There is something wrong with every plan attempted by man. And often the perfect plan of salvation is little understood, owing to faulty transmission. Is this, then, a valid argument against any attempt? It requires no special intellectual endowment to point out the weaknesses in any man-sponsored proposal. Much of the unsanctified inertia that pervades is because of this. Great care should be exercised lest we make gods of our gripes. To have one's feet on the ground may be complimentary if it is not flying time. "Impulsive," "visionary," and "impractical," may describe a cause of victory or the seeds of defeat. The fact is, we should be careful not to over-favor our caution or our zeal, for it takes a little bit of both to make the earth turn. To illustrate: There are many unentered cities in this world filled with hearts that know only erosive despair punctuated with an occasional shaft of sunlight. To neglect these cities because of "lack of budget" can be as fatal now as similar reasoning would have been, had the pioneers exercised similar caution. Thank God they did not! They reached people with the saving message. The people have produced the budgets. This must be the key to present and future planning. We must not become dollar-bound in terms of gospel outreach. It is a sickness that can condemn us to this wilderness another hundred years. Pastors, we must interpret this personally. There are illustrations of the opposite among us. May God greatly enlarge this segment of our worker population.
THE RIGHT TO BE ATTACKED AND CONTRADICTED
MANY Protestants are pleased at the attempts at the Vatican Council II to draw up an agreed statement on religious liberty. That statement will not be easily prepared, but there are nevertheless many points on which a facade of ostensible liberty may yet be erected. Many of these same seekers of Christian unity, however, have openly stated their views that proselytizing by Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other unnamed heretical sects, should be prohibited, if need be by civil power, from activities inimical to the interests of a world Christian church.
A courageous Danish preacher, K. E. Jensen, in an address before the Danish Parliament recently, declared that the Christian church needs no bolstering by the state, and that the state should grant Christians and others the right to freedom of speech. Legislation designed to protect the church from attack is not right, he continued, "for to be attacked and contradicted is one of the foremost human rights and we shall not renounce it." The hostility of the world has enhanced the church's vitality all through the ages.
H. W. L.
A short time ago the President of the United States proposed for the nation a physical-fitness program. The very thought of a people going soft, at the peak of their nation's power, awakens tortured memories of ancient empires now extinct. To prevent this, Mr. Kennedy inaugurated a physical-fitness program in all schools. To publicize this he challenged the nation's armed services to a 50 mile hike—a proof of fitness. Soon civilians accepted the program, and the nation was treated with a rash of prominent 50-mile hikers.
The ministry has come a long way since the days of the old circuit rider, and not all the distance is praiseworthy. In fact, all the forces that can soften a nation can soften the preacher. And what are some of the signs that this erosive influence is at work among us? (1) Reluctance to run long campaigns or enough short ones to compensate, (2) our tolerance of an idle laity through spasmodic training classes or none at all, (3) fear of making pointed appeals for full surrender and church membership, (4) and the unjustifiable lack of appetite for anything worthy that entails suffering, sacrifice, and nameless risk. How long dare we linger while the ordinary, commonplace tasks consume our strength and the grand work of personal soulsaving goes unattended? What man among us can behold unmoved the teeming cities with their unreached millions? Does the impossibility of reaching all prevent our reaching any? Said the farmer to his son, "You may not plow the whole field today, but let the sunset find you making tracks." A prominent auto dealership advertises itself as the home of the "wide track" cars. Are you "making tracks"? Are they "wide"?
E. E. C.
WON'T OR CAN'T
SERMON relevance is a fine art not easy to obtain. It takes more than homiletics and hard work to get the message of Christ across to men today. It requires an intimate touch with men, an understanding of the contemporary world, a burning zeal for men's souls, a dedicated mind, an academic background, and _____ , and ___________ ! And when we have put these components all together, we still fail all too often to get men to understand!
It was told in England during World War II that a certain east coast town was shelled, but little damage was done. The shells, made to explode on impact with hard steel of warships, did not often explode when striking the soft walls of houses.
Drawing a lesson from this, Thomas H. Keir, in a valuable little book The Word in Worship, says "Some sermons fail to register because the modern mind is theologically so woolly that there is nothing for the gospel to bite on."—Page 15. He then quotes T. E. Jessop, who had much experience as a chaplain and who preached to large groups of troops during the same war. Jessop found men almost impervious to the abstract ideas involved in the Christian religion, and commented: "It is not that they won't: it is that they can't."—Ibid.
The fact is that the impetus of our pious fathers' religion is waning, and we are not reading the Bible, praying, searching, as did our forefathers. This spells spiritual apathy and atrophy of our spiritual perceptions.
All of which should send us to our knees in an agonizing prayer for power to break through. "Make bare Thine arm, O Lord of hosts!" 65—STILL AN Australasian Record reports that ALIVE! "Pastor W. M. R. Scragg, is holding a series of evangelistic meetings in the church at Young, where he retired." Strange retirement!
But this is true of most ministers of the gospel. Death alone can seal their lips. As I write this, J. H. Laurence, in his eighties, is pastoring a church. J. G. Thomas, over seventy, is in constant demand as a revivalist. B. W. Abney is active, giving Bible studies and as a church elder. Until his death, A. V. Olson was busy strengthening the saints. W. B. Ochs has retired. I understand, but he continues to lend his counsel at administrative gatherings of the church. G. E. Peters, though physically weakened, still counsels young pastors and inspires the saints. And many others could be mentioned, all of which raises an interesting question, Why is it hard to "retire" an Adventist preacher?
We glean our first answer from the obvious—they love the work, and they love to work. Nothing proves this more than the fact that they cannot quit at quitting time. And there is something intriguing about this—and altogether inspiring.
These men are gripped by something that will not let them go. It occurs to me that, with a minister, it is a question of "being released" and not a mere conscious relaxation. And, it seems, this never really happens. When does the minister cease to minister? The answer is Never!
A second reason suggests itself at this point. To the minister, the ministry is life. It is what he has done for years. To suddenly break that pattern is to send him to an early grave. For this reason if no other, it is unthinkable to insist on a cessation of service, And fortunate is the young man who has one of these brethren in his district. May "retired ministers" be shown the kindness and respect that they deserve. And may the latter years reflect their credit, like setting sun--casting its glory on that which is behind.
E. E. C.