The minister's work brings him into close contact with people. Because of this he should be proficient in the art of getting along with others. The possession or lack of this ability means the difference between success and failure for many. One may be a good speaker, teacher, or organizer, but if his conduct irritates and provokes others, he unwittingly undermines his influence. Getting along well with others does not mean that one must always agree with everybody and they with him. It simply means that one's relationship will be of such a nature and manner that others, even though they may not fully agree with him, will still love and respect him.
Much could be written relative to ministerial manners and attitudes, but it will suffice to mention a few tried principles that have helped those seeking to better their public relations. None of us is born with the right traits, manners, and attitudes conducive to good public relations. If any have attained them, it was only by much prayer, sweat, and tears. Neither did many of us entering the work deem such characteristics necessary. Experience, however, has a way of teaching us. Our own success, as well as that of the cause, would have been far greater had we paid as much attention to the personal and human qualities needed in a minister's life as we did to some other things.
For instance, it is important that a preacher know his doctrines; but if he closes minds with his blunt, boorish, and uncouth manners, what good is his knowledge? It is important that an evangelist know how to organize, supervise, and advertise an evangelistic team; but if his public relations with the local church, the community, and the public in general leave a sour taste in the mouths of all concerned, what good are his ability and effort? It is also important that a district pastor be able effectually to organize his church for various denominational activities; but if his church board and other committee meetings are scenes of disgraceful haggling, charges, countercharges, and recriminations, just what is needed in his personal make-up to calm and soothe those under his care?
Our experience leads us to conclude that first of all a minister must be kind and friendly. We all need to warm up and be congenial. Too many of us are frigid ice boxes stored up with a lot of good things, but people must button up their overcoats and then with chattering teeth and trem bling hands extract the good things from us. Kindness and friendliness will thaw us out and others as well.
Kindness will also give us a sunny and smiling disposition. Some stalk around with austere and forbidding countenances, thinking that such a facial mold rightly represents the Christian minister. Lest we be misunderstood, let it be clear that friend liness does not mean that one be a jester. Nor does it call for the sickening familiarity and sentimentalism common in the world. Neither is it a policy of expediency which a minister inaugurates with a clique who look upon each other as members of a mutual-benefit association. True Christian friendliness on the part of the worker calls for a mental attitude that will draw others to him, not for what he can get out of them, but for the one purpose of leading them to Christ.
"What Christ was on this earth, the Christian worker should strive to be. He is our example, not only in His spotless purity, but in His patience, gentleness, and winsomeness of disposition. . , . The religion of Jesus softens whatever is hard and rough in the temper, and smooths what is rugged and sharp in the manners. It makes the words gentle and the demeanor winning. Let us learn from Christ how to combine a high sense of purity and integrity with sunniness of disposition." Gospel Workers, pp. 121, 122. (Italics supplied.)
A minister, to get along well with others, must also be courteous. Courtesy is said to be the art of combining politeness with kindness, and in a broader sense it is the instinctive respect for the rights and feelings of others. Volumes could be written as to what constitutes ministerial courtesy on the church rostrum, in the sickroom, at the wedding, the funeral, the board meeting, the business meeting, and the camp meeting. It would surprise us to discover how, on such occasions, our deportment either repels or draws people to us. It is a breach of courtesy on the part of the minister to be manicuring his fingernails during a preaching service, or to be visiting with a fellow minister while a soloist or choir gives the special music. A minister manifests a complete disregard for the feelings of fellow worshipers when on the rostrum he sits in a slouching or otherwise unbecoming position. And the same holds true when, during public prayer, one assumes an irreverent stance, keeps his eyes open, or clears his nostrils with trumpet- like blasts.
In dealing with individuals, as well as with groups, the spiritual leader will seek to deal kindly, gently, and justly with those who come before him. Never will he disclose confidences, nor needlessly wound their self-respect. Neither will he arrive at a decision until he has heard both sides of a problem and made sure that all the facts are before him. This principle he will follow with even the dullest, the most way ward and blundering who seek his counsel.
"Christianity will make a man a gentleman." "The Lord Jesus demands our acknowledgment of the rights of every man. Men's social rights, and their rights as Christians, are to be taken into consideration. All are to be treated with refinement and delicacy, as the sons and daughters of God." "Some with whom you are brought in contact may be rough and uncourteous, but do not, because of this, be less courteous yourself." Gospel Workers, pp. 123, 122.
A minister's courtesy will go beyond the psychological and psychiatric slogans and formulas of our day. It will be more than a correct outward procedure; it will stem from a heart filled with love for God. From this heart will flow an unselfish love for others. Such courtesy will never be found wanting, for "charity . . . doth not behave itself unseemly." When a worker measures up to this experience, men will be drawn to him and to his message. Lacking this experience, no matter what other gifts he may possess, he will have difficulty in at tracting and holding men.
"Love will gain the victory when argument and authority are powerless. . . . Whenever the power of intellect, of authority, or of force is employed, and love is not manifestly present, the affections and will of those whom we seek to reach assume a defensive, repelling position, and their strength of resistance is increased." Testimonies,, vol. 2, p. 135.
Earnestness and Sincerity
Finally the minister must be earnest. Not only must he be sincere, but he must be in dead earnest about his sincerity. Many a sincere person plods along in his prosaic, matter-of-fact way without exerting much influence or stirring others to action. Still others fill their heads with knowledge and attach degrees to their names; but in order to stir people in these last days, we also need to fill our hearts with warm enthusiasm and genuine earnestness. It is not enough to know that the world is coming to an end; we need to become excited enough about the matter that we will endeavor to save ourselves and others from the impending destruction. This holy, sane, and rational enthusiasm for the Lord, His message, His church, and His work can be rightly termed earnestness. And there can be no true Christian leadership without such earnest ness. Men will listen and believe a preacher who earnestly lives what he preaches as the "everlasting gospel."
"It is a dangerous thing, this earnestness," some say. They point to cranks, fanatics, and foolish men whose fires of earnestness have caused cults and offshoots to spring up all over the earth. But, we ask, are the preachers of truth to espouse their cause halfheartedly because the champions of error espouse theirs wholeheartedly? Since when have the devil and his cohorts obtained priority rights on earnestness and enthusiasm? The Laodicean indictment is that men are "neither cold nor hot." So, as preachers, we must be friendly, kind, and courteous, but we must also be in dead earnest about what we believe and practice. The time is here for us to get more than just warm; we should get "hot" about the matter. Cold and lukewarm men will never make an impression on the minds of others, let alone make disciples for Christ.
Thank God, we are promised that before the end there will be seen an earnestness among God's people such as was manifested in apostolic times. The ministry will lead out in an earnest work of reformation, and the people will follow. Not only will kind ness, courtesy, and earnestness be seen in the lives of all but all the "fruits of the Spirit" will be seen as well.
"We are on the very verge of the time of trouble, and perplexities that are scarcely dreamed of are before us. ... Intense earnestness should now take possession of us. . . . When the reproach of indolence and slothfulness shall have been wiped away from the church, the Spirit of the Lord will be graciously manifested. Divine power will be revealed. The church will see the providential working of the Lord of hosts. The light of truth will shine forth in clear, strong rays, and, as in the time of the apostles, many souls will turn from error to truth. The earth will be lighted with the glory of the Lord." Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 43-46. (Italics supplied.)
Shall we not then as ministers take the lead in dealing kindly, courteously, and tenderly with the sheep of God's pasture? Should not earnestness characterize our every effort? Has not the time come for us to preach the truth straight from the heart and not just straight from the shoulder? One method wins, the other repels. It could be that thousands are not with us today because of the manner in which the truth was presented to them. We all agree that rich dividends would be ours if individually we mastered the divine art of getting along with others.
The messenger of the Lord crystallizes the whole subject in one sentence. It would pay us to memorize and practice it. It might help us to double our membership. Here it is:
"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.