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Lott Cary: A Missionary of the Cross of Christ

What would seem like happenstance this afternoon has turned out to be a wonderful and smiling providence. I thought I was searching for a particular book on hermeneutics in an untidy office, when, by God's grace, I found an out of place biography. Soon my afternoon was spent in tears of joy and praise of a glorious Savior that gives good gifts to his people. The good gift to me today was the missionary biography of Lott Cary.

Cary was born into slavery in 1780. At the age of twenty-four he was sent to Richmond to work in the tobacco warehouses. He showed no signs of grace, in fact, his biographer states that he was given to drunkenness and swearing. Several years later, out of this wickedness, the Lord revealed his sinfulness to him and glories of Christ. This "omnipotent grace" in his life was evidenced by an immediate change in his conduct. His biographer James Braxton Taylor states, "He whose tongue was wont to profane the name of the Most High, was now taught to address Him in accents of prayer and praise." (12) Soon after, in 1807, he joined the Baptist church in Richmond, Virginia.

Immediately after his conversion the Lord began to prepare him for the ministry. Cary was illiterate. He did not even know the letters of the alphabet. After being so captured by a sermon preached from John 3, he decided that he must be able to read these great texts of Scripture for himself. Through much prayer and much effort he learned first the alphabet from John 3, and then taught himself to read from the same passage. This passion for the knowledge of the Word would drive him for the rest of his life. His desire to mold himself by God's Word was also seen in his work habits. He became known for his abilities and drive for hard work. At the warehouse he began to do his job so efficiently that the boss would give him bonuses for his efforts. He was also given freedoms to take the leftover portions of tobacco and sell them for his own benefit. This was quite unusual and a testimony to Cary's desire to please the Lord in whatever he put his hand toward. After just a few years he had earned enough money to purchase his freedom along with his family. The sum was $850, and vital for the task that the Lord had called him to.

Early after his conversion he displayed a desire for his neighbors, especially the Africans, to come to a saving knowledge of Christ. This desire grew in him to become a passion for his native land of Africa. Cary was integral in the formation of the Richmond African Missionary Society and later the American Baptist Mission Society and through these groups Cary would be able to fulfill his hopes to take the gospel to Africa.

This calling to Africa would come at great cost for Cary. He had a very comfortable life in Virginia, about as comfortable as possible for a freed man. He had his own farm and was one of the most respected workers in all of Richmond. He had also received the favor of many because of the sweet way that he preached Christ to the people. Yet all of that was not enough to hold him back. Upon hearing that he was planning on leaving for Africa his boss offered him a salary of $1000 per year which was unheard of at the time, but that was not enough to have him reconsider his calling.

After much examination he was appointed as a missionary to Liberia, Africa. Things moved quickly for him and before long a ship was ready to carry he and his family to their God ordained place of ministry. Cary was asked to preach a farewell sermon from the pulpit of the first Baptist church of Richmond. His text was Romans 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also, freely give us all things.” Cary closed out his sermon with a strong call to the field; a call that rings true today as it did almost 200 years ago. His biographer Taylor records the end of the sermon,

“I am about to leave you, and expect to see your faces no more. I long to preach to the poor Africans the way of life and salvation. I don’t know what may befall me, whether I may find a grave in the ocean, or among the savage men, or more savage wild beasts on the coast of Africa; nor am I anxious what may become of me. I feel it my duty to go, and I very much fear, that many of those who preach the gospel in this country, will blush when the Saviour calls them to account of their labors in His cause, and tells them, ‘I commanded you to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;” and with the most thrilling emphasis, looking round on his audience, he exclaimed, “the Saviour may ask, ‘where have you been? Where have you been? What have you been doing? Have you endeavored to the utmost of your ability to fulfill the commands I gave you? Or have you sought your own gratification, and your own ease, regardless of My commands?”(24)

With those words Cary departed to give his life for the sake of Christ. What an example; a man whose very life was a testimony to the gospel of Christ. He was born a slave and died and slave, but in quite different fashion. He died a slave of Jesus Christ, which is true freedom. And his freedom as a slave of Christ was used in giving his life for the sake of Christ to those who had not heard of the message of hope. May we all consider ourselves as slaves of Christ in such a way, and use our freedom as slaves to others so that we might win some. “Where have you been? Where have you been? What have you been doing? . . . have you sought your own gratification, and your own ease, regardless of [Christ’s] commands?”

The bulk of this post was taken from Biography of Elder Lott Cary by James Braxton Taylor, 1837. Reprinted in The African Preachers, Sprinkle Publications, 1998. The page numbers are to this edition.


“Integrity In Ministry: What God Expects” A Message from Danny Akin

daIt seems that each week brings new embarrassments to the ministry and the cause of Christ in the world. In these times we ministers need a reminder of what God expects of us. Dr. Danny Akin, President of The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, relayed such a message to his students at Southeastern. I believe we can all benefit from it. Here is his admonition:

There is a glaring need for integrity in the ministry in our day.  "We are facing an integrity crisis.  Not only is the conduct of the church in question but so is the very character of the church" (Warren Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis, p. 171).  Both outside and inside the SBC, respect for the ministry has fallen perhaps to an all time low. 

A morality crisis exists in the ministry.  An integrity crisis faces the servants of God.  Immorality has reached a pandemic stage in the evangelical community.  The secular media exploits our every failure.  The man in the street pokes fun with jokes depicting ministers as interested only in women, money, power and prestige.  The Church of God reels in heartbreak, confusion and distrust as once respected leaders are repeatedly exposed in sin and shame.  The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is in critical condition.

1. The Cause of the Integrity/Morality Crisis in Ministry

Current problems have been in the making for many years.  The root cause is simply human depravity, sin, and the evil located in the heart (Jer. 17:9; Matt. 15:19).  Satan, working in concert with the flesh, has utilized some effective weapons to destroy many men of God.  A secular culture, together with its values, has affected the church more than the church has affected it.  Four specific areas have been especially alluring to those God has called to the ministry.  We must keep our guard up at all times least we fall as well.

1) Materialism is now a problem in ministry.  Many men today are driven not by love of God, but love of money.  They are motivated by self interest.  God wants His ministers to receive adequate provision.  They should not be paupers (1 Cor. 9:7-14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18).  However, too many ministers view themselves in the model of the corporate CEO rather than a shepherd-servant or pastor-theologian of God's flock.  They lose personal perspective and often find themselves pursuing worldly desires and spending less and less time with their spouses and families.  The fallout has been tragic and devastating.

2) Egotism or pride has also become rampant in our ranks.  Personal power, position, and prestige are often justified by sanctimonious words of "reaching more through bigger and better ministries for Christ."  An important question every minister should ask is, "to who are people drawn as the ministry grows? Me, a particular ministry or the Master?"

3) Exaggeration of accomplishments and even outright lying have also infected the pulpit.  "Ministerially speaking" means nothing more than speaking a falsehood.  "Fudging" the stats to get ahead happens far too often.  If we would regain respect, we must, of necessity, go the extra mile in truthful behavior and honest speech (Proverbs 6:16, 19).

4) Shallow theology and false ideas of spirituality have also led to failure in the ministry.  Biblical exposition is the exception rather than the rule.  Emphasizing holiness and sacrifice are seldom heard.  Feel good/self esteem sermons is the spiritual junk food often served to many congregations.  Because of anemic biblical instruction, many overemphasize legalism on the one hand or emotionalism on the other.  The sad end of all of this is an unstable doctrinal foundation that ultimately will collapse under any significant pressure.

One might raise a question at this point, how is this connected with immorality?  The answer is this:  when a man is consumed with a desire for more in one area (e.g., materialism), it often leads to desire for more in another (sex).  When a man deceives himself into thinking that he deserves and is entitled to the things that often accompany a successful ministry, he may also deceive himself into thinking that accessibility and entitlement to a liaison with a woman other than his wife is his option, maybe even his right.

Finally, and most importantly, if a man is dishonest in one area of his life, he will likely be dishonest in other areas, including faithfulness to his wife and ultimately faithfulness to his Savior.  The causes for such failures can be boiled down to three basics: 1) a loss of a devotional walk with the Savior; 2) a loss of continual meditation in the Scriptures; and, 3) a loss of personal intimacy with one's spouse.

     2. The Cost of the Integrity/Morality Crisis in Ministry
The cost of sexual immorality is high, especially for those whose sin has been exposed.  The cause of Christ is harmed and the purity of the Gospel veiled.  One's reputation is permanently soiled and damaged.  In most instances, the fallen one's position is lost, and rightly so.  Many believe, based upon the qualifications for ministry laid down in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, that such a one is disqualified permanently from the office of pastor and leadership in the work of the Lord.  The one who has sinned and repented should be restored to fellowship (2 Cor. 2:5-11), but there is good scriptural evidence that this does not necessarily include restoration to leadership.  Forgiveness from the Savior and the saints is not the same as fitness for service!  Amazingly, the lost world seems to understand this better than the Church.  Could it be, incredible as it sounds, that the world has a higher and more biblically based standard for spiritual leaders than do the saints?

In addition, there is the certain loss of God's blessing and the potential loss of one's God-given family.  These are the harsh realities of the cost of sin.  Sin extracts a tremendous toll.  A few moments of physical pleasure may produce a lifetime debt of shame and heartbreak.  The cost is too great, the resulting pain not worth it.

      3. The Cure for the Integrity/Morality Crisis in Ministry
The best cure is always a preventive one.  What can we do to maintain our marriage vows and keep our ministerial commitments to our people and our Savior?  What must you do to maintain your personal integrity?

1) Theologically, we must regain the biblical standard for the man in ministry. 
Four major texts address God's qualifications for service:  Acts 20:28-35; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; and 1 Pet. 5:1-4.  It is essential that we adopt the biblical model as opposed to the secular model.  Spiritual leaders must repent of the sin of failure to follow the biblical pattern of a shepherd-leader and pastor-teacher, and then determine deep within, with fervent conviction and courage, never again to deviate from the divine pattern.  This will mean taking very seriously the charge to be a "one woman kind of man" and to be one "who manages his own household well," and to be one who has "a good testimony among those who are outside" the church (1 Tim. 3:1-7).  It will mean pursuing diligently God's call to holiness and sexual purity (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

2) A man commits adultery because he loses his walk with God and his intimacy
   with his spouse.  This does not just happen in a day but grows gradually over
   a period of time, beginning perhaps with an almost imperceptible slide into an
   environment in which adultery can occur.  Therefore, what must we do
   practically to see that this never happens to us?

First, carefully guard your thought life.  Ultimately, the battle for sexual purity is won or lost in the mind (Prov. 23:7; Rom.12:2).  Those things which could erode the thought life must be avoided.

Second, make sure that your best time goes to your wife and family.  To say one cannot be a great pastor as well as a great husband and father is to perpetuate a lie.  Indeed, only great husbands and fathers are truly great pastors in the sight of God.

Third, resolve never to be alone personally or to be involved emotionally with a woman who is not your wife.  Simply stated, if you are never alone with another woman, it is going to be difficult, yea, impossible, to have an adulterous affair.  This principle would include personal counseling and private conversations, even on the telephone.  Emotionally, you are to bond with only one woman and that one woman is your wife.  One might say this is too restrictive, too legislative, too narrow.  So be it!  It is better to be accused of legalistic puritanicalism and maintain marital purity than to be guilty of sexual sin and suffer the embarrassment and disgrace of adultery.

Fourth, remember the cost of sin.  A big, beautiful home may attract my eye, but reflection upon its long-term cost will cause me to continue down the road.  Likewise, I can appreciate an attractive woman, but knowing the cost of getting involved with her will send me on my way to my own house!

Finally, recognize your own vulnerability.  Not one of us is above sexual temptation.  I constantly remind myself and others whom I have the honor of teaching:  The wrong person plus the wrong place plus the wrong time will inevitably equal the wrong thing happening.  The tragic story of David and Bathsheba should never be forgotten.  A man after God's own heart committed both adultery and murder because of his lust for a woman to whom he was not married.  Anyone can fall to this temptation.  All of us are capable of any sin.  Therefore, beware of yourself and take the necessary steps to prevent adultery from even being in your path.  "Flee sexual immorality" (1 Cor. 6:18).

1 Pet. 4:17 says, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God."  God's church is in need of discipline and judgment.  She is sick and dirty, weak and sinful.  Her genuine impact on society is negligible at best if we would be honest.  Perhaps God has decided it is time to clean her up so that she will be as she ought (Eph. 5:26-27).  If this is so, what better place for Him to begin that at the top with His ministers, His undershepherds.

An effective minister must be a holy minister.  An effective church must be a holy, consecrated church.  May our Lord restore respect to His prophetic voices in these challenging days.

 Daniel Akin