[The rebuke and appeal in the following letter, sent recently to one of our evangelists, touch upon a point that unfortunately makes it personal to many who are engaged in the gospel ministry. For this reason the letter is given, as it was written, setting forth one layman's viewpoint of the minister's privilege and duty.]
Dear Brother: "The love of Christ constraineth me" to write to you, His avowed representative, touching a certain matter that weakens your influence. I refer to your habit of praising men in the pulpit, and of telling amusing stories in your sermons. If you could be in the audience and hear these stories, you would realize that they cheapen your discourse instead of adorning it. Often I have heard earnest Adventists express the wish that you would cease this practice.
God has given to you a beautiful presentation of the message of salvation, as exemplified in the life and ministry of His Son. Will not the message for this time be most effectively presented if it is given as Jesus would give it, were He standing in your pulpit? Can you imagine Him interspersing funny stories with the words of life and warning?
In His ministry, Christ testified: "I do always those things that please Him." So must His followers do. How finely Paul sets forth the privilege of high standards in speech for one who is a minister of the gospel: "As we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God." 1 Thess. 2:4. And again: "Do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Gal. 1:10.
Very clear instruction is given in the Spirit of prophecy on this point. In "Testimonies to Ministers," page 318, we read:
"Neither is it the object of preaching to amuse. Some ministers have adopted a style of preaching that has not the best influence. It has become a habit with them to weave anecdotes into their discourses. The impression thus made upon the hearers is not a savor of life unto life. Ministers should not bring amusing stories into their preaching. The people need pure provender, thoroughly winnowed from the chaff. 'Preach the word,' was the charge Paul gave to Timothy, and this is our commission also. The minister who mixes story-telling with his discourses is using strange fire. God is offended, and the cause of truth is dishonored, when His representatives descend to the use of cheap, trifling words."
It is always painful to an audience to hear ministers praise other ministers as they introduce them in the pulpit. Many warnings have been given to us against indulging in this practice, which harms all who hear it or take part in it. In "Ministry of Healing," page 449, we read:
"That which I have seen of eternal things, and that which I have seen of the weakness of humanity, has deeply impressed my mind, and influenced my life work. I see nothing wherein men should be praised or glorified."
I have written these things in the spirit of love, and with an earnest prayer that many may be blessed and strengthened through your ministry.