Here are seven characteristics or qualifications that are essential to success in the ministry, and seven is the Biblical number of completeness and perfection. "In order for a man to be a successful minister, something more than book knowledge is essential. The laborer for souls needs consecration, integrity, intelligence, industry, energy, and tact. Possessing these qualifications, no man can be inferior ; instead, he will have a commanding influence for good."—Gospel Workers, p. its. The minister who has these traits of character will not "be inferior" but will wield "a commanding influence for good." He cannot fail in his divinely appointed mission. Let us notice these qualifications in their order.
1. "KNOWLEDGE." This we are told is "essential." While knowledge is one of the gifts of the Spirit, its acquirement depends on our effort and cooperation. Since books constitute the source of most of our knowledge, it is spoken of here as "book knowledge." The successful minister will obey the instruction : "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needetla not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." He must give attention to reading if he would have a message worth listening to.
In the minister's reading and study the Scriptures should be given first place. The Bible is an inexhaustible mine of truth which has never yet been fully explored. In view of the great ocean of truth, the minister should possess the humble attitude of the great Sir Isaac Newton : "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." —FosnicR, On Being Fit to Live With, p. 48.
The writings of the Spirit of prophecy should come next in the minister's reading and study. There are also many other books and papers that should make up a fair-sized library, and be put to constant use. He should have a good filing system and a number of loose-leaf notebooks. It is a good plan to have a garden of growing sermons, which, by the process of adding texts, thoughts, and illustrations, are continuously ripening for future use. The success in public speaking depends more on having material where it can be had when needed, rather than on a good memory. There should be adequate material on file for any subject, for any occasion.
We are told that many ministers are "criminally lazy" when it comes to study. It is a case of "criminal negligence" because of the harm done. Clarence Macertney says: "One of the dangers and drawbacks is the temptation to a lazy man to substitute glibness of speech for premeditated truth and the beaten oil of the sanctuary. . . . For a little season he may deceive even the elect. But time, that inexorable exposer, is sure to reveal his shallowness and his laziness."—Preaching Without Notes, p. 151. One need not listen to more than five minutes of a sermon to discover whether or not the speaker is a reader and a student.
2. "CONSECRATION." This is necessary in order to make the proper use of knowledge. Knowledge becomes more dangerous than ignorance when it is not coupled with consecration and good judgment. The master criminals today are scientists. "The time demands greater efficiency and deeper consecration."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 27. Consecration must become deeper as knowledge and efficiency become greater. One writer declared that "the power of preaching and the preacher lies in the depth of his spiritual life." And James Denny has said, "No man can give the impression that he is clever and that Jesus Christ is all-sufficient at the same time."
The need of the cause today is that of leaders so deeply spiritual that they place a spiritual mold on the work. This will affect for good every phase and department of church activities. It was the secret of success in apostolic days. "The Church, however, throughout the whole of Judaea, Galilee, and Samaria, had peace and was built up ; and grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit." Acts 9:31, Weymouth. At the close of every service the congregation should depart, saying, "God spoke to us today." They should leave as a band of men whose hearts God had touched.
3. "INTEGRITY." Jethro said to Moses, "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens." Ex. 18 :21. "Capable men . . . , religious men, honest men" (Moffatt). Here are three important qualifications for leadership. Leaders must be dependable. They must not be policy men, or politicians. Their conduct should never cause others to question their motives and wonder what sinister purpose lies behind their words and acts.
Men in positions of responsibility must be loyal and sincere and cooperative. They must not put on an independent show or become dictators. Dictatorship is not leadership. Consecrated men of integrity will be "as true to duty as the needle to the pole," and will "stand for right though the heavens fall." The following counsel is to the point:
"One worker who has been trained and educated for the work, who is controlled by the Spirit of Christ, will accomplish far more than ten laborers who go out deficient in knowledge and weak in faith. One who works in harmony with the counsel of God, and in unity with the brethren, will be more efficient to do good than ten will be who do not realize the necessity of depending upon God and of acting in harmony with the general plan of the work."—Evangelism, p. 474.
4. "INTELLIGENCE." Intelligence is distinguished from knowledge, as is wisdom. It is "not acquired with education. It is the native ability to make wise use of information gained. It is good common sense and good judgment. Many highly trained and educated persons are not wise or intelligent. The world is filled with "misfits" who are educated but not wise. They may be erratic and go to fanatical extremes. They lack intelligence to keep them in the middle of the road.
The following is a good description of some preachers and their sermons: "Some minds are more like an old curiosity shop than anything else. Many odd bits and ends of truth have been picked up and stored away there ; but they know not how to present them in a clear, connected manner."—Ibid., p. 648. George White-field told a group of ministers that certain types of sermons are composed of "poor, dry, sapless stuff." This is a good description of unintelligent sermons. They are "as dry as the hills of Gilboa that have neither dew nor rain." They remind one of a "valley of dry bones."
5. "INDUSTRY." "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings," said the wise man. Benjamin Franklin said that his father often reminded him of this proverb, and that before his death he had the privilege of standing before five kings and dining with three. Proverbs 6:6-it is an accurate picture of a lazy preacher whose garden is filled with weeds. He is always tired, and therefore resting and sleeping. He thinks he is overworked and is more interested in vacations than his mission.
"Some preachers are tired long before they are retired" is a true saying. Dr. Jung has said, "If I only knew that my life had some meaning anu purpose, then there would be no silly story about my nerves." And Dr. David Starr Jordan declared that "the whole world will stand by and let a man pass who knows where he is going." Indolent persons have no business in the ministry. "The devil is never too busy to rock the cradle of a sleeping saint," applies with special force to an indolent preacher. "Lord, keep me alive while I am still living" should be the constant prayer of every minister.
6. "ENERGY." There are few problems too hard to solve except by those who are too lazy to solve them. Energy is that inner urge that makes men industrious. It is the motivating power that produces zeal, vim, activity, and enthusiasm. However, "it is no evidence that a man has zeal for God because he works himself up into a frenzy of excitement and gesticulation. . . . The Saviour of the world would have His co-laborers represent Him ; and the more closely a man walks with God, the more faultless will be his manner of address, his deportment, his attitude, and his gestures. Coarse and uncouth manners were never seen in our Pattern, Christ Jesus."—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 405. Energy is not emotionalism.
Timely sermons are brought into being through all the pangs of childbirth. They do_ not come by inspiration. They require perspiration. Soul-gripping sermons never issue from the lips of a mentally or spiritually indolent preacher. A noted preacher once said, "Wrestle with your subject in the study, that there may be clarity in the pulpit." (Heralds of God, p. 124.) And another declared that "every sermon must have something of your own life-blood in it." (Ibid., p. 174.) No fruits of righteousness can be produced in the garden of the Lord without applications of energy on the part of the human caretaker.
7. "TACT." Some preachers' tact pricks like a tack. Tact is courtesy, culture, politeness, and good manners. It is the ability to get along with people, even those who seem cantankerous and unreasonable. The lack of tact even in some ministers is amazing. We are told that "tact and good judgment increase the usefulness a hundred-fold."—Gospel Workers, p. 119. What marvelous returns on an investment ! Therefore, the importance of tact in the ministry cannot be overemphasized.
This is further emphasized in the following statement : "If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 189. Tact was one of the outstanding characteristics of Paul, and the chief secret of his success in making favorable contacts with those he sought to save. He wrote :
"'Though free from all human control, I have made myself a slave of all in the hope of winning as many converts as possible. To the Jews I have become like a Jew in order to win Jews ; to men under the Law as if I were under the Law—although I am not—in order to win those who are under the Law ; to men without Law as if I were without Law—although I am not without Law in relation to God but am abiding in Christ's Law—in order to win those who are without Law. To the weak I have become weak, so as to gain the weak. To all men I have become all things, in the hope that in every one of these ways I may save some." 1 Cor. 9:19-22, Weymouth.
Is it any wonder that Paul was such a great soul saver? His tactics caused him to be misunderstood by his brethren, but he got results where they failed. He studied personalities in the light of their training and background. He endeavored to see things from their viewpoint so as to make a tactful approach and win confidence. He made all others feel at home in his presence. He was never afflicted with a swollen conceit or superiority complex which drives people away. Through his tact he drew others to him in trust and confidence.
"Possessing these qualifications"—knowledge, consecration, integrity, intelligence, industry, energy, and tact—"no man can be inferior ; instead, he will have a commanding influence for good."