In a special sense the pastor is an ambassador for Christ, to win, by the power of divine love, lost souls from sin to righteousness. In everything he must represent Christ. His work and influence have the same scope as does the gospel invitation, which is world wide. As the ripple started by a pebble thrown into the ocean reaches the farthermost shore, so the work and influence of the pastor extends to the ends of the earth and will be felt on the sinless shore of eternity. Truly, "The light that shines farthest, shines brightest nearest home." The pastor who is not a soul winner is a failure.
Earnest Bible, study, sincere, fervent prayer, and a life fully surrendered to God must precede all successful service. Then, as the pastor goes forth to labor, his work will be well directed. He becomes the master of situations and conditions. Emergencies present opportunities, not disasters; circumstances, become steppingstones, not stumbling blocks. He has a humble grace and a heaven-born dignity which are in keeping with his holy calling. His first work is to live the gospel. His life is his true sermon; it must be above reproach in everything. People will follow what he does more than what he says.
The pastor should be an example in frugality. By precept and example he should teach the evil of signing away one's right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," by mortgaging his future in order to come into possession of unearned and unpaid-for conveniences. Good religion teaches good business, strict honesty, and a practical regard for the poor.
The pastor should become thoroughly acquainted with the work of every department of church endeavor, encouraging the leaders and members by taking an active interest in them, attending all meetings regularly, if possible, and helping to make each department and worker a success.
Among the activities of the church the Sabbath school stands without a rival. Here the "church at study" is learning from the Great Teacher. The Sabbath school should be made the most interesting, best attended service of the church. The best Bible study course in the world is here conducted. The pastor should encourage the church members
to attend regularly and to invite their friends and neighbors to accompany them. Then the Sabbath school will become the soul-saving agency which it should be, and in this way the members can "unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers" for saving the lost, and wonderful results will follow.
The Sabbath school is a most appropriate time and place to acquaint the members with our world wide work and its needs in foreign fields, by giving interesting reports of its encouraging progress in distant lands. And there is no better time or place for taking offerings for this work. It is a good plan to invite and to encourage the members to set individual goals of amounts to be given regularly each week for foreign missions through the Sabbath school. Some are glad to pledge a dollar a. week; others set goals of lesser amounts. This plan, faithfully followed, means much to a church in reaching its missions offerings goal, as more than 50 per cent of our missions
offerings are raised in the Sabbath school. I believe in setting goals and reaching them. Too many are willing to bring to God a lazy offering.
They give as they "happen" to have .something. This method of paying the grocer, the milkman, the landlord, etc., would not work with men. Why try to work, it with God ? His work is of supreme importance, and we as His stewards should determine to set aside a certain amount first, weekly, for the support of His work, in addition to the
tithe. When properly instructed, the members quickly adjust their budgets to recognize God's cause, and enjoy it. The pastor does not have to be a great preacher to foster the Sabbath school, and this is a most important part of his work .
Then there is the Young People's Missionary Volunteer Society. Here is a wonderful group to work with and to train for service. Young people are eager to do things..
The pastor who fails to recognize in this army of youth the church's greatest material asset is failing in one of his most responsible duties. No true estimate can. be placed on the value to the church of its young people, and a pastor does not have to be a superman to attend their meetings and encour
The prayer meeting is said to be the thermometer of the church. What better place to feed the sheep with the bread of life! A pastor does not have to be eloquent to bring from the source of truth rich feasts of good things for his members.
And how they do enjoy eating! The pastor who gives this service deep study, giving opportunity for several prayers, and who leads out in the service, using fifteen or twenty minutes for his message, then turning the meeting over to the members for testimonies, will be rendering a most valuable service to the church.
No proper estimate can be placed upon the value of personal work by the pastor in visiting the church members and interested individuals. The pastor who performs this sacred duty and privilege, praying with the people and helping them over their hard places, will have the hearts of his members. It will not be easy for such to be led astray by false teachers or teachings. Personal work anchors souls to Christ as nothing else does. To fail in this service is next to unpardonable. If this work were faithfully done there would be less work to do in dealing with backslidden members. If one half of the love and effort put forth to win souls to the truth were exercised in keeping them in the church, very few would become discouraged. It is nothing short of tragic to win people from the world and then see them slip away, almost unnoticed, when a word of encouragement would have saved them.
Most of those who leave the church do not go because they have lost confidence in the doctrines of the church. They leave because they become discouraged in their battle with the prince of darkness. A kindly sympathy and a strong mantle of love, which cost so little and are worth so much, would have been all that was needed in keeping many a precious, blood-bought soul in the pathway of life.
Too often pastors let members slip far away before trying to reclaim them, and then are unkind to them. The shepherd who found his lost sheep did not scold, but bound up its wounds in tenderest sympathy. He manifested, not revenge, but love for the lost sheep. Tenderly he lifted the sheep to his heart and carried it himself back to the fold. It is said that such a sheep will never stray again.
This does not mean that the pastor should not rebuke sin in the church. But there is a difference between faithfully rebuking sin, and harping on sin. A pastor must not be so concerned about tares that he fails to plant wheat. Evil is overcome with good. One can be so occupied with his muckrake that he never sees his crown. A mariner steers his ship not by the waves but by the stars.
Surgeons sometimes perform operations which they call successful, but the patients die. I do not call the spiritual operation a success that kills the sinner's soul. Before Christ gave Peter his commission to continue preaching, He drew from Peter his pledge of love three times. No pastor can acceptably feed His sheep until he first loves his sheep. And not only will love win souls, but love will keep souls, for "love is of God."
Lastly, let us consider the regular Sabbath preaching service. I have purposely placed this last. If' the preceding conditions have been met the church is sure to prosper, and no preaching has yet been done. Too many pastors depend too much upon the Sabbath preaching service to do what the other services should do. Too many pastors use this hour to put over campaigns. The preaching service should not be thus prostituted. This is a time to feed the sheep, not shear them ! Many good sermons have been ruined by attaching a campaign reminder onto the end, in an endeavor to do what the pastor has failed to do in the other services of the church. The Sabbath morning preaching hour should be made and kept deeply spiritual.
The pastor should be well informed regarding his sermon topic. His material should be authentic. He should make every necessary preparation, that he may not waste the time of the listeners by rambling, or lead them astray by inaccuracies or misstatements. Having thus prepared, he should deliver his message with dignified enthusiasm, as one who must give an account of his ambassadorship in the day of judgment at the bar of God.
There are the various goals to reach, of course. I hear someone say, "I was ordained to preach the gospel, not to raise goals." Now, this is but a bold admission of the worker's lack of vision. To lead the church in raising all goals is a very definite and important part of the pastor's work. The raising of the Sabbath school missions offering goal, of the Ingathering quotas, of all missions offerings is a soul-winning work of the highest type. It is preaching the gospel to the heathen. Most of us cannot go as foreign missionaries in person, but all of us can just as definitely be foreign missionaries by sending our money to support those who can go, yet who cannot go nor remain unless we support them with our money. In the day of rewards those who go and those who stay by the stuff will share proportionately to their sacrifice.
When our church members catch this vision they love to "go" as foreign missionaries. As ministers we can bring real inspiration to our people to give to missions by drawing living lessons from Bible examples. What stronger appeal is there than that of the story of the Good Samaritan? Close beside life's highway lie those who have been robbed by sin of spiritual strength. Those who should have restored them to God have passed them by. Hope and life are almost extinct. Unless help arrives soon, they will die. God has placed in our hands the bread of life and the healing oil of His Spirit to restore them. The words found in Matthew 25 :31-45 present a wonderful appeal. Inasmuch as we have ministered to souls who are in Satan's prison house of sin, to those who hunger and thirst in distant lands and who are sick in soul, by pressing to their parched lips the waters of life and the living bread, Jesus says we have done it unto Him.
What a blessed work is committed to pastors! May we meet God's expectation of us in all things!