The Qualifications of a Minister, part 3

Article 3 on the public life of ministers

Must have the power of love in His public discourses

There is warmth and courtesy and love in heaven. Let ministers go before God in prayer, confessing their sins, and with all the simplicity of a little child ask for the blessings that they need. Plead for the warmth of Christ’s love, and then bring it into your discourses; and let no one have occasion to go away and say that the doctrines you believe unfit you for expressing sympathy with suffering humanity—that you have a loveless religion. The operations of the Holy Spirit will burn away the dross of selfishness, and reveal a love which is tried in the fire, a love that maketh rich. He who has these riches is in close sympathy with Him who so loved us that He gave His life for our redemption. Testimonies to Ministers, 153, 1542. Personal work

And the minister’s work does not end with the presentation of truth from the pulpit. He is to do earnest, personal, house-to-house work, studying the Scriptures with the people, and praying with them. Thus many will be brought to a knowledge of God. Souls ready to perish will be imbued with the Spirit of Christ. But this work has been neglected; and therefore the churches are lacking in power. There are many ordained ministers who have never yet exercised a shepherd’s care over the flock of God, who have never watched for souls as they that must give an account. The Church, instead of developing, is left to be a weak, dependent, inefficient body. The members of the Church, trained to rely upon preaching, do little for Christ. They bear no fruit, but rather increase in selfishness and unfaithfulness. They put their hope in the preacher, depending on his efforts to keep alive their weak faith. Review and Herald, January 21, 1903

It is in the labor out of the pulpit, among families, that the richest and most valuable experience is gained, and that the minister learns how he can feed the flock of God, giving to each his portion of meat in due season. If there is a backslider, the shepherd knows how to present the truth in such a manner that the soul will be convicted. He will leave the ninety and nine, and seek the lost sheep. But if the shepherd does not visit his flock, he knows not their condition, he knows not what truths to set before them, nor what is appropriate to their case. And more than this, as the preacher manifests so little interest in the souls under his charge, he cannot set an example to the flock to have an interest and love and watch-care for souls. Every thing is at loose ends; his work is strongly mixed with self, and is not bound off, but left to ravel out; and because of those neglects, you often hear, “I do not have success in bringing souls into the church.” The Lord cannot work for those who are unfaithful, who neglect their manifest duty, the most important part of a shepherd’s duty. Should the Lord move upon the hearts of the sinners, and they become converted, who will watch for them as one who must give an account? Who will visit them? Who will strengthen the diseased and the feeble ones? The truth, if presented to those of our faith and outsiders, should be as it is in Jesus. See with what love, tender sympathy, and perseverance he labored. “He shall not fail nor be discouraged.” This spirit should be with all the laborers. Better, far better, have fewer preachers and far more earnest, humble, God-fearing workers. We are laborers together with God. Now it is highly essential that men be the right kind of laborers, for they are moulding the churches to do as the preacher does; they feel that it is the right way to have just as little interest in the prosperity of their brethren and sisters in the church as the minister has given them an example in their way of laboring. They may raise up churches; but they will always be weak, and inefficient, and unreliable. Such kind of work at such an expense will not pay. Appeals and Suggestions to Conference Officers

By his wisdom in dealing with minds, he will give full proof of his ministry. He will become acquainted with the parents and children in his congregation, and will speak kind, earnest words to them. Review and Herald, January 21, 1902

Talk simply and to the point. Let your discourses be short. Handle only a few points, saving your strength for house-to-house work. Ministers too often give lengthy discourses. The minds of the people are wearied by such discourses, and the truth loses its effect upon them. Ibid., December 29, 1904

Teaching the Scriptures, praying in families,—this is the work of the evangelist, and this work is to be mingled with preaching. If it is omitted, preaching will, to a great extent, be a failure. Come close to the people by personal efforts. Teach them that the love of God must come into the sanctuary of the home life. Ibid.

He should visit every family, not merely as a guest to enjoy their hospitality, but to inquire into the spiritual condition of every member of the household. His own soul must be imbued with the love of God; then by kindly courtesy he may win his way to the hearts of all, and labor successfully for parents and children. He is to sow the seeds of truth beside all waters. Let him seek to keep the church alive by teaching its members how to labor with him for the conversion of sinners. This is good generalship; and the result will be found far better than if he should seek to perform the work alone. Ibid., April 23, 1908

They have not had the missionary spirit; they have not felt the great need of thoroughly educating the people in all branches of the work, in all places where the truth has gained a foothold. The work done thoroughly for one soul is done for many. But the ministers have not realized this and have failed to educate persons who in their turn should stand steadfast in defense of the truth and educate others. This loose, slack, halfway manner of working is displeasing to God. Testimonies, vol. 5, 255

People are easily reached through the avenues of the social circle. But many ministers dread the task of visiting; they have not cultivated social qualities, have not acquired that genial spirit that wins its way to the hearts of the people. It is highly important that a pastor should mingle much with his people, that he may become acquainted with the different phases of human nature, readily understand the workings of the mind, adapt his teachings to the intellect of his people, and learn that grand charity possessed only by those who closely study the nature and needs of men. Ibid., vol. 4, 266, 267

They should not neglect the duties of a pastor, as they visit from house to house. They should become familiar with every member of the family, that they may understand the spiritual condition of all, and vary their manner of labor to meet the case of each. Ibid., vol. 3, 233

Should give work to members

The best help that ministers can give the members of our churches is not sermonizing, but planning work for them. Give each one something to do for others. Help all to see that as receivers of the grace of Christ they are under obligation to work for Him. And let all be taught how to work. Especially should those who are newly come to the faith be educated to become laborers together with God. If set to work, the despondent will soon forget their despondency, the weak will become strong, the ignorant intelligent, and all will be prepared to present the truth as it is in Jesus. They will find an unfailing helper in Him who has promised to save all that come unto Him. Review and Herald, January 21, 1902

Let every minister to whom has been committed sacred trusts, take into consideration the vastness of the closing work of God in the earth, and study ways and means of placing the obligation of accomplishing this work on the large number upon whom it rests. Hundreds and thousands who have received the light of truth for this time, but who are still idlers in the market-place, might be engaged in some line of useful service for God. Ibid., March 24, 1910

Those placed in positions of responsibility should patiently seek to make others familiar with all parts of the work. This will reveal that they do not desire to be first, but that they are glad to have others become acquainted with details, and to become as efficient as they are. Those who faithfully fulfill their duty in this respect, will, in time, have standing by their side a large number of intelligent workers whom they have trained. Should they shape matters in accordance with narrow, selfish conceptions, they would stand almost alone. Ibid., December 1, 1904

The minister’s preaching

Young ministers should not be encouraged to preach to the churches. This is not their work. They are to go forth without the camp, taking up the work in places where the truth has not yet been proclaimed. Australian Union Record, July 15, 1902

The minister who mixes story-telling with his discourses is using strange fire. God is offended, and the cause of truth is dishonored, when His representatives descend to the use of cheap, trifling words. Review and Herald, December, 22, 1904

Ministers should not preach sermon after sermon on doctrinal subjects alone. Practical godliness should find a place in every discourse. Ibid., April 23, 1908

It has been shown me that our camp meetings are to increase in interest and success. As we approach nearer the end, I have seen that in these meetings there will be less preaching and more Bible study. There will be little groups all over the ground with their Bibles in their hands, and different ones leading out in a free, conversational study of the Scriptures. Testimonies, vol. 6, 87

Let the men who are engaged in the solemn work of bearing the last message to the world, heed the exhortation of Paul, “Preach the word,”—not the science of phrenology, or the productions from human speculations. Review and Herald, June 13, 1893

It is especially true that new and startling themes should not be presented to the people at too great length. In every address given, let there be an application of truth to the heart that whosoever may hear shall understand, and that men, women, and youth may become alive unto God. Testimonies to Ministers, 258

I long to see our ministers dwell more upon the cross of Christ, their own hearts, meanwhile, softened and subdued by the Saviour’s matchless love, which prompted that infinite sacrifice. If, in connection with the theory of the truth, our ministers would dwell more upon practical godliness, speaking from a heart imbued with the spirit of truth, we should see many more souls flocking to the standard of truth; their hearts would be touched by the pleadings of the cross of Christ, the infinite generosity and pity of Jesus in suffering for man. These vital subjects, in connection with the doctrinal points of our faith, would effect much good among the people. But the heart of the teacher must be filled with the experimental knowledge of the love of Christ. Testimonies, vol. 4, 374, 375

Ministers should be examined especially to see if they have an intelligent understanding of the truth for this time, so that they can give a connected discourse upon the prophecies or upon practical subjects. If they cannot clearly present Bible subjects they need to be hearers and learners still. Ibid., 407

From unfeigned lips you should breathe a prayer that God would guide you to give to every man his portion of meat in due season, and so aid you that you will not get above the simplicity of the gospel to dwell upon favorite subjects which will not enlighten the darkened conscience, or convince men of sin, of righteousness, and judgment to come. In distinct lines, present to your hearers what they must do to be saved; lead them into the paths of truth and holiness. As the flock of the pasture, lead them where they may drink the water of salvation. Voice in Speech and Song, 341

If we only knew what is before us, we should not be so dilatory in doing the work of the Lord. There are ministers and workers who will present a tissue of nonsensical falsehoods as testing truths, even as the Jewish rabbis presented the maxims of men as the bread of heaven. These are given to the flock of God, as their portion of meat in due season, while the poor sheep are starving for the bread of life. Even now there seems to be a burning desire to get up something startling, and bring it in as new light. Thus men are weaving into the web as important truths a tissue of lies. This imaginary food that is being prepared for the flock will cause spiritual consumption, decline, and death. Review and Herald, January 22, 1901


O what a work there is before us! Ministers are not to spend their time laboring for those who have already accepted the truth. With Christ’s love burning in their hearts, they are to go forth to win sinners to the Saviour. Beside all waters, God’s messengers are to sow the seeds of truth. Place after place is to be visited; church after church is to be raised up. Those who take their stand for the truth are to be organized into churches, and then the minister is to pass on to other equally important fields. Ibid., August 19, 1902

5. Speech and communication

Those who have a careless, clownish manner, either in the family or in society, dishonor their divine Lord. Even ministers have thus misrepresented Christ, when in the pulpit they have made a display of theatrical actions and eccentric manners. This is not of God. Eccentricities are sometimes looked upon as virtues by men, but they do not aid in representing Christ. Careless attitudes and irreverent expressions may serve to please men of unrefined tastes, anecdotes may amuse, but the minister who seeks to cater to such tastes has a meager appreciation of the dignity, simplicity, goodness, and loveliness of the character of the divine Lord. Signs of the Times, October 13, 1890

I see that great reformation must take place in the ministry before it shall be what God would have it. Ministers in the desk have no license to behave like theatrical performers, assuming attitudes and expressions calculated for effect. They do not occupy the sacred desk as actors, but as teachers of solemn truths. There are also fanatical ministers, who, in attempting to preach Christ, storm, halloo, jump up and down, and pound the desk before them, as if this bodily exercise profited anything. Such antics lend no force to the truths uttered, but, on the contrary, disgust men and women of calm judgment and elevated views. Review and Herald, August 8, 1878

O that those who are proclaiming the most solemn message ever given to the world would realize how greatly their influence is weakened when they are suspicious of their brethren, when they allow angry words to pass their lips! The displeasure of God rests upon every one who speaks harsh, unkind words. Nothing so dishonors the Lord Jesus as a readiness on the part of church-members to take offense when something occurs to displease them. The conversion of unbelievers depends on the distinctness with which Christ is revealed in the lives of believers. When our hearts are filled with love and compassion, when our conduct toward one another is marked by Christlike tenderness and courtesy, then our words will have power to convict souls. Ibid., July 21, 1903

Let those who labor in word and doctrine strive to perfect themselves in the use of language. The voice is a great power, and yet many have not trained their voices in such a way that they may be used to their highest capacity. Jesus is our example. His voice was musical, and was never raised in high, strained notes while He was speaking to the people. He did not speak so rapidly that His words were crowded one upon another in such a way that it made it difficult to understand Him. He distinctly enunciated every word, and those who heard His voice bore the testimony that “never man spake like this man.” Ibid., March 5, 1895

Dwell not on the negative points of questions that arise, but gather to your minds affirmative truths, and fasten them there by much study and earnest prayer and heart-consecration. Ibid., April 23, 1908

And we are to be faithful in reproving wrong-doing. This God requires of every one of His laborers. Pure and unadulterated trust will always meet the elements of unsanctified profession. There will always be those who claim to be doing God service, but who are serving Him not. Those who are blinded by erroneous opinions are to be treated with gentleness, yet labored for faithfully that their minds may be undeceived. Saving truth must be repeated over and over again.

. . . Satan will surely use erroneous theories to deceive and confuse minds, and we can not pass by these errors and be guiltless before God. Patiently, and in a spirit of meekness and gentleness, yet with a firmness that can not be misinterpreted, we are to reprove wrong, and to teach professed believers to adorn the doctrine of Christ our Saviour. Ibid., September 9, 1909

My brethren, withhold not the testing truths that should come to every soul at this time, and which must be practised by those who would find acceptance with God. We are to let the Word of God come to every appointed agency, for there is a crisis before the people of God. Ibid.

When Christ was living on this earth, how surprised would have been His associates, if, after becoming acquainted with Him, they had heard Him utter one word of impatience, one word of accusation or of faultfinding! He expects those who love Him and believe in Him, to represent Him in character. Paulson Collection, 16

By murmuring and complaint it is made manifest that his soul is not under the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Those who are full of murmuring and complaint against God and their fellow-men will have to be converted and transformed before they can enter the kingdom of heaven. It may be necessary that the furnace of trial be kindled and heated sevenfold to purge away the dross from the character, that the gold may come forth purified, refined, and stamped with the image of the Refiner. Review and Herald, June 5, 1894

The truth should be spoken clearly, slowly, forcibly, that it may impress the hearer. Testimonies to Ministers, 257

Especially should those who have accepted the position of directors or counselors feel that they are required to be in every respect Christian gentlemen. While in dealing with others we are always to be faithful, we should not be rude. The souls with whom we have to do are the Lord’s purchased possession, and we are to permit no hasty, overbearing expression to escape the lips. Ibid., 262

Speaking from the throat, letting the words come out from the upper extremity of the vocal organs, all the time fretting and irritating them, is not the best way to preserve health or to increase the efficiency of those organs. You should take a full inspiration and let the action come from the abdominal muscles. Let the lungs be only the channel, but do not depend upon them to do the work. If you let your words come from deep down, exercising the abdominal muscles, you can speak to thousands with just as much ease as you can speak to ten.

Some of our preachers are killing themselves by long, tedious praying and loud speaking, when a lower tone would make a better impression and save their own strength. Now, while you go on regardless of the laws of life and health, and follow the impulse of the moment, do not charge it upon God if you break down. Many of you waste time and strength in long preliminaries and excuses as you commence to speak. Instead of apologizing because you are about to address the people, you should commence your labor as though God had something for you to say to them. Some use up nearly half an hour in making apologies; thus the time is frittered away, and when they get to their subject, where they are desirous to fasten the points of truth, the people are wearied out and cannot see their force or be impressed with them. You should make the essential points of present truth as distinct as mileposts so that the people will understand them. They will then see the arguments you want to present and the positions you want to sustain. Testimonies, vol. 2, 616

He who has bestowed upon us all the gifts that enable us to be workers together with God, expects His servants to cultivate their voices so that they can speak and sing in a way that all can understand. It is not loud singing that is needed, but clear intonation, correct pronunciation, and distinct utterance. Let all take time to cultivate the voice so that God’s praise can be sung in clear, soft tones, not with harshness and shrillness that offend the ear. Testimonies, vol. 9, 144

Some of our most talented ministers are doing themselves great injury by their defective manner of speaking. While teaching the people their duty to obey God’s moral law, they should not be found violating the laws of God in regard to health and life. Ministers should stand erect and speak slowly, firmly, and distinctly, taking a full inspiration of air at every sentence and throwing out the words by exercising the abdominal muscles. If they will observe this simple rule, giving attention to the laws of health in other respects, they may preserve their life and usefulness much longer than men in any other profession. Ibid., vol. 4, 404

The offensiveness of this severe, overbearing, denunciatory talk in a large gathering is of as much more grave a character in the sight of God than giving personal, individual reproof as the numbers are greater and the censure more general. It is ever easier to give expression to the feelings before a congregation, because there are many present, than to go to the erring and, face to face with them, openly, frankly, plainly state their wrong course. But bringing into the house of God strong feelings against individuals, and making all the innocent as well as the guilty suffer, is a manner of labor which God does not sanction and which does harm rather than good. It has too often been the case that criticizing and denunciatory discourses have been given before a congregation. These do not encourage a spirit of love in the brethren. They do not tend to make them spiritually minded and lead them to holiness and heaven, but a spirit of bitterness is aroused in hearts. These very strong sermons that cut a man all to pieces are sometimes positively necessary to arouse, alarm, and convict. But unless they bear the especial marks of being dictated by the Spirit of God, they do far more injury than they can do good. Ibid., vol. 3, 508

Our workers should use the greatest wisdom, so that nothing shall be said to provoke the armies of Satan and to stir up his united confederacy of evil. Christ did not dare to bring a railing accusation against the prince of evil, and is it proper that we should bring such accusation as will set in operation the agencies of evil, the confederacies of men that are leagued with evil spirits? Christ was the only-begotten Son of the infinite God, He was the Commander in the heavenly courts, yet He refrained from bringing accusation against Satan. Testimonies to Ministers, 222

I beseech you to weed out of your teachings every extravagant expression, everything that unbalanced minds and those who are inexperienced will catch up, and from which they will make wild, immature movements. It is necessary for you to cultivate caution in every statement you make, lest you start some on a wrong track, and make confusion that will require much sorrowful labor to set in order, thus diverting the strength and work of the laborers into lines which God does not design shall be entered. One fanatical streak exhibited among us will close many doors against the soundest principles of truth. Ibid., 228

The Holy spirit does not work with men who love to be sharp and critical. That spirit has been cherished in meeting debaters, and some have formed the habit of squaring for combat. God is dishonored in this. Keep back the sharp thrusts; do not learn in Satan’s school his methods of warfare. The Holy Spirit does not inspire the words of censure. A time of trouble is before us, and every honest soul who has not had the light of truth will then take a stand for Christ. Those who believe the truth are to be newly converted every day. Then they will be vessels unto honor. Ibid., 248

7. Miscellaneous

The inexperienced are in need of wise generals who by prayer and personal effort will encourage and help them to become perfect in Christ Jesus, wanting in nothing. This is the work which every gospel minister should endeavor to do, but which some are liable to fail of doing. Review and Herald, December 1, 1904

There are those who embrace too much in their labors, and by so doing accomplish little. Our efforts now must be more concentrated. Every stroke must tell. Ibid., December 8, 1885

Some are too indolent to make a success of life in business matters and are deficient in the experience necessary to make them good Christians in a private capacity; yet they feel competent to engage in the work which is of all others the most difficult, that of dealing with minds and trying to convert souls from error to the truth. Testimonies, vol. 3, 551

Our policy is, Do not make prominent the objectionable features of our faith, which strike most decidedly against the customs and practises of the people, until the Lord shall give the people a fair chance to know that we are believers in Christ, and in His preexistence. Review and Herald, April 13, 1911

My soul is much burdened, for I know what is before us. Every conceivable deception will be brought to bear upon those who have not a daily, living connection with God. In our work no side issues must be advanced until there has been a thorough examination of the ideas entertained, that it may be ascertained from what source they have originated. Satan’s angels are wise to do evil, and they will create that which some will claim to be advanced light, will proclaim as new and wonderful things; and yet while in some respects the message is truth, it will be mingled with men’s inventions and will teach for doctrines the commandments of men. If there was ever a time when we should watch and pray in real earnest, it is now. There may be supposable things that appear as good things, and yet they need to be carefully considered with much prayer, for they are specious devices of the enemy to lead souls in a path which lies so close to the path of truth that it will be scarcely distinguishable from the path which leads to holiness and heaven. But the eye of faith may discern that it is diverging from the right path, though almost imperceptibly. At first it may be thought positively right, but after a while it is seen to be widely divergent from the path of safety, from the path which leads to holiness and heaven. My brethren, I warn you to make straight paths for your feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way. Testimonies to Ministers, 229

In order to reach those who are in the darkness of error and false theories, we must approach them with the utmost caution and with the greatest wisdom, agreeing with them on every point that we can conscientiously. Testimonies, vol. 3, 462

Ministers should be careful not to expect too much from persons who are still groping in the darkness of error. They should do their work well, relying upon God to impart to inquiring souls the mysterious, quickening influence of His Holy Spirit knowing that without this their labors will be unsuccessful. They should be patient and wise in dealing with minds, remembering how manifold are the circumstances that have developed such different traits in individuals. They should strictly guard themselves also lest self should get the supremacy and Jesus should be left out of the question. Ibid., vol. 4, 262

Ministers should not do work that belongs to the laymen, thus wearying themselves, and preventing others from doing their duty. They should teach the members how to work in the church and community, to build up the church, to make the prayer-meeting interesting, and to train for missionaries youth of ability. The members of the church should co-operate actively with the ministers, making the section of country around them their field of missionary labor. Churches that are weak or few in numbers, should be looked after by sister churches. Review and Herald, October 12, 1886

8. The minister’s authority, its type, and source

We are God’s commandment-keeping people. For the past fifty years, every phase of heresy has been brought to bear upon us, to becloud our minds regarding the teaching of the Word—especially concerning the ministration of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and the message of Heaven for these last days, as given by the angels of the fourteenth chapter of Revelation. Messages of every order and kind have been urged upon Seventh-day Adventists, to take the place of the truth which, point by point, has been sought out by prayerful study, and testified to by the miracle-working power of the Lord. But the waymarks which have made us what we are, are to be preserved, and they will be preserved, as God has signified through His Word and the testimony of His Spirit. He calls upon us to hold firmly, with the grip of faith, to the fundamental principles that are based upon unquestionable authority. Selected Messages, book 1, 208

Descent from Abraham was proved, not by name and lineage, but by likeness of character. So the apostolic succession rests not upon the transmission of ecclesiastical authority, but upon spiritual relationship. A life actuated by the apostles’ spirit, the belief and teaching of the truth they taught, this is the true evidence of apostolic succession. This is what constitutes men the successors of the first teachers of the gospel. The Desire of Ages, 467

The work of the ministry is no common work. Christ is withdrawn only from the eye of sense, but He is as truly present by His Spirit as when He was visibly present on earth. The time that has elapsed since His ascension has brought no interruption in the fulfillment of His parting promise,—”Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” God has provided light and truth for the world by having placed it in the keeping of faithful men, who in succession have committed it to others through all generations up to the present time. These men have derived their authority in an unbroken line from the first teachers of the faith. Christ remains the true minister of His church, but He delegates His power to His under-shepherds, to His chosen ministers, who have the treasure of His grace in earthen vessels. God superintends the affairs of His servants, and they are placed in his work by divine appointment. Signs of the Times, April 7, 1890

It is not the work of a gospel minister to lord it over God’s heritage, but in lowliness of mind, with gentleness and long forbearance, to exhort, reprove, rebuke, with all long-suffering and doctrine. Testimonies, vol. 3, 229

The End