The third angel's message is without doubt the most important movement on earth today. Consequently the ministers of this denomination feel challenged to do everything possible to forward the work and finish it in this generation. Especially should this be true of the local church pastor, for it falls to his lot to put into effect the actions of the local, union, and general conferences. It is natural to suppose that every consecrated pastor realizes the importance of his work and desires to make a success of his local church program. Yet it must be admitted that many ministers with singularly good ideas sometimes fail to achieve success because they do not gain the co-operation of the church membership. Recognizing this, each pastor should make every effort to gain their co-operation. The following twelve suggestions are ways that I personally have found effective in attaining this, and are submitted with the hope that they may be of help to others.
I. First, and foremost, the pastor must live up to the standards of the message which he represents. Unless he does this his preaching will have little weight. Our churches contain many deeply spiritual people who are walking close to their Saviour, and surely their pastor should not be behind them in character development. Rather, he should from his own experience be able to lead them into an ever deeper relationship with God. In this same connection it might be said that the pastor should never conduct himself in other than a dignified manner. If the flock hears the shepherd tell jokes and sees him carry on antics, the tendency will be to visualize these actions even when he is in the pulpit expounding the most sacred themes. On the other hand, if he is a man of prayer and the Word, his flock will have confidence in his religion and will cheerfully follow his leadership.
2. Take the lead in financial sacrifice. Let not the pastor feel that because he belongs to the ministry and pays his tithe that is all that is required of him. His personal example in giving to Sabbath school and church offerings will cause the people to do likewise.
3. Talk courage and faith among your congregation. If the feeling prevails that the financial goals are too high, present the bright side. Show how this is a fine opportunity to do more for the Lord, and that if we succeed, more souls will be saved. If the attendance is small, do not act discouraged. God is not dependent on numbers to pour out His Holy Spirit. Many times these small meetings bring the greatest blessings. If only one soul carries away inspiration from your message, surely the sermon was worth the effort. By talking courage we can transmit courage to our congregations.
4. The pastor should show a genuine interest in every church member and his problems. Many times they may seem unimportant to the pastor, but they are of vital importance to the individual. This means that the pastor will listen attentively when a member is relating his troubles, whether it is by telephone or face to face, even though it may be the second or third recital. If it is a face-to-face conversation, give the person your undivided attention, not allowing your eyes to wander to bystanders. This complete attention and interest will go far toward gaining the support of a member.
5. Always visit members who may be sick. This will never be forgotten, for it is at such times that the heart is most impressionable and favors are most appreciated. The pastor will also visit all his members as time permits, but he should make sure to visit all who have especially requested his presence. Members notice whether the pastor visits those they request him to visit, and if he does, their hearts are won. If not, their co-operation will be difficult to get.
6. Endeavor to develop the talents of every member. There is a tendency to ask only experienced ones to take part in the different services, but this is a mistake and will encourage weakness in the church. Rather, give all an opportunity to develop, that they may help carry the load. The pastor should organize such classes as the Lay Bible Workers' Course and the Teachers' Training Course. Training our laity for service will yield large returns both in strengthening the church and in producing happy members.
7. The pastor should carry on as aggressive an evangelistic program as time and money will permit. This will win souls, establish new converts, and encourage the older ones as they hear again the positive truths of this message, and see individuals baptized into church fellowship.
8. It is important for the pastor to foster a balanced program in the church. All regular campaigns should be promoted, but no one line of church activity should receive all his attention. Make helpful suggestions to the Dorcas Society as well as to the young people's society and Sabbath school. This will encourage the leaders, and perhaps prevent resignations.
9. Another item in gaining church confidence is the element of organization. Adults, like children, are always happier when they know what they can count on. Thus, in planning for the regular church meetings, have them at regular times. For example, some find it well always to have the ordinances on the twelfth Sabbath of each quarter. This prevents overcrowding the always-full thirteenth Sabbath. Likewise, why not have at least one church business meeting each quarter, say on the first Saturday night of the new quarter. And where there is a church school, have the Home and School Association meetings regularly, perhaps on the second Saturday night of each month. These are only tentative suggestions, of course, for local needs vary ; but they go to show how the church may be operated in an organized way. It is easier for the members to co-operate if they feel that the church is not run by whim, but by sound planning.
10. Be as agreeable as possible. A minister with an acid disposition will find it difficult to be liked personally. Cultivate a pleasant personality. If the members are fond of their pastor as a person, it will be much easier for them to follow his leadership. The love of Christ in one's heart will go far toward helping a pastor to be agreeable and kind at all times.
11. Operate the church on a democratic basis. Do not highhandedly spend church funds without proper authority from the governing bodies. Keep the church informed regarding the manner in which their money is being spent. They will thus give more readily when they see the need and know that it will not be spent without the counsel of the church board. In every way possible help the members to feel that the church is theirs; then they will naturally co-operate and work for its success. There may be a few overzealous people in the church who will be continually making suggestions concerning the running of the church. Do not bluntly reject these suggestions; but if they are not feasible, make some counterproposal in as tactful a manner as possible. Often, however, members will make suggestions that are really workable and that will improve the church.
12. This one is mentioned last, but that is no index of its importance. When a pastor comes into a new church it is well for him to remain somewhat aloof from those who eagerly court his favor and friendship. There may be church factions with which he is not familiar, and to seem to be "taken in" by one group will almost certainly cut off his support and co-operation from the other groups. Pastors should not be part of any clique in the church. This will arouse resentment, and many will feel that the clique is running the church. And in this same connection it might be said that the pastor certainly will not discuss one member unfavorably with another, if he wishes his church program to succeed. Nor will he discuss conference workers except to dwell on their strong points. Speak well of everyone, and each church member will know that you are speaking well of him, too.
These twelve points are not an open-sesame to successful pastorship, but I believe that if they are used the Holy Spirit can make of any church a more effectual fighting unit in the last great struggle against the forces of darkness.