"The Minister's Call. . . And How to Ruin It"

THERE is one who leaves his family, possessions, and the safety of his home daily. He rises early in the morning, prepares himself for the day's toil and shoves his frail craft into the salty Atlantic. He has one goal for the day: he will catch fish. He is the Brazilian fisherman, o pescador. All along South America's vast coast lie tiny fishing villages, their shores lined.with seafaring vessels of every sort. . .

Assistant professor in the department of geography, at George Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville, Tennessee

THERE is one who leaves his family, possessions, and the safety of his home daily. He rises early in the morning, prepares himself for the day's toil and shoves his frail craft into the salty Atlantic. He has one goal for the day: he will catch fish. He is the Brazilian fisherman, o pescador. All along South America's vast coast lie tiny fishing villages, their shores lined.with seafaring vessels of every sort. One of the most common and interesting crafts of them all is a sail-propelled raft called the jangada, whose canvas sails may be seen thirty to forty miles out from shore. Beginning at four in the afternoon and ranging until well after sundown, one can watch them return home laden with their catches.

The fisherman is a hardy man. His hands would feel much out of place around a pencil. His feet would hurt in shoes. His skin is tough and bronzed through years of work in the wind and the sun. His courage is repeatedly tested by the many hazards of the open sea, and he has come to hold a strong affection for his reliable craft.

There is another similar to the pescador. He also sets aside possessions, family and life. He, too, rises early in the morning to prepare his life for the day. And he, likewise, ventures deep into the sea with a single purpose in mind. He is God's servant. His sea is the world. His preparation is that of devoted prayer, conversation with his Father. The fish he seeks are men. He looks for them day after day in the roughest of seas.

God's servant is also a hardy man. He has been toughened by the afflictions he has faced as a person and as a helper of others. They have been lessons from which he has come to profit. Not unlike the fisherman, his most reliable friend is his vessel, the Saviour, Jesus Christ. Never has his craft sunk beneath him nor spun out of control.

The fisherman would not leave his art. His heart is in the sea. There is no other work in all the world that he would rather do than fish. He loves the salt breeze on his face, the smell of the ocean air, and the music of the sea birds. He enjoys the tug on the fish line, the feeling of full nets, the capture of the cod. These are things embedded in his heart.

No less is this true of God's servant. He, too, cannot leave his task. Regard less [of] the exact form of his ministry, no other thing of whatever sort holds such personal contentment as doing his Father's business. He is attached to his service by threads of love. He loves the One who sent him to fish. He loves the Word of God, that lure which attracts men's minds to Christ. No pleasure is as great as the tug of fish .on the line, to bring a repentant sinner to the Saviour. No, he cannot leave his task! Christ once came into his life calling, "Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men," and he followed and fished. There is now no turning back.

But is he really fishing? In spite of that driving sense of commission felt in the early days of Christian service, the minister tends to allow well-intentioned but unessential extras [to] become more consuming of his energy than the original purpose to which Christ called him: to rescue men from their sins.

Instead of seeking men, he seeks success. In place of fishing, he goes fiddling. Laden with roles which he falsely believes his profession demands, he be comes a business manager, chief of maintenance, recruiter for church offices, social butterfly, head of protocol, and incidentally preacher. He dabbles in men's leagues and eats cookies at ladies' teas. He graces civic gatherings, intoning the required invocations. He preaches sermons which he himself did not prepare. He visits individuals for which he has not taken time to pray. He becomes a stranger to his family. He is so busy doing church work that he has no time to do the work of the church--fishing. He no longer goes to sea; his responsibilities keep him safely on the sandy beach.

Where is there time for Christ in his hectic schedule? When does he pray? Worship? Intercede name by name for his congregation? When does he study the Scriptures? When does he feed his own soul? Is it possible to prepare whole some spiritual food to feed the hungry souls in his congregation when he does not feed himself? Can he teach others to live a holy life when his own is an example less of holiness than of hastiness, running incessantly morning until evening from one insignificant task to an other? No! One cannot lead another in spiritual things farther than one has gone himself. No! One cannot worship God on the run. Holiness is devotion, and devotion requires time, and time encourages quietness of soul, meditation on God's Word, and warm conversation with the God of heaven, earth, and sinners. All other "duties" pale into comparative insignificance.

It is time, fellow fishermen, to return to the call that our Lord first gave: to follow Him and fish for men, to leave the shore for the ship, to set aside those unnecessary time-consuming tasks which have [been] substituted, shamefully, for His plan for us. You admit that you see little result from your ministry, few sinners reclaimed, few fish in the net? Are you actually rescuing men or repelling them?

Yet Christ guaranteed success when He told us, "Follow me and I will make you a fisherman." Pastor, we must return to the call the Lord set before us lest, when our day ends, God should look with disgust upon our pompous churchmanship and frivolous waste of His time, and discover that our nets are . . . empty.

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Assistant professor in the department of geography, at George Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville, Tennessee

November 1972

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