1963--A Year of Responsibility

We are stepping into a new year in the sense of time, but old in relationship to world tensions and indi­vidual problems.

J.R.Spangler is an associate editor of the Ministry.

We are stepping into a new year in the sense of time, but old in relationship to world tensions and indi­vidual problems. Reflection on the past always sobers the mind and tends to increase one's feeling of responsibility for the future. New time brings new re­sponsibilities. Now we face 1963.

Having been reared in an Advent­ist home with the imminence of our Lord's return always in view, the idea of ever liv­ing in a time labeled 1963 was as remote and seemingly impossible as it was for Napoleon to dream of using nuclear weap­ons. But here we are with multimegaton­powered nations hurling capsules guided by men into orbit around the earth. Our era is sobering and frightening, and we find scientists and statesmen alike ur­gently supporting pro­grams, surveys, and recommendations that will help poor man realize that these times demand men of re­sponsibility.

Recently a United States representative at the United Nations ex­hibited an eight-inch­long, fourteen-pound fragment of steel that formerly belonged to a Russian Sputnik. It fell from space onto the streets of Manitowac, Wisconsin. The appeal con­nected with this incident was the urgent need of rules and regulations to deal with damage and injury resulting from such fall­ing objects. New inventions bring new re­sponsibilities. But all too often when world conditions dictate an increased sense of re­sponsibility, man's response is sadly inade­quate. Not only is this true in temporal things, it is true also in the spiritual realm. The very increase of knowledge in this kaleidoscopic age emphasizes the impor­tance of spiritual responsibility.

The beginning of the Jewish religious year centered in the Passover celebration. Their emergence from Egypt demanded a new start. Spiritual as well as physical emancipation was in­volved in this service, and the emphasis was on man's responsibility to God. "Nothing can take so strong a hold on the heart as the abiding sense of our responsibility to God." —The Desire of Ages, p. 493. Men and women with a true sense of responsibility are rare these days. The world places a premium on the man who works not for wages or for praise, but who senses the importance of his duties and acts accordingly. History is largely the record of men or groups or nations who have been led by some par­ticular person who has truly sensed his accountability.

Our Personal Responsibility

God's claims upon man's spiritual self-development take precedence over every­thing else. No one, even though loaded with talents, can have an abiding sense of responsibility to God unless special time is spent each day in earnest study and prayer. This naturally leads to unselfish service for others. Any church program that makes such demands upon a minister that there is neither time nor inclination to fellow­ship with God is wrong. If the methods we are presently using in our efforts to achieve success absorb all our time in mere organi­zational activity, we are on the road to ruin. We may hear a few "well done's" from the lips of some humans but we will never hear those words from the lips of our Lord. Re­sponsible workers in God's cause are those who place personal devotion on a high pedestal and refuse to replace it with any other activity, regardless of circumstances.

What a man is determines what he does. Dr. Karl Menninger voiced a vital truth re­cently when he implied that the success of a psychiatrist is more dependent upon what kind of man he is rather than on what kind of medication he prescribes. Triply true for the minister, if true for the physician. If it were possible to give a single label to all the efforts of Christ, "like God" would come the closest to stating it adequately. Our prime objective during 1963 should center on having a close personal relation­ship with Him who is the true pattern for all who serve in His name.

Our Family Responsibility

Christ's command to His disciples prior to His departure was to be witnesses first in "Jerusalem," then farther afield, and finally to the "uttermost parts of the earth." We do not know how the disciples felt, but in these days witnessing in distant places seems to hold a peculiar attraction for some. Peter might well have preferred to conduct the Pentecost program somewhere on the west coast of Palestine rather than in Jerusalem.

The analogy is important. Jerusalem is home base. Every minister has a sobering responsibility to his wife and children. They, above all, can detect discrepancies in his life. Our work, especially as pastor-evan­gelists, cannot be measured or ordered by clocks. There may be a tendency to strain family relationships when one is under the stress of a big program. But it is tragic when a minister doesn't behave as he should in his own home. A good New Year resolve might well be to so organize our work that we can spend more time with our family. All of us, by the grace of God, can improve our words and deportment right in the home. Personal victories over wrong habits and selfish tendencies can best be displayed before one's wife and children. How marvelous is the effect when the family sees in father the same traits of character that he urges upon his congrega­tion. "Where is thy flock?" is a pertinent question for every minister. What happens at home will be reflected to the congrega­tion. In the tragic event that some loved one is finally lost, let us make sure that we ourselves are not responsible. Nothing can equal the joy of being successful witnesses in "Jerusalem."

Our Church Responsibility

The involvements of this point seem end­less. The barrage of materials and ideas demanding our attention and support en­gulfs us. Changing methods, as do fashions, sweep back and forth like the tides. Some­times we become confused as to what our responsibilities to the church are. To dis­miss this problem by using the church cal­endar as our standard is not enough. It is necessary and good to promote the different departments, but this is strictly secondary to the purpose and calling of the ministry. The spiritual advancement of the believers under our care should be our supreme aim. Preparing a people for heavenly citizen­ship is our task. Nothing, absolutely noth­ing, can match this in importance.

Pride of materialistic achievement is shared by all the sons of Adam. But the minister of God takes special pride in set­ting the feet of saints on higher spiritual ground. Pastor Paul received boundless joy in seeing freedom come to sin-shackled souls. He pleaded "that ye may be blame­less and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and per­verse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world: . . . that I may rejoice in the day of Christ" (Phil. 2:15,16).

In this age of gadgetry and complexity there is great danger of losing sight of the needs of the individual. Human rights are being trampled on in other ways than by mere political and religious oppression. Man is becoming an organizational pawn of government, labor, and even religion. It would be to our disgrace if we permitted our relationship to the church to be one of unethical utilization for selfish or man­made goals. Our members are looking to us for spiritual guidance, that we, with them, may be presented perfect in Christ. Preach­ing alone will never accomplish this goal. By personal example and work we must lift high the Christian standards.

Today when men are numbered—not named—we have a precious opportunity to bring about a revival of genuine godliness if we will accept the responsibility to which we have been called. A godly pastor and his wife will be welcomed with open arms in the homes of our laity. They will be thrilled to see us take the Bible and read to them God's loving promises. They will receive powerful impressions for good as we kneel in their family circles and consecrate them as well as ourselves to God. It is long past time for us to approach erring souls and tenderly point out their wrongs and show them how to overcome through the grace of Christ. If 1963 could witness this type of program over the entire world field, per­haps the wolves among us would starve for lack of victims.

Truth that is not lived cannot be shared. The minister and his family should be liv­ing exhibits of what God has done for them. The inspiration gained by the church body from this type of leadership cannot be counted statistically, but it can and will be recorded in Heaven's ledgers. In one overseas division in which we had occasion to visit, it was interesting to hear national workers give their personal testi­mony regarding former missionaries. They referred to some whose names were scarcely known; individuals with nothing to particularly recommend them to any "Who's Who" of religious workers. Some­times the question would be asked, "Why did you think so much of Pastor and Mrs. __________ ?" Thoughtful replies like the following were given: "They took a sincere personal interest in our problems." "They taught the grace of God in all their con­tacts with us." "We felt the warmth of their love in our own hearts." Years ago a group of Africans made this request of another mission board: "Send us men with hot hearts!" They asked riot for gifted men but for men with a great capacity to love.

The church cannot legislate this type of experience. Plans and committees are pow­erless to generate responsibility to God. This comes by selfless surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is kept by constantly requesting God for new convictions of heart as to our essential responsibilities. In what greater way could we make 1963 a year of real achievement than by sensing God's call to ourselves, our homes, and our church. Let January open with this determination and December close with its fulfillment.

Note:

In this New Year issue you will notice a change in our personnel. J. Robert Spangler, newly elected associate secretary for the Min­isterial Association, has taken up his respon­sibilities as a member of the headquarters staff. He comes to us out of a rich back­ground of experience as pastor of large churches, evangelist in towns and metropol­itan areas such as Hong Kong, where he was carrying on a large campaign at the time of his election to the General Conference, and as organizing secretary for the Far Eastern Division, in which position he served for eight years. His leadership has been strong and fruitful. The editorial for this New Year number comes from his pen. We are sure our readers and members around the world will appreciate his contribution in counsel and inspiration.

R. A. A.

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J.R.Spangler is an associate editor of the Ministry.

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