By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
A MINISTER WHO HAS MISSED HIS CALLING
By William T. McArthur
Ministers who have mistaken their calling may be divided into three classes. First, the unregenerate; second, the disqualified; third, the unqualified.
By the unregenerate we simply mean those who have never experienced saving grace or the new birth; their name is legion. They have entered the ministry from various motives; some of them, like the priests of Jeroboam, simply as a profession or a means of livelihood. Some are natural educators and would shine as college professors; others are natural actors and would shine on the stage, while others are natural reformers and would shine in politics; all are naturally religious. Some have high ideals of righteousness; greed and selfishness as well as the baser manifestations of the natural life are abhorrent to them. They vary in their tastes as regards church service; some are esthetic -- the stained glass window, the solemn sound of the pipe organ, and the peal of the chimes, all find response in their religious nature. If they are in the non-conformist ministry they will persist in introducing ritualism into the churches which they serve. They will plead for gowns, surplices, chants, responsive readings and everything that goes with natural religion. Others of them will go to the opposite extreme and introduce the picture show and the vaudeville. To say that these men have chosen the ministry for the lake of money and an easy living is unfair, for. men of their ability and education could, except in rare instances, command more money and an easier living in some other walk of life. Their trouble is simply that they have never been saved. They are natural men pursuing the natural bent of their natural minds. We do not say that there are no mercenaries among them, for they are to be found everywhere. The love of money is a temptation to which all men are liable. It requires courage for any minister to preach the whole truth fearlessly when his bread and butter are at stake. We have known even good men to put on the soft pedal and sing small, lest some good supporter should be offended. It is from this first class that our modern destructive critics usually come; they have not the Holy Spirit to guide them, and left to their own earthly, sensual" wisdom, they naturally fall an easy prey to the doctrines of the New Thought and kindred heresies.
The second class, the disqualified men who were divinely called and anointed, received their message from God and delivered it, but who are now no longer in the ministry, usually betake themselves to the insurance business; occasionally they are found selling sewing machines or musical instruments. Recently while on the Pacific Coast, the writer was credibly informed that there were over two thousand such men in the city of Los Angeles alone. Their trouble is simply that they have preached one thing and practiced another, and the more exalted their testimony the more terrible has been their fall.
God is determined that every man shall practice what he preaches or cease to preach. It may be some have fallen into actual sin and have never fully confessed it, while others have simply failed to walk in their God-given light. It may be that some, grown weary of a precarious existence, have, like Demas, turned aside to secular pursuits. It is pathetic to see these clerical derelicts floating aimlessly on life's sea endangering and impeding the progress of others, while the church is so sadly in need of workers. If they could only humble themselves and confess their sin or unfaithfulness they would find forgiveness and restoration and their ministry would be more effective than ever before; but we can scarcely recall a single instance of their being restored. If they had been in some episcopal connection where the people were obliged to support them notwithstanding their inefficiency, they might have continued in their office indefinitely. If they were treated by the Christian Church as backsliders instead of ex-ministers, there would be more hope for them.
The third class are those honest, consecrated souls, who are willing to serve and to suffer for Jesus Christ, and yet are not possessed of the necessary qualifications to fit them for effective public ministry. They engage in the work of the Lord because they have a desire for the salvation of the lost and find satisfaction in religions work, but they have no message; they weary their congregations and do not remain long in one field. Like the people Paul deals with, in 2 Cor. 3:1, they are rich in letters of commendation. These letters are doubtless given by congregations or pastors who are eager to get rid of them. They seem to feel that the Church of God owes them a living; and they make themselves amazingly at home wherever they may be entertained. They are always ready to preach and enjoy their own effort immensely. They usually prey upon holiness people and have extreme views of Truth. They have perfect confidence in themselves and cannot understand why they are not favorably received. They bring upon themselves and their families untold suffering as well as upon those to whom they attempt to minister. The writer, after twenty years of experience, has been led to adopt certain rules; one is that of pushing forward the backward and of holding back the forward. Another is never to employ a preacher who is "out of a job." God's man is always busy.
Sometimes the supposed call to the ministry is nothing more or less than conviction of sin. This may seem strange, but the writer recalls an instance of this kind. A good brother who felt strongly led to enter the ministry, after having had a successful business career, entered a Bible school and was graduated. Just before his graduation, however, he attended a service where he heard, for the first time in his life, teaching upon the subject of restitution. He immediately became exercised regarding a difficulty that had arisen some years previous between himself and a neighbor. After considerable thought and prayer he yielded to the conviction, and made restitution, with the result that his desire to preach was gone, while joy and peace filled his soul. He was now ready to return to his former vocation.
When Moses was eager he was unfit; when after forty years of disappointment and discipline he had become fit, his eagerness had given place to diffidence. "No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron" (Heb. 5:4)