Every minister, whether acting as local or engaged in a special evangelistic effort, should become acquainted with the municipal authorities of the city in which he labors. I have found that a visit to the office of the mayor is desirable. An acquaintance with the chief officers of the police department is also advantageous. Many times these men can be made one's friends by a simple assurance that he is desirous of doing everything possible to make all meetings helpful to the general welfare of the community. Not infrequently the authorities will make suggestions that can easily be followed, and the fact that a minister seeks to co-operate with them, naturally causes them to feel an interest in his work and his welfare.
Personally, I like to carry this plan even farther, and become acquainted with the policeman on whose beat my church, tent, or hall is located. If one is judicious in his contacts, it is possible to dissipate prejudice where it has existed, and to prevent its arising in other cases.
When possible, I think one should seek an acquaintance with State officials. The representative from one's district in the State legislature can often be helpful when religious legislation is introduced in the State legislative body. The Representative in Congress is another who should be met. It goes without saying that care must be exercised in establishing these contacts. Often no more need be done than to leave your card and in a few words tell of your interest as a citizen in the general welfare of both State and national governments. All the men that have been mentioned are busy. Besides their own affairs, they have resting upon them the problems of larger or smaller communities or districts, and it is but fair not to take much of their time.
It is commonly observed that too frequently our public servants are blamed when any untoward incidents occur, but usually no word of praise for work well done is ever- accorded them. It is my belief that most Seventh-day Adventists fail to appreciate how much can be achieved by a word of thanks to efficient and honest public officials, coupled with an offer of any service that a minister or a lay Christian can do to make his government a good one.
Personal contact has many advantages. It is recorded that Charles Lamb once said, in his own whimsical way: "Don't introduce me to that man. I want to go on hating him, and I can't hate a man whom I know." So with prejudice. It is difficult to be prejudiced against a person you have met and who impresses you as being sincere, no matter what may be said about him by his detractors. When these civic leaders come to know Seventh-day Adventists, they soon learn that we do not have "hoofs and horns," as some of our opponents would infer.
A reasonable amount of contact with men in official life has absolutely convinced me that they are just the same as other men. If there be a difference, it occurs to me that it is this: The higher a man goes in civic responsibility, the more apt he is to feel a sense of loneliness. His very position keeps some people from him, and because of added duties and responsibilities, he naturally has not the time he once had for social contacts. Where it is not possible to extend good wishes in person to leaders in civic affairs, a short letter will often do much good. And if our hearts are warms with the love of God for our fellow men, we will not neglect any group or class.
In our day we do not have to wait for the outstretched arm of an absolute monarch to give us a right to speak, and no one now can expect servile obeisance or obedience; but a proper respect for any office of trust and responsibility will lead us to show a becoming deference to the one who holds the office.
Washington, D. C.