The chronic complaint of many evangelists is that the local pastors do not co-operate with them. The local pastor's most effective rebuttal is that the evangelist's converts do not stick. Now, if we are looking for faults in the other man, we shall certainly find them, as he also will find them abundantly in us.
If we expect the successful working of the Holy Spirit in a campaign, is it not essential that pastor and evangelist go forward hand in hand in harmony? How sweet for brethren to dwell together in unity ! After all, "the duration" is only for four or five months. Can we not go out of our way just a little in our determination to maintain unity and harmony? If we cannot work in harmony here on earth for a few months, does it not raise a question as to the possibility of a peaceful association for billions of years in heaven?
Evangelist, have you ever been a pastor? Do you know what it is to have anywhere from ten to thirty pastoral problems all clamoring for immediate attention? Do you know how it feels to be crowding the church through one campaign so you can quickly lead them into another? If you do, then you will not find it difficult to be charitable toward the local pastor. You will find it a pleasure to go out of your way to cooperate in every way possible, and to make his load as light as possible.
We evangelists keep talking of how we wish the pastors would co-operate with us. But perhaps we should concentrate the emphasis on how the evangelist can co-operate with the pastor. I have been fortunate in being associated with co-operative pastors. And I have been asked by THE MINISTRY to write out a few suggestions as to how we, as evangelists, may go half way in meeting the pastors. Some may take exception to certain of these suggestions, but they are suggestions that have been tried out and have worked thus far. Let us review them together.
1. Tell the church on your first Sabbath in town that you are coming in merely as an assistant to the pastor, that he is still in full charge of the work in the city. You are leading out in the public endeavor only.
2. Let the people know that all sick calls, funerals, weddings, and so forth, are the pastor's responsibilities, not yours. You are in town to seek the lost sheep, not to cater to those within the fold.
3. Tell the members that you are anxious to call on all who used to be members. Our members will often give you the names of some still on the church books and urge you to call on them. Ordinarily these should be turned over to the pastor, as they will respond better to his leadership than they will for you to call on them as though they were backsliders. Then if it is discovered that discipline is eventually necessary, it is already in his hands.
4. The pastor may courteously invite you out to church and school board meetings. But he will get along just as well if you do not attend; and so will you. Most evangelists are men of strong convictions. It is better to wear off this zeal in working for the lost, than in being entangled in local church problems.
5. Do not counsel church members regarding perplexing conditions which they are endeavoring to untangle. Have a word of prayer with them, a brief word of admonition, and tell them to go to the pastor for detailed counsel and help.
6. Do not steal the hearts of the members by an Absalomian embrace—"Oh that I were king in Israel, how I would improve this situation f" If you think you observe many ways in which you could improve on the pastor's methods, he doubtless sees even more ways that he could improve on yours. Hold to an armistice—if you do not criticize the pastor, it is likely he will not criticize you. Once criticism starts, you can hardly stop it. Do not fit into the role of "accuser of the brethren." There is a time for silence. Blessed is the man who has both ends of his tongue under control!
7. Do not go over the pastor's head to the conference committee regarding future plans for the work in the local town. Talk such plans through with the pastor, and allow him to make the approach. Perhaps he will get credit for some of your ideas, but he will always like you better for it. After all, what you are after is the finishing of the work and not credit, isn't it?
8. In launching a campaign, counsel fully with the pastor in the matter of choice of ushers and receptionists, the time of choir practice, and the division of territory for handbill distribution.
9. Urge your song leader not to meddle with the church choir. He should be concerned solely with the evangelistic choir, and should not interfere with the regular organized choir.
10. Talk over freely your plans for the campaign with the pastor. He will become more and more interested as he catches your enthusiasm. What a pity when evangelists carry themselves as if they had up their sleeve mysterious plans and methods which the pastor would not comprehend. If we act perfectly normal and human in dealing with the pastor, the chances are much better that he will treat us the same way. Those who complain of inhuman treatment may have been guilty of a superhuman air.
11. You might suggest that the pastor's wife dress in Bible instructor's uniform, so that the people will come to know her and recognize her leadership side by side with him.
12. The pastor will probably offer you the Sabbath morning sermon hour a short time before the campaign is to begin, and you will certainly want to avail yourself of this valuable time. However', after the campaign is launched, let the pastor know that the church hour is his time from then on and not yours. Some pastors feel obliged to offer the Sabbath morning hour to the evangelist. It is courteous of you to assure the pastor at the outset that you do not plan to interfere with the regular Sabbath morning services. That is his hour.
13. Attend Sabbath school and church regularly. Your example in this will mean a great deal, and will show that you are interested not only in your own evangelistic meetings but in the regular church services as well. Also, you will find spiritual help by listening to another on Sabbath morning.
14. Ask the pastor to act as platform manager at the evangelistic meetings. Let him introduce visiting ministers who are to offer the evening prayer. Often refer to him by name on the platform, so that the audience will recognize him as the local leader.
15. In your personal work in the homes of the interested, always speak highly of the pastor. Build their confidence in his leadership. Their attachment to him is far more important than their love for you. You will soon be gone. If you want your converts to hold steadfast, tie them to the local pastor and the church. It is not merely magnanimous, but mandatory, for the evangelist ever to bear in mind that as he comes to the close of his work in a city, "The pastor must increase; I must decrease."
16. From time to time invite the pastor to offer the prayer on your radio broadcast, mentioning him by name. It may be that when you leave you can turn over to him your radio program. If the radio audience is already acquainted with his voice and name, the break will not be so noticeable.
17. Unless one of your regular evangelistic company is assigned the responsibility of conducting the baptismal class, it is very helpful for the pastor to conduct this class. Then he will know for himself whether the candidates and new members have been sufficiently indoctrinated before baptism. Also, it will serve to tie the new members to the pastor.
18. Let the pastor do the baptizing. That, more than anything, will tie together pastor and candidate. This is an essential union in the holding of new converts. In a town where there are several churches, I have found that it is satisfactory for the different ministers to baptize in rotation. I am speaking of church baptism—the plan I follow. Of course, if you follow the plan of public baptism in the evangelistic meetings, I suppose the evangelist would do the baptizing.
19. Do not try to deny the fact that many of those who accept the truth in your meetings drop out. Admit it freely. If the evangelist pleads guilty, others are not so apt to keep attacking him on this sensitive point. No evangelist likes to have his converts criticized and his work torn down, but if he is honest, he must admit that many do fall out. A man brings in twenty during a year, and two years later fifteen are found faithful. Only five have given up, and little attention is paid to the fact. But suppose a man, or rather, I should say, the Holy Spirit, brings in two hundred in a year, and two years later fifty are gone. Are these losses not fearful ! Yes, indeed. But the proportions are identical.
It takes courage to admit you have losses, but none will think any the less of you for acknowledging it freely. If you criticize your own work, others will not feel that they need to. I have never thought any less of Paul, the evangelist, for confessing with a crushed and aching heart, All they in Asia are fallen away. One hundred per cent loss is a pretty sad record to admit. But those who remained faithful in other places were eloquent proof that evangelism pays in the end, and that God has chosen "the foolishness of preaching" to redeem the lost.
20. Never criticize the local pastor to fellow ministers. They would think you a little peculiar perhaps if you should insist that the two of you are closer than brothers ; but speak honest words of commendation to him and to fellow ministers. It will cheer him in hours of discouragement.
Oh, if only we could remember that we are nothing. Apollos sows, Paul waters, but God gives the increase. If we will only go forth hand in hand to sow, we will doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing our sheaves with us.