This is a question that we have heard many times: "Is Elder Blank making a success in his ministry?" It is a question that I have asked and that you have asked, and that others have asked concerning your work and mine. What has been the response to this question? Not all the answers are the same, because much may depend on the point of view. One person looks at our work from one angle and another from a different angle.
Perhaps our work on this earth will never be looked upon by all men as being entirely successful. I don't know that that should -be our goal. In the Scriptures we read, "Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you!" Our goal should be to please God and make our work successful in His sight. It is He who is our chief and our leader. As ministers of the gospel we are working directly for Christ and under His guidance. Yet what our Christian brethren may think of our work is a rather good indication of how closely we are approaching to the high ideal of "pleasing God."
What constitutes a truly successful ministry? Certainly an abiding fellowship with God and a thorough knowledge of His Word are factors that are most important in our work. I am sure that we are all familiar with our great needs in this respect, and whatever else we may say relative to successful ministry is dependent above all else on attaining these qualities.
We are living in a material age, a competitive age, an age in which a man is judged by what he accomplishes. As ministers of the gospel we need to make certain that we are accomplishing for God. I once heard one of our leaders say, "It isn't enough merely to be good; we must be good for something." Our lives and energies must be geared to produce results for God.
Our mission on this earth is to go forth in the power of the Holy Spirit to save souls for the kingdom of God. The numerous other tasks that we are called upon to perform are all inci dental to this one paramount objective.
First, let us remember that it is not we who save souls for the kingdom of God but the power of the Holy Spirit working through us. We are merely messengers under the direction of Heaven, carrying the good news to others. It is not by our brilliant minds and clever presentations that people are brought to see truth. It is the Spirit that draws back the veil of dark ness and allows the light to shine upon the way of righteousness. Our task, then, as messengers is to bring the minds of our fellow men to a point where the Holy Spirit can work upon their hearts, to bring to the throne of their mind thoughts that can open the way for the Holy Spirit to do His work. Many times these thoughts are quickly crowded .out by other things of interest, and we must again, through some contact, draw the thoughts of our fellow men to a place where the Holy Spirit can continue His work. The more frequently this can be done in their behalf, the greater the opportunity the Holy Spirit has of completing His work of conversion. We use various means to draw man's mind to this place—by personal interview, by Christian literature, by radio, and by godly living. Each such contact that we make is aiding the Holy Spirit in His work, and thus we are doing our part in saving souls.
Naturally, then, our success as workers for God, would depend upon the number of people whom we can thus reach and the number of times that we can make contact with them. It is at this point sometimes that our task seems to be an impossible one.
Sometimes comparative statistics help us to see ourselves better. These figures will vary somewhat in different fields, but here in the South Brazil Union we have approximately four hundred workers, including ministers, colporteurs, teachers, and institutional workers, to work in behalf of fifteen million inhabitants. We can readily see that if we, as workers, are to contact and recontact all these people in order to bring them to a place where the Holy Spirit can do His work, that our task is an impossible one. Yet the apostolic church had fewer workers, a larger population, and a greater territory to evangelize than we, and they accomplished their task. How did they do it?
"For the carrying on of His work, . . . the Master- worker chose humble, unlearned men to proclaim the truths that were to move the world. These men He purposed to train and educate as the leaders of His church. They in turn were to educate others, and send them out with the gospel message."—Acts of the Apostles, p. 17.
The apostles recognized their task to be a task of leadership, of training the believers to go out and tell the story of Jesus. And that is exactly what they did back there in the first century. The only way that we can accomplish our task today is to follow the same method— inspire and train our people to go out and pre pare the hearts of men for the Holy Spirit to do His work.
Our task as leaders is not to try to do the work of our members and our work too. Our task is to prepare and lead them in doing the work that God has outlined for them to do. And it is only as we accomplish this task that Heaven can look upon us as successful workers.
"In every church the members should be so trained that they will devote time to the winning of souls to Christ. How can it be said of the church, 'Ye are the light of the world,' unless the members of the church are actually imparting light? Let those who have charge of the flock of Christ awake to their duty, and set many souls to work."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 436.
It is by training our believers thus to work that we shall see souls responding to the pleadings of the Holy Spirit and a large increase in baptisms in our districts. And it is these tangible results that lead our administrators and fellow workers to look upon our work as being successful. We would not consider a General, division, or union conference president successful if he tried to administer alone all the fields and institutions in his territory. We would not consider a conference or mission president successful if he alone tried to conduct all the public efforts,, departments, and schools in his field. And neither can we consider a minister to be successful simply because he works hard. His success depends upon how well able he is to train his members and lead them to bear their God-given responsibilities of telling the good news to their fellow men.
"The best help that ministers can give the members of our churches is not sermonizing, but planning work for them. Give each one something to do for others. Help all to see that as receivers of the grace of Christ they are under obligation to work for Him. And let all be taught how to work. Especially should those who are newly come to the faith be educated to become la borers together with God."—Ibid., vol. 9, p. 82.