Although overworked, the word involvement should have special significance for the Adventist minister. Types of involvement are numerous, such as aiding the poor, unconfusing the confused, and being youthful with the youth. But needful and rare is one type of involvement. It is a concern for wayward members who would straighten up if we only took time to go to them and have a sincere, frank confrontation. I'm not talking about backsliders who have departed from the fold and need reclaiming. It is the person whose faithful church attendance classifies him as a loyal member but who is violating God's will and the minister knows it!
Reading and Sabbathkeeping
Among the long-remembered experiences of my life are those centering on reproof received from those who cared. A certain period of defiance during academy days found me reading a secular book during the Sabbath morning worship service. A young man sitting next to me had courage enough to whisper softly and kindly, "Do you feel you are honoring the Lord by reading that type of literature on the Sabbath?" Nothing more was said then or ever.
A mutinous feeling was the immediate carnal reaction. Open revolt was avoided only because my corrector had done his duty in such a gentle manner. A few moments later my book was closed and an attempt was made to listen to the sermon. I don't know who preached that day nor do I remember what he said, but this unerasable experience of reproof did more for me than a dozen sermons. Of course, I cuddled feelings of hurt and embarrassment, and for some time my attitude toward this fellow student was rather negative. In time an outlook of profound respect and gratitude replaced the contrary one. He couldn't have done a greater favor for me. My benefactor is oblivious to the good he has done.
I hope someday to meet and thank him for his kindness. Isn't this the type of involvement that is so needed in our church today?
Take the member who gets his Ingathering goal—that seems to be priority criteria of a "good" member—yet does not dedicate an honest tithe to the Lord. How many ministers really get involved by going to him and carefully showing him his fault? Does an unfaithful husband member deserve the attention of his pastor before the marriage goes into a tailspin? Aid offered after separation usually is too late. The sensitive soul of a Spirit-filled pastor detects problems quickly and does something about them. A shepherd of this caliber is never to be confused with a police-manlike preacher who snoops but never stoops to get involved in helping his sick member regain spiritual health.
The story of Eli and his sentimental namby-pambyism in failing to correct his two priest sons, Hophni and Phinehas, needs our attention. 'What a lesson have we here. . . for those who minister in the service of God. When existing evils are not met and checked, because men have too little courage to reprove wrong, or because they have too little interest or are too indolent to tax their own powers in putting forth earnest efforts to purify the family or the church of God, they are accountable for the evil which may result in consequence of neglect to do their duty. We are lust as accountable for evils that we might have checked in others, by reproof, by warning, by exercise of parental or pastoral authority, as if we were guilty of the acts ourselves."—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 516.
It takes loving firmness, kind persistency, tender staunchness, meek boldness, and sympathetic courage to deal with the erring. Eli didn't lack the loving, kind, and tender qualities but he failed to measure up to the standard required by God. He was deficient in moral courage and firmness. The most unkind thing a shepherd can do is to let his sheep stray in forbidden paths that lead to death. The minister who does not try to keep his people from evil is engaged in hardhearted uninvolvement.