My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad,
The honors of thy name. —Charles Wesley,
His only righteousness I show,
His saving truth proclaim:
*Tis all my business here below,
To cry, “Behold the Lamb!”
Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp his name;
Preach him to all, and cry in death,
“Behold, behold the Lamb!” —Charles Wesley.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. — 2 Timothy 4:2-5
The great work of the preacher is to build up believers and lead sinners to the Saviour. The vows we take upon ourselves when ordained and when we enter the Conference are of the most solemn and binding character. It is a great misfortune if we are even tempted to think lightly of them. It is disastrous to come to a state of mind when we disregard them. These vows are intended to shut us off from and out of all worldly occupations and pursuits. They shut us up to purely ministerial work. They put upon us the most binding obligations to walk in the love and fear of God. They hold us steadily to the sincerest and most earnest efforts to attain in all our religious experience the fullness of the grace of God. They require us to devote all our energies, activities, thoughts, time, and strength to the two great enterprises of the accredited ambassador of the court of heaven.
We may concede, without any attempt at apology or explanation, that when the utmost has been done that can be done by the most devoted and faithful pastor, there will be left in every church a residuum of worldly, careless, backslidden members. They are alike indifferent to the persuasions of love and the denunciations of wrath, which we find on many a page of God’s holy book. They are joined to their idols, and the heart of God yearns over them as over Ephraim of old and would not give them up. Yet it is feared that many of these will die with their names upon the church records and finally wake up to find themselves shut out of heaven.
This condition of affairs should not dishearten the faithful preacher, nor should he allow himself to be tempted by the enemy of all souls to desist from all efforts to win sinners until all the church members are just right. The arch enemy of all righteousness is never better pleased than when he succeeds in making a pious and sincere preacher believe that no ingathering of converts can be realized until the last church member comes up with an ideal standard fixed in the preacher’s mind. Many a rich promise of revival has come to naught because of Satan’s success with some conscientious pastor just at this very point. And yet the pastor must not cease to lead the flock by all loving persuasion and strong presentation of duty into the green pastures and beside the still waters. The Bible does not present an impossible standard; the preacher must hold to that standard.
There are three ways in which the pastor can succeed in his efforts to build up the church. The first and all-important source of influence is a holy life revealed in all the words and actions of the man of God. The church has a right to expect this of any man who assumes to stand at the sacred desk to proclaim the Gospel. His power to stimulate and help others will depend significantly on the good opinion of those under his ministry. If he does not manifest the spirit of Christ, if he is not Christian in all his life and conversation, if he does not command his own words and temper if he is not patient, gentle, longsuffering, easy to be entreated—if, in short, he has not the fruits of the Spirit, he will fail in leading others to that full experience of salvation which every believer should earnestly seek for and believingly expect. A holy life is more potent to persuade than the most ornate and eloquent sermons. One foolish word, one petulant action, one irreverent look may utterly destroy the effects of the most masterful sermon. The preacher must pray:
“Arm me with jealous care,
As in thy sight to live;
And O, thy servant,
A strict account to give.”
With a holy life, the preacher must combine deep sympathy for all the young, weak, and fearful church members. We cannot help people very much unless we can weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Combined with this manifestation of sympathy, there must be wisely directed efforts to render suitable and timely aid. This will require the utmost diligence, activity, and perseverance. The idle, careless, ease-loving, pleasure-seeking pastor will fail from the very start. His mind is not on his business, so the Master’s business is left undone, and the sheep go astray. Seeing the wolf coming, the poor hireling shepherd fleeth because he is a hireling. ‘The Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” And surely there is a crucial sense in which every real pastor is like the Good Shepherd, for he gives all he has of time, strength, and skill to care for the flock committed to his charge.
But any pastor who would build up the church in holiness must preach the word. He must persuade, convince, rebuke, reprove, exhort, and with loving tears and ceaseless prayers and pleadings, he must show the right way and, in the sweet, blessed Gospel way, compel men to walk in it. Our Church’s pulpits need an all-round ministry, strong, fearless, scholarly, earnest, enthusiastic, entirely, gloriously saved. We ought to have in our pulpits more strength, variety, depth, practicality, and Gospel, a broader scope and range of Gospel themes, and all set on fire with the love of Christ and the mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. We do not want sensationalism, cranky themes announced in the daily press, weak attempts to discuss science, foolish attacks on poor, blatant infidels and atheists, nor platitudinous investigations of abstruse subjects of metaphysics, philosophy, and dogmatics, nor pitched battles with the noisy coteries or individuals who make themselves notorious while hoping to become famous in setting up some old-time heresy as though it was entirely new and wonderful. No, no, no! The people of good sense in our churches do not want any of this foolishness in the pulpit, for they know right well that there is no real spiritual sustenance in such things. They know that on such stuff they will famish and die. The cry of our people is more and more for the pure, plain Gospel vitalized in the heart and brain of a man of God who lives under the shadow of the cross, whose lips are touched with living coals from off the heavenly altars, and whose soul has felt, and continually feels, the divine afflatus of the Holy Ghost.
The essentials that the preacher must have to build up the church in the most holy faith are those that are required to lead sinners to the Saviour. O, this wandering, dying, perishing world! O, these crowded ways which lead down to death and hell! O, the awful, dreadful eternity that waits on immortal souls who meet us daily! God, in his infinite mercy, might help us to love them more, bear them in our hearts, and labor for them lest they elude our efforts and die impenitent and unsaved!
By Bishop W. F. Mallalieu
Updated 2023 Nathan Zipfel