The Pastor and the Home

The pastor's responsibility for the social problems of the flock. Part one.

By ARTHUR W. SPALDING, Secretary of the Home Commission

Our pastors are fortunate in having this series of three studies on "The Pastor and the Home." Writ­ing for THE MINISTRY after twenty years of inten­sive study in this field of his specialty, Professor Spalding has summed up in succinct and practical form the problem, the solution, and the means of help. The appended bibliography at the close of the series is invaluable. We bespeak a careful study of these timely counsels.—Editors

Why trouble the pastor with the social problems of the flock? Because the pastor is a physician of souls. He is  constantly confronted with the problems of his flock—spiritual problems, educational prob­lems, social problems. All these combine in any situation—in the family, in society, in the church; and among his people the pastor either is appealed to, or, uninvited, recog­nizes the need of his services to solve the problems. He cannot be rid of the trouble by ignoring its causes, or by turning his back upon it, or by neglecting its cure. Evil must be eradicated, if its results are to be effaced; but knowledge, wisdom, tact, and love must be the instruments of healing. Let us trouble the pastor to face his social problems squarely, and then to find the means of their solution.

Prominent among the pastor's social prob­lems are the unhappy conditions often evolved in home relations. A man and a woman poorly trained in childhood and youth for social adjustment, enter marriage, sometimes so ill-advisedly that wreckage seems almost certain. If they survive its initial storms, they bring into existence children for whose care and training they are quite unfitted, and the church, the school, and other community agencies are burdened with antisocial characters.

Spiritual life cannot flourish under such con­ditions, and the pastor, in seeking the uplift of his people, is confronted with the social causes of church deficiency and weakness. He has to deal with the conditions created by divided homes, by homes lax in discipline, by incom­petency, by improvidence, by intemperance, by immorality. He cannot leave these sources of corruption untouched and do his duty or succeed in his mission. Christ heals sick souls by destroying sin and by pouring in His own life of righteousness. The pastor, who is the minister of that life, must be intelligent as to causes and effects, and skillful in the administration of remedies.

But the pastor's social problems are not all negative, not all vexatious. There are prob­lems of affirmative interpretation, of teaching, of construction. He has to build, that he may not have to destroy. It is better far to build. lives in righteousness than to have first to tear down in order to replace. And it is possible, in great degree, to avoid the necessity of correc­tion if we begin with the beginning of life to build aright. "The gospel is a wonderful sim­plifier of life's problems," and the gospel, which is the means for "the restoration and uplifting of humanity; begins in the home."—"Ministry of Healing,' pp. 363, 349.

That pastor does well who regards as his first parishioners the babes in the cradle, and who preaches the gospel to them through teach­ing their parents to live the gospel. Such teaching involves not merely exhortation, but training. And training demands, first, knowl­edge; second, skills; third, teaching methods. Can there be any question that the home is a legitimate field for the pastor to enter and work ? Listen to instruction from an inspired source:

"In all that pertains to the success of God's work, the very first victories are to be won in the home life."—"Testimonies," Vol: VI, p. 354.

"In the formation of character, no other influences count so much as the influence of the home."—"Edu­cation," p. 283.

"The well-being of society, the success of the church, the prosperity of the nation, depend upon home influences."—"Ministry of Healing" p. 349.

"The minister's duties lie around him, nigh and afar off ; but his first duty is to his children. He should not become so engrossed with his outside duties as to neglect the instruction which his chil­dren need. He may look upon his home duties as of lesser importance ; but in reality they lie at the very foundation of the well-being of individuals and of society. To a large degree the happiness of men and women and the success of the church depend upon home influence. Eternal interests are involved in the proper discharge of the everyday duties of life. The world is not so much in need of great minds, as of good men, who are a blessing in their homes."—"Gospel Workers," p. 204.

"Ministers should be educators who understand and appreciate the needs of humanity."—"Testimo­nies," Vol. VI, p. 302.

"A minister may enjoy sermonizing; for it is the pleasant part of the work, and is comparatively easy; but no minister should be measured by his ability as a speaker. The harder part comes after he leaves the desk, in watering the seed sown. The interest awakened should be followed up by personal labor,—visiting, . . . teaching, . . . praying with families."—Id., Vol. V, p. 255.

"We need to meet together and receive the divine touch that we may understand our work in the home. Parents need to understand how they may send forth from the sanctuary of the home their sons and daugh­ters so trained and educated that they will be fitted to shine as lights in the world."--Id., Vol. VI, pp. 32, 33.

"The work that lies next to our church members is to become interested in our youth; for they need kindness, patience, tenderness, line upon line, precept upon precept. Oh, where are the fathers and moth­ers in Israel ? ... God requires that the church arouse from her lethargy, and see what is the manner of service demanded of her at this time of peril. The lambs of the flock must be fed."—"Counsels to Teachers," p. 42.

"The people will seldom rise higher than their min­ister."—"Gospel Workers," p. 342.

If the church members are to do this work that lies next to them, they must be led by their pastor. He must do the work that lies next to him. And what is that? To convert the heathen on the other side of the world? To relieve the necessities of the stricken in war or famine-desolated areas ? To preach the third angel's message to unconverted multi­tudes? To maintain the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution? All these are component and worthy parts of his ministry, for "all branches of the work belong to the ministers." —"Testimonies," Vol. V, p.. 375. There may be a hundred duties that belong to the pastor. He must be interested in and support the Sab­bath school, literature distribution, Harvest Ingathering, medical service, Dorcas Society, relief of the poor, Bible teaching, lecturing and preaching. But the work that lies next to him, as to all his people, is to become interested in our children and youth in their homes, and in the parents who make those homes, that there may be schools of righteousness out of which these children and youth shall come forth messengers for the King of kings.

This demands definite attention, intense study, constant effort, increase of power and skill. If we had saved and trained all the chil­dren given to Seventh-day Adventist parents through the last century, how much greater and more effective would our ministry now be ! "With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world !" —"Education," p. 271.

This leadership and teaching by the pastor covers a wide field, and yet reduced to its essence it is very simple. It resides first in his example and the example of his wife. They must be all things that they would have their people be. Their home is to be the example for all the homes of their people, in love, in disci­pline, in order, in purposeful program, in maintenance of the principles of health, in social ideals and control, in teaching in all lines ac­cording to the pattern laid down by the Bible and the Spirit of prophecy. This is a great goal, a tremendous requirement, on the one hand made difficult by the minister's preoccu­pation with numerous outside interests, but on the other hand made easier by the training, the consecration, and the consequent self-discipline that the pastor and his wife must have had to be acceptable ministers of God. Let the pas­tor's family be an example of the perfect Chris­tian life, and the half of his work is done. (1 Tim. 3:2-7)

The other half of his work will be done in the active teaching of love. This does not mean a nebulous pietistic sentimentalism. Love is not merely sentiment, neither is it the relation so often made common and base in human experience. God is love, and love is of God. Love is the deepest, the highest, the holiest subject in heaven and earth. It will be the central science studied through eternity, and its study and practice now are indispensa­ble to Christian life. Its existence in human lives and its application to human ideals, atti­tudes, and activities make the greatest subject ever presented for human study.

The pastor needs not only to preach love, he needs to translate it into the experience of the church. Human love is an investment of divine love, and only as the pure love of God operates in the lives of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brethren and sisters, church members, and through them in children and youth, can there be a sincere Christian experience and success of the church.

The love of God is an unselfish love. The devil's distortion of it is self-love, from which springs rivalry. The world in great part, lack­ing the love of God, has f or its greatest incen­tive rivalry, competition, contest. "The world is too much with us," and unless the pastor and his helpers are on guard, the world's motivating power—rivalry—will creep into the activities of the church.

Is there rivalry between classes of the Sab­bath school ? Is the Harvest Ingathering cam­paign conducted as a contest between rival bands ? Does the church school employ com­petitive devices to arouse ambition? Do com­petitive games and sports comprise the recre­ative life of the children and youth ? Is there jealousy, backbiting, gossip, heart burnings, envy, feuding, because of individual or group rivalries? All this is opposed to the spirit of Christ.

Rivalry is a cancer that will eat the heart out of home, school, society, and church. Rivalry is forbidden by Christ and by all His spokesmen. (Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-45; I Cor. 10 :12 ; Gal. 5:19, 2o; James 3 :14-16 ; "Educa­tion," pp. 225, 226; "Testimonies," Vol. V, pp. 236-248; "Gospel Workers," pp. 483-485.)

The remedy is love. The pastor, as the leader and teacher of his flock, needs to grasp more and more fully the great science and the mighty power of love. He must eliminate riv­alry. He must set love to work. He must find ways of inculcating it in the home life, and from that source it will permeate all the church. Here indeed is the basic work demanded in building the home; for the home is founded by love, and can thrive only under the exercise of love. And as the home is, so is the church.

In part, the pastor may teach through public address. He should not fail to devote some of his preaching to the ideals of Christian home making and child training. These ideals must come from his heart and life ; but he will find them succinctly stated in the Testimonies, par­ticularly in the section on the home in "Min­istry of Healing," and in more detail in "Coun­sels to Teachers, Parents, and Students," in "Education," and in other works of Ellen G. White. He will find them amplified in the books of the Christian Home Series : "Makers of the Home," "All About the Baby," "Through Early Childhood," "Growing Boys and Girls," and "The Days of Youth." With his wife he should familiarize himself with these teachings, live them in the home, and thus be able to trans­late them to his people.

But the pastor will find that lecture and exhortation fill only a part of the need. There is required for parenthood a training as specific and intensive as for the ministry, or teaching, or medicine, or nursing, or business. Read "Education," pages 275, 276; "Counsels to Teachers," pages 107-118. The church is obligated to furnish this training for parents, and the church has responded to the obligation.

Whether this school for parents shall function in every church depends primarily upon the initiative and support of the pastor. Next month we turn to the means for accomplishing this.

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By ARTHUR W. SPALDING, Secretary of the Home Commission

October 1941

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