Combating Ministerial Stagnation

It is distressing to imagine stagnation befalling a Seventh-day Adventist preacher.

By W. T. BARTLETT, Field Secretary, British Union Conference

Stagnation is an unpleasant, offensive idea. It is distressing to imagine such a thing as befalling any Seventh-day Advent­ist preacher. There is no place or excuse for stagnation in the Christian worker's experience.

Stagnation is relative. One might never be like a stagnant pond, covered with green scum, but yet might lack the crystal purity of the sparkling fountain, and fall into the comparative stagnation of cistern water. For us the great cure for stagnation is the more abundant life of the overflowing waterfall.

Stagnation can be physical, mental, spiritual. Stagnation in any of these is apt to extend to other departments. While our food is strictly rationed, it may seem impossible that the body should become torpid through overindulgence. But here also indulgence is relative. If you live a sedentary life, you reach the limit of what you can profitably absorb in the way of food much sooner than if you are living a very active life of exhausting labor.

Mental intemperance unfits one for practical service, and may produce a fiction devotee or a dreamy philosopher who is worthless for life's real needs. So also spiritual indulgence may produce a spiritual epicure, who luxuriates in the fatness of the Lord's house, but does not enjoy labor for souls. The one safe rule to save us from the lethargy of stagnation, whether of body, mind, or spirit, is to be sure that the output is equal to the intake. We must not consume more than we produce. To preserve a proper balance is the best way to combat stag­nation.

If we, as workers, live up to the program we have set for ourselves, we shall find plenty of healthful occupation for all our mental energies. There is the study of the message itself. We are to become all-round exponents of the ever­lasting gospel, stretching every nerve to raise ourselves with God's help to the lofty height of the apostolic example. Then we must study the message in its setting. We must know the history that tells of fulfilling prophecy, and as much as possible be able to recreate the very atmosphere in which revelations of the Bible were given.

We must know how to apply the message to our hearers, and to that end we must study them profoundly and become expert in knowing the needs of human nature, and the efficient sup­plying of those needs. We must be sound coun­selors to our converts, able to help them in their personal, domestic, and spiritual problems. We must become wise in the training of our con­verts, until every one of them is rooted and grounded in Christ, and completely prepared for whatever good work he may be called upon to do.

The demands that face us today call for the fullest development of moral character and spir­itual power. We are to know how to grow more and more into the divine nature. We are to have such dealings with God as the saints en­joyed. We are to know all that Moses and Daniel and Paul can teach us about God. We are to make spiritual discoveries for ourselves, so that we may speak with authority. There is no end to the knowledge of God, and we are to be ever growing in that knowledge.

All that we can learn is to be directed to the cultivation of our spiritual life, so that God may find in us fit agents for His service, and see reflected in us His own Spirit. We must partake of the deep things of God and impart them to the members of our churches. It is our task to raise those members to the same level of experience that we have attained through faith. This labor will call for most earnest study, prevailing prayer, and unre­served consecration. Whatever else we lack, we must become spiritual giants if we are to meet the standard set before us as the servants of Christ. Then we are to acquire moral power to grip the souls of men with the message of truth, and master the art of bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

Having accepted this program for ourselves, we shall find that its ever-increasing demands will take care of any tendency on our part to­ward stagnation. Christ will supply us with the life more and more abundant, more and more elevated, more alicl more dynamic. We shall then accept larger tasks with rejoicing, go forward courageously to ever greater diffi­culties, and with God's help perfect our service and extend it to the farthest limits of human capacity.

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By W. T. BARTLETT, Field Secretary, British Union Conference

December 1942

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