William Hamilton Burns (1779-1859) was a pastor in Kilsyth, Scotland who is now known, oddly enough, for having faithfully and quietly carried out his ministerial duties in obscurity. Burns’s long-range approach to ministry is worthy of imitation and should not escape the notice of young pastors, myself included.
The following excerpt from his biography captures very well what I pray might be said about the impact of my own ministry labors and of Grace Bible Church NOLA one day.
It was not by any grand coup de main, or by a series of fitful, brilliant charges, that he expected to produce great results; but by a patient course of holy duty, continued on in faith and prayer from year to year. Thus his influence was rather felt than seen,—recongised in its slowly ripening results, rather than in the conspicuousness of the means. As time drew on, his plans and operations widened and multiplied. Adult classes for males and females were formed,—the Sabbath schools were organized, visited, watched over,—prayer meetings, one or two of which had continued on, like the smouldering embers of a great fire, since the revival days of 1742, were fostered and multiplied,—a savings’ bank was instituted,— a temperance society, headed by the minister and the parochial teacher, speedily followed,—a philosophical union, with its appropriate machinery of experiments and lectures, was originated. In all these schemes and undertakings the minister was either the prime mover or a zealous and efficient coadjutor, ever ready to bear a hand in any scheme which had for its object the physical, moral, or spiritual amelioration of the people, for whose good he was thinking and planning day by day.*
Our hope for New Orleans cannot be in “fitful, brilliant charges” or in an attractive ministry method that draws people in droves. Rather, “a patient course of holy duty, continued on in faith and prayer year to year” is how we ought to expect God to build his church (Acts 2:42-47; 1Tim. 4:11-16).
May God make us stay the course and bless our labors for his great name’s sake.
*Islay Burns, The Pastor of Kilsyth: The Life and Times of W. H. Burns (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2019), 78.