Above all others, the ministry needs to f\ set the example in Christian teaching and living. The clergy have not es caped the corruptions of the times. We have not always been as careful in our example as we might be, and our parishioners take their cues from us. I need not repeat here the admonition of Peter in his first epistle relative to the conduct of the minister. We have all studied it recently. But I would point out that our actions can frequently be construed as contradicting the doctrines we teach, and that people are won today as much by how our beliefs affect our lives as they are by any other combination of factors. May I give you some positive illustrations?
We have been laboring for months with a Christian woman to join our church. She is a good Christian mother, serious, without bad habits of any kind. There is no worldly reason why she might not join our communion. But one of the chief stumbling blocks in her pathway is, "But you don't live at if you really believe what you teach." When asked to elaborate, she made these observations:
1. "You don't live as if you really believe Christ is coming."
2. "You don't live as if you really love all men. I hear entirely too much criticism of other churches and beliefs."
3. "If you want to help all men, why don't you participate in the worth-while projects of helping others that are instigated by other organizations? Oh, yes, you sent clothes and food to Europe, but primarily to your own believers. What are you doing for the poor here?"
4. "I hear too much from the pulpit that emphasizes a doctrine of fear and not of love." (And after a sermon on "Love Our Enemies," she said, "That was a wonderful sermon, but will it do any good? ... I don't believe you love your enemies.")
These criticisms were not addressed to me personally, but to the church as a whole. They may not all be true, but they clearly epitomize the type of living that we must demonstrate to others if we are to draw them into the fold.
What shall we do with these charges? Deny them with hot-eyed indignation? Not if we are wise and Christian. We shall evaluate them and strive to meet the needs and demands of this severe and sincere critic.
Christian Living and Service
My second suggestion, therefore, is that you graduates and all of us re-emphasize by word and deed the doctrines of Christian living and service. The solutions to personal problems that we teach to others we must exemplify in our lives, and not piecemeal, not by making excuse. We must give the congregation spiritual food, positive doc trine. We need not attack others to build ourselves up. We do not need to preach fear or hatred. We need to teach love and exemplify it.
Let me take one facet of this area to illustrate the contention. The assertion is made that we are remiss in the true Christian service to others. In The Desire of Ages, page 350, I read:
"The followers of Christ are to labor as He did. We' are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the suffering and afflicted. We are to minister to the despairing, and inspire hope in the hope less."
Are we remiss in the light of this charge? I believe we are. Yes, we have sanitariums, an enlarged Dorcas work, clinics, but we still are not individually laboring as Christ labored to relieve human suffering. If we were, we would be astonished at the results. The manifold ways in which human suffering can be alleviated leave not one of us guiltless in our neglect.
In our church is a woman who is imbued with this doctrine of Christian service. She has no funds to feed the poor; she is not a medically trained person who can give that type of assistance; she has a growing family of her own demanding her time and attention. But she wanted to help others. She dis covered that there were in the city a considerable number of bed-ridden or home- confined handicapped children with time heavy on their hands. They could not get out to libraries, concerts, lectures, so she decided to bring the libraries to them. It was not a difficult task to secure the cooperation of the public library or to secure access to our own church library. She had her own considerable children's library to devote to the task. She made jigsaw puzzles from religious pictures and sheets of ply wood, and then she called on mothers of handicapped children to offer them her circulating library service. She met an enthusiastic response and brought sunshine to many hearts.
"Oh," you say, "very commendable. We ought to do more of this, but I am so busy with the duties of the church that I just can't find the time for that, and anyway, how does this help to spread the gospel?"
Well, in the first place, we shouldn't be worrying about how we spread the gospel when we help others. We should help them because they need help and we have com passion upon them. But in the same breath I must add that it is my firm conviction that there is no better way to spread the gospel. In the first home where this woman stopped to leave a book she created an indelible impression. As week by week she returned and the lady of the house got to know her, her circumstances, her family, her church, the mother of the handicapped child was amazed that this woman would take time to help her child, and she said, "I want to know more about your beliefs that would cause you to do this." And so there were begun Bible studies that are still going on in a home where the religious affiliation would never have permitted purchase of one of our books or attendance at gospel meetings.
"Had the church taken up this work as they should have done, they would have been the means of saving many souls."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 295.
Where do we go from here? If we are alert to the needs of our times, we will answer the personal needs of the people spiritually and physically. As we do this we shall experience a rebirth in Christian living and shall at tract others as they see Christ in us.
Strong Leadership Needed
Third, to these graduates I would suggest a new concept of church leadership. This renaissance of spiritual interest is as much within the boundaries of our own church as without its gates. The laity are aroused as never before in my lifetime, and they crave, they demand direction. They must have it.
One evening last September I stood on the Michigan campground during the North American Laymen's Congress. It was a dark night, no stars were out, and just concluding inside the large pavilion was an impressive torch and candlelighting service. As we stood in the pitch blackness we were impressed as never before with the zeal, the devotion, the energy, of those lay brethren who were participating in the ceremony. Beside me stood a conference official who broke the silence, not really speaking to anyone, but rather musing aloud, and in essence this is what he said:
"You know, we organized this congress to stimulate and inspire the laity to greater missionary endeavor and to organize them so that their efforts would be more productive. But from what I've seen, we don't need to stimulate our people. We'd better start giving them better leadership, or else get out of their way."
Our brother expressed a profound observation. Our churches are crying for, demanding, a kind of leadership they have not always received in the past. They want to be shown how to work most efficiently for others, and they have a great deal to con tribute to the process. In the book Acts of the Apostles, Mrs. E. G. White points out with reference to the apostle Paul that "often in his ministry he would meet with little companies of men and women who loved Jesus, and bow with them in prayer, asking God to teach them how to maintain a living connection with Him. Often he took counsel with them as to the best methods of giving to others the light of gospel truth."—Page 262. (Italics supplied.)
Our laity are better educated than ever before; they labor often in the world, where they learn and observe how principles of cooperation accomplish miracles. They are prepared to bring to the work of the church the valuable lessons from this experience if we will only call upon them and enlist their best efforts. And we as leaders have much to learn concerning the most effective and efficient ways of organizing our churches for this maximum effort.
We can learn, for example, from the field of commerce and industry. There for several years scholars and businessmen together have been doing research to learn the basic ingredients of leadership. They have conducted hundreds of experiments, have made thousands of observations, and as a result have completely revised the training principles and practices of their leaders and executives from the lowest to the highest levels. They have learned many of the secrets of how to enlist cooperation, how to exert direction and leadership without creating antagonism, and how to get the maximum of output with a minimum of resentment and friction. They have revolutionized industry, and there is much we could learn from their research that would make our leadership more fruitful.
Where do we go from here? The answer is simple. We meet the challenge of the hour and the need of the people. From the gospel of Jesus Christ we emphasize anew the answers to their personal problems and point them to a personal salvation. We re- emphasize the value of godly Christian living, and exemplify in our lives all the principles so beautifully taught by our Example. And finally, we give to our churches a type of leadership that will elicit from them a wholehearted service of maximum efficiency.
There is no reason why this great ideal cannot be attained if we will work and pray wholeheartedly, looking to Christ as the author and finisher of our faith.
[End of Series]