Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:16). The answer is—"No, not one." We are called as ministers to positions too high, with responsibilities too heavy. A simple look at the denominational program as it relates to the minister should convince us that too much is required of too few, and a steep hill must be climbed by those of little strength. Of necessity, then, must we conclude with Paul: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God" (2 Cor. 3:5).
It is becoming increasingly difficult for conscientious pastors to find time for public evangelism in the light of their manifold administrative responsibilities. Add to this the numerous demands of the sheep upon their shepherd, and we have a situation that requires our attention. If as ministers we have come to the place when we have to "find time" to do that to which we are called by God, the time has come for a re-evaluation of our individual pastoral-evangelistic program. If time must "be found" to do anything, it should be for duties other than personal, active soul winning. All other ministerial activity must recognize the evangelistic program as its context. The public preaching of the Word is commanded us by our Lord. It is never without effect. "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. 55: 11).
It is understandable, therefore, that the devil will have the ministry gasping for breath if at all possible. Prince Lucifer well remembers that the city of Nineveh received her reprieve because a preacher visited her doomed inhabitants. A preaching preacher prepared the way for the first coming of our Lord. The power-charged messages of the apostles set soul-reaping records at Pentecost. The fiery preachments of Luther sparked the great Reformation. The preaching of William Miller gave life to the Second Advent doctrine. Whenever and wherever the Word of God is preached, the kingdom of God is established.
It is therefore incumbent upon each pastor to make this his first work. Public evangelism is not "a phase" of the pastor's work. It is his work. Indeed, this is the only thing that he does that others cannot do. In this alone, he stands alone. The question should be, "How can I fit my promotional and other business duties into my soul-winning plans?"—and not vice versa. Preaching the message is the pastor's program. All All else encircles it in orbit, as satellites do the sun. "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16).
This writer does not believe that other forms of denominational endeavor are less necessary than public preaching. All branches of denominational service are indeed important to the fulfillment of the gospel commission. How else can a balanced program for God go forward? But the central question is this: In the light of our denominational program how can the local pastor pursue public evangelism and keep abreast in other branches of service? The preservation of one's preaching power is of utmost importance. Revival fires must never burn low. Positive, pointed, Spirit-filled preaching is ever our crying need. "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but In demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Cor. 2:4).
The heavy responsibilities of organization by their very nature grow with increased church membership. This is according to the Biblical principle, "The end result of increased capacity is increased responsibility." (See Luke 12:48.) Nor was it ever intended that numerical growth should interfere with the full and free proclamation of the everlasting gospel. To the contrary, our added strength should make possible a louder cry. Organizational programing is not now and must never become a ball and chain enfeebling its ministry by its manifold responsibilities. Admittedly, no man can do it all; however, all can get the whole job done with plenty of time to labor for the lost. But how?
"And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, N/Vhat is this thing that thou doest to the people?" (Ex. 18:14). Moses was attempting the impossible and his father-in-law knew it. Jethro suggested that for one man to personally administer all of the affairs of the church was an injustice to them and to himself. Indeed, to so administrate is to seek the swiftest course to early martyrdom. In verse 15 Moses seeks to justify his course of action. "Because the people come unto me to enquire . . ." he lamely explains.
My brethren, how much more time to seek the lost would be available if our congregations were taught to seek guidance of God more freely. Ours is a Protestant pulpit. We do not hold confessionals. We have often suspected, that the devil builds fires among the saints and keeps the man of God so busy putting them out, that he can find no time to seek sinners.
"Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee," counseled Jethro in verse 18. This is certainly no plea that we dispense with counseling altogether. The writer well recognizes both its necessity and value. There are, however, matters that a deacon or elder might handle, thus relieving the pastor for pressing evangelistic duties.
To Jethro again: "Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God will be with thee... . Provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers" (verses 19-21). Herein lies the answer to getting things done. Distribute responsibility with greater lay participation in the church program. Delegate authority. Try to do it all alone, and it does not get done. There just is not enough time in a day for one man to succor all the saints and seek sinners. A choice must be made. Laymen must be trusted and entrusted with more responsibility.
But "a leader must lead," is the slogan so often heard. Whether this is true depends on what we mean. If by it we mean that the minister must attend all functions, federations, and committees, and in addition actively participate in all church campaigns, also hear the complaints of the "sickly" saints—if this is what we expect of a district leader, then call an angel.
Many routine duties can be performed by consecrated laymen while the pastor is out preaching the gospel. Certain members, now known as troublemakers, are merely spoiling for something to do. If given a job, they would cease to afflict the man of God. The minister is thus released for soul-winning work for much of the year. Such a balanced program is the key to the peace of Jerusalem and the prosperity of Zion. "If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace" (verse 23).
Without the living vitality of evangelistic preaching, the church becomes a business organization devoid of power and purpose. It is thus the prisoner of its own policies and exists to sustain itself. Judaism met this fate before us. History need not repeat itself—nor will it, if with our numerical growth there is corresponding recognition of the absolute necessity of a continually expanding evangelistic program and a free pulpit in its execution.
E. E. C.