Jesus was the ideal minister. He was the master preacher. Those who proclaim the gospel "in His name" and "in His stead" should ever follow the example of the incomparable Man of men. He is "the realized ideal of humanity," and "higher has the human thought not yet reached." Alexander Wythe said, "Only once did God choose a completely sinless preacher."—Heralds of God, p. 208. Jesus practiced what He preached; and therefore His messages gripped the hearts of His hearers so that they longed to be like Him.
There is no greater tragedy than a minister who does not practice his religion. The wife of an actor once said of her husband, "He was a comedian on the stage and a tragedian at home." There are unfortunately some theologians in the pulpit whose private lives are tragedies of the worst sort. A member of the French Court said to the court chaplain, "Sire, your sermons terrify me, but your life reassures me."—MAcARTNEy, Preaching Without Notes, p..113. Sermons should terrify sinners, but they should be reassured by the victorious life of the preacher who has been over the road and knows by personal experience that the gospel has the power to save to the uttermost. The hearers have a right to feel convinced that the speaker has "been with Jesus and learned of Him."
One of the greatest compliments Jesus ever received came from His enemies : "Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that Thou are true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man : for Thou regardest not the person of men." Matt. 22:15, 16. Yes, Jesus was true, and only true men can preach the truth effectually. Jesus was all that He preached.
Phillip Brooks said, "No man can firmly succeed in the ministry who cannot make men believe that he is pure and devoted."—Ibid., p. 156. Clarence Macartney spoke a great truth when he declared, "The life that the minister leads during the week follows him up the stairs into the pulpit, and if that life has been worthy it will strengthen him and give him power and joy and liberty of utterance."—Ibid., p.
Christ also taught "the way of God is truth." This can be said only of a man who is himself true. Jesus was "the faithful and true witness." He was "a preacher of righteousness." He did not exaggerate to make His message impressive. The true spokesman for Christ will not "wrest the Scriptures" to prove an argument, nor will he "corrupt the word of God" through willink ignorance or indulgence. If he is too lazy to study, he should not presume to preach. Only the diligent student can "rightly divide the word of truth."
Even the enemies of Jesus acknowledged that He was not a respecter of persons, for they said, "Thou regardest not the person of men." "No fear of man misleads you, for you are not biased by men's wealth or rank," is the Weymouth translation. Jesus was not blinded by gifts that close the eyes, nor was His sense of fairness affected by personal friendship. Jesus had no "chums," or such close personal friends that He could not minister to all alike regardless of their wealth or rank.
The true minister will be like Him in these things. He dare not be under obligation to one or a few members of his flock because of intimate friendship or personal gifts. He must not belong to any special group or join a clique if he would do his full duty to the whole church. He must treat all alike and be the pastor of the whole church, or he fails to be like Jesus. Someone has said: "Aristocracy of mind treats the duke and the ditch-digger alike, both as the duke, though with Jesus, slightly in favor of the ditcher."
Be Not a Respecter of Persons
Here is where many pastors fail. They spend too much of their time with their favorites to the neglect of those who need their ministry most. They become too sociable, not with the whole church, but with the favored few. These are the Ministers who create embarrassing situations when they are called to another pastor-. ate. The next pastor's work is made difficult by the efforts of his predecessor to continue to hold the affections of his old favorites by visits and love letters. For the sake of the work and the new leadership the true minister will cut loose the ties that bind him to the members of the flock, and make every possible effort to get them to transfer their affections and loyalty to the new shepherd. This, however, is almost impossible if he has been a respecter of persons, and has been biased by wealth, rank, or intimate friendship.
The importance of this matter cannot be too strongly emphasized. We are social by nature, and some persons appeal to us more than others. We are divided into twelve spiritual tribes on the basis of different characteristics. A minister must be constantly on guard lest he favor his own tribesmen. He naturally pleases some more than others, and these would keep him forever if they had their way. They are the ones who weep and create scenes when changes are made. To them the small matter of changing pastors is a major calamity. The church will be best served if the various ministers are members of various tribes, so that the entire church is built up harmoniously and symmetrically.
God's Description of a True Pastor
Would that we ministers could fully meet the specifications of the priest of God as set forth in Malachi 2 :4-7:
"For My compact was made with the priest of Levi, says the Lord of hosts; . . . life and peace I gave him, ay and reverence—he did revere Me, he did stand in awe of Me. True instruction came from his mouth and no wrong issued from his lips; in peace and honesty he lived close to Me, and he turned many away from evil. For the lips of a priest ought to treasure wisdom, and men should seek direction from his words, since he is the spokesman of the Lord of hosts." (Moffatt.)
Each of the seven epistles of Christ recorded in the first three chapters of the Revelation is addressed to "the angel of the church." "Messenger" and "minister" are other translations. Angels are messengers, and the minister is "the messenger of the Lord of hosts." (Mal. 2:7.) Gospel workers are designated as "angels," and this implication must never be forgotten. This indicates the high calling of the gospel ministry—a solemn and fearful responsibility. There is no higher office or greater privilege than that of being an angel of the Lord.
The minister should be angelic in nature, character, and disposition. He should be a "holy man of God." His conduct in the home, the church, and in the community should be above reproach. He should be "gentle unto all men." "A servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but must be inoffensive towards all men, a skillful teacher, and patient under wrongs." 2 Tim. 2:24, Weymouth. He must also "have a good report of them which are without" ( 1 Tim. 3:7), or "a good reputation among outsiders." (Moffatt.) Like Jesus, he should increase "in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." He will thus break down prejudice and leave a favorable impression for the truth. He will be a spiritual magnet, and like the Master, will draw all men unto him.
Ministers are not ordinary men engaged in ordinary business. They should not be of mediocre caliber. They should command attention. Their messages should never be tame, lifeless, spiritless, and uninteresting. They should speak with the force and authority of an ambassador of the King of kings. The minister's delivery should be natural, graceful, and pleasing. His gestures should be simple and appropriate. As the messenger of the Lord of hosts, he must never forget his high calling and divine mission.
We are told that "in the estimation of self-made ministers, it will take but a small pattern to fill the bill and make a minister. But the apostle placed a high estimate upon the qualifications necessary to make a minister."—Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 706. A well-known professor who has trained hundreds of ministers was accustomed to say to the theological students, "Now, remember that you are an angel! Carry yourself like an emmissary from the Most High! Utter—don't stutter! Your message is worthy of a clear, strong voice! Don't swallow your gospel. Be a first-rate angel." This is excellent advice for every preacher.