Pointers for Preachers

RELIGIOUS ADVERTISING, THE ARCHITECTURE OF PRAYER, FED OR FED UP?

RELIGIOUS ADVERTISING  We have all seen the skilled Knights of Columbus adver­tising in leading magazines and newspapers during recent years. The October, 1959, Churchman comments that "this skillfully written advertising copy has no doubt irked many Protestants but no Protestant organization has had the wisdom to carry on an equally potent cam­paign."

Evidently the continuation of these advertise­ments indicates the satisfaction of the Roman church with their results. From January 1 to July 1, 1959, in the United States, inquiries from these ads were 3,141,334, and enrollments for religious in­struction 296,362, reports the Churchman. World figures were (63 countries): inquiries 3,352,733, in­struction enrollments 339,917.

Then the Churchman adds: "The apathy of Prot­estants in this field does not include the Seventh-day Adventists. We congratulate them on their use of well-written half-page advertisements in Editor and Publisher, a trade journal which reaches most newspaper offices in the United States."

h. w. l.

FED OR FED UP?  The injunction "Feed my sheep" reflects the philosophy of the apostolic ministry. The shepherd of a flock was not to be an engineer running a machine, but one who understood the needs of those under his care, one who would nourish the flock and "have com­passion ... on them that are out of the way."

In recent years medical science has discovered much about the effect of certain foods upon per­sonality development. And what is true in the physical realm is equally true in the spiritual realm. Regular meals are important; but even more im­portant is the content of those meals. Important as it is for one to have sufficient nourishment for his daily needs, it is equally important that he not over­indulge. This needs no comment, especially in Adventist circles, for we have been charged by God to emphasize the importance of real health reform.

However, it is not physical health that we are emphasizing, but rather spiritual health. Too much of any one thing, or too much at any one time, can be a detriment to real spiritual growth. The ability to adapt oneself to the immediate situation is a quality every preacher should develop. Although it is true that a large congregation may often inspire the preacher to deliver his message in a strong, forthright way. yet the smaller meeting is also im­portant, requiring that one adapt his method to the immediate needs.

To illustrate: An inexperienced preacher worked hard on his sermon. When he reached the church only one man turned up to hear him. Crestfallen, the young preacher said to this one-man audience, "What am I supposed to do now?" The reply he got encouraged him to go ahead: "I am just a simple cowhand, but if I took a load of hay to the pasture and only one cow showed up, I sure would feed her."

So the preacher went through his long sermon, trying all the while to be enthusiastic. It was quite a task. Having delivered his soul he stepped to the door to say good night. Then he ventured the ques­tion, "How did I do?"

"Well," the man replied, "like I said, I am only just a cowhand, but if I took a load of hay to a herd of cows and only one showed up, I sure would not give her the whole load."

Could it be that we could be charged sometimes with serving up the whole load when it would be much better if we adapted ourselves to the situa­tion. It is a good thing to be fed, but to be fed up is tragic. Let us put the slide rule on ourselves, brother preachers, or better still, encourage some­body else to help us make a real evaluation of our ministry.

Our people need to be fed but not overfed, much less fed up. The same great evangelist that said, "Feed the flock of God" (1 Peter 5:2) also said, "Take heed unto thyself" (1 Tim. 4:16). His coun­sel is just as pertinent today.

r. a. a.

THE ARCHITECTURE OF PRAYER  Recognized leaders in the Christian church, whose names are household words, have emphasized again and again the importance of the public prayer in our meetings for worship. In preaching one speaks to the congregation for God, but in the pastoral prayer we speak to God for the congregation. That is what makes this part of the service so important. To seize upon it as an occasion for unfolding sys­tems of theology, or to emphasize on certain doc­trines, is entirely out of place. More unfortunate still is it when the prayer becomes an opportunity for paying a compliment to the preacher. Its pur­pose is not to inform, but rather to inspire the wor­shipers—to lift them into the very presence of God. It bridges the distance between the Creator and the creature.

It is an august exercise demanding as much prep­aration as the sermon. The Spirit of Prophecy says, "All should feel it a Christian duty to pray short. . . . Some deliver a discourse to the Lord in the mode of prayer." When one realizes the importance of the responsibility of carrying the congregation to the throne of grace he will bow in humility.

Spontaneous prayer that comes from the depths of the soul of the one who has already taken hold of the arm of Omnipotence can and will do as much for the congregation as the most impressive ser­mon. It has been well said that "if men are un­moved by our prayers, they are not likely to be profoundly stirred by our preaching."

The high point of the whole worship service should be when the Lord is being addressed on be­half of the congregation. And the one expressing praise, confession, and the needs of the people is speaking not only for himself but for every wor­shiper present. Moreover, he himself is one of the worshipers. It is always regrettable and reveals a lack of true understanding when we hear expres­sions such as, "My Father, I pray Thee to bless these Thy people." Such an expression, though supplica­tory, lacks an essential quality—a recognition that with the people for whom he speaks he also needs the blessing of God.

How different was the prayer of Daniel. And what a pattern for intercession was set by this great leader. Nowhere else, except in the experience of our Lord, is the principle of intercessory prayers set forth. The ancient prophet Daniel was three times called "greatly beloved" of God. But see how he takes his people on his heart as he prays, "We have sinned . . . : neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets. . . . O Lord, right­eousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confu­sion of faces, as at this day. . . . We have sinned . . . and have done wickedly." Thirty-three times in this prayer we find him using the first person pro­nouns "we," "us," and "our," showing how closely he identified himself with his people. It would have been true had he said, "O Lord, our fathers sinned, they did wickedly and they have deserved what has come upon them." But not so. He identi­fied himself with the people and voiced their heart cries to God—a true example of intercessory prayer.

Let us think through the implications of our public prayers and guard every expression that would separate us from the people. Those who lead in our services of worship must be careful to identify themselves with the worshipers—in praise, prayer, song, and sermon.

r. a. a.

 

 


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January 1960

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