Ministerial Deontology

Ministerial evangelism, as a sacred vocation, grants to everyone who follows it great privi­leges and much honor and pride of achievement. It is obvious, therefore, that as a logical con­sequence of the privileges inherent in his in­vestiture, the minister also has duties and obli­gations.

Secretary of the Ministerial Association, South American Division

THE old and well-known assertion that every privilege is yoked to a duty is undeniably true. In any branch of human activity we find that rights always engender implicit obligations.

Ministerial evangelism, as a sacred vocation, grants to everyone who follows it great privi­leges and much honor and pride of achievement. It is obvious, therefore, that as a logical con­sequence of the privileges inherent in his in­vestiture, the minister also has duties and obli­gations.

Nevertheless, as ministers we shall have to confess that in the exercise of the rights and prerogatives we enjoy as the natural result of this high office, we at times are inclined to for­get the opposite side of the matter—the duties and obligations.

In the light of deontology we shall try to present a few norms and precepts that we be­lieve to be relevant and important in the dis­charging of pastorial duties, and that may serve as a standard for ministerial behavior. Perhaps the following suggestions could be used as a minister's decalogue.

1. Have a conviction regarding your calling and believe in the power of the gospel.

"And no man taketh this honour unto him­self, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" (Heb. 5:4).

The inference in this verse is that the true minister does not call himself. The initiative in the calling of Aaron did not come from Aaron himself, but from the Lord. Moreover, he who answers the divine call must believe that the power of the gospel is sufficient to uplift fallen humanity, and also that it is completely effective in the work of reconciling man with God.

2. Improve your physical, moral, and intel­lectual talents in order to carry on the office of the ministry in a more honorable and effi­cient manner.

Paul, writing to the young pastor of the Ephesus church, outlined for him some sound principles of ministerial ethics: "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine"; "Give attend­ance to reading"; "Be thou an example ... in word, . . . in" purity" (1 Tim. 4:16, 13, 12). Thus this outstanding minister of God under­lined the value of physical health and good grooming, the importance of irreproachable moral conduct, and the necessity of constant in­tellectual growth.

Therefore, the minister will assume responsi­bility for presenting a good appearance and for keeping body and mind in a state of good health. Morally, he will follow the principles of Christian dignity and propriety. Intellectu­ally, the minister will set up a diligent study program, putting forth every effort to acquire an all-round development of his faculties, in the realm of theology and also in the humani­ties.

3. Have a feeling of respect and love for one's colaborers in the ministry.

"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love" (Rom. 12:10).

In harmony with the Biblical injunction the minister should be courteous and kind in his relations with his fellow workers. This funda­mental social duty is the result of good breeding and polished manners, which every educated person should possess. There should always be a feeling of mutual respect, personal esteem, and an appreciation of the dignity of man in the re­lationship of the minister with his co-workers. Even when another may be in error, no dis­paraging remark or slighting statement should be pronounced regarding his procedure or his fitness for the ministry. To err is always the re­sult of human frailty.

4. Look upon the sinner as the rightful re­cipient of every care and attention.

"I charge thee therefore before God, . . . Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:1, 2).

The minister should constantly remember that his abiding mission is to help the sinning one, out of season and in season, with loving-kind­ness, as he struggles with a weak and vacillating nature, and to comfort those who weep, encour­age the disheartened, and console those who are passing through tribulation and anguish of soul. All the efforts and activities of the minis­ter should be centered on these noble objectives.

5. Care for the flock with diligence, patience, and love—not laying aside, notwithstanding, true pastoral authority.

"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly" (1 Peter 5:2).

Be ever watchful of the needs of the members entrusted to your care, even though many times receiving only ungratefulness in return. The pastoral pathway is paved with misunderstand­ing. Be patient with the erring in his faults and wanderings. Patience, however, never should preclude the principle of using pastoral author­ity. Be courteous, but firm and resolute. Only thus may confidence be gained.

6. Abstain from formulating judgments or making insinuating remarks that could under­mine the confidence the church has placed in a fellow worker.

"Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judg­eth the law" (James 4:11).

The minister's attitude toward the actions of a colleague should be that of scrupulousness and conscientious sincerity. Allusions or in­sinuations that might neutralize another's in­fluence or weaken his authority in the church should never be put into words.

7. Strictly guard pastoral confidence.

"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, . . . this man's re­ligion is vain" (James 1:26).

It is the pastor's duty to listen to confidential revelations given him by his parishioners, but he must remain silent regarding all information of a confidential nature obtained during pas­toral counseling. The violation of this principle is a cause of deep chagrin, and very often of bitter mortification, bringing discredit to the ministry and at the same time a feeling of mis­trust. Regarding this topic the counsel "Be swift to hear, slow to speak" is very appropriate.

8. Dedicate your entire time unreservedly to pastoral duties

"No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life" (2 Tim. 2:4).

The pastorate is a priesthood, and it should be carried out as such. The apostle Paul says, "The labourer is worthy of his reward" (1 Tim. 5:18). As is to be expected, the denomination provides its workers with a salary that is just and adequate. Therefore, the minister should not, because of a materialistic viewpoint, get in­volved in worldly business affairs and seek to obtain additional funds and revenue with which to supplement his earnings.

9. Show respect for higher-ranking superiors. "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake" (1 Peter 2:13).

Mrs. E. G. White says that "... the spirit of disorganization, is in the very air we breathe. By some, all efforts to establish order are re­garded as dangerous—as a restriction of per­sonal liberty, and hence to be feared as popery. ... I have been instructed that it is Satan's special effort to lead men to feel t/hat God is pleased to have them choose their own course independent of the counsel of their brethren." —Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 257. In order to guard against the spirit of independence instigated by Satan, the minister should work in harmony with the judgment of his higher-ranking supe­riors, respecting the counsel of those elected to positions of responsibility, honoring their devo­tion to duty and wisdom gained by many years of experience.

10. Always hold in mind the principles laid down in this code of honor.

The minister would do well to carry out faithfully all the precepts summarized in this code and other principles, implied or explicit, that govern pastoral obligations. Thus he will be worthy of the approval of his fellow workers, the high esteem of the church, and the bless­ings of God.


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Secretary of the Ministerial Association, South American Division

April 1960

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