The pastor who is not a soul winner is a failure. In a special sense a pastor is an ambassador for Christ. He is commissioned to win, to hold, and to reclaim lost souls by the power of divine love. In everything he is to represent Christ. His work and influence have a wide scope. Just as a pebble thrown into a lake starts a ripple that reaches the farthermost shore, so the work and influence of a good pastor extends to the ends of the earth and will be felt on the timeless shore of eternity. "The light that shines farthest shines brightest nearest home."
Earnest Bible study, fervent prayer, and a life fully surrendered to God must precede all successful service. Then as the pastor goes forth to labor, his work will be well directed and he will be master of circumstances and conditions. The events of the day will be steppingstones, not stumbling blocks. Emergencies will present opportunities, not disasters. He will then be endued with humble grace and a heaven-born dignity in keeping with his holy calling. His first work is to live the gospel—his life is to be his sermon. Consequently he must be above reproach in everything, as people will follow what he does more than what he says.
Example in Frugality.—By precept and example he should teach the evil of signing away one's right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" by mortgaging his future in order to possess unearned, unpaid-for conveniences. Good business, strict honesty, and a practical regard for the poor are a part of true religion.
The pastor should become thoroughly acquainted with the work of the various church endeavors, encouraging the leaders and members by taking an active interest in each department. He should attend all meetings as regularly as possible and make each department and each church officer a success.
Sabbath School Responsibilities.—Among the activities of the church, the Sabbath school stands without a rival. The Sabbath school should be the best-attended service of all, for here the best Bible-study course in the world can be conducted. The pastor should encourage the church members to attend regularly and to invite their friends and neighbors to accompany them. Then the Sabbath school will become the soulsaving agency which it should be. And here is a most appropriate time and place to acquaint the members with our needs and work overseas by giving interesting reports of significant progress in distant lands.
It is a good plan to encourage the setting of individual goals to be given regularly through the Sabbath school. This plan, faithfully followed, means much to a church in reaching its missions goal, as more than fifty percent of our missions offerings are raised in the Sabbath school. Too many are willing to bring to God a "lazy" offering. They give as they happen to have. This method of paying the grocer, the milkman, the landlord, etc., would not work. Why use it with God ? His work is of supreme importance, and we as His stewards should determine to set aside a certain amount first, in addition to our tithe, for the support of His work. When church members adjust their budgets to recognize God's cause, they enjoy giving, and receive a blessing. The pastor does not have to be a great preacher to foster the Sabbath school, and this is an important part of his work.
Feeding the Lambs.—Then there is the Young People's Missionary Volunteer Society. Here is a wonderful work in training them for service. Young people are eager to do things. The pastor who fails to recognize in this army of youth the church's greatest material asset is failing in one of his most responsible duties. No true estimate can be placed upon the value to the church of its young people. A pastor does not have to be a superman to attend meetings of the youth and encourage them.
Feeding the Sheep.—The prayer meeting is said to be the thermometer of the church. What better place to feed the sheep with the bread of life! A pastor does not have to be eloquent to bring from the source of truth rich feasts of good things for his members. And how they do enjoy feeding on the Word ! The pastor who gives this service deep study, giving opportunity for several prayers, leading out in the service by using fifteen or twenty minutes for his message, then turning the meeting over to the members for testimonies, will be rendering a most valuable service to the church.
No adequate estimate can be placed upon the value of personal work in visiting interested individuals and church members in their homes. The pastor who follows up this sacred duty and privilege, praying with the people and helping them over hard places, will win their hearts. It will not be easy for such to be Ted astray by false teachers or teachings. Personal work anchors souls to Christ as nothing else does. Failure here is next to unpardonable. If this work were faithfully done, there would be much less work to do in dealing with backslidden members. If one half of the love and effort put forth to win souls to the truth were exercised in keeping them in the church, hardly any would become discouraged. It is nothing short of tragic to win people from the world and then see them slip away, almost unnoticed, when just a little effort would have held them.
Most of those who leave the church do not go because they have lost confidence in the doctrines of the church. They leave because they become discouraged in their battle with the prince of darkness. A kindly sympathy and a strong arm of love—which cost so little and are worth so much—would have been all that was needed in keeping precious, blood-bought souls in the pathway of life. Our churches too often let members slip far away before trying to reclaim them, and are unkind to the erring who are not of the fold. The shepherd who found his lost sheep did not scold. With tenderest sympathy he bound up its wounds. He manifested love, not revenge, for the lost sheep. He himself lifted the sheep to his heart and carried it back to the fold. It is said that such a sheep will never stray again.
We do not mean to say that the pastor should not rebuke sin in the church, but there is a difference between faithfully rebuking sin, and harping on sin. A pastor, must not be so concerned about tares that he fails to plant wheat. Evil is overcome with good. One can be so occupied with his muck rake that he never sees his crown of glory. A mariner does not steer his ship by the waves, but by the stars. Surgeons sometimes perform an operation which they call a success, but the patient dies. But I do not call a spiritual operation that kills the sinner's soul a success.
Before Christ gave Peter his commission to continue preaching, He drew a pledge of love three times from Peter. No pastor can acceptably feed his sheep until he first loves his sheep. And love will not only win souls, but it will keep souls, for "love is of God."
Sabbath Preaching Service.—I have purposely placed the regular Sabbath preaching service last in my list. If the preceding objectives have been met, the church is sure to prosper—and no preaching has yet been involved. Too many pastors depend too much upon the 'Sabbath preaching service as an all-inclusive service. And in too many places, this hour is used to put over campaigns. The Sabbath-morning preaching should not be thus prostituted. It should be made and kept deeply spiritual. It is a time to feed the sheep, not to shear them ! So many good sermons have been ruined by attaching a campaign cracker at the end in an endeavor to do what the pastor has failed to do in the other services of the church.
The pastor should be well-informed regarding his sermon topic. His material should be authentic. He should have made every necessary preparation, so that he may not waste the time of the listeners by rambling, or lead them astray by inaccuracies and misstatements. He should deliver his message with dignified enthusiasm, as one who must give an account of his ambassadorship at the bar of God. Thus he rounds out and brings to a climax the high privilege of pasturing.