THE young and experienced minister alike kneels before his God and pleads the preacher-king's prayer: "I know not how to go out or come in. . . . Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart" (1 Kings 3:7-9).
What is the task of the modern minister? How can he understand his work? Diagrams are usually simplifications, and as such, incomplete and sketchy. The Ministerial Task Triangle is no exception; it presents a limited graphic view of the work of the ministry. Yet, like other diagrams, it may focus attention on some central trends and basic issues and relationships.
Communication With God Foremost
The work of the ministry is only part of the task of the minister. First and foremost, the minister in his communication with God receives his marching orders, his courage. His ministerial purposes are clarified, his heart is cleansed, his judgment enlightened, his words empowered. Yet even then, the minister as a man of God is not ready to conquer in Christ's name.
A minister works with people, through people, for people. His work concerns itself with the individual, the group, the church money, the house of prayer, the pounds of progress reports. And rightly so. Only godly men, organized and systematic men, men who can work with other people in peace, can carry God's message of peace. Thus the power the minister receives from God, when rightly channeled and directed, becomes available to a hungry world. The minister is then ready to minister, to communicate God's message to men. The Word becomes the word of the minister; it becomes his spoken word, his written word.
The pastor has prayed, he has studied, he has organized, he has brought the Word; yet his task is not done.
The ministerial task is a spiritual task, a task not fully definable by job descriptions, by work assignments. His task is also to wait patiently to give the loving word, the encouraging smile. The minister evaluates his communication with his God, his church organization, his communication with his fellow men. He looks back briefly in order to step up higher tomorrow, in order to seek special power for his greatest needs. Without evaluation, each day is just a day; with evaluation, each day is a new day, a clearer day, a day of greater Opportunity.
Let us take a more detailed look at the Ministerial Task Triangle.
A minister is a minister of God. His effectiveness will to a large degree depend on his prayer life. And a prayer life is not sustained on ten minutes a day; a short life it would be indeed (only a 100-day prayer life in forty years of ministry).
God throughout the ages has miraculously preserved His Word for us. Reading it we might know, studying it we might understand. But studying must not be an oddity of the academic-minded minister only. It must be the very life blood of every heaven-bound saint. For heaven is no place for the closed-minded, the uninterested, the bored, the nonlearners. Heaven is an eternity of exploration, an endlessness of discovery, an ever-new appreciation of God's love.
The minister functions in the framework of an organization. His task calls for organization. It calls for planning—annual planning, detail planning, comprehensive planning. It calls for recruiting church members, Sabbath school members, committee members, working members. It calls for counseling these members concerning the program of the church. It calls for the participation of the minister himself. It calls for committee work, for board action. It calls for careful coordination of all programs and departments of the church. It calls for financial and building management. It calls for recording, reporting, and the reading of various records and reports.
The minister of God ministers to men. He visits, he instructs, he counsels, he teaches. He dedicates the babies, he baptizes the Christ seekers, he breaks the communion bread, he ordains the elders and deacons, he dedicates the churches, he marries the young, and he buries the dead. He is the shepherd to the lambs and sheep of the flock. And he is also the evangelist who takes the Word to the stranger, the uninformed, the long-lost sheep. He is also the pastor of the sick. He may be the musician, the storyteller, the radio counselor, the TV speaker, the chaplain, or the student counselor.
Spoken words live, and so do written words. The ministry of the written word, typed or printed, is a powerful but often neglected ministry.
Who can measure the influence of a prayerfully written letter to the discouraged? Who can measure the influence of a sermon, carefully prepared, carefully written out? Who can measure the influence of an article, a research report, an inspirational book?
The ministry is a total task. It involves the whole life, it involves all activities. Anything less is not worthy of that name. Only in its completeness can the task be evaluated, improved. In this evaluation the basic question is simply whether all God-given purposes and objectives for the day, the week, the month, the year, were fully and faithfully realized.
The prophet with the clear vision (communication with God), knowing the way (organization), walking boldly on with words of courage (communication with men), will find his Master's final evaluation good news:
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . : enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matt. 25:21).
(See the pdf for Ministerial Task Triangle)