The kind of start a man gets in the ministry usually sets the pace and attitudes for his future work. I am convinced that my own internship under the direction of two well-qualified pastor-evangelists proved to be an inestimable blessing. My advisers knew where they were going, for their great burden was to win souls for Christ.
Cutting Lawns and Washing Cars
Fortunately, I was not among those who had to act the part of a servant and run errands for my superior's wife or cut his lawn and wash his car! I have heard stories of such occurrences, and I suppose some of them are true. Too often we use interns rather than train them.
It is my personal conviction that it is time for this church to assign interns to only a select group of overseers—men who have their heads put on straight and know where they are headed and what the real goal of the church is. It's time for men such as these to sit down with their under-under-shepherds and lay it on the line by letting them know that their whole purpose and goal in life is to advance the cause of Christ in terms of winning souls. It's past time for our 'administrators to bring in the unproductive ministers and advise these men, good Christian men of course, to perhaps seek some other line of work rather than to take sacred tithe money and end year after year with a zero under their baptismal record. It is time to let these men know that the ministry is not a profession, but a calling of God to do a specific task, which is none other than to preach and baptize.
Fortunately, my internship years were spent not only in a regular church program but in two major evangelistic campaigns. During these meetings I began to grasp the value of a soul. I began to sense that the church existed for one reason only—not for business, not for piling up wealth, not for erecting super-duper buildings, not for dashing around the world without a message—it existed for the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I often pondered the aim and goal of Paul as found in Philippians 3:8, "That I may win Christ." What does it mean to win Christ? Of course, it means salvation. But no man can receive salvation for himself without carrying an immense burden for the salvation of others.
What Would Christ Say?
If Christ were to stand before us today and tell us the great burden of His heart, what do you think it would be? Do you think He would discuss the need of more modern equipment in our offices and institutions? Would it be to make sure that the denomination is financially solvent? Would the wage scale be the great burden of His heart? Do you think He would discuss the necessity of our aiming for some administrative or departmental post? Would God put at the top of His discussion list sustentation funds, better housing, automobile allowances, recreation, et cetera? Certainly our Lord is interested in all these things I have mentioned. But wouldn't Christ cry out:
"Don't you understand, I died to redeem you? I lived on earth to sanctify you! I plead with you to lay aside your selfish motives! Forget the pursuit of pleasures! Stop talking politics! Let all the necessary business of the church be strictly secondary to the one giant purpose of rushing to every nation, kindred, and tongue the glorious news that I am alive, I am investigating the record books of men, I am coming soon! Don't you understand that when I come only those who have developed a Godlike character will go to heaven? All the scaffolding will be cleared away. Your main concern is to be ready and get others ready for My return!"
Production of Dandelions
As an intern I learned by watching the example of my trainers that the prostitution of our powers to obviously needless, unnecessary, or unworthy aims is the saddest thing that could happen to us. For the church to miss the goal of soul winning is like setting elephants to work threading needles. To use my powers in anything less than the promulgation of the gospel is as ridiculous as harnessing giant bolts of lightning to heat a cup of water. Men don't spend millions in irrigation of some desert area for the production of dandelions!
I learned during those two precious years of internship that the tragedy of tragedies is to see ministers use their God-given powers for some side line, or merely to cultivate their intellects, or to pile up degrees, or to gratify some earthly desire while ignoring, bypassing, and even ridiculing the aim of all aims—the baptizing of men and women into the body of Christ.
5:00 A.M. and Lunch Skips
I wouldn't trade my internship experience for any amount of theory, philosophy, or money! My experienced under-shepherds took me with them in visiting interested and disinterested souls. I observed their tact and carefulness, gained by years of experience, in answering Bible questions and getting decisions publicly and privately. We worked long hours together to win one soul for Christ. My internship came during the second world war years, and more than once we were out on the firing line at 5:00 A.M. seeking some who had just gotten off a night shift. It wasn't unusual to skip lunch and work through until the evening meeting.
Oh, how the Holy Spirit worked! Jewelry disappeared! Eating habits were changed! Sabbath victories were gained! The waters of the baptismal pool were continually troubled as week after week souls were buried with Christ. In fact, I was in the work several years before I discovered that the church, to some minds, existed for something else besides soul winning! I began to find out that there were men who had been drawing salary for a year or even two years but who never brought a soul to Christ. This came as a shocking revelation to me. I began to observe man after man bogged down with some tremendous scheme that was going to flood the church with souls—but somehow the scheme never seemed to work.
When I headed up my own district for the first time, my desk was daily loaded with mimeographed missives that came all too often from armchair strategists. This puzzled me. I became confused over the fantastic multitude of demands on my time for everything except soul winning. For a couple of years I was a disillusioned young minister, and more than once I contemplated dropping out of the ministry. If it had not been for my good wife, who constantly stood by me and encouraged me to stay by God's work, I think I would have taken the tragic step of seeking some other type of work.
I finally resolved my dilemma by virtually ignoring the great majority of so-called important things and took up the task of constantly evangelizing the areas where the conference sent me. I ate and slept and drank one thing only—evangelism! No, I didn't amass any gigantic records such as Detamore, Richards, and Vandeman did and do. But the Lord blessed my efforts, and never a year went by without two or three score people joining the church. All of these didn't come from church school baptisms either, but were mainly the "cold turkey" kind!
Breeding of Mosquitoes
I have finally come to this conclusion, that the minister who really makes an impact in life is the man of one Book and one aim. This kind of man sees through the eyeglasses of soul winning only! Sure, people will call you a fanatic, but never mind. It's only fanatics that get things done. Christ was a fanatic. Paul was a fanatic. The apostle John was a fanatic, and certainly John the Baptist was one. But it's better to be a fanatic and get what you aim at than to be so broad that you become like a stream that thinly spreads itself over miles of mud until finally there is no movement, no current—just stagnation, death, and a place for the breeding of mosquitoes.
If you want to bore a hole, you inevitably use an object with a sharp point. You never pick out an instrument as blunt as a camel's foot for drilling purposes. The swimmer who desires to be an expert high diver never spreads out his legs and arms and slaps the water broadside! He gets his body into a rocket shape and pierces the pool with the least resistance possible. Men never design a swift-moving airplane with a bulky, bulgy, blunt nose. It's the needlepoint nose that stabs the sky and breaks the sound barrier. Women don't sew by using clothespins for needles. The wedge formation the Roman soldiers used with such devastating force against their barbarian foes is a lesson for the church today. Hitler's fast-pointed Blitzkrieg maneuvers almost won him a world. Our church is in need of advancing by concentrating, compacting, decompartmentalizing, uniting, thus giving point and determination to our one purpose—the winning of souls.
Up With Nehemiahs—Down With Sanballats
We need more Nehemiahs, who will reject the party invitations of Sanballat and Geshem (see Neh. 6:2-3). That great man's response was, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?" (Neh. 6:3, R.S.V.).
We need more Pauls to cry out, "This one thing I do" (Phil. 3:13). Couple with this statement that magnificent motto found in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ." When a preacher goes to the cross with Christ you can be sure of one thing—he is going to win souls. There is no other way to live free from sin, free from distractions, except the way of crucifying self.
Come Down From the Cross
The true minister of the gospel remains in a crucified position. It is not a pleasing position, and at times produces unutterable pain and anguish. Standing below the crosses of the true minister of the gospel is a heartless mob of jeering tempters constantly screaming, "If you are a son of God come down from the cross. Come down and participate in a few harmless activities_______ let your soul-winning work go for a while.
"Come down from the cross and take it easy. Why punish yourself by holding meetings and visiting night after night? It's so much easier to sit with your family by the fireside. Come on down and take a desk job. Clock your days, count your hours, and when your eight are up go home like a normal man and forget the needs of the world.
"If you're a son of God, come down and don't be so dogmatic about preaching the Advent message. Rather express your intellectual doubts about the investigative judgment, Creation week, the church standards, and the Spirit of Prophecy. Get yourself involved in discussion groups. Work on the image of the church by developing programs that will make for good public relations. Forget these peculiar doctrines, such as the Second Coming, the 2300 days, and the Sabbath.
"Come on down from the cross and take care of the family while your wife goes out and works to make a few extra dollars so you can buy some of that new furniture. Come on down and read everything possible you can get your hands on. Keep up with every bit of news. Be a companion set to your TV. Spend time with anything but soul winning. Pursue every course of good activity, just so you don't get men and women ready for heaven. Get yourself involved with clubs, committees, community projects, entertainment, visiting on your own terms—not God's terms—sight-seeing, world travel. Come on down and seek men's advice and not God's. Forget praying, forget your Bible study, forget your preaching. Forget your house-to-house work. Forget what the Advent Movement is all about."
I cannot thank the men enough who led me during those plastic years of internship. You see, they tried to teach me how to go to the cross with Christ. They were good teachers, for I watched them hang on the cross along with the Master!