Posts of Service
By W.A. Spicer
The apostle Paul was chief of the apostles, not because he held the chief office in the church organization of New Testament times, but because somehow the Lord had helped him to give service more than they all. Let us seek the true view of values in the ministry. Let us teach our people to regard soul-winning power as the greatest thing of all in service. Some must engage in administrative work, and God gives gifts to men to do the necessary work in guiding and governing in the church and conference work. But the greatest thing of all in the ministry is the blessed gift of preaching the word. " Preach the word," is the fundamental thing in the great commission. We must urge our young men entering the work to regard the preaching of the word, by which souls are won and believers built up into strong churches, as the greatest service of all. And we who are older must keep that vision of the work before us.
The place and the office are but incidental. The great thing is the ministry of the word that builds up the work. Let us keep our eyes off all places and position, and stand ready to serve anywhere that God's providence may direct, but knowing well in our hearts that positions in the ,church of Christ are not posts of honor, but posts of service. Jesus said to those who anciently drew fine distinctions as to place and office and honors, " How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another? " John 5: 44.
We do respect position, and honor the post of responsibility, whether in Sabbath school, church, or conference. But in the sense of discerning the true relation of things, let us remember that faithful service, and not official position, bear the rank in the eyes of Heaven. Surely it must never be among us that the call to any position means anything more honorable than the call that comes to every minister to go forth preaching the word that wins souls to eternal life.
Washington, D. C.
True Motive in Giving
By E.K Slade
Our strenuous financial program as a denomination, and our intense activity in various lines of work, have led some to feel that this is proving detrimental to the spirituality of our membership. Then, on the other hand, we find those who advocate that still more attention should be given to the importance of meeting our financial responsibilities, and less time occupied in teaching the doctrine of " justification by faith " and kindred subjects.
In the consideration of this, it is well to bear in mind the importance of making " first things first," and also to recognize the truth of the principle stated in the following words: " One may give without loving, but he cannot love without giving." There is such a thing as selfish giving, based on a mercenary motive, even in giving to the most worthy cause. He who is prompted to liberality by the desire to stand well in his church because of meeting a fixed standard, or by the erroneous belief that unless he does meet the set standard of liberality there is no hope of gaining heaven, is certainly coming far short of realizing the divine purpose in his giving. Prompted by such motives, individuals may be very liberal in response to the calls for means which come to them, and at the same time far short of that heart experience which makes all giving truly effectual.
Conditions which have been brought to my attention have convinced me that wrong motives have wielded an influence in our financial affairs to a more general extent than many realize. During recent years I have observed a willingness to minimize the church membership by what might well be termed " unfair " methods, in order to keep the church quota on mission funds as low as possible. There was a time when I observed quite a tendency on the part of church officers to make a list of the names of " poor givers," including those church members who were not able to give liberally as well as those who were not willing to do so.
In one field, I observed on the part of some churches a disinclination to take in certain members from a church that had been disbanded, because these members happened to be poor and were unable to contribute financially to any extent. I could refer to many instances indicating the trend of mind in relation to this matter, but will simply quote one letter which was actually sent out by a church missionary secretary, from which it is apparent that the policy of the church represented was based on financial returns rather than upon the shepherding of the flock in spiritual life. The letter reads:
"Dear Sister Blank: As you probably know, our apportionment at the conference is based on our membership as a church. This makes it incumbent that any one to be retained as a member bears the responsibility of doing his or her part of the apportionment ascribed to our church unit. Our records show that for the past few months you have not met with us, nor done your part in the matter of membership duty. From this we take it that you do not wish to continue membership with us; therefore we are hereby notifying you that at the last board meeting of the church your name was duly considered and dropped from the roll of membership. We trust that in this we are mistaken as to your wishes, and that we may soon hear from you to that effect and your desire to be reinstated. We will most heartily welcome your return to us any time you wish to renew your vows."
While I heartily believe in the setting of goals, and in most earnest and effective endeavors for reaching them, I do not believe that a desire to make good reports and maintain a good standing as to church quotas should be the prompting motive, neither do I believe that such motives should be permitted to govern in the matter of membership. In the discharge of our financial responsibilities, I believe that the words of the apostle Paul are applicable: " In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love." Gal. 5: 6.
Religion that is a mere form cannot be pleasing to God nor helpful to mankind. A financial program which is not based wholly upon faith and prompted by love is altogether undesirable. I heard a minister make the significant remark, " It is evident that the Laodicean message does not apply to us, for see what we are giving to missions! " I fear that many a minister may be following the same wrong method of reasoning. It is the motive and not the amount to which the Laodicean message applies. It is quite possible for large amounts of money to be given to missions, inspired by the motive of desire to excell in the reaching of goals; but I am certain that much liberality will be seen, and a far greater work accomplished, when God is permitted to do a work in the hearts of His people which will make love the underlying motive in giving.
The experience of Pentecost resulted in a mighty world movement in that age. The meager facilities available did not prevent the gospel message from going rapidly to all the known world at that time. Not only did men and women bring their possessions and make them available for the advancement of the gospel, but first of all they gave themselves. Both men and means were available and usable through the mighty working of the Spirit of God.
Observation and experience have led me to the conclusion that churches and conferences can most effectively be brought to a high standard in the matter of furnishing funds for the Lord's cause, first of all, through giving proper attention to the spiritual needs of the people. A spiritual awakening invariably leads to larger liberality. On the other hand, spiritual decline, whether experienced by individual, church, or conference, results in failure in the payment of tithes and great neglect in free-will offerings.
As ministers, we should not neglect setting forth the needs of the cause of God, and earnestly promoting the various lines of endeavor for raising money. But, brethren, should we not first of all, and always, place these endeavors upon their proper basis, by helping the members of our churches to enter into that true and deep spiritual experience that will not only enlarge their liberality, but also enlarge their capacity for giving?
South Lancaster, Mass.
Needed: Spirit-Filled Messengers
By L.K. Dickson
On the door of an English church is the following inscription:
"Oh, for a passionate passion for souls, Oh, for a pity that yearns,
Oh, for a love that loves even to death, Oh, for a fire that burns!
"Oh, for a prayer, the prayer that prevails,
That pours out its soul for the lost, Victorious prayer in the Conqueror's name,
The Lord of Pentecost! "
Naught but the Holy Spirit in the heart of the minister can produce passionate, prevailing prayer and preaching. This is the greatest need of the hour, for men and women, in the church and out of the church, are dying for lack of a Spirit-filled ministry. The minister who is not Spirit-filled is professional; and whenever the work of the ministry becomes a profession rather than a passion, failure is inevitable. To preach with a passion is to turn men to God. Professionalism is dead formalism, and can produce no spiritual fruit.
The spiritual perception must be vigilantly guarded, in order to retain clear vision and apprehension of the deep things of God. It is here that many fail, for when the spiritual perception becomes dim, then the tendency is to copy externals — plans, schemes, mannerisms, in the desire to attain to high recognition. It is the little things which require strict attention. An evil temper will blind spiritual eyesight; jealousy will scale the spiritual eye until the light of heaven is shut out. What minister has not found, upon entering his study, that his own moral and spiritual condition demands first attention? Doubtless all have had the experience of the noted preacher, who said, " I have sat down to the preparation of my sermon, and the heavens have been as brass! I have turned to the Gospel of John, and it has been as a wilderness, without verdure or dew! I have found that when my spirit is impaired, my Bible, my lexicons, and my commentaries are only like so many spectacles behind which there are no eyes; I have no sight." It is then that Satan will endeavor to adjust to our vision his own spectacles of sensationalism and mechanical methods whereby to attract and please the people; and of his tactics we should beware.
It is contended by some that the reason why the themes of the pulpit today should be more widely varied than those of a generation ago, is due to a tragic lapse of public interest in the church and the word of God. They claim that the church is now surrounded by a multiplicity of conflicting or competing interests; that modern life has put on brighter colors, and consequently has become more garish and arresting; that society has become more enticing, and its lures of pleasure abound on all sides. All this, it is thought, makes the church and gospel preaching look very gray and somber. The old-fashioned gospel preaching is likened to the " one-horse shay " and its contrast to the swift automobile and aeroplane, and it is urged that the church must " speed up," and present up-to-date, sensational subjects, in order to keep abreast of the times. While it is true that there is a phase to this suggestion which is timely, there is need for the greatest vigilance and keenest spiritual perception on the part of the minister of the gospel.
The apostle Paul recognized the changing social conditions of his day, and resolved that he would become " all things to all men " in order that he might " save some." But this suggestive elasticity of his methods did not involve any change in his themes of gospel preaching. He moved amid the luxury and splendor of Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome, but never did he borrow the sensational and the artificial through which to present the wonders of the cross of Christ. Wherever he went, whether to the prayer meeting by the riverside in Philippi, or amid the whirl of society in the large centers of commerce, he determined that his course should be " not to know anything " among men " save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." Paul was a Spirit-filled, messenger. By a. daily death to the things of the world, his spiritual perception was undimmed, and an overwhelming passion for souls controlled him.
I am convinced that in the midst of all the changed conditions of our day, — the social upheaval, the race for wealth, the quest for pleasure,— the minister of the gospel will gain nothing by paying homage to the frivolity and flippancy of the time. The preacher has stepped aside into perilous paths when he begins to borrow the sensational methods of the passing hour. The dignity of proper reserve and reticence is an essential element in our contact with men. The innermost longings of the heart cannot be reached through the tactics of the showman or the buffoon. The way of irreverence -will never bring us to the holy place, True, the minister must cultivate friendliness and mingle with the people; but all familiarity must be clothed in a simplicity which is natural, chaste, and refined. How easy it is to give occasion for the truth preached to be bruised and spoiled by the preacher's manner. The work of grace may be marred by our own ungraciousness.
There are some things concerning which we should be on guard, if we would be Spirit-filled messengers. First, we must avoid cold officialism. As one visits venerable historical spots and recalls sacred memories of those who have performed noble deeds, there is nothing which more nearly tends to dampen one's ardor and cause weariness, than to hear the cold, heartless, mechanical recitals of the official guides. Yes, there may be one thing still more chilling in its effect upon the spiritual life, and that is to hear the messengers of God's redeeming love recite that marvelous story with the metallic apathy and vague remoteness of a phonograph. Herein lies one of the gravest perils to the proclamation of the third angel's message. The world is tired of officialism. Men want more than a mere talker; they seek a prophet. They want more than a sign post; they seek the comradeship of one who knows the way to Zion, because he is himself walking in that way.
Another point on which to be guarded is that of dictatorial preaching. This is not said to encourage a limp sort of preaching, or a trembling hesitancy and indecision, in proclaiming the message. There is a difference between being dictatorial and being authoritative. The authoritative messenger is clothed with humility; the dictatorial messenger is clothed with subtle pride. One walks on stilts, the other walks "in the fear of the Lord." The dictatorial is self-raised; the authoritative comes " from above." Therefore, the authoritative messenger carries an atmosphere as well as a message; he manifests grace as well as truth. The dictatorial may have the form of truth, but his message does not carry the fragrance of heaven, and lacks the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.
We are very apt to confuse the dictatorial with the authoritative, plainness with impressiveness, " straight speaking " with " speaking with tongues " as the Spirit gives utterance. We " call a spade a spade," and think we have spoken the truth. We dictate, but do not persuade. We point out the way, but few pilgrims take the road, preferring to follow the one who claims to be going to the desired destination. When one believes in Christ as the Son of God, takes the Bible as the word of God, and knows that he himself is called of God to preach the gospel, and that he has experienced the infilling of the Spirit, then there is a note of confidence in all he says which duly impresses the hearer. Such a preacher draws men and women to Christ.
Some years ago a notable English preacher delivered an address to a company of ministers, in which he said:
"The pulpit may be the center of overwhelming power, and it may become the scene of tragic disaster. Now, brethren, if as we ascend the pulpit stairs, an angel should challenge us, What is your aim? What do you expect to be the result of your sermon?' what should we, what could we reply? Do our sermons save souls? If they do not, what are they worth? "
Quoting still further from this address, the following paragraphs are of special interest in this connection:
"There is a dearth of conversions. Why? The result of higher criticism,' says one. The growth of ritualism,' says another. While a third replies, ' The social conditions of the people.' Brethren, do not let us excuse ourselves. The dearth of conversions is due to none of these things. The apostles had to meet these same things in another form, and worse than these things, but they got conversions. Wesley and Whitefield had a church and a nation worse to deal with than we have, and yet they got conversions. Why do not we get conversions? How many conversions did you know about last year? If we cannot save drunkards, harlots, and prostitutes, then, I say, there is something wrong with us, and the sooner we find out what it is, the better.
" The great need to-day is the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. The cross can never be fully seen until the light of the Holy Ghost is thrown upon it. The ambassador's instructions are clear. He must be guided by the Holy Ghost. Are we so guided? What influence has He upon our lives? Are we men sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and moved by Him? The other day I heard of a clergyman who was not a great preacher, as the world calls preaching, but whose church was packed to the doors, and to whom God gave many souls; and a friend of his told the secret when he said, We could always hear him saying softly as he mounted the pulpit, " I believe in the Holy Ghost, I believe in the Holy Ghost." '
" What a reponsibility, what a privilege, to be the ambassador of Christ, beseeching men in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God, to have the one, the only message which can put the world right, stop all wars, cure all hearts, purify all lives, and save for all eternity the souls of men. Oh! magnify such an office, but magnify it upon your knees."
Independence and Domination (Concluded)
By O. Montgomery
It has been said that " a vein of imperfection runs through all human achievement." It may also be truthfully said that the desire to dominate is inherent in the human heart, and is manifested to a greater or less degree in most people. It is this common tendency which the enemy frequently takes advantage of to thwart, mar, and hinder the work of God, to bring discouragement upon individuals, and in some cases to arouse a harmful spirit of independence and resentment.
The danger of exceeding constituted authority and going beyond wise and proper limits of control, is always attendant in the electing and appointing of men to positions of authority and direction There are, and rightly must be, in the church of God duly constituted committees and boards to which are committed varying degrees of responsibility and authority. There are also leaders and directors of the organized work filling various positions of trust and responsibility. These executive bodies and officers, by virtue of their election or appointment, are vested with administrative authority to the extent of the denominational constitution and policies which have been developed by the General, union, and local conference organizations, and are responsible to God for the conscientious, faithful discharge of their duties.
In the foregoing article attention was called to the dangers involved in a spirit of independence which leads to ignoring the counsel of those in official positions. Let us now give heed to the danger that men occupying various positions of responsibility take to themselves when they assume authority which does not properly belong to them or to the office they occupy,; also the danger of putting to a wrong use the authority which is properly vested in them. To do either is to commit a breach of trust. To use one's position to dominate those with whom he is associated in labor, or for whom he labors, is wrong.
It should be borne in mind that the danger now under consideration is not confined within the realm of conference committees or officials. It is a danger which is liable to attack the life of any man in the exercise of the functions of his office, regardless of the capacity. It is just as imminent a danger to the pastor of a church as to the president of a union or a conference. It is just as possible that a local church committee or board may commit this error as that a conference committee may do so.
Concerning the dangers attending the operating of a spirit of domination, the following counsel has been given:
" A strange thing has come into our churches. Men who are placed in positions of responsibility that they may be wise helpers to their fellow workers, have come to suppose that they were set as kings and rulers in the churches, to say to one brother, Do this; to another, Do that; and to another, Be sure to labor in such and such a way. There have been places where the workers have been told that if they did not follow the instruction of these men of responsibility, their pay from the conference would be withheld.
" It is right for the workers to counsel together as brethren; but that man who endeavors to lead his fellow workers to seek his individual counsel and advice regarding the details of their work, and to learn their duty from him, is in a dangerous position, and needs to learn what responsibilities are really comprehended in his office. God has appointed no man to be conscience for his fellow man. It is not wise to lay so much responsibility upon an officer that he will feel that he is forced to become a dictator.
" For years there has been a growing tendency for men placed in positions of responsibility to lord it over God's heritage, thus removing from church members their keen sense of the need of divine instruction and an appreciation of the privilege to counsel with God regarding their duty."—" Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers," pp. 477, 478.
" As a people our faith and practice need to be energized by the Holy Spirit. No ruling power that would compel man to obey the dictates of the finite mind should be exercised. ' Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils,' the Lord commands. By turning the minds of men to lean on human wisdom, we place a veil between God and man, so that there is not a seeing of Him who is invisible."— p. 483.
(For further study, see " Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers," pp. 491-495.)
The truth is that in all our connection and service in the work of God we are leaders, not rulers; counselors, not bosses; servants, not lords; helpers, not kings. We are to instruct, admonish, entreat. We are to lead, not drive; we are to counsel, not dominate; we are to be shepherds of the flock, not herdsmen.
While we are seeking for a better understanding of relationships between workers and committees, and between those in official positions and those in the field, we must not lose sight of the fact that while workers must always maintain a high regard for the counsel and direction of the committee and officers under whom they serve, on the other hand, it must always be recognized by conference officers and committees that workers must be given a certain degree of liberty in the prosecution of their work in the field, which will enable them to use to the best advantage the talents and the judgment God has given them, dealing with souls as wise shepherds.
When men in positions of authority lay a strong hand of domination and control upon their brethren in the work, which is beyond that which they should exercise, the reaction in the heart of the brother is usually manifested in one of two ways: either coming under discouragement and depression, and harboring a deep sense of injustice and unfairness, which loyalty to the cause of God may cause to be smothered or hidden in the soul; or it may burst forth in resentment and criticism, open independence, throwing off restraint, and refusing to submit to that which he feels is unjust and unkind. Both of these reactions must be earnestly and prayerfully avoided by removing the cause. The counsel of the Lord is, " Hold the lines evenly, that there shall be no breaking down of the system of organization and order that has been built up by wise, careful labor."—" Gospel Workers," p. 487.
Washington, D. C.