Imagine my consternation to be greeted by this remark two years ago as I entered departmental work after spending nine years in pastoral evangelism: "We are very sorry to hear that you are leaving the ministry." I had thought that I was only entering another phase of the ministry, not leaving it. However, so many variations of this same remark are made by both laymen and conference workers that I am led to believe that a better understanding of the departmental secretary and his relation to the local minister and church would strengthen our united efforts for soul winning.
The local pastor is, of course, the real key to success in our organized denominational program. If he is successful in promoting the various phases of church endeavor, the denomination is also successful. The good pastor will foster young people's work, educational activities, laymen's soul winning, Ingathering, temperance, the Sabbath school, and the various 'magazine campaigns whose aim is to win and confirm souls. Realizing, however, that the pastor may not be able to keep up with all the intricacies of these programs, the conference has wisely appointed departmental secretaries as specialists in these fields. Thus, when a pastor sees a weakness in his Sabbath school which he cannot correct by himself, he can call on the conference Sabbath school secretary for help and counsel. Likewise, if he may wish to encourage greater lay soul winning, but is in doubt as to how to proceed, he may wish to call in the conference home missionary secretary for counsel and help. If the temperance, young people's, or educational work needs help, he knows that there is a departmental specialist who stands ready to aid.
When the local pastor recognizes a friend and ally in the departmental secretary—one who stands ready to help him make his local program more successful—this same spirit will quickly be adopted by the local congregation, and will result in a stronger, better-balanced local program. Then you will seldom hear a remark, such as, "Don't tell me he's coming again! You can be sure he'll talk about the publishing work, as usual." However, if there is to be mutual confidence between the local pastor and the departmental secretary, and if each is to recognize in the other a friend who is necessary in helping make his own program a success, certain conditions must obtain.
To begin with, wise conference administrators will select men as departmental secretaries who have an understanding of the problems connected with church administration. They should have had successful past experience in the field of local church work so that they will be able to command the respect of district ministers. This is vital because they have no administrative authority, and hence must help the ministers and church members along to higher attainments by first gaining their good will. This cannot be done if the ministers feel that the secretary is talking from theory rather than from experience.
Having a practical knowledge of church operation will prevent a departmental secretary from making unworkable suggestions which may make him appear ridiculous. Departmental secretaries should be capable of successfully executing any plan in a local church which is being sponsored by the conference. Further, they should recognize that the local pastor is the administrative appointee of the conference for that particular church, and hence all programs should be cleared through him. The pastor should not be by-passed. Indeed, no wise departmental secretary will wish to do this, for he knows that in the long run a program will really succeed only as the pastor is behind it. Particular care should be taken not to dabble in local church problems or to listen to the complaints of a disgruntled few. Instead, the departmental secretary will do everything possible to hold up the hands of the pastor, and will leave all administrative problems to the conference president.
We believe there is increasing danger that departmental promotion be made almost entirely statistical rather than spiritual. This may be successful for a while, but in the long run it will be detrimental, and will produce a reaction. Every goal should be a spiritual goal rather than merely statistical. This is not always easy to do. Nor is it easy to weave promotional items into sermons without having it appear that one's preaching is always on the same theme. Nevertheless, this must be achieved!
On the pastor's part he should recognize that the departmental secretary is carrying out a program outlined by either the union or the General Conference. We believe that this truth is well recognized in the Ingathering campaign. But is it as well recognized in many other phases of the program? If it is, no pastor will feel at liberty to select the projects which he will carry out, and those which he will discard. Pastors should ever bear in mind that they are part of an organization, that they are drawing salary from that organization, and that hence the organization has a right to expect that they will see that the plans of this movement are carried out on the local level of the churches and districts. Failure to do this is a failure to measure up to the obligation of one's office as district leader or church pastor.
It may provide a measure of amusement to some to jest about how they never read bulletins or other circular material issuing from the conference office. In the light of the foregoing, however, it is plain to see that this is unfair to the employing organization. Further, because the denominational program is usually outlined in these very bulletins, how else can a minister keep abreast of the plans if these promotional communications are relegated to the circular file without being read? Actually the most progressive men, those who are doing the strongest ministerial work, never feel above reading bulletins.
It is our settled conviction that.pastors who recognize that departmental secretaries can help them put over a program at times other than Ingathering will find the work of God making better progress in their local areas. The time to finish God's work is here. Let us make maximum use of the facilities available to us in greater conference-local church cooperation!