It is required of men whose work places them much before the public, that they be free from extremes and eccentricities. In a special way should a minister of the gospel be a man of equilibrium. He may not hope to serve well or win the confidence of those whom he would serve if he is erratic and lacking in poise.
A minister must deal with all kinds of people. His ministry takes him into all kinds of homes, to mingle with all classes of society. He must stand before congregations made up of people with varied tastes, temperaments, and tendencies. For a preacher to overlook this is certain to limit the effectiveness of his ministry. He invites failure, unless he seeks to avoid offending the varied types of people for whom he labors. Loudness, rudeness, or awkwardness may unwittingly close the door to hearts and minds. Uncouthness, inaccuracy, and errors in speech likewise prove to be handicaps. One may be accurate and orthodox, and yet be unbalanced and unreasonable. One may have a love for souls and an excellent knowledge of all Bible truths, both of which are of the greatest importance; yet his labors may be handicapped by a sad lack of good taste in manners, speech, and dress.
Paul studied men. He said, "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." His great purpose was to win men. He took into account the necessity of moderation and tact. Obviously, he intelligently "became all things to all men," without sacrifice of principle, in order that he might avoid placing obstacles in the way of those to whom he preached the message. His practice was in harmony with these pertinent words which are recorded-for-the benefit of all whowould enter the gospel ministry: "Giving no offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed."
This matter of dignity and a keen sense of appropriateness is of greater importance than many realize. I do not place it above a deep knowledge of the Word, a true love for souls, and a genuine Christian experience; for we all know that these are of first importance. But I do say that often men give too little attention to these essentials in their ministry.
We as ministers should be refined and cultured. As public men we should have a keen sense of propriety as we preach and pray and labor among the people. No offensive mannerisms, cheap idiosyncrasies, or taint of rudeness should ever appear. We should know the best thing to do and the best way to do it. We must seek to have our pulpit manners winning and pleasing, rather than offensive and repulsive. No star of the lecture platform should outshine a minister of the gospel in winning favor by culture and poise.
Especially should young men who are preparing for the ministry become keen students regarding these things. Attention should be given to such matters in our training schools. Our theological students should be required to know and observe proper pulpit manners.
Perhaps at no time is good poise more needed than when one is standing—or shall we say, "performing"—before a congregation. Unbecoming performances in the pulpit become detractive and offensive. It is less objectionable to be stiff, awkward, or unmovable, than to make obvious attempts to attract attention by unnecessary gestures and devices. Proper poise in the pulpit will avoid both extremes. Ministers of the gospel should neither displease nor divert the thoughts of those who look on and listen. They should maintain, in action and attitude, a graciousness and inoffensiveness that will make the ministry and the message stronger.