According to our Saviour's designation and example, a minister is one who serves; for we read, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister;" and, "I am among you as he that serveth." The gospel ministry pertains to the spiritual needs of humanity.
But the work of an administrator differs essentially from that of a minister. This word carries the thought of an overseer, a director, one standing at the head of a work or organization in the capacity of officer or president. One may administer without ministering to the spiritual needs of humanity. While it is essential both to minister and to administer in connection with the work of the church, there is need to be on guard lest the administrative feature usurp the place of the ministerial feature.
The greatest work that a minister of the gospel can perform is that of making known to humanity the plan of salvation, and winning men and women from a life of sin to a life of obedience to God. No official position is to be compared to such ministry. But many times those who are called to minister in spiritual things are required to share administrative responsibilities to a greater or less extent; and therein lies the danger of overbalance, the minister being submerged in the administrator. The germ of self flourishes in the soil of directorship.
The same principle extends through the whole body of Christian workers, ministering in whatever line into which they may be called. For a doctor, there is no greater work than to be an efficient minister to the physical needs of humanity, even though he may be asked to carry administrative responsibilities in institutional work. The same is true of the nurse. The teacher who is truly successful is the one most efficient in educational lines, rather than standing as the head of a department or an institution.
Our denominational work is highly organized, and calls for many administrators in all units of organization, until we are led to wonder if we have not reached a stage of overdevelopment of the idea of leadership and administrative ability. Not for one moment would we countenance a suggestion to weaken or minimize the great system of organization which under God has been established in the development of the advent movement, and yet it is time for a serious survey of our situation, and for marking well our bulwarks, to discover, if possible, where there has been a stressing of leadership and administrative work to the neglect of the effort of primary importance,—to minister in spiritual things, rather than to administer the affairs of the movement.
It sometimes becomes apparent that there is a prevailing idea in the minds of workers that they have not succeeded in their calling unless they reach the point where appointment as an administrator takes place. To such the primary objective in attaining success seems to be to become the president of a conference, the head of an institution, or the secretary of a department. This attitude need not necessarily be prompted by a bad motive, but it indicates an abnormal development in our system of organization which does not tend to the health of the body.
In my observation and experience I have often been convinced that men and women are sometimes chosen for places of leadership without proper consideration as to natural talents and qualifications. It is quite possible for a person to be efficient and strong in his chosen work, possessing excellent qualities for evangelism, teaching, medical practice, or nursing, while in administrative qualities there may be marked deficiency. It is not wise to conclude that because a man has qualifications which make him a strong and effective evangelist, he is thereby fitted to serve as a conference president. There has developed in our work a practice of reaching out after evangelists and placing them in administrative positions, seemingly for the special reason that they have demonstrated ability in evangelistic lines. Are we to conclude that because a man is a fruitful soul winner in evangelistic effort, he is to be considered in line for the presidency of a conference? Are we sure that his evangelistic qualifications are a guaranty of his administrative ability? Such a practice brings weakness not only into soul winning and a ministerial program, but also into our executive work.
A pleasing and winning personality, and good ability as a public speaker, with such other outstanding qualifications as a man may possess for strong and effective city evangelistic work, may not involve the most essential requirement for an effective administrator at the head of a conference or institution. And it often develops that outstanding qtytlifications for evangelistic work tend to defeat when applied in executive tasks, for the majority of persons who can lead out strongly in soul-winning efforts find it very difficult to fit into the peculiar responsibilities involved in administrative affairs. "To every man his work," is the commission; and to be a true minister of the Lord Jesus Christ is far greater honor (if there is any basis of degree in Christian service) than to be an administrator of necessary detail in connection with the commission.
The danger of weakening both the ministry and the administrative work through misunderstanding or lack of comprehension of the principle involved, is of so grave a character as to call for very earnest and careful study, especially as our work enlarges and the demands for stronger evangelism confront us.
Let us never overlook the fact that there is no excuse for the existence of our organization—our publishing houses, schools, sanitariums, and the various departments of our work—except as it tends to the one objective, —the winning of souls to obedience of the truth. Our best talent, our strongest and truest endeavor, should always be directed toward that accomplishment. The work of the gospel ministry should not be weakened or endangered by the subtle insinuation that a man is stepping up—reaching a higher place—when he accepts administrative responsibility. There is no higher work, no more noble responsibility, than filling the place of an earnest, faithful minister of the gospel.
Every effort should be fostered which tends to inspire both the young men coming into the ministry and those who have long been in service, with the thought that to minister is greater than to administer, and that the gospel ministry is the one worthwhile objective in connection with the work of God.
South Lancaster, Mass.