We never cease to gain inspiration From the apostle Paul. He is the preacher's preacher. By his example and by his counsels we are encouraged to do greater things for God and the church. The devoted and faithful apostle in looking back over his ministry recalled many of the hardships he suffered for the gospel. We find the record in 2 Corinthians, chapter II. Picking up the account in verse 28, we read the familiar words: "Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches."
The apostle Paul had a care for the churches. Phillips' translation reads, "Apart from all external trials I have the daily burden of responsibility for all the Churches." * Even more expressive are the words as rendered in The New English Bible: "Apart from these external things, there is the responsibility that weighs on me every day, my anxious concern for all our congregations."+
I am certain that upon the heart of each of us there rests an "anxious concern" for all our congregations. In a special sense this is true of the local pastor. He it is that stands next to the people. He it is that shares more than any other their personal concerns, anxieties, and burdens. And we would agree that the success or failure of the entire denominational program depends to a great extent upon the success or failure of the pastor. For all the administrative, departmental, and committee planning from Washington, D.C., down through the local conference office ends up at last on the pastor's desk. It is the pastor who forms that last, vital link with the people. And unless the people are reached, all the planning and effort that has gone before is of no consequence.
As we consider the pastor's important work we are all aware of the fact that his program is becoming more and more demanding and complex. Moffatt's translation of 2 Corinthians 11:28 reads, "And then there is the pressing business of each day, the care of all the churches." ++ And that was written long before the postal delivery service had been developed to make possible the steady stream of instructions and plans and programs which in our day sometimes descends upon the often-frustrated pastor like the erupting volcanoes of Bali.
To fulfill his responsibilities today a pastor must be an administrator, an organizer, a promoter, a pusher, a program builder, a salesman, a businessman, a financier, a fund raiser, a builder, a public-relations expert, a personnel director, and a special counselor on marriage and family relations—to name but a few. And all this in addition to his calling as a preacher, shepherd, and soul winner!
Quite obviously, the work of the pastor is demanding, exacting, and sometimes confusing. And please keep in mind that his program must succeed if the general work of the church is to prosper. His leadership must not fail.
We have some pastors who are weighed down with a sense of inadequacy; they feel that with a little more help along the way they could develop into stronger workers. And what greater contribution could a conference administrator make to his field than to seek out every possible way to help the pastors in the churches develop into better pastors? Huge sums of money are spent on large evangelistic campaigns, and this is good. There should be more of them instead of fewer. On the other hand, the long-range success and progress of the work in any locality will depend far more upon a strong, steady, progressive, pastoral-evangelistic program carried on under the direction of the local minister.
This is certainly not an indictment nor a criticism. I am sure that conference administrators are aware of this need. Many are succeeding wonderfully well in seeking out ways of inspiring and guiding their workers into more fruitful service. And the pastors appreciate it. On the other hand, workers in some areas feel that they need more help. They recognize that the burdens of the conference administrators are heavy, but they crave a little personal attention and encouragement.
We must confess that there are pastors who sometimes become unhappy and frustrated in their work. Also, some churches wish they could have a change of pastors.
I recall reading of one denominational leader, not a Seventh-day Adventist, who stated that half of the two hundred congregations in his area had become dissatisfied with their pastors, and the pastors with the people. We can rejoice that this is not so among our churches. On the other hand, there are a surprising number of churches referred to in our conference committees as "problem churches."
Surely we would agree that problem churches need not remain problem churches. Is it not possible that with a little more direction, guidance, and communication between conference and pastor and people such churches can become unified, loyal, and dedicated? This, of course, calls for a determined effort through love, devotion, and prayer. To send there one poorly qualified pastor after another, fully expecting that he will remain only a year or two, will not solve the problem. Such a program will neither help the church to mature nor help the pastor to develop into a strong leader.
What then can be done to develop pastors into a stronger, more fruitful ministry, one that will call forth the supreme loyalty and devotion of their flock? Surely the hour demands the very best on the part of both pastor and people.
It is well to take note of the fact that most of the difficulties that arise in the churches result from problems in human relations. A successful pastor is a consecrated minister who first of all loves people and knows how to get along with them. He must know how to plan and organize, how to enlist leadership, how to secure cooperation from officers and others in the church, how to promote teamwork, how to conduct committees and church business meetings, how to work with committees and boards, how to dignify the work of the lay officers, how to inspire loyalty, how to transform problems into opportunities. He must know the difference between leadership and drivership. More encouragement and guidance along these lines could go far toward eliminating both problem churches and problem pastors. Weak pastors could become strong. Faultfinding, critical, and divided congregations could become loyal, united, and progressive. And this, I wish to emphasize, is an area of our program that needs strengthening.
One suggestion is that more be made of those opportunities that come along when the pastors are gathered together in workers' meetings. Although it is important to get together to discuss the forthcoming In-gathering campaign, the promotion of the missionary journals, the cause of temperance, and the conference fund-raising program, it seems equally important that serious discussion he given to some of the basic needs of the pastor in the conduct of an over-all successful church program.
We salute and commend the many conferences where this is being done so effectively. But cannot this be done in more places? The following topics are sometimes overlooked and might well have a place in some of the more frequently discussed phases of the pastor's work.
- How to conduct board meetings, committee meetings, business meetings, panel discussions, and symposiums.
- Ministry to the sick and bereaved; conducting the anointing service for the sick.
- The pastor's time schedule.
- The pastor's library, file, and study habits.
- The pastor's letter writing.
- The handling and filing of church records.
- The church finance committee and budget planning.
- The minister's relation to other ministers of the community.
- The minister's public relations in the community.
These topics could be presented in different ways. Whatever method is followed, those participating should be given their assignments well in advance and understand that the assignment calls for special study and preparation. One excellent method of selecting topics, as well as participants, might be to send through the mail to each worker a list of suggestive topics. Have each worker check the one he would prefer hearing discussed and which ones he would feel most competent to participate in. We recognize that workers' meetings in which such topics could be discussed come all too seldom. Perhaps an extra one could be scheduled occasionally with this particular plan in mind.
Then there are other occasions through the year that offer opportunities for such helpful discussions. We might consider those days preceding camp meeting when all the workers gather at the campsite to assist in preparing camp. Instead of having the usual impromptu morning devotional talk, why not have one of these subjects presented each morning? The discussion will continue throughout the day as the ministers work together on the camp. And what more profitable discussion could engage their attention? The same program could be carried on in varying degrees through the workers' meetings that continue throughout the camp meeting.
But whatever plans may be followed, every opportunity possible should be developed to the fullest that would help strengthen the capability of the pastor. This surely would include encouraging the ministry in lines of self-improvement through reading and study. At times certain books that have been found especially helpful and stimulating could be recommended. Perhaps a book-exchange club could be developed within the conference. Andrew W. Blackwood has well said that "ministers with large ability and heavy responsibilities usually study harder and longer than men who envy those other leaders their places in the sun."—Pastoral Leadership, p. 50. Weak pastors who never engage in mental toil, who do not search diligently for ways of improving their work, will always be weak. Those administrators who would covet a stronger working force could at least by example and precept encourage more diligent study and habits of self-improvement on the part of their workers. Mental laziness is as harmful as physical laziness. There is no place for either in the cause of God.
In closing, may I appeal again, in behalf of that loyal army of dedicated workers who more than any other carry upon their hearts "the care of all the churches," to explore every avenue that might offer them the added encouragement, guidance, and training to enable them to grow into stronger, more capable workers in the grandest cause in all the world. I can think of no place where an investment in time, effort, and money could contribute more to the strengthening of the work to which we have dedicated our lives.
Although the work of the pastor is complex and demanding, although it is a work that never ends, although it concerns itself with all sorts of programs and problems and personalities, still, when all is said and done, being next to the people is the most satisfying and rewarding work in all the world.
* The Bible texts in this article credited to Phillips are from The New Testament in Modern English, @ J. B. Phillips 1958. Used by permission of The Macmillan Company.
+ The New English Bible, New Testament. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1961.
++ From The Bible: A New Translation by James Moffatt. © by James Moffatt 1954. Used by permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Incorporated.