Another important phase of the matter of receiving and accepting or rejecting a call is the relationship and attitude toward the church of the pastor and his wife receiving the call. Perhaps few circumstances concerning the life of a minister are fraught with greater possibilities for good or for evil than is the atmosphere created by the pastor and his family when a call is received. Just as a church almost invariably reflects the attitude of its minister in all of its missionary campaigns and soul-winning activities, so it will also reflect his attitude and judgment relative to his leaving or remaining with the church.
It is seldom necessary for a minister receiving a call to inform the church of the matter if he and his wife have prayed earnestly about it and have decided to remain. On the contrary, should they reach a decision to accept the call, naturally they must pass the information on to the church concerned.
If the worker has been in no way responsible for the call coming to him (other than information regarding the outstanding accomplishments during his pastorate, which somehow has a way of getting around, for the record of our work is open and available to far more people than we realize), at the close of his Sabbath service he can reveal to the church body that, although he had nothing to do with the call that has come his way, he and his good wife have given careful study and much prayerful thought to the question and have come to the place where they have a clear conviction that the Lord is in the call and would have them accept it; therefore, they have yielded to what they believe is the call of the Master in accepting the invitation to connect with such and such a conference to become the pastor of such and such a church.
The minister would surely wish to state that he had greatly appreciated the cooperation and support of the loyal church members during his labors of love among them and that it was not for lack of such cooperation that he was impressed to accept the call. He might say, "However, we have settled the issue on our knees before God; very definite plans have been laid, and we shall have our farewell service on such and such a Sabbath and shall take over the responsibilities in the new field on a certain date."
The pastor might also say that as far as his successor in the church is concerned, he is sure the conference committee will give careful and prayerful consideration to filling the vacancy and will have just the right man to take up the work where he leaves off. In some places it might not be out of order to tell the following story: "The statement I have just made about my leaving and the work of the conference committee in regard to my successor reminds me of a minister who at one time made that remark, and a good sister got up and said, 'O brother, I just can't believe it; that is what they told us the last time!' " A little story of just the right kind at a time like that will most certainly help to relieve the tension of the moment.
But the minister who before his departure all but wrecks the church program through the manner in which he breaks the news to the church, allowing the church to become pitted against the conference and the general organization, certainly does serious injury thereby to the cause of God as well as to himself. Frequently, because of the confusion created by the manner in which the call was handled by the pastor, his own converts are greatly shaken and are among the first to fall away from the church after his departure. May God give us all more grace and wisdom in dealing with delicate matters of this kind.
In other words, the worker's mind should be definitely made up before he reveals the matter of his call to the congregation, and the congregation should be assured that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." And if the call does come at a time when it seems rather difficult for the worker to understand why it came, the church is certain to reflect his attitude in the matter. Any question in his mind about the call should be dis cussed with the conference president and, if necessary, with the conference committee, but not with the members of his church until the one receiving the call has the situation under complete control in his own mind and heart.
Should a Minister Remain to Introduce His Successor?
While we are discussing the matter of calls, it might be well to mention that there are few- times indeed when it is wise for the departing minister to remain and introduce his successor, for this produces conflicting emotions in the hearts of the people. It is virtually impossible for them to say in one breath, "We are so sorry to see you go," and then turn to the new minister and, forcing a smile, say, "We are glad to see you come and are very happy to have you as our new pastor." The worker must permit neither selfishness nor poor judgment to overrule. It is well for us to remember that we are all soldiers of the cross and actively engaged on the battlefield of service. None of us has the right to sing the song "I Shall Not Be Moved," and apply it to his present position!
Although a worker should not insist on staying to introduce his successor unless by special request of the conference president equally bad, or perhaps much worse, is the thoughtless ness of any pastor who in moving to a new field arrives ahead of schedule and embarrasses the minister who may not have completed or possibly even introduced the matter of his leaving to his own congregation. If both conference presidents involved, and the minister whose place he is taking, are consulted, there will be little chance of error on this point.
Another thing we need to remember is the fact that since we all have outstanding weak nesses, and most of us have preciously few over- towering strong points, we should be careful of the manner in which we refer to those who have gone before us. Their strong work may be along different lines from ours. That is why changes in leadership are necessary so that the work may be well developed along all lines.
It is well, therefore, to remember that after we have done our best, both we and our work are far from perfect. Only as the Lord Jesus blesses the work of our talents, whether they be many or few, great or small, will even our best efforts be conducive to the upbuilding of the kingdom of our God. No doubt we shall learn to our sorrow in the great eternity be yond that much of our building for the kingdom of God in this life has been of wood, hay, and stubble, rather than of gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls.
May our loving God help us all as workers to tarry long on our knees and to drink deep from the precious fountain, in order that our lives may be so charged with the Spirit and power of the living God that whether we are called to remove to some other field or to remain at our present post of duty, all honest- hearted souls can soon be won to the Lord Jesus Christ because of our devotion to Him and our tireless labors of love for sinners around us.
[End of Series]