’s pains;
    For our affliction’s His.

    4 Come then, repenting sinner, come;
    Approach with humble faith;
    Owe what you will, the total sum
    Is cancelled by His death!

    5 His blood can cleanse the sin-stained soul,
    And wash our guilt away;
    He will present us sound and whole
    In that tremendous day.

    Joseph Hart, 1712-1768

    (he also wrote ‘how good is the God we adore’ and more)

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  1. […] in Sociology. He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article is from his blog, Practical Shepherding, and is used with […]

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