The distinct trend of our present system of frequent shifting of workers is to foster weakness. This short-stay policy is wasteful of time, money, and worker development. And it robs the cause of that larger harvest of souls that is its rightful and needful heritage. It is, moreover, bad for the worker himself.
When conferences and institutions vie for a worker, material considerations often come to be the determining factor in the final choice. Too often it is the call with the better salary, the larger allowances, the most extras, the more pleasant living conditions, the speedier ordination, the more congenial climate, or that which provides a larger steppingstone to advancement, that receives the favorable decision. In other words, it is the appeal of the human and material—the selfish considerations—that too often influence the decision, rather than the challenge, the need, a sense of duty, providential direction, or in other words, the divine side.
The true soldier goes where he is sent—to the tropics or the arctic, to the East or the West, to the battle front or the rear. In the army the winning of the war as a whole swallows up personal considerations. Men are deployed, held, or moved in accordance with the over-all need. Personal preference is not the ultimate factor, but it is the general need, coupled with response to duty.
Frequent changes are often ruinous to the worker's intellectual life and growth. He develops his "repertoire" of sermons, pastoral and evangelistic. Then, in the new place to which he is transferred, he uses them over because of the pressure of the new task and the opportunity of the new environs. He fails to read, to grow, to progress, to make better and stronger approaches. He brings out the old instead of developing new approaches, keyed to the need of the hour. There are many workers who, after two years in a place, have run low of stock ammunition and feel that they must move on.
That is a ruinous policy. It develops weaklings instead of men of power, freshness, and versatility. Such workers will have to continue to move on, periodically. Such a procedure fosters shallowness, because the frequency of the calls relieves them of the necessity and the effort involved in developing new themes and perfecting better presentations of old themes.
When a man stays on in the same place for a period of years he re.ally grows with his task—broadening, rounding out, mastering his problem, developing his possibilities, adding new aspects, and expanding with his work. In other denominations giants of the pulpit remain on for years , feeding the people, increasing in pulpit powerand expositional strength through the years. G. Campbell Morgan was such. Spurgeon was another notable example. Yet such frequently started with nothing, building their congregations and churches, and extending their influence in ever-widening circles. A man's final year should be his strongest and most fruitful year. For the sake of personal growth and real accomplishment he should stay on for several years in one place and build and grow.
Frequent moves develop other weaknesses. The frequent mover usually leaves his knotty problems to his successor—cases that he himself should have handled. For the sake of the church's welfare, difficult situations should be dealt with promptly and with understanding. It will take a while for thi successor to become acquainted with the situation.. And he may hesitate to handle it, because it really is not his problem. Thus, weakness in the church is fostered and perpetuated.
There is inevitable loss of souls in frequent transfers. If a worker is at all successful, when he goes to a new post he leaves behind a group of interested prospects—potential Seventh-day Adventists. The successor, as a stranger, does not know them nor have the influence with them that naturally accrues to the one who first interested them and gained their confidence. In these shifts of workers there is an inevitable and irreparable loss of fruitage. This is especially true when the newcomer prefers to develop his own interests and to build upon his own foundation, not on another man's—forgetting that souls won are souls gained, irrespective of the initial influences. This aspect could be expanded to include flagrant cases of indifference and neglect of the interested. But the allusion must suffice.
Furthermore, it takes a certain amount of time to develop a real interest in a new place. If a worker is at all successful, that interest is cumulative. The longer a man is in a community, the better and more favorably he should be known, and the more contacts and influence he should have, in drawing men and women toward the message. He therefore fails to reach his maximum when he does not stay long enough to capitalize on the larger fruitage of which he is capable.
Yes, there is inescapable loss in transfers. Frequent transfers consequently increase that loss.
So far as the individual church or district is concerned, while six months would be too long for a man without the pastoral gift, it takes time for a church to become acquainted with a new minister. Their confidence and support have to be won. Not until they come to have confidence and respect through acquaintance, will they seek his spiritual counsel on their more fundamental problems. And not till he really knows them can the pastor give them the best advice and help. So, frequent moves result in loss to the spiritual life of the church.
The material, or financial, side is not the least of the factors. Long train hauls, freight or truck transfers, are costly, and the Lord's money is involved. The way some have shifted hack and forth across the continent involves an expenditure for which someone will surely be held accountable before God. The individual worker is a party to the transaction and needs to ponder his part in the accountability. We need a, new sense of the sacredness of trusteeship of the funds of the church. God will not hold our executives, committees, and boards guiltless for the extravagant transportation expenditures of short-term workers. We have all become careless here, and need to take a new grip on ourselves.
The loss of time alone in severing connections in one place, making the transfer, and establishing oneself in a new location, hunting for a house, getting the telephone, water, gas, and electricity all operating, securing new furnishings and so forth, involve weeks of time for each party in the transfer aside from the matter of getting up momentum in the new location. This is all on full salary, without returns to the conference for a number of weeks.
Another unfortunate by-product is that an unprofitable worker can often be shifted elsewhere, to repeat the process of perplexity for the new president or conference committee. If a worker were staying longer, some frank counsel and guiding help would be necessary, and a stronger worker would result. But the easy way is to pass on the problem and to let the next conference handle the situation if it can or will. This, too, perpetuates weakness and fails to develop and round out the worker.
On the other hand, if a worker finds unwholesome conditions in a given church or conference, the tendency is to seek a transfer and to let someone else struggle with them. This similarly develops weakness. It is much easier to run away from a problem than to face it and work it out. So on every count, the present policy of short terms, frequent transfers, and long hauls is wasteful of time, money, and souls. It clearly fosters weakness, and develops unwholesome tendencies and attitudes.
Such a situation calls for united action. And that action cannot be left solely to formal legislation by the church. The development of a sense of personal and individual accountability to God for our individual part in rectifying it is involved. When it affects us, let us make the right corrective decisions personally. Let us throw our influence against these abuses, for such they have become. As Committee members and workers in whatever responsibility, let us change this unwholesome situation that is a breeder of weakness.