Intelligence is defined as mental acuteness, intuition, instinct; the ability to comprehend and understand, and the capacity to successfully handle difficult situations. It is therefore distinct from knowledge that is the result of human effort. Intelligence is not acquired from books or through the process of training and education, even though they may play a part in its development.
Some highly educated people are not wise or intelligent. They lack judgment, good sense, and discernment, which are the evidences of intelligence. Intelligence is similar to wisdom, and wisdom is akin to native ability, which makes possible the proper use of knowledge.
No one needs common sense and intelligence more than a minister who must deal with all types of people and all manner of situations. He needs constantly to keep in the middle of the road.
In practically every church there are three groups—those who swerve to the right, those who turn to the left, and those who travel in the middle of the road. The majority should be in the middle group. Those who turn to the right are the ultra liberal, who go to extremes in indulgence and have only "a form of godliness." They are "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." We are told that "those who are uniting with the world are receiving the worldly mold and preparing for the mark of the beast." —Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 216. Unless this class experiences a spiritual revival and reformation they will be lost.
On the other hand, those who turn to the left go to extremes in restriction and are overmuch righteous. There are always a few of them in every church, and we are told that there will be until the end. Scores of warnings have been given us against all kinds of extremes and fanaticisms. Unfortunately, some ministers belong to this class, and although it is very difficult to understand, some physicians go to great extremes in regard to our health principles. Of all persons ministers need to keep in the middle of the road, and use their influence to bring those who go to extremes of indulgence and restriction to a safe and sound position.A beautiful picture of Christ is recorded in Isaiah 11:1 to 5. He is clearly identified in verse one, and then are enumerated the sevenfold aspects of His wisdom and intelligence, which Jewish theologians speak of as "the seven spirits of God." He possessed the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, reverence (or the fear of the Lord), and quick understanding (or discernment). "Scent, or smell" is the marginal reading for "quick understanding." In other words, He had the intuition to smell out, or discern, a situation and the ability to handle it. Should not every minister endeavor to fulfill these qualifications for service as the ambassador of Christ?
Isaiah presents another picture of the Master Preacher: "The Lord God bath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God bath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back" (Isa. 50:4, 5). Christ is clearly identified in the next two verses. His prayer and devotional life was the secret of His intelligence and ability to answer His enemies and to speak a word in season to all that were weary. According to another version He was awakened "at dawn" for His season of prayer and devotion. His ambassadors have often been divinely awakened at an early hour for the same purpose.
As ministers we greatly need emotional balance, poise, and equilibrium. In the opening sentence of chapter two in Steps to Christ we are told that "man was originally endowed with noble powers and a well-balanced mind," which indicates that sin unbalances the minds of all transgressors and that the purpose of the gospel is to restore to complete sanity and bring man back to normalcy. Paul says, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5), for He was the only descendant from Adam with a completely balanced mind. The more like Christ a person is, the greater sanity he enjoys.
What a tragedy for a spiritual leader to become erratic, irrational, and fanatical. In his book Just for Today D. A. Delafield says: "There is no field in which the tares of sin grow so rapidly as in the mind of extremists who spend their time teaching half-truths, overemphasizing little truths, or promoting queer ideas that are irrelevant to the gospel."—Page 225. Jesus declared that the Pharisees were hypocrites and fanatics, and to them He said: "Ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel" (Matt. 23:23, 24). They majored on minors and minored on majors.
In his book Some to Be Pastors, Peter Pleune said on page 99: "We know that the crank, the legalist, and the Pharisee are in every company of religious folk. They are usually evading some major, ethical requirement and compensating therefore by excessive concern about some small matter." Another writer says: "We are individualists, and no group stands under any greater temptation to become one-sided and slightly off balance."--Bishop Gerald Kennedy in His Word Through Preaching, p. 169.
George Whitefield told a group of ministers that certain types of sermons are composed of "poor, dry, sapless stuff," and the servant of the Lord said: "Some minds are more like an old curiosity shop than anything else. Many odd bits and ends of truth have been picked up and stored away there; but they know not how to present them in a clear, connected manner. It is the relation that these ideas have to one another that gives them value. Every idea and statement should be closely united as the links in a chain. When a minister throws out a mass of matter before the people for them to pick up and arrange in order, his labors are lost; for there are few who will do it."—Evangelism, pp. 648, 649.
There is a lot of zeal that is not according to knowledge. It is not arranged or regulated by wisdom and intelligence. In the preface of his book Case Work in Preaching Ezra Rhodes said: "The usefulness of most ministers could be multiplied if they would acknowledge and eliminate apparently trivial errors, eccentricities, and inhibitions." How true this is. So many of them ride hobbies, or place the emphasis on matters of small importance compared with the great fundamentals of the gospel, or they overstress the negative to the neglect of the positive. The harm they do is incalculable.
The following warnings are to the point: "Many are fanatics. They are consumed by a fiery zeal which is mistaken for religion."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 305. The inference is that such preaching does not even deserve the name of religion. "We should be very cautious not to advance too fast, lest we be obliged to retrace our steps. In reforms we would better come one step short of the mark than to go one step beyond it. And if there is error at all, let it be on the side next to the people."—Ibid., vol. 3, p. 21.
The counsel here given is especially timely for those instructing new members who are anxious to walk in every ray of light and who have such unbounded confidence in every member of the church. Because of a lack of knowledge they are easily led into fanaticism. They must therefore be cautioned not to move too fast, because of the danger of going too far and having to experience an embarrassing retreat. When the devil fails in his attempts to prevent a person from going forward into the light of truth, he begins to push, with the hope of shoving him beyond the truth into fanaticism.
There is a tendency to expect new converts to reach in a few days the spiritual development others have attained in twenty or thirty years; to reach the borders of the Promised Land in one big step; to adjust their lives to an entirely new way of living and eating so quickly that they become discouraged, and either return to their former practices or give up and go back into the world. There is much for them to learn, and changes have to be made that affect every phase of their life. Therefore, great patience is needed to give them a chance to make the journey a step at a time. All members should make the journey with Christ and His church, and neither fall behind nor run ahead. "God has a church upon the earth, who are His chosen people, who keep His commandments. He is leading, not stray offshoots, not one here and one there, but a people."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 61.
Intelligence, therefore, is absolutely essential to success in the leadership of God's people if they would be superior and exert a commanding influence for good.