229) Pastors and Their Congregations

From The Clergy of America: Anecdotes, 1869, J. B. Lippincott Publishers, Philadelphia

     Dr. Mather Byles, of Boston, in a period of great political excitement, was asked why he did not preach politics.  He replied, “In the first place, I do not understand politics.  In the second place, you all do, every one of you.  In the third place, you have politics all week; pray, let one day in seven be devoted to religion.  In the fourth place, I am engaged in a work of infinitely greater importance.  Give me any subject to preach on that is of more consequence than the truths I bring to you, and I will preach on it next Sunday.”  (p. 207)

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     The wisdom of Dr. John Rogers of New York was evident in his way of opposing error, and in his dislike of persecution.  When he was once strongly urged by some of the officers of his church to preach against the errors of a particular sect, and to warn his people against them by name, he firmly refused, saying, “Brethren, you must excuse me; I cannot reconcile it with my sense either of policy or duty to oppose these people from the pulpit, other than by preaching the truth plainly and faithfully.  I believe them to be in error; but let us out-preach, out-pray, and out-live them, and we need not fear.”  (p. 203)

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     Rev. Solomon Allen, a most excellent minister, labored in the beginning of this century in the western part of the state of New York.  He did not commence his ministry till he was fifty years of age.  His zeal was irrepressible, and his unselfishness exceedingly striking.  He endured great hardships, making every possible sacrifice in the pursuit of his great object.  And such was the happy effect, that many felt as did one avowed enemy of the Gospel who had to admit, “This is a thing I cannot understand.  This old gentleman, who could be as rich as he pleases, comes here and does all these things for nothing.  There must be something in his religion.”  (p. 200)

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     A young minister was settled in a large and popular congregation, under very flattering circumstances.  The church and people had settled him in the belief that he was a young man of more than ordinary talents, and with the expectation of his becoming a distinguished man.  After a year of two, when the novelty of the thing had worn off, the current seemed to change, and the feeling prevailed that Rev. B. was not, nor likely to be, quite what they had expected.  He did not grown as they thought he would, nor did he perform the amount of labor which was needed to build up the church and interest the congregation.  Things dragged heavily.  The young man felt the influence of the chill atmosphere which thus surrounded him.  His spirits sunk, his health failed, and it was soon whispered around that Rev. B. would probably have to leave– he was not the man for the place.  He was not the man of talents they had anticipated.
While things were in this state, at a meeting of the church when the pastor was absent, (perhaps one called to see what should be done), Mr. O., an intelligent and influential member, arose and said:  “Brethren, I think we have been in the fault respecting our minister.  I think that he is a young man of superior talents, and will one day be a distinguished man.  But we have not sustained him and encouraged him as we should.  We have been standing and looking on, expecting him to raise both himself and us to eminence.  Now, let us adopt a different course.  Let us encourage our minister with our prayers, our sympathies, and our efforts, and let us speak of him with esteem and confidence to others.”
The thing was agreed upon.  The leading men set the example, and very soon everyone was speaking in favor of Rev. B. His people visited with him, and sympathized with him; and soon people out of the society began to remark how Rev. B. was rising in the estimation of his people.  
     The young man felt the change.  The cold, damp chill with which he was surrounded, and which was benumbing the energies of his soul, was changed by the influence of such kindly beams, and a warm atmosphere came over him.  His spirits rose, his health returned, his energies awoke, and he showed to all that he had within him the elements of a man.  Several revivals attended his labors, and he was firmly established in the affections of the people.  (p. 459-460)

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I Timothy 1:12  —  I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 

II Timothy 4:1-4  —  In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:  Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage– with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

II Timothy 4:5  —  But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

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Martin Luther’s prayer for God’s help in his ministry:
O Lord, you see you unworthy I am to fill so great and important an office.  Were it not for your counsel, I would have utterly failed in it long ago.  Therefore, I call upon you for guidance.  Gladly indeed will I give my heart and my voice to this service.  I want to teach the people.  I myself want constantly to seek and study your Word, and eagerly meditate upon it.  Use me as your instrument.  Only, dear Lord, do not forsake me; for if I am left alone, I will most certainly ruin everything.  Amen.