The Minister as Shepherd
By G.W. Wells
Various titles have long been in use as applied to the ambassador of God, such as, pastor, elder, bishop, clergyman, preacher, minister, parson. We do not read of Christ's calling Himself by any of the foregoing titles, but He did say, " I am the Good Shepherd,", and he implies that this beautiful title is appropriate for the one whom He commissions to " feed My sheep."
A shepherd is a watchman. He is constantly scanning the horizon for approaching danger, ready to give alarm. A shepherd is a guard. He must oversee and likewise protect. A shepherd is a guide. Where the shepherd leads, the sheep will go. He cannot drive the sheep, he must lead them. A. shepherd is a savior. He seeks for the lost sheep of the fold, rescues them from danger, and restores them to their proper place in the flock. Sheep habitually lose their way, because of stupidity and heedless folly; consequently a very essential feature of the shepherd's task is seeking after them and bringing them back to the fold. A still further significant fact regarding a true shepherd is that he knows and loves the sheep, and will, if necessary, give his life to save them.
A worthy ambassador for God must have the qualifications of a true shepherd. He must be constantly on the watch for peril, he must be guard, guide, rescuer, and savior; he must know and be known by his sheep; he must love them even above his own life.
A minister may be a good " sermonizer; " he may be profuse in the use of language, in his rhetoric perfect, and in his oratory superb; he may be able to preside at a wedding with grace, and to officiate at a funeral with dignity; but if he is a true shepherd, he cannot remain silent and at rest while one straying sheep is outside the fold.
" When a minister bearing the solemn message of warning to the world, . . . neglects the duties of a shepherd of the flock, and is careless in his example and deportment, engaging . . . in trifling conversation, in jesting and joking, and in relating humorous anecdotes to create laughter, he is unworthy of being a gospel minister, and needs to be converted before he is intrusted with the care of the sheep and lambs."—" Gospel Workers," pp. 131, 132.
The faithful shepherd of the Lord's flock will guard well his words, endeavoring to clothe his thoughts in language that will edify and instruct. Words are an index to the heart, and have power to react on character. Solemn indeed is this statement of our Lord, " Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."
" Some men of good capabilities, who might fill important positions, do not know what spirit they are of. They run in a jovial mood as naturally as water flows downhill. They talk nonsense. . . . These men have a religion of the head, but their hearts are not sanctified by the truths they hear."—Id., p. 130.
" Let the young man who has entered the ministry look his calling fairly in the face, and determine to devote his time, his strength, his influence, to the work, well aware of the conditions under which he serves the Redeemer. . . . To every young man who enters the ministry, Paul's words to Timothy are spoken, ' Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine.' ' Thyself ' needs the first attention. First give yourself to the Lord for purification and sanctification. A godly example will tell more for the truth than the greatest eloquence, unaccompanied by a well-ordered life."— Id., p. 104.
If any man has been prompted to enter the ministry through considerations of ease, indulgence of literary ability, oratorical ambition, or social possibilities; if any have drifted into the ministry by mere circumstances, without a profound conviction and burning desire to beseech men to turn from sin and become reconciled to God, not having learned the secret of holding up a crucified and risen Saviour as the winning and compelling power to separate from sin — oh, the pity and the shame of such a fact! Yea, more, the sin of such a situation! How could such a person be a soul winner?
He who enters the gospel ministry must have a divine commission. He is to be sent of God. He must have a divine summons — called of God by a divine conviction within his soul. How dare any man take upon himself the vows of ordination unless he can reverently say, " The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings "? Listen to the statement and command of our Lord: "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore." This is our authority. It is Heaven's own. " And teach [make disciples, or Christians of] all nations." That is our business; it is the King's business. " Preach the gospel,"— the shepherd's one instrument of rescue.
The world stands in need of a clear-cut gospel message, preached by a clean, Spirit-filled gospel ministry,—men who are conscious of the divine call and loyally respond, going forth to live and present the eternal values of truth for the salvation of lost humanity. The heart of such an ambassador-shepherd thrills and throbs with joy as he enters the service in response to the call and the assurance of the Good Shepherd who, as He passed up the glistening highway of the angelic host and entered the cloud which " received Him out of . sight," said, " Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." " Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
Washington, D. C.
The Shepherd's Duty to the Flock
To feed adequately the flock of the Good Shepherd, the undershepherd should aim to make the following principles applicable in his service:
1. Be a sheep leader, not a sheep driver.
2. Like the Master, be a servant of the people.
3. Live out of the pulpit what is preached in it.
4. Have mercy for sinners, but no quarter for sin.
5. Remember that a single soul is worth a long hunt.
6. Fill the pulpit, and then the people will fill the pews.
7. Sometimes it is necessary to wound in order to heal. Do not cover up the plague spots of sin.
8. Maintain undying love for the lost, the last, the least.
9. Talk to God for the people, before talking to the people for God.
10. Aim straight at the devil. If folks get in the way, they must expect to be hit.
11. You can never give God's children too much of the Father's bread.
12. If there is no fire in the sermon, the sermon should be in the fire.
13. It is not praise, but groans of conviction, which are to be sought.
By A. J. Meiklejohn
Enlarged service along the line of pastoral visiting would do much to fortify our church membership, and to stop the dangerous tendency toward apostasy, which is assuming grave proportions at the present time. It is to be feared that many of us have become negligent in this respect, and have lost sight of the instruction that clearly points out this duty. In " Gospel Workers " we read: " By the preaching of the word and by personal ministry in the homes of the people," the pastor " wins their hearts to God." " There is too much sermonizing and too little real heart-to-heart work." " Ministry means .. . earnest personal labor." " Souls . . , are perishing for the want of " this ministry; and the preacher who is unwilling to do it, " has mistaken his calling." Notice that these statements apply as much to the shepherding of the flock as they do to evangelistic work.
" But, just what is a pastoral visit? " may be asked by many of the ministers of this present time. It is a visit by a pastor, to a person or family, wherein the object of the visit is to impart spiritual help. It is quite different from a call by the pastor to solicit money for the church enterprises, or to secure subscriptions for our church periodicals. Calls for such purposes are right and proper at certain times and under appropriate circumstances, but a pastoral visit is for the purpose of heart culture, the strengthening of Christian experience. Let us consider a few specific points tending to successful pastoral visiting.
1. Try to visit everybody in the church at least once a quarter; it makes no difference how strong you may consider their Christian experience to be. Do not wait until the time is at hand for soliciting money, and then call on the people in their homes. How often is the remark made, " Elder Blank never calls unless he wants some money "! This may be an exaggerated charge, but we should not give occasion for such a conjecture.
2. The best time to make a pastoral call is usually during the afternoon or evening. Fifteen minutes is ordinarily long enough for the call, unless special circumstances make it seem desirable to remain longer. After a few minutes' pleasant talk, turn the conversation to the spiritual, and find out the condition of the soul. If circumstances are favorable, read a portion of Scripture and engage in prayer — pray for the home, the unconverted members of the family, and for the children, calling each by name. Such a visit will long be remembered by both parents and children. And be sure to make friends with the children by manifesting a personal interest in them. It is well to keep a record of families and visits made, so that no family or individual will be overlooked.
3. The members of the church who give evidence of becoming indifferent, or of being weaned away from the church, should be visited often, and at short intervals. The pastor may have to speak plainly concerning the apparent danger and the need, but in it all, true Christian courtesy must prevail. Let these people know that you have a real interest in their souls, and be sure to make this interest known before they have drifted too far away. The first time a church member is absent from a Sabbath service, or the quarterly service, a visit should be made, if possible, to ascertain the cause and meet the special need.
4. The pastor should give special attention to visiting the poor, the aged, the sick, and the unfortunate, for such people especially need and enjoy his visits. Encourage the church members to report needy cases of this class. In visiting the sick, aim to make your visit short, comforting, and restful. It may not be wise to read from the Scriptures, but simply repeat a short verse, and offer a brief prayer while seated at the bedside.
5. When a person, or family, has met with misfortune or grief, call at once. Do not wait to be asked. There may not be anything which you can do at that time, but your personal presence and interest will be appreciated.
6. Visiting the dying, calls for special thought and preparation. Many times there is so little that the pastor can do at such a time, and yet his presence is needed then in a very special sense. It is not always advisable to tell the person how seriously ill he is; that is a matter to be left to the physician. I was once called to visit a sister who was dying, and realizing that the end was near, I gently took her hand, and whispered, " Sister, is Jesus precious to you just now? " And she faintly replied, " Yes, so precious! " On another occasion I visited one who was nearing the end, and softly repeated the twenty-third psalm. As death drew near, she said, " Is this death? Is this death? How beautiful! " What a comfort it is to the family gathered around the bedside to have the assurance that their loved one is triumphant in Christ while passing through the portals of death.
It is said that " a house-to-house parson makes a church-going people," and it is true. Pastoral visiting binds the hearts of the people to God and the church. And, fellow pastors, you will find yourselves blessed in this work. You will listen to your people pray for you, and it will do your soul good. They will tell you of their joys and sorrows, defeats and victories, and this will furnish you with more real vital sermon material than you can get out of a dozen books. You will find the answer to the perplexing query, What shall I preach about next Sabbath? And, best of all, many of the people we are now losing, will remain in the church and develop strong Christian characters.