"Every life is a profession of faith and exercises an inevitable and silent propaganda. Every man is a center of perpetual radiation like a luminous body; he is, as it were, a beacon which entices a ship upon the rocks if it does not guide it into port. Every man is a priest, even involuntarily; his conduct is an unspoken sermon, which is forever preaching to others—but there are priests of Baal, of Moloch, and of all the false gods. Such is the high importance of example. Thence comes the terrible responsibility which weighs upon us all. An evil example is a spiritual poison, it is the proclamation of a sacrilegious faith, of an impure god. Sin would be an evil only for him who commits it, were it not a crime towards the weak brethren, whom it corrupts. Therefore it has been said: 'It were better for a man not to have been born than to offend one of these little ones.' "—HENRY-FREDERIC AMIEL, Watchman Examiner, March 21, 1963.
Brethren, is this not our peril? Small wonder men hesitate to accept the sacred mantle of the gospel ministry, or tremble on their knees before confronting their fellow man with eternal issues. Such men are not proud men, preening their intellectual feathers, delighting men with hollow oratory containing little of the bread of life. And what of the priestly influence? Are we sober yet friendly, interested but with spiritual reserve, constructive when critical, fearless when wielding the two-edged sword, yet quick to apply the healing balm of grace? To be respected, yet loved, trusted, and feared, a man whose ministry inspires tears of repentance and yet paints smiles of joy on children's faces—this is attaining to the highest ideal; this is submission to the purest impulse.
E. E. C.
OVERWORKED BUT UNEMPLOYED
Putting first things first has become a difficult art for the minister of the gospel. He is under the King's mandate to "preach the gospel to every creature," and he is under the church's appointment as a minister for God and shepherd of the flock. He is the employee of the conference and as such he is rightly expected to do this and that in the appointed way. He is on the receiving end of every promotional drive from the various departments of church life. He is in charge of already existing buildings, and he must often lead out in raising funds to erect new ones. He is at the beck and call of all and sundry, inside and outside the church. He is . . . he must . . . he will . .. and soon!
Yet he is primarily a preacher of the gospel. As such he must visit in order to know his people, to encourage and save. He must advertise, organize, and study.
A teacher friend of mine spent a short vacation with her sister who is married to a minister. "I don't want to marry a minister," she said on her return. "The life they live is crazy!" She went on to explain that the minister and his wife worked like slaves, ate at any time or not at all, never had time for relaxation, et cetera. This may all be due to lack of organization, or inability to exclude rigidly unimportant things that are easier to do than some more important ones.
But no one can deny that all too often a minister can be overworked, yet, as far as real study and real preaching go, he may be practically unemployed!
Let's put preaching and all of its components—the prayer, the reading, the study—back in their proper place. These things require time. They demand the mind and soul of a man. Then let us preach—with an open Bible—about the Lord's Christ and the doctrinal context in which the Book presents Him. Doctrinal preaching, prophetic exposition, the gospel of the kingdom, are not dead today—unless the preacher is. In that case we need a new preacher!
Is there such a thing as human capacity?
There are those who doubt that this is so.
Man has in many instances shown himself capable of unlimited achievement in many fields. Indeed, when the mind of man takes up the scent, though the elusive thought takes the evasive action of a rabbit in flight, its chance of escape is poor indeed. But who can measure human capacity? "And now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do" (Gen. 11:6). This appraisal of man's possibilities is that of his Creator. It literally takes the lid off! What right have we to decide what we can and cannot do? Said Socrates, "Know thyself." Who does? Socrates didn't.
If this be true, then there are thousands wading in the shallows who should be probing the depths. Yes, the lure of the sun-kissed beaches holds in its teasing grip men born to scale the heights where lonely eagles make their nests. Now, you, preacher, have you already labeled yourself? So you know already what you can and cannot do. Say, what about the added factor—"with God's help"! Shoulder up your sights a bit. Oh, someone else has labeled you? That should be fun—making a lie of the label, that is. And what are some of the labels? "He just can't handle money," "He'll never make an evangelist," "He just can't seem to get on with people," "He'll never be a good pastor," "He just doesn't have it." My brother, whatever it is, there is plenty available, and it is ours for the asking.
E. E. C.