EDWARD E. WHITE Educational Secretary, Australasian Division
The eminent evangelist had developed his subject and was obviously holding the attention of his audience. Now clinching his point he wisely resorted to the appealing device of an illustration. "Pardon me," he said, "for using a personal experience." And for one of the congregation, at least, the spell was broken.
As it happened the illustration was most apt, it touched a sympathetic and understanding chord, and the message without doubt was more accurately directed to the heart. But why the "pardon me"? Why should it be necessary to apologize for personal illustrations? Admittedly some personal illustrations shriek aloud for a justification and should never have found a place in the preacher's sermon. But the fact that they are personal experiences should by no means preclude their use. In fact, these are usually the most interesting ones, for do we not all relish personal tidbits about a man? When pertinent they have far greater weight and carry the freshness of originality. Far be it from me to suggest that the preacher give us an autobiography on the installment plan, but at least let some of his illustrations be new. And if they are personal, they will, by the very nature of the case, be unique.
One aid to preachers that has been somewhat of a curse is the type of book published under such a title as, 101 Sermon Illustrations, or worse still, 1001 Stories for Preachers and even 5,000 Illustrations! The unfortunate disadvantage of these books, which wisely used can nevertheless serve a useful purpose, is that the previous incumbent doubtless also possessed and used a copy of the book from which you also quote. How many times have we been dramatically harangued on the sinking of the Titantic! I must confess that I have sunk the same vessel more than once, but have long since decided to leave that vessel where it rests, down in the depths of the sea.
Can we not, within safe bounds, continue to use the personal illustration in the sermon but exclude the "pardon me," which is so often the accompaniment? As a matter of fact, there is a wondrous magic about an illustration that can be subjected to personal trial and observation. The preacher drops any artificiality, his clerical drone dries up, his exaggerated gestures disappear, and he relaxes. No nervous tension now, but simply the telling of a story, a story which is not a strain on the memory, but merely a genuine sincere recital of a vivid event. Watch your audience when you say, "Last Thursday, I was walking through the Market Square when " The slumberers arouse, the children cease their drawing and whispering, the inattentive sit up, the wandering eyes refocus, and a solemn hush descends. For the congregation too have been in the Market Square and possibly are anticipating what you saw or did. They are on the ground with you now, after your soaring flights into the rarefied atmosphere of abstruse theology, and come alive once more as their understanding is enlightened, and the preacher arrives once more on solid earth.
After all, was not this the principle of the Master's method of teaching by parables? "But without a parable spake he not unto them" (Mark 4:33, 34). Common stories were easily remembered, a farmer sowing corn, a laborer burning up weeds, a fisherman sorting his catch, a miser crouching over his gold, a housewife baking bread, a wedding what are all these but personal illustrations with the ego removed?
"Far more than we do, we need to speak of the precious chapters in our experience. After a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, our joy in the Lord, and our efficiency in His service would be greatly increased by recounting His goodness. . . . "Such a testimony will have an influence
upon others. No more effective means can be employed for winning souls to Christ." Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 299, 300. (Italics supplied.)
With a discreet use of the personal pronoun and an eye for the apt illustration, we can dis cover our sermon windows as we go about our daily tasks. And we shall meet the people where they are, and without doubt give better proof of our ministry.
The Seven Essentials in Every Sermon
PERRY GREEN Pastor-Evangelist, Arkansas-Louisiana Conference Practical Godliness
Practical godliness is the actual operation of Christian doctrine in the life. The way of setting this operation into action is by permitting Jesus to fill the heart and to dwell therein.
It is necessary for the ministry to preach doctrine and theory in order that the listeners will know what the will of God is and know how to obey. However, there is great danger in many efforts that are put forth in the field. Frequently the discourses given are largely theoretical. People are convinced of the truth. They see that the dead stay in the grave until Jesus comes, that the seven last plagues are literal, and that the seventh day is the Sabbath. But the truth is that mental assent does not make a Christian.
One evangelist relates an experience in an effort which illustrates the need of practical godliness in our preaching. Night after night he noticed two men sitting near the front. Every time the evangelist asked for a manifestation from the audience that they agreed with the truth, the two men indicated that they be lieved. He missed the two for several nights, and then they were back. At the close of the service the evangelist asked them why they had missed the preceding nights. They answered that they had visited the Salvation Army for a few nights so they could get some heart religion!
It is necessary to preach repentance, faith, and love for Jesus not only to strangers, but also to our own people. The doctrines must be presented in such a way that they will reach and move the heart. We must remember that even though people are acquainted with the gospel, many are sadly ignorant in regard to the plan of salvation. They must be encouraged to for sake every sin and turn to Christ. Our sermons
said, "Oh, no, not that." Then Spurgeon pointed out to him that that was just the reason for his failure, and that if he would be a soul winner, he'd have to expect conversions every time he preached. Conversions will be very few unless we look for them, work for them, ask for them, and expect them. The preacher never knows just what sermon will lead what listener to conversion. It's just like canvassing. If the colporteur knocks at every door, he won't pass up a single prospect. The law holds for the preacher. If he calls for conversions every time he preaches, he won't pass up the repentant sinner when the Lord is speaking to his heart. Not only is this true in evangelistic meetings, but it is also true with our pastoral sermons. It is surprising to know that many of our church members are lax, and at times during the preaching service they feel compelled to turn wholeheartedly to the Lord. They are moved, but no invitation is extended. Also, there may be visitors in attendance who will never hear our message again. In fact, to many people it might be their last chance. Every sermon should be treated as if it were our last chance to warn the people. This will compel us to strive for conversions.
The Love of Christ
"In order to break down the barriers of prejudice and impenitence, the love of Christ must have a part in every discourse." Evangelism, p. 189. In many places the prejudice is strong against us, because in past years we have placed much stress, and rightly so, upon obedience to the law of God. The sad part is that -we have failed many times to stress the love of Jesus. If the love of Christ is made predominant, those who are prejudiced will see that we are truly ambassadors for Christ.
They will tend to forget the reports that branded us as cold legal teachers of the law. Another advantage of presenting the love of Christ very often is that every time we speak the name of Christ in love, the angels come to soften and subdue hearts. Love is the greatest power in the world, and the more fully we can present the love of Christ, the larger will be our harvest of souls. It always affects hearts to illustrate the love of Christ by telling a tender story. Especially is this true when we can use a father's or a mother's love toward a little child. ' No love can equal that which caused God to give His Son to die on the cross for fallen man kind. This is the supreme evidence of God's love toward us. When the heart is filled with the love of Jesus, this can be presented to the people, and it will affect hearts. The love of Christ should be preached to our people in every sermon presented, because it not only softens and subdues hearts but also binds hearts to Christ. It also binds the hearts of church members together, cleansing them from all selfishness. Not only will this love lead to brotherly love, but it will also make one more liberal with his means and more willing to be an instrument for His work. In fact, every thing else withers into insignificance when com pared with the love of Christ.
Corner for the Children
"In every sermon let a little corner be left for their benefit. . . . This will do more than we realize to bar the way against Satan's devices." Evangelism, p. 349. The most precious possessions that God has given us are our children. Not only are they a great joy to us, but, if properly trained, they will be the future leaders of the church. The devil doesn't want the children to grow up in the Lord and develop into workers for Him. He is constantly at work. Surely we ought to be on the alert to defeat his work. One of the most effective ways is to make the children feel that the minister is their pastor. A portion of the sermon built for them will help them to know that he is interested in them and that he loves them.
This will make their hearts more susceptible to the truth and will lead them to an early decision. If the children can be brought to an early decision and then held to that decision, they are not likely to be wounded by the adversary. Another reason that a portion of the sermon should be given to the children is that they present a great field for evangelism. If a pastor of an average-size church of two or three hundred members will minister to the children and youth properly, he will have a goodly number of baptisms each year just from that one source. Christ, the Majesty of heaven, said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."
We are His Majesty's messenger to His little children.
The Adventist preacher is, a man with many duties; campaigns are endless in his work. These are important and must be done. Ingathering must be taken care of. Signs, temperance, Review and Herald, and religious liberty goals must be met. He must have a steady hand on the church school. His first business is to save men, to rescue them from the penalty of sin. He has no business so important as this. No matter how many goals are to be met, if he is connected with God's cause, his business is to save men, and he should keep before him the objective that if he fulfills the work of a true ambassador for Christ, he must be a reconciler between sinners and God. If the preacher follows the preceding six essentials to the end of every sermon, he will have touched the heart of every listener present. There will always be the possibility that there will be some in the audience who have not yet stepped over the line completely on the side of Christ. The seventh step, then, would be a very logical and normal one. That is, make the strongest appeal possible for the sinner to surrender all. Many times a suitable song that has been carefully chosen will give invaluable assistance to the appeal. This procedure will reward the preacher with a continual harvest of souls.
The Minister's Calling, Work, and Responsibility
R. R. BIETZ President, Southern California Conference PART III Our Health
The problem of health should be of para mount concern to every worker. We should be men and women of robust health. We should not be emaciated weaklings who have little or no strength.
"It is necessary, in order to pursue this great and arduous work, that the ministers of Christ should possess physical health. To attain this end they must become regular in their habits and adopt a healthful system of living." Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 264.
To be healthy, a man must not only eat right, but also work right, rest right, and think right. There seem to be more "half-baked" health reformers than can ever be counted. There are many who have the cure of all our physical ills in a few little pills. Many of these energetic salesmen who know very little about the body and its functions are preaching with the fervor of an evangelist. They say that our troubles of indigestion, impure blood, arthritis, and so forth can all be cured by buying their particular product. The reason the pill sales men can make such a good living is that they claim so much for their pills and the American people are so gullible. I do not believe that all of my ailments can be cured by eating soybeans, yogurt, blackstrap molasses, or vitamin pills that run the gamut of the alphabet. Personally, I like yogurt, and soybeans are a part of my diet. However, I do feel that we should recognize that the problem of health is much larger than a cup of alfalfa tea or a vitamin pill. I believe every worker and his wife should become intelligent on the subject of nutrition. With the help of a Christian physician who knows something about nutrition and preventive medicine, everyone should map out a program to fit his individual need. We should eat well-balanced meals, get well-balanced rest, do well-balanced work, and have well-balanced exercise.
The Ministry of Healing has the right philosophy of healthful living. There is more and better instruction in that book on the general problem of healthful living than you can find in any and all the books coming from the presses today. We should .study the book more diligently. "One person can not lay down an exact rule for another. Everyone should exercise reason and self-control and should act from principle." The Ministry of Healing, p. 310. "Those who understand the laws of health and who are governed by principle, will shun the extremes, both of indulgence and of restriction." Ibid., p. 319. The workers who eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of exercise, have proper rest, do not worry, have a cheerful outlook upon life, do their work as unto God, keep their conscience void of offense, carry no grudges, and are not jealous, will be healthy and will make a real contribution to the cause of God.
Every worker should be loyal. We read in Testimonies to Ministers: "Love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous, be true as steel to one another, but crush that feeling of superiority over your brother ministers which leads one to feel that he can not link up with others in labor." Page 251. This instruction is clear we should be as "true as steel" to one another. This should not be interpreted to mean that we should disregard principle in our desire to be loyal. Loyalty to the truth overshadows loyalty to one another. Friendship should never be strong enough to give support to unprincipled men never strong enough to cover up sin. When loyalty is willing to sacrifice principle, it is no more genuine; it has become corrupt politics. This
kind of loyalty is treacherous. It should never be countenanced in the cause of God. When the majority speak, our personal convictions must give way. Militancy must give way to submission and cooperation. Loyalty is tested when we find ourselves in a position where personal convictions must be surrendered. There is a time to express convictions, but there is also a time to accept the will of the majority and move along with it. Incidentally, our loyalty to one another should be strong enough to prevent us from talking about another's weaknesses. It is certainly not a program of loyalty to belittle one another. It should never be necessary for members of our churches to say that they do not appreciate the way some workers talk to them about their fellow workers. Moral Integrity Morally speaking, we are living in a wicked and perverse generation.
The moral code of conduct enunciated in the Bible has been, in many cases, entirely disregarded. As ministers of the gospel we have a responsibility to hold high the standards. We must not forget either that "there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man." We are not above temptation. The minister must of necessity mix with both sexes. His life, however, must be above reproach. The minister is in constant danger of character assassination. There are always those who are "waiting and watching" for the minister's mistakes. Many people thrive on gos sip about the pastor. The nearest thing to perpetual motion is talk about the minister's familiarity with the opposite sex. Once started it seldom ever stops, if it has the least bit of foundation. Such talk sticks to the worker like iron glue guaranteed not to come off.
Therefore, the minister must live so far from the debatable line that talk, even if it should start, will die because there is no soil in which it can grow. Walter Schuette says in his book The Minister's Personal Guide: "Gossip is a disreputable enemy, howbeit a wily and powerful one; and the minister's intended pastoral calls are a productive source of zestful material for the maw of the gossip."
Pastor Schuette points out that it is dangerous for any man to call on a woman alone in her home. It is almost a deathblow to any minister's reputation to have the gossip, male or female, of his community truthfully say, "The preacher's car is in front of Mrs. John Doe's house two or three times a week." Mrs. Doe might be the choir leader, the church treasurer, or the Dorcas leader. The minister must guard against seeing her alone in her home too often. "To add to the minister's perplexities, it will have to be said that many a Christian church has in its membership women to whom the questionable epithet 'designing' is fully applicable. Whether from ordinary mischievous playfulness or from a willful desire to get the minister into a predicament, they concoct one scheme after another to get to see him alone. He must early in his ministry learn to be more than a match for such designing females. Sometimes they cannot be squelched unless he be comes positively rude. Very well, let him be rude." Ibid., pp. 52, 53. [See book review in April, 1954, issue of THE MINISTRY. EDITORS.]
I have seen capable and good men caught because they foolishly engaged in "innocent familiarity." Of such men the wise man says, "He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks." I have seen them leaving the committee meeting, credentials surrendered, weeping because their past and future were ruined, and sometimes weeping because they were caught. Many times after they get their first breath they become belligerent against the conference administration. But that does not do away with the fact that the committee did not get them into the trouble it only did its duty by relieving them of their responsibility. In a moment of weakness many years of service are ruined as far as good influence is concerned. A man may lose money and not lose anything. If a man loses his good character reputation, he has lost that which matters most. Why does it happen? The answer is simple. They take the first "innocent" step.
"If sisters, married or unmarried, show any familiarity, repulse them. Be abrupt and decided, that they may ever understand that you give no countenance to such weakness." Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 437. "Moral purity, self-respect, a strong power of resistance, must be firmly and constantly cherished. There should not be one departure from reserve. One act of familiarity, one indiscretion, may jeopardize the soul, by opening the door to temptation and thus weakening the power of resistance." Counsels on Health, p. 295. Ministers must have a certain reserve.
We must keep our distance. Keep your thoughts, heart, and hands clean! It should not be necessary to hold the hand of a lady for half a minute to let her know you are glad to see her and wish her well. If we wish to hold hands, let's hold the hands of our wives; they won't object! It will do them much good, and will not harm our reputation! The ministry today needs conviction.
Twentieth-century Protestantism, by and large, has lost its conviction. The little that is left is often not expressed. We are afraid, it seems, to let the world know where we stand and why. In modern Protestantism there is too much pussy footing. We get so eager to "win friends and influence people" that we don't do either. Our position in the church and the community should be crystal clear.
We should know where we are going and why. "None should consent to be mere machines, run by another man's mind. God has given us ability, to think and to act, and it is by acting with carefulness, looking to Him for wisdom, that you will become capable of bearing burdens. Stand in your God-given personality. Be no other person's shadow. Expect that the Lord will work in and by and through you." The Ministry of Healing, pp. 498, 499. Our congregations must know that we stand for something. They must know that we are not merely policy men who can, by every wind, be shifted like the sand. They must know that we are not interested in "jumping on the band wagon." A minister, rather than surrender his convictions, should be willing to pull his wagon in the opposite direction, even though he might have to go it alone in sweat and blood, and without the band cheering him on. "Men of power are those who have been opposed, baffled, and thwarted. By calling their energies into action, the obstacles they meet prove to them positive blessings. They gain self-reliance. Conflict and perplexity call for the exercise of trust in God, and for that firmness which develops power." Ibid., p. 500. "He [God] wants men who are more intent upon doing their duty than upon receiving their reward, men who are more solicitous for principle than for promotion." Ibid., p. 477. Our Homes The deterioration and disintegration of the home has a devastating influence upon civilization, and an equally alarming bearing on the life of the church. The minister's home must be exemplary. "This means not only that he should have the fear of God rule in his household. It means that he should grace himself as a husband with the beautiful conduct which tender love for his wife can alone produce. It means that in his attitude toward his children he should be far different from a hard taskmaster, or an inflexible commandant, or a stupid misinterpreter of the child life and child interest of the times. Parenthood today is not a simple responsibility; but the minister, as a man of God, can meet it if he is selfless enough and thoughtful enough. If we cannot count on him to be both, woe betide us!" Schuette, op. cit., p. 69. If we wish to demonstrate the character of God in our homes we must be sure that there is complete submission on the part of both husband and wife to the Lord and to each other. Our devotion must be so complete that no outside influences can ever break through. If we cannot have a home that is exemplary in every way, I question whether we should be in a calling that represents by far the highest moral ideals.
Our calling is a holy one and our lives should be in harmony with the high calling we have accepted. The greatest value to this cause is not found in its financial assets, its material blessings. Houses and lands are important, but more important than all dollar values are the spiritual values in the lives of the leaders. M. L. Andreasen once said: "The church has a right to a pure ministry, a powerful ministry, a Spirit-filled ministry, a well-informed ministry, an honest ministry, a humble ministry, a praying ministry, a dedicated ministry. Such a ministry God can bless, and -with such a ministry He can finish the work."