The Minister as a Student

One certain way in which we can be assured of efficiency and success in the work committed to us is by every minister's being an untiring student.

By LOWELL W. WELCH, Bible Teacher Walla Walla College, Washington

The title of an article in the Ministry of June, 1941, has stuck in my memory. It was a warning against unsound leadership and sup­pression methods of maintaining unity. The title was "We Must Not Be 'Bumblers.'" Since that time an expression has come to the millions of tongues of America—"Remember Pearl Harbor." Today, fellow workers, let us resolve that we, as God's workmen, shall not be "bumblers," nor ever allow opportunity, by neglect of duty, for a "Re­member Pearl Harbor" cry to be raised against us.

One certain way in which we can be assured of efficiency and success in the work committed to us is by every minister's being an untiring student. This is not a new need that has suddenly appeared in our midst. Paul admonished Timothy to "study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth," and Peter urged the believers to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." The Spirit of prophecy has stressed this need over and over:

"Ministers who would labor effectively for the salva­tion of souls must be both Bible students and men of prayer. It is a sin for those who attempt to teach the Word to others to be themselves neglectful of its study. . . . One who does not possess a knowledge of the Word of life, has no right to try to instruct others in the way to heaven."—Gospel Workers, p. 249.

"Every spiritual muscle is to be put to the stretch to comprehend the Word."—Mrs. E. G. White in Bible Echo, Nov. 20, 7800.

"Brethren, we must sink the shaft deep in the mine of truth."—Revievi and Herald, March 25, 1890.

Similarly the demands of recent years have wrung from sober and leading workers among us the cry:

"Preachers are wanted, preachers who can preach, preachers who are efficient, able, skillful, successful; preachers who can take the truth of God and convince men of it and persuade them to obey it. . . The call of the hour is for preachers."—C. B. Haynes, Divine Art of Preaching, p. 43.

"Piety will not take the p1-ace of knowledge. And if knowledge is not to be despised, then study as the means of obtaining it is not to be neglected."—M, P. 47.

It is not a light charge penned by the inspired hand that "not a few of those called to be co-laborers with the Master have failed to learn their trade. They have dishonored their Redeemer by entering His work without the needed prepara­tion."—Gospel Workers, p. 93.

The Need of a Practical Solution

Then we need study—but what is this study to which we must measure up? And how is it to be accomplished? First, what is study? To this several answers can be given. It is deep searching into the hidden truths of God. It is not contenting ourselves with half-formed notions or superficial observations. Says the Spirit of prophecy, "We talk about the first angel's message and the second angel's message, and we think we have some un­derstanding of the third angel's message. But as long as we are content with a limited knowledge, we shall be disqualified to obtain clear views of 

Study is independent, original search for truth. "Allow no one to be brains for you, allow no one to do your thinking, your investigating, and your praying. This is the instruction we need to take to heart today."—Fundamentals of Christian Edu­cation, p. 307.

But God forbid that we should stop with merely refusing to allow another to study or think for us. "We must study the truth for ourselves."—Testi­monies to Ministers, p. I00.

"The original preacher will not leave anything to chance, but will think out everything for him­self, so that what he says is his own."—I. H. Evans, The Preacher and His Preaching, p. 256.

There are those who fear this procedure lest it bring differences and disunity among us. But it is superficial study and blind following of human thought that bring division. If I may venture an opinion, it is that the greater share of those dif­ferences that do appear among us would be erased completely if all who express opinions would first engage in an independent and sincere study of the question.

Again, study is prayer and meditation and deep heart searching, with the Spirit of God to aid in discovery of the truths of God.

"Meditation and prayer are neglected for bustle and show. Religion must begin with emptying and purifying the heart, and must be nurtured by daily prayer. . . . 'Ye are,' says Christ, 'the light of the world.' What a re­sponsibility! There is need of fasting, humiliation, and prayer over our decaying zeal and languishing spirit­uality."—Testimonies, Vol. IV, pp. 535, 536.

I am convinced, however, that for us to say we will study is not enough. Many of us have long ago made that resolution and broken it. Then let us make some plans. First let us determine what we shall study. Jesus said, "Search the Scriptures." And through His object lessons He has taught us that "it is in the written Word that a knowledge of God is most clearly revealed to fallen man. This is the treasure house of the un­searchable riches of Christ."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 126.

The only purpose for other study is that we might be fitted to study God's Word more under­standingly and make it more clear to our people.

Next to the Bible stands the modern gift of prophecy. It is authority. There would be fewer disputes about it if we knew its contents better. And there is no question but that we should read still other books of quality and excellence. Such are the books of the various reading courses care­fully selected by our leaders. And then, by all means, let us not neglect to read the periodicals provided, that we may know of the progress of the remnant church and unite in activity and be qualified for service. Could anyone fail to read with great inspiration the Ministry, the Review and Herald, the Signs, the Watchman, and various other journals ?

Will you allow one more answer to the question of what to study? Study some of those great themes to which our attention is directed : The significance of the Jewish economy, prophecies relating to the last days, the book of Revelation, the theme of redemption, the cause of Adam's fall, the lives of the patriarchs and prophets, the divine precepts, the life of the Redeemer, the infinite sacrifice of calvary, the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the righteousness of the law. And do not-forget that the preacher "needs to become pro­foundly versed in spiritual strategy and tactics, as well as in the habits and tendencies of the human mind. He must be a student of preaching, of ser­mon construction, of persuasive speech, of con­vincing presentation."—Divine Art of Preaching, P. 48.

Definite Provision for Time and Equipment

But with all our resolutions to study and our plans concerning what to study, we still shall fail unless we make definite provision in time and equipment for study. How much will you need? Someone has said a minister should read "a sermon a day and a book a week." Again, it is said that the preacher should spend eight hours on every sermon before he delivers it the first time, and four hours on it every time before repeating it. Perhaps it is not possible for one to specify for another his time each day, for we are very differ­ent in rate of reading and study. But we should not fail to heed this instruction : "Guard jealously your hours for prayer, Bible study, and self-exam­ination. Set aside a portion of each day for a study of the Scriptures and communion with God." —Gospel Workers, p. 30.

Along with a time for study, one should also have a place for study and for keeping his ma­terials of study. The headquarters for study can be either in the house or in the office, but have a place. Have a place where your materials will not need to be shifted around by someone else, or disturbed if you are forced to leave them in the midst of some project. When you travel take some of these materials with you, and employ every spare moment. If there are none to spare, make some. God's work cannot be carried on efficiently without study. God commands us to study.

Organization of Study for Profit

Finally, to make that study effective and the re­sults of it usable, some method needs to be devised. Two things are especially important. First, one should have a filing and indexing system, and sec­ond, a system for marking the books read. As to the first, each individual will need to adapt any system to his own use. However, an outline of the plan I have found very usable may be of help to some. It includes the following items :

1. Binding together of all periodicals into yearly groups, or for shorter periods if the bundle becomes too cumbersome. 2. Using a 3-by-5 card file for indexing of articles noted while reading, so that they can be readily located under the subject, in alphabetical order, when desired at some later time. 3. Keeping a sermon out­line and note file topically and alphabetically arranged, taking sheets of size used in the sermon outline note--book, from which materials may be quickly transferred to the notebook. 4. Having a standard 81/2 by ii folder file for letters, and large or irregularly sized materials.

A description of a practical method for marking books is given by H. M. S. Richards in the Ministry of February, 1940, under the title "I Mark My Books."

The minister as a student, then, becomes what God has intended he should be, a watchman on the -walls of Zion, awake and alert to the tremendous 'events occurring about him, and intelligently 'sounding the trumpet with a certain note. Any­thing less than this ideal is short of God's plan, for never have men faced such responsibilities as God's workmen face today, when "the most solemn -truths ever entrusted to mortals have been given us to proclaim to the world."—Testimonies, Vol. IX, p. 19.

When these responsibilities are faced intelligently, the fears, the fretting, the perplexity, too often seen among us, will disappear.

Fellow workers, there must be no "bumbling" or bungling in the work of God. There must be no cause for the cry "Remember Pearl Harbor" Ito be raised in our ranks.

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By LOWELL W. WELCH, Bible Teacher Walla Walla College, Washington

December 1944

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