Pointers to Progress

A group of four articles


When we plan a worship service it must be like a ladder to the sky. The house of God should become to every worshiper the very gate of heaven. If we think that, it will guard us in the selection of each item that makes up the service. "Our meetings should be made intensely interesting. They should be pervaded with the very atmosphere of heaven." Review and -Herald, Nov. 30, 1886

Yes, there should definitely be atmosphere, but the people must not be conscious of that atmosphere. Nor must they be conscious of the lack of it. People don't die spiritually from overatmosphere; they die from lack of atmosphere or from poisoned atmosphere. Under normal conditions we always have more air than we can breathe, but when the air becomes rarefied, we become dizzy and are unable to take in a full inhalation. To keep physically healthy, we must breathe properly. In the inspired counsels to the church we read that "prayer is the breath of the soul." And that is true. It is true in the experience of the individual. And it is true in the experience of congregational worship. As leaders of worship we must study how to lead our congregations from the lowlands of selfishness and pride onto the uplands of thanksgiving and grace. God bids us come up from our "low, earthly level and breathe in the clear, sunny atmosphere of heaven." Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 607.

When our worshipers return to their places of abode, it should be with the consciousness of having met with God. But do they? Or has there been such noise, such confusion, such running around, such an effort to pep the people up to get them doing something, that we mistake noise for power? The Lord says, "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." We must never forget that. Not noise, or haste, or bustle, but rather the quiet spirit of true worship is our preparation for real service.


"Always talk to a picture," Said one of the ablest teachers in public speaking that I ever had. That is, picture the thing in your own mind so vividly that when you are speaking about it you are actually seeing what you are describing. That is really a transference of thought. At the time you are describing it you are actually seeing it happen.

That is what made Moody such a powerful preacher. The personalities of Christ's parables became so real to him that he saw and talked with them in his preaching, and everyone else saw them too in the mind's eye. That is powerful preaching. No, it is not acting; it is something deeper than that, and yet every principle of good acting may become a part of preaching.

An inventor who was not very successful once asked Edison, "How do you get these wonderful inventions?" Edison answered, "I do all my thinking in pictures." He was an inventor.

A preacher also ought to think in pictures.


What is a junior sermon? We sometimes use it in a service, but what should it be? "Well," someone says, "about a five-minute talk." Yes, but it might be more than just a talk. It is possible to let the junior sermonet degenerate into just a story time, with no relation to what has gone before or what is to follow. I say "degenerate," because that little sermon can and should be much more than a story to entertain children. Unless it is made a part of the whole service of worship, and definitely related to the main sermon, a wonderful opportunity will have been lost. Merely to tell the children a little story, even though the moral is brought out in the setting in which a child can understand it, is not sufficient. Why not relate that story to the main sermon? By preparation you can unfold that same truth in a larger way as you deliver the message. Then if that same story is referred to at the end of the sermon, and in such a way as to grip all the hearts, it can become a fitting climax to the whole service. In that way you will have bound the whole service together. Then too, the children will have been enabled to grasp the meaning of the sermon, and the whole family will have been blessed, each making his own personal application of the truth to his heart.


We had gathered in an annual meeting of ministers of various faiths. The business was over when one of the number began to pay a tribute to one who had passed away the previous year. He came to a climax in his remarks with a statement like this: "Our beloved brother was a great man and a great preacher. Some of us have been listening to his sermons for twenty-five years. But I will defy you to recall any occasion when you heard him preach on any subject that he did not bring his message to us in a Bible biography. That man lived with his Bible, and every great message, no matter what it was, came to us in a Bible biography."

That was a challenging thought every message in the setting of a Bible biography. Here was a man whom the whole group recognized as a preacher of great power. But when he preached it was not in the abstract. He made truth come to life. He put his doctrines into boots. He made truth walk around among men.

That is something we might well do. Make a study of the various characters of the Bible, find out what it was that made this man or this woman strong, or what led to their weakening; then, having developed your thought, let your message ride in on the feet of that Bible character. When it comes that way people are altogether unconscious that they are being taught a certain doctrine or a certain truth. Coming to them in the setting of personality, it is accepted more easily, and they will remember the story and the truth it taught when they have forgot ten all your clever reasoning.

This was the method of the Master.


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March 1952

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More Articles In This Issue

A Pastor's prayer

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contains eight articles

RESEARCH: The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings

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PASTOR: Where Dwellest Thou?

And when anyone asks us, "Where do you worship?" we can gladly answer, "Come and see."

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