Living to give is the success secret of the influential pastor. If left to him for measurement, the influence a minister has in his community might be either minimized or exaggerated. From the records of heaven or the estimates of his fellow men, he may never in this life have revealed to him the full fruits of his leadership. Yet, if alert, what he observes round about him is often a mirror wherein he can look at himself. The following story illustrates what I mean:
A minister was asked to preach at a chapel six miles from his home. He took his wife with him. He went in by the vestry door, but she entered by the main door. A deacon found a seat for her and brought her a hymnbook. After the service he again went to her in a friendly manner and said, "I hope we shall have the pleasure of seeing you here again;" and then added in an undertone, "We have some very nice services here. It isn't very often we get such a poor speaker in the pulpit as the one we've had tonight."
Perhaps we can learn in some such way where we can improve. And improve we must to ever be better representatives of God's last message to this crumbling world.
A pastor's stay in a community is usually comparatively short. In many cities and towns where we have churches there is no resident Seventh-day Adventist minister. The minister's contacts in these places are often short and infrequent. Yet he should ever remember that what is most effectual in molding and shaping a given community are the people and materials that are found there. This gives reason enough why every contact the minister makes should be effective for good.
There are numerous ways in which our lives influence others. No doubt we can add to these and learn to use in a better way the opportunities at our door. While we do this we should keep in mind that many of the opportunities for leadership in the community cannot be forecast; therefore, we should seek for continual advancement in Christian leadership.
The way I act in crucial or unexpected moments is not answered by the question, How can I find more ways to be an influence for Christ? But rather by, How. can I make that moment valuable for Christ? Here is an experience to the point. In co-operation with the Protestant ministerial association of a certain city, one of our workers accepted appointments for chapel services in two city-administrated homes. When he was transferred to another place, I became his successor and accepted his appointments. I was told to see Mr._________ I made the contact, and introduced myself with, "Good morning Mr. _____________ . I am Mr. Thurber, pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist church. I understand you are the chairman of the committee appointed to assign the service hour visits to the city homes. I have come to
"Pardon me," he said, "what church did you say?"
"The Seventh-day Adventist church," I repeated.
"I remember," he continued to interrupt pointedly, "reading a report the other day that General MacArthur attempted to unite the efforts of the Christian churches of Japan, and the only ones objecting were the Seventh-day Adventists and the Church of England. It seems to me we should co-operate with such a plan and fall into line; don't you think so?"
Whether his statement was true or false was not paramount. What was important was the spirit of my answer, which would influence him for good or bad. The results were to be determined not so much by what I would say as by me. As a suggestion for the right kind of character to be manifested at a time such as this, these words of Edwin Markham are impressive:
"He drew a circle that shut me out—Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win : We drew a circle that took him in!"
Wrong or ineffective influences can do no good, no matter what the quantity. The quality of the contact determines the major influence. A large number of surface or negative contacts can never be as powerful for good as one, good, well-focused impression. These well-defined impressions are stamped on others by a positive Christian personality. Influence for good or bad is primarily determined not by a suit but by the man in the suit, not by the words so much as by the man who speaks them. When good influence is part of the man—is indeed the man—it is in constant readiness for use.
It follows, then, that if our relationships with others degenerate into listless indifference or , futile argument, the quality of the influence is not good. The worth of the pastor's leadership in the community is known better in his relationships with others than in the activities in his study. To properly evaluate influence, look beyond the individual man, his actions or interests, and view him in combination with his fellows.
Without minimizing the value of direct, personal contacts, the minister is also known through the members of the church he leads. This means that his duty to the community is fulfilled through the avenue of the church.
When we keep close to God, are natural and unaffected, with no carnal obstructions to block the path, God will present opportunities for community leadership into life everlasting.