Gospel Preachers Should Expect to Be 'Lonely,' 'Deserted,' Says Evangelical Leader

Ligon Duncan
Ligon Duncan, chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary and president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, giving the final speech at The Gospel Coalition's West Coast Conference in Fullerton, California on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. |

A prominent evangelical leader has warned that preachers of the Gospel should expect to be "lonely" and even "deserted" by ministry partners.

Ligon Duncan, chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary and president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, cited Apostle Paul who implored Timothy and others to visit him as he spoke of being deserted 

Duncan argued that Paul wanted to Timothy have an "utterly realistic" understanding of ministry, including the likelihood that many will desert him.

"Faithfulness in ministry does not necessarily mean that you will always enjoy the companionship and the support of friends and colleagues in ministry," said Duncan at The Gospel Coalition's West Coast Conference on Thursday.

"Here's Paul in the last days of his life and his ministry and he has been abandoned by ministry colleagues ... Paul is dealing with loneliness."

"Don't think just because you're faithful to God, you won't face loneliness and desertion," he added. "A Gospel minister needs to anticipate loneliness and even desertion by colleagues in ministry."

Duncan pointed to 2 Timothy 4:16 as "one of the saddest verses in the whole of the New Testament." 

It reads: "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them."

"This is Paul describing his arraignment before the imperial court in Rome, he's now before the supreme court of the Roman Empire," he explained, emphasizing that "when he's there, he is absolutely alone."

"That is one of the wrongest things ever. This is the great missionary, evangelist, theologian at the high point, the pinnacle of his witness, bearing witness to Christ, in Rome, at the supreme court of Rome, and nobody's with him."

Duncan found Paul's solitude when speaking before the high court in Rome to be fitting, noting "how like that is to his Master and Savior, Jesus Christ."

"Jesus Christ, who was abandoned not just by Peter, betrayed not just by Judas, but all the disciples fled and left Him alone and He said, 'Father, forgive them,'" explained Duncan.

The Gospel Conference's West Coast Conference was held Oct. 16-18 at Ev Free Fullerton in California. The theme for the conference was "Enduring Faithfulness" and was centered on the New Testament book of 2 Timothy, in which they were to "consider the example of Paul, who fought the good fight and kept his faith in Jesus Christ."

Alistair Begg, the Scottish senior pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on the "Truth for Life" program, also spoke at the conference.

During his remarks, Begg explained that he felt too many Christians had a "superficial frivolity about things" and lacked what he called a "theology for sadness" when it comes to their walk of faith.

As an example, Begg talked about how he felt too many modern-day funeral services are not properly focused, as "many of us have been tempted to transform the solemnization of death with a celebration of life."

"Funeral services where you're not allowed to be sad because it's now a celebration. Whoever turned a funeral into a celebration? I'll tell you why. Because we don't have a theology for sadness. We don't really have a theology for suffering," said Begg.

"We want immediately to move to the celebratory and triumphant aspects of things before we have even had the moment to sit and say 'death is a dreadful enemy, the last enemy to be destroyed.'"

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