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The Beauty of Every Day: Chapter 14 - The Lure of the Ministry

By J.R. Miller

      Every worthy human occupation has its glory. Not every man should be a lawyer, not every one a physician, a teacher, a journalist, a statesman, or a minister; some should be carpenters, some shoemakers, some stone masons, some painters--to each one his own work. Everyone who does his duty after the will of God, in whatever calling--is pleasing God. Every man should find zest and joy in his work, should think of it as noble and worthy, and should put his best life into it. In speaking of the attraction of the ministry, we must remember that in every calling, even the lowliest, there is room for beautiful life, for hallowed service, for great influence.

      In many quarters, there is an impression that the ministry is not an attractive calling. The number of young men who choose it for their life work is small, and seems to be growing smaller every year. Half a century ago, many Christian fathers and mothers hoped that one or more of their boys would become ministers. Many a mother gave her first-born son to God, with intense longing and much prayer that he might some day preach the gospel. Over his cradle she breathed this prayer continually. Perhaps the mothers do not now so much desire that their boys should become preachers. The attractions of the ministry do not win people's hearts as they did formerly. Indeed, there are many Christian parents who even seek to dissuade their sons from choosing this calling. It does not offer much in the way of money--other callings offer more. The commercial and financial world holds up its attractions and allurements.

      The other professions present opportunities for more brilliant careers. A lawyer may become a great jurist, a great statesman, or even may reach the presidency. The physician may attain high rank among men, may become celebrated all over the world for his skill in his profession. Over against all these attractions, the minister's life seems to suffer in winningness. The minister is not likely to become rich. It is said the average salary for ministers in this country, is from seven to eight hundred dollars a year. This means ofttimes plain and close living, even poverty. It means also, in many cases, obscurity, with little chance for fame. Then the ministry also has its hardships, its self-denial, and sacrifice.

      But in spite of these conditions, the ministry has its attractions which should draw resistlessly upon the hearts of worthy men. The minister is an ambassador of Christ. "We are ambassadors therefore," says Paul, "on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us." The minister brings to men--the good news of the love of God, and calls them to receive the gospel. Can there be any earthly honor so high, any calling so sacred as this?

      The minister himself is a representative of Christ, in the saving of the world. We know something of what Christ did for the community in which he lived, for the homes into which he was received, for the individuals into whose lives he came. What he was to the community, to privileged households, and to the people who enjoyed his personal friendship; that the minister of Christ is today to the households and to the men and women to whom he ministers.

      Ian Maclaren, in one of his lectures to theological students speaks thus of his own boyhood pastor: "People turned to him as by instinct in their joys and sorrows; men consulted him in the crises of life, and as they lay a-dying committed their wives and children to his care. He was a head to every widow, a father to the orphans, and the friend of all lowly, discouraged, struggling souls."

      This picture is not overdrawn, although perhaps not many pastors in the rush and hurry of these strenuous days get into such close and tender relations with their people. This, however, is the ideal relation, and in many parishes, both in city and country, ministers do indeed become all this and more to their flocks. Old and young love them. The people welcome them to their homes. In times of joy they come, and their presence is not a restraint to gladness--but an inspiration. In times of sorrow they come, and their presence, their sympathy, their love, and their prayers--bring Christ himself near, and even seem to bring heaven down into the sad home, with its blessings of joy. When the baby is born, when birthdays are marked, when the girl becomes engaged, when the wedding is celebrated, when the boy is graduated or takes an honor, when the silver and the golden anniversaries of the old people are observed, when sickness comes and all walk softly in the house, when death comes, and the funeral service is held--the pastor is there--the friend, the sharer of joy, the giver of loving greetings and congratulations, the sympathizer, the comforter. In his own lesser human way--just what Jesus was in the homes of the people in Galilee and Judea--the true minister is to his people in all the experiences of their lives.

      We are thinking of the attractions of the ministry, that it should draw young men into it, should lead them to choose it as a calling in which to find the deepest joy and the widest opportunities for service and helpfulness. Is it not something worth while, something worthy of the noble life, to come into such relations with people?

      Perhaps we do not appreciate the sacredness of this part of the minister's life and work. He is the confidential friend of thousands of people who come to him with their anxieties, their perplexities, their questions, their disappointments, their failures, their fears and doubts, their sorrows and their sins. His study is a confessional. Protestants do not require the confession of people in their churches, and yet there are times in the life of everyone of us--when we need to go voluntarily to a trusted pastor and tell him the burden that is on our hearts. To many people, this is one of the most sacred privileges of life. Ofttimes hope would die--if it were not possible to find someone to whom to speak, to find human sympathy and wise counsel in days when the burden is too heavy to be borne alone, or the way cannot be found without a guide. Even the strongest people need sometimes a friend who will stand by them, who will be gentle, patient, and forbearing with them when they have stumbled and sinned. Thousands go down when they have failed, because no love comes and no hand is reached up to help them to start again.

      Ofttimes people need advice. They do not know what to do or where to go. In such times a wise, sympathetic pastor may save a life from doubt, a soul from despair. People are inexperienced. They lack wisdom. They are dazed and confused by their circumstances, and need a friend who understands life better than they do. It is not material help they require--it is guidance, inspiration, direction, encouragement.

      Two people have fallen apart through some misunderstanding. A wise, gentle, and tactful pastor can bring them together and make their lives one again. A man has some trouble in his business, and his minister cheers him and makes him brave to overcome his discouragement and go on to success. One falls into a bad habit which is sapping his life and ruining his career. The minister comes, not with reproof--but with love and grief and strong help, and saves him. One fails and falls and is almost in despair, and the minister is like Christ to lift him up, to save him.

      These are mere glimpses of some phases of the personal work of the minister, the part of his work the world knows nothing about. He is priest as well as pastor. In one of Paul's epistles, where he is speaking of the strenuousness of his own work, he says this, "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches." If anyone is in trouble, he is troubled too. If any have sinned, he is grieved, almost to heart breaking. If any are suffering, he suffers too. "Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?"

      The minister's heart-burdens are his heaviest. People do not begin to know how their minister enters into their experiences, their sicknesses, their struggles, their sorrows, their temptations and falls, as well as their joys. When their home is shrouded in gloom, his heart is breaking.

      Is there nothing in this part of the minister's calling, to make it sacred and holy? There is higher honor in being such a friend to men and women, in entering into the inner experiences of their lives, and in standing as priest between them and God, than there can be in the most distinguished position the world can give to any man.

      The work of a minister is sacred also because of its essential motive. It is all a service of love. The lawyer does not need to love his clients. The physician may not love his patients. The teacher may teach without personal affection for his pupils. But the minister must love his people--or his work will avail nothing. Though he speaks with the tongues of men and angels, if he does not love, his eloquence is but sounding brass. Paul's epistles are full of love. You feel the heart-beat in every chapter. For example, "We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." There is no true ministry without love.

      The word minister means servant. He is his people's servant for Jesus' sake. The people of a true pastor do not begin to know how deeply and fully he lives for them, how devotedly he serves them, how tenderly he loves them. He never wearies of serving them. There is a story of John, the beloved disciple, which illustrates the minister's love for his people. A noble youth was once committed to him by his parents. John was obliged to go away on a long journey, and left his ward in the care of others. When he returned, he was told that the youth had fallen into evil ways and had joined a band of robbers and had become their leader. John was filled with grief and self-reproach. He hastened to the stronghold of the robbers' band, seized the young man by the hand, kissed it, and calling him by his familiar name, brought him back home again to his old faith. Thus does the true minister love souls and seek to save them.

      The minister is also a man of prayer, a man of mighty intercession. The ancient high priest carried the names of the twelve tribes on the twelve stones on his breastplate; the minister carries the names of his people in his heart. He prays for them, not as a congregation only--but as individuals, one by one. His church roll is the faithful pastor's rosary. He is the personal friend of every member of his flock. He is the lifter-up of those who faint or fall. He is an encourager, a strengthener. In all the world, there is no opportunity for such service of others, as the ministry affords.

      No true-hearted young man seeks for ease, for self-indulgence, whatever his calling. There is nothing noble in such a life. Worthy men want an opportunity to give their life for men, as their Master did. They want an opportunity to be the friend of others, to do them good, to lead them upward. This is the highest life possible. They will find scope for such life--in the Christian ministry.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - While We May
   Chapter 2 - The Glory of the Common Life
   Chapter 3 - Seeds of Light
   Chapter 4 - He Calls Us Friends
   Chapter 5 - Not Counting God
   Chapter 6 - Perfection in Loving
   Chapter 7 - Shut Your Door
   Chapter 8 - Things That Hurt Life
   Chapter 9 - Getting Away from Our Past
   Chapter 10 - Thomas' Mistake
   Chapter 11 - Friends and Friendship
   Chapter 12 - The Yoke and the School
   Chapter 13 - The Weak Brother
   Chapter 14 - The Lure of the Ministry
   Chapter 15 - Narrow Lives
   Chapter 16 - The True Enlarging of Life
   Chapter 17 - Through the Year with God
   Chapter 18 - The Remembers
   Chapter 19 - Caring for the Broken Things


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