The apostle Paul wrote to his young protege, Timothy, "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. . . . Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (2 Tim. 4:1-5).
What a charge! What a challenge! I sometimes wonder: Should the apostle Paul be called to address a group of graduates from the seminary today, would his message for young ministers still be the sam& Would we today, in our changed and changing time, feel that the apostle was carried away with the enthusiasm of the moment if he did bring such a message? "Do the work of an evangelist." Let us consider: If this charge was valid and appropriate for those entering the ministry in Paul's time, is it still valid today?
One goal ever before the apostle, and which some seem to have lost sight of today, was the vision of a finished work. As we read his writings we cannot help knowing that he expected the work to be finished and the Lord to come. As we read we also get the conviction that Paul expected those called to the ministry to hasten the coming of Jesus, and that the best way to do this was to "do the work of an evangelist."
How does this statement affect me as a minister? What kind of thinking am I supposed to do about myself and my work? Surely I cannot think that I am in the ministry simply because my parents didn't have enough money for me to take the medical course. Have I taken up the wrong work? If I am in the right work, if this is the God-given work for me, how should I relate myself to the opportunities and responsibilities that are ever before me?
Many times I have pondered these things in relation to myself and my work. How can I fulfill my responsibilities to God? How can I give evidence that will satisfy myself that I am really God-called to the ministry. Every time I give myself to meditation on this question I come back to Paul's admonition, "Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."
Never did the messenger of the Lord address a message specifically to me. However, let me quote one that I think must have been intended for me: "We feel pained beyond measure to see some of our ministers hovering about the churches, apparently putting forth some little effort, but having next to nothing to show for their labors. The field is the world. Let them go out into the unbelieving world and labor to convert souls."—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 406.
As a young minister I learned to be an expert church hoverer. I didn't learn much about going out into the unbelieving world to convert people. Brethren, are we church hoverers? If we are, I am sure we often become discouraged and wonder whether we are in the right work. We are in the right work, but maybe we are doing it the wrong way, and that amounts to about the same thing. "It is often the case that ministers are inclined to visit almost entirely among the churches, devoting their time and strength where their labor will do no good. . . .The effort of such ministers to build up the churches only tears them down. The theory of the truth is presented over and over again, but it is not accompanied by the vitalizing power of God. . . . If they would leave the churches, go out into new fields, and labor to raise up churches, they would understand their ability and what it costs to bring souls out to take their position upon the truth."—Ibid., vol. 2, p. 340.
All this brought me to the conclusion that when God called me to the ministry it was to do a work for Him that would build up and not tear down. Therefore I must work altogether differently from the way I worked the first few years I was in the ministry. As I pondered I realized I was doing nothing that, even with God's blessing, could finish the work in my district. So I decided it was up to me to devise a program that I could believe in myself, one that under the blessing of God could be used to finish the work here.
One of the decisions I made was this: God has not called me to merely equal or to exceed the accomplishments of this or that brother. God did not call me to lead the conference workers in the number of baptisms. He called me to do my best and to plan for a finished work in whatever part of the field I was placed. He called me to be a soul winner to the best of my ever-improving talents. He called me to the ministry to "do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."
Now a decision like this calls for some changes in a minister's program. He may continue to run a few errands for the Dorcas. He will still put in some long and earnest hours at Ingathering. It is entirely possible that his members will see more of him in visitation than they ever have before. But the big thing in the life of the God-called minister who faces his program fairly and squarely will forever after be the preaching of the gospel and the winning of souls. The major part of his time thereafter will be given to the work of evangelism.
Now I would like to make a few observations as to how this might apply in the life and work of each one of us. For our encouragement let us remember that even among our most able evangelists, those who give full time to that work, we have few who might be called really outstanding speakers. But those evangelists go out to preach, not because they think they have a mighty talent to exhibit to the world but rather because of a burning conviction that they have a mighty message to bring to mankind. They also believe that the Lord will bless any gift fully placed on the altar of service. They have the simple faith to believe that when Jesus said, "Go . and, lo, I am with you," He meant what He said.
We may think our talents are few, but if we look around we will find some with no more assets than ours, but who are doing a much greater work. The talent that is used for God always increases. When we use what we have to the glory of His name He will bless our efforts and increase our talents.
I would like to call the following statement to your attention. "It weakens those who know the truth for our ministers to spend on them the time and talent that should be given to the unconverted. . . . Our ministers are not to spend their time laboring for those who have already accepted the truth. With Christ's love living in their hearts, they are to go forth to win sinners to the Saviour."—Ibid., vol. 7, pp. 18, 19.
Some of our church members will complain if we give ourselves to what we think we ought to do, but we have to face it. One of the reasons our people complain is that we have done so little evangelism for so many years that they have no confidence that we are going to do any now. Is this their fault or are they just believing what they have seen? We have already mentioned that hovering over the church weakens it. Leading church members into soul-winning evangelism will strengthen them. There is nothing in the world our members like better than to be associated with a successful evangelist. It makes them happy to have a pastor who is a real soul winner. If they have such a pastor, before long the members will be soul winners too, and I can tell you there will be rejoicing in more places than heaven when our church members see sinners converted in our meetings.
If you want to know what the Scripture means when it says, "A good report maketh the bones fat," then watch the brethren when reports of baptisms come rolling in.
It is high time to awake out of sleep, to arise and finish the work. Now is the time to plan and work. The harvest is white. The resources are at our finger tips. We have talents we have never used, and they are greater than we think. God's call to us is our full assurance of that fact. The helpers, those wonderful members who will come to our aid when they see we are really in earnest about saving souls, are all around us.
Let us change the picture from what it has been. Let us bring to our good people a burning message and a zealous example of real evangelism. Let us show them by our example that whether they join us or not, we are going to do the work of evangelists. They will join us. They will work with us. Let us have faith in them. As we go forth never forget this—our call to the ministry was an enabling act. We have the power to do the task that God called us to do.
Let us plan and work to finish the task in our portion of the vineyard.