Let Zion’s watchmen all awake,
And take the alarm they give;
Now let them from the mouth of God
Their solemn charge receive.
*Tis not a cause of small import
The pastor’s care demands;
But what might fill an angel’s heart,
And filled a Saviour’s hands. — hilip Doddridge.
Except the Lord conduct the plan, The best concerted schemes are vain, And never will succeed; We spend our wretched strength for naught; But if our works in thee be wrought,
They shall be blest indeed. — Charles Wesley.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach. — Joel 2:15-17
Wise planning involves the idea of marshaling all the forces of the church for active cooperation with the pastor. It will not be amiss if the pastor calls together his entire official board and, after a season of earnest prayer, unfolds to them the deep desires of his heart. Let him tell these men of God, who bear the burdens of the church, that he wants, that he must have, their sympathy and help. Let him get them to renew their vows of consecration and seek a special baptism of the Holy Ghost for the great work that is to be undertaken. It ought to be comparatively easy for the average pastor to secure his entire officiary’s nearly united and cordial support. When this is done, a significant step has been taken toward ultimate success. Now and then, a citizen of “Meroz” may be found even among the official brethren, but the hosts of God must not delay on that account. They may go forth to battle, sure of victory.
In one of the prominent churches of one of the largest Conferences in New York, a comparatively young man found his place of labor. The church was wealthy, fashionable, influential socially, and altogether a very respectable and well-to-do people. They gave their pastor a delightful parsonage for his home, his salary was ample and promptly paid, and his vacation was entirely satisfactory. It must, however, be said that religion was at a low ebb, class meetings almost unknown, and the midweek prayer meeting very poorly attended. It is undoubtedly true that there are some few pastors who, under the circumstances, would not have worried or laid awake nights because of such conditions. But the pastor was not of this type. He found a great company of unconverted young people in the Sunday school. Many young men and women connected with the families of his church members who seldom attended the preaching services. He also found some of his members who occasionally attended the theater, were found in the dance hall, and were known to play cards—some for prizes—and his heart was troubled. For weeks he studied the problem by night and day, prayed often and long in his hours of meditation and study, and preached tenderly and faithfully.
At last, he called all his official brethren together, nearly thirty of them, and fully opened his heart to them. They then followed a season of protracted and earnest prayer. Each official promised to stand by the pastor in any effort he might make to secure a revival of religion. It is only to be said that thirty men went forth to do the work of lay evangelists from this official meeting for consultation, prayer, and consecration. In shops, stores, offices, and by the wayside, these men with a fresh baptism of the Holy Ghost told the old story illustrated by their new experiences. The immediate result was the conversion of more than two hundred people, a more significant proportion of them prominent men, and women. The collateral results were the abandonment by all the backslidden church members of the theater, the card table, and the dance. God alone can know and estimate the ultimate results. Still, it is sure they are beyond finite measurement and will be as lasting as eternity. And this came about because the burdened heart, the anxious, loving heart of the pastor, led him, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to plan his work wisely and carry it forward to glorious success.
Here is another instance of the same kind, and, as in the former case, this is a young man. There is no good reason why older men may not go and do likewise. It seems that the bishop who was to preside at his Conference sent out a request to the preachers and people of all the charges to observe the fourth of October as a day of special prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the revival of the work of God. This young preacher made his plan to observe the day fully and faithfully. He was not a city preacher but a modern circuit rider. He called all his people together at the central appointment with the following results. This is what he has to say of what happened: “There were about a hundred people present all day from the four appointments on my charge. It was one of the most glorious days I have ever spent on the earth. Three were converted on that day. We continued, and one hundred and sixty were converted at the one appointment. We have had revivals and many conversions at all points on the charge. Have all our collections up to the apportionments.” What a magnificent record! No outside help of any kind. Our young preacher had faith in God, and he waited before the mercy seat till he received the baptism of power; he called his people around him, and they answered his call, and the work went straight on in the power of God. Church members will follow such leadership, and glorious results will be secured. What this one young preacher accomplished, what he did, may be done by thousands of young preachers. It costs thought, planning, toil, consecration, self-denial, holy living, and mighty faith, but all these are within reach of all. Why hesitate? Why halt when such glorious possibilities are within easy reach, when such immortal victories may be won?
Here is still another case in point. The preacher was not one of the highly exalted kind but a good, straightforward man of God. He had more than sixty converts.
How he did it! How, within two months of the adjournment of the Conference, did he gather more than sixty happy converts into his church? He left Conference, finding fault with the presiding elders and bishop because he was not sent to a more inviting field! Not a bit of it. Well, then, he went away from Conference, grumbling because nobody seemed to appreciate his ability, and he was just dropped down in a haphazard way! Not a bit of it. But indeed, when he reached his new appointment, he let all the people know that they had a man who was away above their style. His high intellectual attainments entitled him to a much better place! Not a bit of it. At all events, the pastor and his wife began as soon as possible to find fault with the parsonage and fuss about the furniture; they did this in a very public way! Not a bit of it. Well, the pastor put all his wits to work to whitewash the garden fence and putter around with a broom, hammer, and handsaw to fix things up. At the same time, he scolded the carelessness of his predecessor! Not a bit of it.
Surely, what did he do if he did not do these things? First of all, he thanked God that he was alive and able to go to his appointment —glad that he had a place anywhere to preach the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, glad that the Eternal God was his refuge, and that underneath him were the everlasting arms; glad that in his soul he had the precious witness of the Holy Ghost conjoined with the testimony of his consciousness that he was a child of God. So he went to his work, light in his eye, a smile on his face, a warm hand grasp, and cheering word for his people, whether rich or poor, whether clad in rags or silks. Then the first Sunday, instead of making a display, he preached the Gospel; he went to Sunday school. Then just as soon as things were pretty settled in the parsonage, he began to call from house to house, talking about Jesus and the great salvation and praying with the families as occasion offered. And so, in the class meetings and prayer meetings, his presence was an inspiration. Of course, the people rallied around him. Soon the first convert appeared, and then another and another, and as the number multiplied, faith increased, and so the work went on, and it will continue. It always goes on with such preachers.
How he did it! Why, just as any fully consecrated, sweetly saved preacher may do it. The pathway to success is sure if we walk in it, and the weakest may walk in it. This man planned and worked and expected success. He did not wait. He wisely used appropriate means and achieved success.
By Bishop W. F. Mallalieu
Updated 2023 Nathan Zipfel