The Lord has made it very clear that the responsibility of caring for all the churches rests directly, specifically, and definitely upon the conference president. It is also made very clear to us through the counsel of the Spirit of prophecy that our conference presidents are to be trainers of men. These two distinctive specifications,—caring for the church, and the training of men for efficient service,—quite largely embrace the duties of the conference president, though many other duties and responsibilities grow out of these. While I purpose to deal particularly with these two features, I desire to emphasize, first of all, the preparation and equipment required for such responsibility; in other words, how to obtain the enabling power, strength, and wisdom required by the conference president in meeting successfully the tremendous responsibilities resting upon him, which have grown so rapidly during the past few years.
I know of no other class of workers who are in greater need of that divine unction bestowed through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, by which is imparted wisdom and power from God, and courage, strength, fortitude, and integrity in service, than are the conference presidents. And I stand with you, conference presidents, in a very deep appreciation of the tremendous burden and responsibility that is laid upon us each, as individuals bearing major responsibilities in connection with this great movement.
As I meet with our workers here and there, in camp meetings and general meetings, there rests upon my heart a deepening sense of the great need of spiritual power in our ministry. Many of the ministers laboring under our direction and counsel are in need of help. The spiritual tone of our ministry is at too low an ebb, and our greatest need is to have a spiritualizing power come upon our ministers and fit them to do efficient and successful work for God in the saving of souls. The responsibility of helping our ministers receive this qualification for service rests upon you and me. We cannot disregard it and be guiltless before God; and it seems to me that, as conference presidents, we ought individually to face the question: Am I measuring up to God's requirements of me as an educator, a trainer, a counselor, and as a director of my brethren in service?
Now I recognize the fact that there are persons who possess a special gift as trainers of men, by instructing, directing, and helping them. There are other men who do not possess that special gift, and some of this class have been placed in the position of conference president, where the lack in this respect is very apparent. And I do not believe it is out of place for me to state in this connection, that it would seem but reasonable to suggest that any conference president who is lacking in the ability to function successfully as a trainer of men, should, under God, secure that training for himself which will develop latent talent in this particular direction. Through prayer and earnest study, and the ministration of the Holy Spirit, I believe that every sincere conference president, who should continue in that responsibility, can become fully qualified, and entirely successful, in the training of the men under his leadership.
Through observation and experience, I am convinced that many young men who have entered the ministry are struggling along the best they can,—blazing their own trail, hewing out their own experience, practically single-handed and alone; but there is in the heart of each and every one of these young men a craving for counsel, for instruction, for comradeship with his own conference president. During my connection with the work in North America, young men have many times come to talk with me concerning their experience and their work, and often these young men have opened their hearts in a confidential manner and told me of their longing to get close to their conference president, in order to get the help from him which they realized they needed.
The cause of our present weakness in spiritual power and efficiency on the part of the ministry, is not due, primarily, to the attitude of the young ministers under our direction, but instead, it is due to the fact that some of our conference presidents either do not fully sense the responsibility which God has laid upon them, or else they do not know how to do the very thing which God requires of those who are filling the office of conference president in the organized work. I am sure, however, that failure on the part of conference presidents is not because they do not want to do that which is required of them, or because they are not keenly interested to see their ministerial forces succeed; but because they do not fully appreciate the importance of being educators and counselors to their workers, and possibly because they do not know how to meet this requirement.
I have been deeply impressed in observing the great amount of instruction, counsel, and admonition addressed to conference presidents through the Spirit of prophecy. This instruction should be made our daily handbook of constant study. I have selected a few paragraphs which I wish to present to you at this time.*
There are many, many other quotations that might be read. I have made no attempt to exhaust the theme. I have sought only to emphasize our great need, as local, union, and General Conference presidents and vice-presidents, of that deep spirituality and godliness in daily life which will set the right example before our ministers, and before all our workers, leading them into the deep waters where they will find life, strength, and power for their service; and from thence this stream of spiritual power will flood the churches.
There is only one ministry that counts for God, and that is the ministry of a personal experience in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If there, is one thing that we need more than another, it is this experience of personal godliness,—the experience of an inward, living and abiding Christ in the soul, who saves us from all our sins, delivers us from all our weaknesses, and keeps us, by divine power, from those hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and those manifestations of self which hinder and mar our work.
Our first prerequisite is a converted ministry. And I do not mean by that expression to infer that our ministers are not converted as far as the belief of the truth is concerned. It is not in that sense that I make use of the word "converted." But the first great need, and the prerequisite to beholding in our church what we desire to see, and ought to see, is the reconversion to God of every, minister and every worker in our ranks. When that takes place, and God has His way in our hearts and lives, then I am sure that the Holy Spirit will flow as a mighty stream of life into every church throughout our conferences. O that God would baptize the presidents of our world work with such fullness of His power, and such clearness of vision, as to bring forth a mighty Impetus for reformation in all our churches.
Recently I learned of an incident which illustrates and emphasizes one phase of the responsibility of the conference president. A young minister had been elected as the president of the conference, and a good old father in Israel gave him a word of counsel and advice. He said to the young man, "My dear young brother, you have been an evangelist, a preacher out in the field raising up churches. Through all your ministry you have been building into the church. Now you have become a conference president, and from now on you are to build up the church." He was endeavoring to make clear to the young man that the part of the vineyard which the conference president is to build up is the church constituency. As already stated, this is one of the chief duties of the conference president; and inseparably connected with it is the responsibility of training men for efficient spiritual service. But underlying both of these specific duties is the duty which the conference president owes to himself of entering into that great spiritual privilege, whereby he becomes qualified to lead his workers into a deeper spiritual experience and from thence into powerful and effective ministry.
If there was ever a time when the ministers of God ought to "weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare Thy people, O Lord," from the onslaught of the enemy, and from the indulgences that are breaking in upon our people,—the youth, the fathers and the mothers,—that time is today. And it seems to me that this is the group of men who should lift the voice in that kind of cry, and definitely lay hold on God, and by united effort check the cross currents of teaching, influence, and spiritual apathy which tend to destroy faith and lead into sin.
* "Testimonies to Ministers," p. 322: "Care in Selection," first paragraph.
"Testimonies to Ministers," p. 327: "Conference Presidents," beginning with second paragraph and continuing on p. 328 to top of p. 329.
"Gospel Workers," p. 419, second paragraph, first six lines.
"Gospel Workers," p. 416, third paragraph, first six lines.
"Gospel Workers," p. 413, entire page.
"Testimonies," Vol. V, p. 379, last paragraph, concluded on p. 380.
"Testimonies," Vol. V, p. 165, last paragraph, concluded on p. 166.
"Testimonies," Vol. V, p. 166, last paragraph, concluded on p. 167.