Adequate Training for Our Task

Adequate Training for Our Task--No. 1

Shall we insist on sixteen grades for applicants for ministerial work?

By LOUIS K. DICKSON, President, Northern California Conference

The Christian ministry faces new times and issues which demand better fitness and training on the part of the heralds of the everlasting gospel than has been necessary at any other hour in the history of the church. New philosophies, born out of the struggles and agonies of war and the economic disasters that have followed, are creating a new world dominated by movements and thought hostile to Christianity. New governmental control has arisen among all nations, employing all the avenues of approach to the human mind to sup­port their objectives—education, science, liter­ature, economic life, even, religion. Titanic struggles between ancient, irreconcilable philos­ophies garbed in modern dress pervade the earth's atmosphere. The issue is between the thought of God's sovereign rule on the one hand, and the supremacy of the state over the mind, spirit, and all the relationships and affairs of men on the other.

This disintegration of religion and a fast-growing secularism are largely due to bewil­derment and uncertainty on the part of the leaders of religion, and especially of Christian­ity, in the presence of these vast, destructive, dominating forces. Down into this seething caldron, this melting pot, into which all faiths and teachings have been thrown, the minister of the advent movement must go, to teach, convince, and lead out a remnant people.

This is a time of theological readjustment and restatement. It is a period of uncertainty and unrest with reference to mighty issues. An unprecedentedly critical spirit is asserting itself with great vigor, calling in question fun­damental doctrines and even accepted rules of conduct. There is a widespread religious in­difference which is more largely due to uncer­tainty about Scriptural truth among Christians themselves than is generally realized. Such must be dealt with at the sources. Stalwart service can be and must be rendered now by the ministry of this movement in restating funda­mental facts and unchanged truths in terms that will make them vivid and vital to others.

At no other time has it been so much needed and demanded as in this scientific age.

It is encouraging to note, however, that never before have honest men longed more for confident spiritual religious leadership. But only those can actually guide and lead who themselves know what men are seeking, who understand the point of view of those whom they would help, and who can speak to them in the language of their day.

It is therefore as clear as day that no longer can inadequate training on the part of candi­dates for the ministry produce men who can successfully meet the present situation in the world. Nothing less than a sixteen-grade edu­cational standard for our ministers will fully meet the needs of this hour. It can readily be understood that a more educated type of min­ister is needed today than was needed a decade or two ago, when we realize that the per cent of highly trained men and women comprising our population today is more than two hundred times that of a half century ago. To a large degree, the educated classes are wholly com­mitted to the evolutionary hypothesis as a basis for their philosophy of life, and he who would reach minds set in such a mold must know the scientific angle of approach as well as the Scriptural.

It is of little use to preach the word of God to men who by their own mental training have relegated that word to the scrap heap of an­cient superstition. They will not be arrested by Scriptural truth unless a confidence for the word of God is first established in their minds. To establish this confidence, ministers must have a training which gives to them advanced learning in the sciences as well as in the Scrip­tures. Definite counsel from the Lord has come to us on this point as follows:

"The times demand an intelligent, educated min­istry, not novices. False doctrines are being multi­plied. The world is becoming educated to a high standard of literary attainment ; and sin, unbelief, and infidelity are becoming more bold and defiant, as intellectual knowledge and acuteness are acquired. This state of things calls for the use of every power of the intellect; for it is keen minds, under the control of Satan, that the minister will have to meet. He should be well-balanced by religious prin­ciples, growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Too much haphazard work has been done, and minds have not been exercised to their fullest capacity. Our ministers will have to defend the truth against base apostates, as well as to measure Scripture evidence with those who advocate specious errors. Truth must be placed in contrast with bold assertions. Our ministers must be men who are wholly consecrated to God, men of no mean culture.... A higher grade of prepara­tion is required in order to do good service for the Master."—"Testimonies," Vol. V. pp. 528, 529.

Again, in meeting the highly trained minis­ters of other churches, who are not allowed to preach until they have at least seven years of training of college level, our men must not fall short in their training, lest they be placed at a distinct disadvantage in meeting such men.

Notice should also be given to the fact that in our colleges the trend of superior-minded young men is to a much greater degree toward medicine than toward the ministry. Shall we be willing to allow the impression to prevail that the demands of the medical profession are such as to require a type of scholarship superior to that which is required in the minis­try ? Such an attitude reveals a woeful lack in realization of the fundamental requisites of the ministry of this movement.

The Lord has emphasized the need of more study and training for the ministry.

"The men who now stand before the people as representatives of Christ have generally more ability than they have training, but they do not put their faculties to use, making the most of their time and opportunities. . . There has been but little ambi­tion to put their powers to the test and to reach an elevated standard in knowledge and in religious intelligence. . . . They might have done tenfold more work intelligently had they cared to become intellectual giants."—"Testimonies to Ministers," p. 194.

"God would have us students as long as we re­main in the world. Every opportunity for culture should be improved. The faculties need to be strengthened by exercise, the mind to be trained and expanded by taxing study. . . . His Word is given for our instruction; there is nothing in it that is defective or misleading. The Bible is not to be tested by men's ideas of science, but science is to be brought to the test of the unerring standard."—"Counsels to Teachers." p. 425.

Maturity and Training Needed

It is a fact not to be overlooked that the average student finishing the fourteenth grade today is too tender in years and too immature to take upon himself the responsibilities and demands of the ministry. The situation today is somewhat different from that of a few short years ago. My observation has been that the modern sixteen-grade student has not devel­oped mentally much farther than the fourteen-grade student of two decades ago. Therefore, a well-rounded education and mental develop­ment sufficient to meet the changing and chal­lenging years, call for training even beyond the sixteen-grade level in many cases. We need a large number of men in the ministry today and in our leadership who have a mental develop­ment far beyond that of the average college graduate.

The evil one is confronting the truth with men of the keenest minds he can control. Our ministry must not be pygmies in intellect or of such insufficient training that they have an inferiority complex in the face of the enemy. There is a large work yet to be done among the neglected intellectual classes. Largely our work has been carried on in behalf of what we might call the middle class, mentally speaking. The hour has come when distinctive emphasis must be placed on the need for men of ability to work for the higher class of people as well.

What is meant by men of ability"? They must be men of genuine and thorough Chris­tian integrity; men with a message and a defi­nite call of God to the ministry ; men of per­sonal force and strength of personality, whom the Spirit of God can use to convince and win men of a superior class; men of sound physical constitution who have the requisite common sense and self-control to care for their bodies, and a poise which comes only through maturity and seasoning in creative thinking, which will ensure maximum working efficiency; men of mental habits determined not to stagnate intel­lectually; men who are able to organize, lead, and inspire others to work ; men possessing the ability to sympathize and make friends with all classes; and above all, men of faith and prayer endued with the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us note further what the Spirit of prophecy has said concerning the minister:

"He should never become tame and lifeless in his efforts, but should be constantly reaching higher, and seeking to become better fitted through the grace Christ has provided. He should not be satis­fied to be merely a commonplace minister, but a polished instrument in the hands of Christ. He should be constantly seeking by his words, by his deportment, and by his piety, to elevate his fellow men and to glorify God. The work, and how it is done, is of great importance; therefore it requires the highest culture of the mind and purity of the soul to perform it well. Every minister should make the most of the priceless opportunities placed within his reach, and should have a high and holy trust in God. He should increase by proper use the talents entrusted to him, and then his powers for doing good will increase."—Review and Herald, Feb. 22, 1887.

"God does not want us to be content with lazy, undisciplined minds, dull thoughts, and loose mem­ories. He wants every teacher to be efficient, not to feel satisfied with some measure of success, but to feel his need of perpetual diligence in acquiring knowledge. . . . It is the work of each individual to develop and strengthen the gifts which God has lent him, with which to do most earnest, practical work, both in temporal and religious things. If all realized this, what a vast difference we should see in our schools, in our churches, and in our missions! But the larger number are content with a meager knowledge, a few attainments, just to be passable. . . .

"Many who are teachers of the truth cease to be students, digging, ever digging for truth as for hid­den treasures. Their minds reach a common, low standard; but they do not seek to become men of influence,—not for the sake of selfish ambition, but for Christ's sake, that they may reveal the power of the truth upon the intellect. It is no sin to appre­ciate literary talent, if it is not idolized ; but no one is to strive for vainglory to exalt self."—Id., June 21, 1887.

To be concluded in March

* Paper presented at North American Presidents' Council, Battle Creek, Michigan, 1938.

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By LOUIS K. DICKSON, President, Northern California Conference

February 1939

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