Guarantees of a Successful Ministry

By Walter Cash

The ministry of the Word requires work in and out of the pulpit. Speaking to the multitude upon the grand theme of redeeming love is the ministry of the Word, but no more so than comforting the poor, trembling, enquiring child of God by speaking to him privately of the work of the Spirit of his soul. Paul wrote to Timothy that he was to “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all,.” {1Ti 4:15} He who is to serve the churches to their best interest and as contemplated in the New Testament, must follow this injuction. His service cannot be what it should be if his mind and efforts are concentrated on worldly work and time objects. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier,.” {2Ti 2:4} If the churches are to be benefited to any great degree, the minister must devote his life to preaching the gospel.

One of the reasons for this fact is that if he is obliged to give his attention to other things, his mind will not be fruitful in spiritual things, but will be burdened and cold, and his sermons and conversation cannot be as helpful to the church as though he gave himself to the contemplation of divine things. Another reason for giving himself wholly to the work is that he may inform himself in what has been written for our learning. Paul said to Timothy that he must “give attendance to Reading,.” {1Ti 4:13} No minister can tell what is in God’s word without having read or heard of its contents. Some ministers learn a few things and then seem to stop reading; at any rate, you have heard all they have to say, and they continue to use the same arguments and illustrations again and again. If they could take time and would use it to study God’s word, they would have an inexhaustible fountain of thought and expressions from which to draw,. {2Ti 2:15} No man can preach acceptably and profitably to the hearers without study. It is not to be understood that he must go to college and study theology, as men teach it, but he must study God’s word that he may know the will of God concerning his people, and that he may conduct himself properly in the house of God…While it will widen the mind to read extensively with discrimination, no writings should supplant the Holy Scriptures-these must be read by the minister who desires to benefit his hearers and glorify God by his service. It is refreshing to listen to the minister whose heart is full of the Spirit and whose mind is stored with information from the Bible. The idea that the Holy Spirit enables the minister to lay before his hearers what is in the Bible without having studied it is arrayed against the judgment and purpose of God in giving the inspired word.

It should not trouble his mind whether he will be approved of men-God’s approbation is what is to be desired. Early in my ministry this thought was impressed upon my mind. An old, gray-haired brother wanted me to abandon a position that I had taken as to the practice of the church. He said that he was doing just as his father before him had done, and I did not doubt his word. I was young, and knowing that any change in church practice is generally regarded as a movement to leave the old paths, I knew that with this brother and others I was likely to be looked upon as bringing in new things, and this would make trouble. I could get their favor by going according to their ideas of right.

Which would I do? Would I obey God or man?

It was my first hard struggle of the kind and, for that reason, made such an impression that it can never be forgotten. I decided to obey God and have been thankful ever since that an approving conscience in that case has given me courage to be in a great degree unmoved by the opinions of those who have abandoned the apostolic practice.

Brethren in the ministry, we must give an account to God for our stewardship and not to men. So what good reason can we give for not always contending for those doctrines and practices which have the mark of apostolic authority? Many a minister has allowed his churches to practice, and has practiced himself, things that he was persuaded in his own mind were wrong and could not be called apostolic. Yet he could not bring himself to bear the disapproval of men by turning to the right. It would have shamed him to confess it, and yet is was true that, in his actions, he cared more for the approval of men than for the approval of God.

One of the trials of my early ministry was the fact that the churches, having had the services of a worthy and able minister in doctrine, were-well-established. I did not feel that I could instruct them in this direction, for I realized they had the advantage of me in years, but I saw where, in practice, there were many things lacking. I soon found, however, that they did not like to hear these things, as their tastes had been educated rather to relish the sweets of the covenant of redemption than to enjoy hearing all things commanded them to do. I knew, however, the Savior’s instruction, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,.” {Mt 28:20}

A very humble and good brother said to me regarding my manner of preaching, “Brother Cash, you can see by the effect of your preaching what is best to preach. When you preach what the Savior did for sinners, the brethren all have their heads up and are full of rejoicing. But when you get to talking about what we ought to do, they sit with their heads down and the meeting is a cold one.”

I had weighed this brother’s argument many times, for I had observed the effects, as I have stated, and the inclination was strong to preach what was best received. What preacher does not have a strong inclination to preach to please his hearers, especially his brethren? But it is a dangerous and delusive influence and always leads away from the truth and the right. It was not a pleasant thing to tell David of his sin; but it was right to do it. When the Spirit testified by John to the churches, how nice it would have been if they might all have been commended. But when there is imperfection there should be reproof.

I said to the brother who was endeavoring to show me the better way, “My brother, do you believe I have preached anything God’s word does not teach?” “Oh no,” said he, “but I was only indicating to you what kind of preaching the brethren liked best and which seemed, to me, to do the most good.”

“But,” said I, “if I preach the truth and the brethren do not receive it gladly, who is to blame? Does it not rather indicate that there is something wrong with them and, if so, would not I be doing wrong to encourage them in their course by passing it by in silence, as though they were following Christ?”

I think it is a dangerous thing for a preacher to pass anything in silence, simply because brethren do not want to hear reproof. It does not please our ears to hear wherein we are wrong. But to this end the minister’s labors should be directed to supply the things that are lacking and set in order the things of the Lord’s house,. {Tit 1:5} But it is a common thing for ministers, when discussing church affairs, to admit that there are many things not as they should be. Yet, when they get up to preach, they utter no word of reproof or rebuke to the church, but direct their whole discourse to proving that the Arminian theory is false, which every Primitive Baptist present knew before a word was spoken. Now, if we are the Lord’s ministers, it is traitorous to the cause we represent to say to the church by our actions that it is immaterial whether the Lord’s commands are obeyed or not. We do not have to say, “Brethren, I, myself, would like to see you do this or that,” but we should say, “These are the things commanded by our Lord, and he has sent me to cry aloud and spare not,’. {Isa 58:1}

Why should a minister assume the responsibility of letting things go wrong about the house of the Lord when God has given a special charge that we should show Israel her sins? It seems evident to my mind that we spend too much of our time on Arminians as compared with the time given to putting the house of the Lord in order. If a shepherd should get so interested in keeping the wolves away from the flock as to forget to feed them and let them starve, he might be accounted a very valiant shepherd, but certainly not a wise one. To be prudent, he would provide plenty of food and administer promptly to the sick lest disease spread. If hunger and disease devastate the flock, what good will defense do? May it not be the case that lack of spiritual ministry, and that errors and sinful practices being unchecked, have been the cause of the dispersion of many of our flocks?

If a church is wrong in practice, the pastor is to blame for it, for it is his duty to lead the flock. I do not mean to say that the pastor is altogether to blame for the conduct of the members as individuals, but here have reference to the wrong practices of the church as a body. If the pastor does his duty, he will not only instruct the church in apostolic practices, but he will insist that these practices must be followed. Many ministers shrink from pressing such matters on a church, fearing they will seem to be assuming too much authority and lording it over God’s heritage. But a little reflection will make it plain that it is the business of the servant to do his Master’s will, and that, so long as he confines himself to the commandments of his Master, he assumes no responsibility whatever. But if he sees the will of his Master neglected and spurned and does not resent such action and cry out against it, he himself has, in fact, rebelled against his Master and is no longer entitled to claim that he is faithful to God, who called him. The last words of the Master to those who were to go forth to preach the gospel were, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,.” {Mt 28:20} Now no one should feel at liberty to teach that this means teaching them to “believe” all things, and then that believers may stop short of doing the things commanded, for “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,.” {Jas 2:17; Joh 14:15}

Jesus likens the man who hears his words, but does not do them, to a foolish man who builds his house on the sand; but he said, “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock,.” {Mt 7:24} “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven,. {Mt 7:21} These, and many other scriptures, put much stress upon actual obedience to the commandments of our Lord. Can any minister remain silent while the church is indifferent to the practical duties which the inspired Word lays upon the church and its members? Not only should he preach to the church practical godliness, but the congregations that attend the services should know what we believe regarding the requirements of churches and members. This would, in a great measure, be an answer to the criticisms of the world against our churches…

There are many members in the churches who hear so much more doctrine than exhortation that they do not at all take kindly to reproof and rebuke, though very careless of their walk and conversation and their obligations as members of the church of Christ. If they heard the word of God rightly divided they would get a greater proportion of the instruction in righteousness. The scriptures are profitable for doctrine. Certainly no minister can pretend to preach the gospel without preaching doctrine. Our churches would not tolerate such a preacher. The Arminians would endeavor to bring all professors together by refusing, as they say, to preach the doctrine, which divides people, and simply preach Christ. But Primitive Baptists know that Christ can not be preached without preaching the doctrines of the Bible, for doctrines are simply facts. One might hear an Arminian preach without being able to decide to which denomination he belonged. But no one who knew the doctrine of grace ever heard a Primitive Baptist without recognizing the glorious doctrine of salvation by grace, be it told ever so humbly.

None of our preachers would preach for a church which denied or would not receive the doctrines of predestination, election, etc. It is a safe principle to lay down that, if one is to do anything right and for a proper purpose, the doctrine of the Bible must be accepted. In this particular, our people stand apart from all the world. But because we give doctrine its proper importance, can we be excused from finding in the same scriptures which teach doctrine the reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness with which they abound? Surely not! The church must “suffer the word of exhortation,.” {Heb 13:22} In apostolic times there was need that they “exhort one another daily,” {Heb 3:13} and certainly there is no less need of exhortation now. Those who neglect to exhort to every good work and to faithfulness in the house of God cannot claim to declare the whole counsel of God, though what they preach may be the truth and they may be very bold in defense of the doctrine of grace.

I stood by the bedside of a loved and honored soldier of the cross in his last sickness and, when he was in view of the end of his life, he said to me, “What I have preached I believe to be the truth. If my life was to live over again I would preach the same doctrine-in it is only salvation for a sinner. But some things I have neglected. I have never told the churches their duty to the ministry, and this I regret.” He said he realized that, had he done this, it would have been easier for the younger men in the ministry. What he said caused me to consider my own course. How would I finish up my life? This dear old brother was dying in triumph, and during the greater part of his ministry had bourne all the burden of the work himself. His life had been one of self-sacrifice and he stood firm, a powerful advocate of his Master’s cause. It may be thought that he had a right to do this, and that all the more honor was his because of his self-sacrifice. But he did not feel so and said, like Paul, that it was wronging the church not to let it carry its own burden. Paul said, “Forgive me this wrong.” The wrong that he had been guilty of was not asking the Corinthians to minister to his necessities, for instead of doing so, he had taken help of others to do this church service. {2Co 12:13}

So, while I considered the matter, I concluded that it would be better to teach the members of the church of Christ to “observe all things.”

Not only should the duty of members to the ministry be taught, but the walk and conversation that becomes all who have named the name of Christ should be pointed out not once only, but constantly; and every transgression should be reproved and, if need be, sharply. Not always should this be done from the pulpit, for the pastor of the church should labor privately and personally with the members of his charge to forsake every evil way and to be found diligently inquiring the way and walking in it,. {Jer 6:16}

While the influence of a good minister in the pulpit is great, it can be greatly increased by personal contact with the members of the church. To wield the greatest influence, he must visit the members at their homes and learn their surroundings. In the hardships of their lives they should have his kindly affectation and be made to feel that they can confide any and all troubles to him and find sympathy. He should be worthy of such esteem from all the members of his churches as to be an intimate friend with whom there are no reservations regarding the affairs of the church, and with whom the fullest confidence is enjoyed. By such association his influence may reach its greatest usefulness in controlling and directing the lives of those under his charge. The tactful pastor will find many opportunities to condemn the wrong and point out the right and good use should be made of all of them. It is his business to raise the lives of the members of his pastorate above reproach by every method within his power. He must see that they are not only sound in the faith, but that their walk and conversation are such as become Christians; and in no way can he do this more effectively than by being with them in their homes and conversing with them on spiritual matters.

Then there are in the congregations of most churches persons who are born again, but who find it difficult to make a profession before men by going before the church. These should be encouraged, and perhaps no means has as much influence as to have the pastor of the church talk to them about this hope and duty to the Lord. Of course, all the members of the church should feel it a duty and a privilege to talk to inquiring persons, and the pastor should continually encourage them from the pulpit to do so; but he can most effectually lead them by giving them an example in earnestness regarding the welfare of those who are inquiring to know their duty.

The children of Baptist parents are no doubt often led astray and join Arminian organizations because the members of these organizations manifest interest in the children just at a time when they are troubled in mind and want someone to lead and instruct them or, at least, to manifest a kindly interest in their welfare, while the members of the church of Christ fail to do their duty, saying nothing to them on religious subjects, offering no sympathy or fellowship, and do not exhort them to go home to their friends…

The pastor of a church is expected to comfort, by his presence and words, the bereaved when death claims a victim in the families of his pastorate…

The pastor should visit the sick. When racked with pain and burned with fever, the sufferer yearns for sympathy and when it is received, it will long be remembered. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, etc,.” {Jas 1:27}

Never, under any circumstances, must the minister of the gospel engage in undue levity or let his conversation be otherwise than is becoming to his calling. He must shun vain babbling and filthy conversation. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers,”… {Eph 4:29}

He should encourage the practice of devotional exercises at the homes of the members, especially when he visits them…It will be to the advantage of the church for the pastor to preach at different points in the neighborhood of the church. By so doing, he will often find persons who receive the truth gladly and will be induced to attend the regular services at the church…

The pastor should make special effort to bring out the gifts that are in the church. Some have the gift of prayer, some have the gift of exhortation and others will be found who are able to strengthen the church if their gifts are put into exercise…

My dear Brother Pastor, let me implore you in the name of our dear Redeemer, who will accept the praise of the lowliest of the flock, do not bind the church with such a fetter as the unscriptural practice of doing everything yourself…1 shall never forget what an old deacon of my home church said once. He was willing to do his part as far as he could. When we met, he would read a chapter or have a chapter selected for someone else to read or suggest a hymn that expressed his sentiments, but he was not in the habit of offering public prayer or speaking before the church. He arose at one of our meetings, however, and said, “Before I die I want to tell those who are members of this church now my reasons for entertaining a hope.” Said he, “I have seen most of you come to the church and have heard you relate the dealings of the Lord with you, and in this respect have the advantage of you, as you have never heard me speak of my trials.” He then spoke of his life from boyhood up, and we who were young got great encouragement from his talk…Young members should be induced to talk before the church, and not be allowed to form the habit of remaining silent. Older members who have not been in the habit of speaking in public should take some part in the meeting…

The Lord’s work in the heart of a poor sinner is of more importance than anything in the world, and the pastor of a church should not get so intellectual as to let the Lord’s children forget his work, “his strange work,.” {Isa 28:21}

A pastor who has a family owes the same to them as any other husband and father…

A minister should never preach for a stipulated consideration, but for Christ’s sake. It is his business to preach whether men will withhold or whether they will contribute. Of course, he can not spare as much of his time from caring for his family if he is not helped, but he can preach all the time he can spare…

The system of fixing salaries for ministers is corrupting in its influence. Instead of trying to please Christ, men endeavor to get their salaries raised; instead of being devoted to their flocks, they are looking for a better-paying position…

When he obeys his Master and teaches the Word and men do not communicate, it is beneath the dignity of his calling to say that he will refuse to preach the glorious doctrine of grace because others fail to appreciate God’s mercy in administering spiritual comforts to them; but he may turn to others where his labors are better appreciated. HE SHOULD NOT LEAVE A CONGREGATION WITHOUT TELLING THEM THEIR DUTY. But when they have shown a covetous disposition in that they will not bear a fair share of the expense of pastoral work, though able to do so, then he will be justified in turning from them to preach elsewhere. It would be wrong for a pastor to take his time from his family and give it to a people so covetous that they would not minister to him of their carnal things,. {1Co 9:11} But a minister should not covet riches, nor should he attempt to gain them by neglecting the work to which God called him. He should be satisfied to live as his brethren live, and they should not ask him to bear greater hardships than they themselves have to bear.

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