To even the casual observer who is in a position to note the character, efficiency, and results of the ministry as a whole, it is clear that there are many of our ministers who are not developing that degree of efficiency and success which is within the possibility of their powers to enjoy. It is quite apparent that many do not get down to that earnest, close, hard, and continuous study winch would enable them to keep in the vanguard of those who are counted the most successful.
To those who have been so fortunate as to complete a course of training in one of our colleges, graduation day is truly the "commencement" day. Such training affords a wonderful advantage. It is, however, but preliminary to that larger, fuller, and ever-expanding education and training which must be hewn out of the rock of experience in service. The young man who has completed a college course is just ready to begin to apply what he has learned, and to prove his ability to use that training successfully. He has laid the foundation. He must now build upon that foundation the superstructure of a life of service.
There will be many, many lessons to learn, of which he has not had even a hint while in school. Many of the conceptions and ideas and theories gathered in the course of training, must be molded and shaped through the process of a developing experience in ministry. It is very apparent, therefore, that no man can wisely lay aside the tools used during the days of his training, with the idea that he has now reached the place where his mind is so filled with knowledge that he need not make further search for gems of inspirational and instructional thought, and the larger education that comes through careful and systematic reading of good books.
"Books are the masters who instruct us without whip or rod, without harsh words or anger, asking naught in return. If you seek them, they are not asleep; if you ask counsel of them, they do not refuse it; if you go astray, they do not chide; if you betray ignorance to them, they do not know how to laugh in scorn. Truly, of all our masters, books alone which inspire to noble deeds are among the best."
No man can keep abreast of the times who is not a careful and continuous reader. To fill the mind with rich thoughts, gleaned from books produced by men of successful experience, is a stimulus and inspiration, and leads to a fuller, brighter, deeper understanding.
Regarding the development of the powers of mind and heart, we read as follows: "The merchant, the carpenter, the farmer, and the lawyer, all have to learn their trade or profession. At first, for want of knowledge, they do imperfect work; but as they continue patiently at their vocations, they become masters of their several callings. Without close application of mind and heart, and all the powers of the being, the minister will prove a failure."—"Testimonies," Vol. V, p. 528.
There are many of our workers who are long years away from their training in one of our schools, and there are others who have never had the privilege of such training. The reading of carefully selected books, in a thorough, systematic way, brings to such workers wonderful blessing and help. Continuously followed, such reading will serve as an effective postgraduate course.
I have in mind two young men. One has finished the ministerial course in one of our senior colleges; the other has finished the full college course. The first young man is very studious. He is a great reader. While about the house, caring for the baby, or waiting a few minutes for dinner to be served, he has a book in hand. He improves every moment. When he comes to the dinner table, he tells in an interesting and enthusiastic manner of some of the interesting things he has been reading, and thus his wife is privileged to share to some extent in the benefits of his study. This young man is an aggressive worker, and an earnest, vital, forceful speaker.
The other young man, to whom I referred as being a college graduate, is a person of very high principles and of splendid ability. He has a clear mind and pleasing address. Just a short time ago, while talking with a minister who had come in contact with this young man at the camp meeting, I inquired about him especially, as to how he was getting along, and what kind of preacher he was developing into. The reply to my inquiry was this: "I heard him speak. He gave a pleasant little talk, but all the time I was impressed with the thought, Young man, you are skimming the surface; you have not dug down very deep; you are not telling this congregation very much. And I wondered just how much real help and blessing came to the congregation through his message." That was the impression which this young man's sermon made upon the hearer.
Brethren, we cannot afford to be surface skimmers. We must dig deep into the mines of truth. We must search for gems which will attract, inspire, and firmly hold for God and victorious life, those who listen to our sermons. If we would be successful, efficient ministers for God, we must set the plowshare deep, and turn up the subsoil in all our study and reading. I believe that every minister should seize the opportunity to secure the books offered in the Ministerial Reading Course, as well as to Supplement them with other carefully selected volumes.
Ministry Magazine, December, 1930