Over the last several posts, I have tried to analyze some of the characters of Pilgrim’s Progress that was written by John Bunyan in 1678. We have visited with Ignorance, Evangelist, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Valiant for Truth, and Mr. Fearing. These travelers will be ones that we meet along the way in our trek toward the Celestial City. Bunyan’s observations of people in the 17th century still hold true for much of what we see in our times as well. You can see for yourself that these people along the way very much fit into the category of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poem about being a lifter or a leaner. A lifter is someone who makes deposits of encouragement and hope into your life. A leaner is one who great withdrawals and they will do so until you are literally sapped of emotional and spiritual strength. Great Heart falls into the category of a man who was not just a lifter, he was a very heavy lifter. He fills the role of a pastor whose calling and job it is to guide pilgrims to the shore of the river crossing that will lead to the Celestial City.
He is a man who represents to us the hard work and necessary discipline that is required to do this great job. There are some other pastors that Bunyan writes into the story as well. Obviously, Evangelist fits the role of a pastor and he appears all throughout the life of Christian but there are specifically four others besides Evangelist and Great Heart. Their names are Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Desire. These four keep their watch from the mountain tops in the steep ranges where sheep are cared for in the pastures. They care for the flocks and help the pilgrims primarily in two ways. They use the alternating tools of hope and fear as they lead their charges. They speak of hope when they mention the end of the destination that will have great glory. They sometimes resort to using fear by warning of some well laid temptation will lead them to turning back to the cities and towns they came from. Pastoral ministry in our day has never been more critically needed because of the great spiritual and moral drift and dire need for revival. There are Great Hearts scattered all over God’s Kingdom who are literally carrying entire churches on their shoulders. It is only in their absence that one really senses how important they are to us.