The cause of God needs efficient men; it needs men who are trained to do service as teachers and preachers. Men have labored with a measure of success who have had little training in school or college; but these might have attained a greater measure of success, and might have been more efficient laborers, if at the very start they had acquired mental discipline.
To Timothy, a youthful minister, the apostle Paul wrote, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." The work of winning souls to Christ demands careful preparation. Men cannot enter the Lord's service without the needed training, and expect the highest success. Mechanics, lawyers, merchants, men of all trades and professions, are educated for the line of business they hope to enter. It is their policy to make themselves as efficient as possible. Go to the milliner or the dressmaker, and she will tell you how long she toiled before she had a thorough knowledge of her business. The architect will tell you how long it took him to understand how to plan a tasteful, commodious building. And so it is in all the callings that men follow.
Should the servants of Christ show less diligence in preparing for a work infinitely more important? Should they be ignorant of the ways and means to be employed in winning souls? It requires a knowledge of human nature, close study, careful thought, and earnest prayer, to know how to approach men and women on the great subjects that concern their eternal welfare.
Not a few of those called to be co-laborers with the Master have failed to learn their trade. They have dishonored their Redeemer by entering His work without the needed preparation. There are some who, becoming wearied by the superficial gloss that the world calls refinement, have gone to the other extreme, and one fully as harmful. They refuse to receive the polish and refinement that Christ desires His children to possess. The minister should remember that he is an educator, and that if in manner and speech he is coarse and unrefined, those who have less knowledge and experience will follow in his steps.
Never should a young minister rest satisfied with a superficial knowledge of the truth, for he knows not where he may be required to bear witness for God. Many will have to stand before kings and before the learned of the earth, to answer for their faith. Those who have only a superficial understanding of the truth have failed to become workmen that need not be ashamed. They will be confused, and will not be able clearly to expound the Scriptures.
It is a lamentable fact that the advancement of the cause is hindered by the dearth of educated laborers. Many are wanting in moral and intellectual qualifications. They do not tax the mind, they do not dig for the hidden treasure. Because they only skim the surface, they gain only that knowledge which is to be found upon the surface.
Do men think that they will be able, under pressure of circumstances, to step into an important position, when they have neglected to train and discipline themselves for the work? Do they imagine that they can be polished instruments in the hands of God for the salvation of souls, if they have not used the opportunities placed at their command for obtaining a fitness for the work? The cause of God calls for all-round men, who can devise, plan, build up, and organize. And those who appreciate the probabilities and possibilities of the work for this time, will seek by earnest study to obtain all the knowledge they can from the Word, to use in ministering to needy, sin-sick souls.
A minister should never think that he has learned enough, and may now relax his efforts. His education should continue throughout his lifetime; every day he should be learning, and putting to use the knowledge gained.
Let those who are in training for the ministry never forget that the preparation of the heart is of all the most important. No amount of mental culture or theological training can take the place of this. The bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness must shine into the heart of the worker and purify his life, before light from the throne of God can shine through him to those in darkness.
During the night many scenes passed before me, and many points in reference to the work that we are to do for our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, were made plain and clear. Words were spoken by One of authority, and I will try to repeat in finite words the instruction given regarding the work to be done. The heavenly Messenger said:
The ministry is becoming enfeebled because men are assuming the responsibility of preaching without gaining the needed preparation for this work. Many have made a mistake in receiving credentials. They will have to take up work to which they are better adapted than the preaching of the word. They are being paid from the tithe, but their efforts are feeble, and they should not continue to be paid from this fund. In many ways the ministry is losing its sacred character.
Those who are called to the ministry of the word are to be true, self-sacrificing laborers. God calls for men who realize that they must put forth earnest effort, men who bring thought, zeal, prudence, capability, and the attributes of Christ's character into their labors. The saving of souls is a vast work, which calls for the employment of every talent, every gift of grace. Those engaged in it should constantly increase in efficiency. They should have an earnest desire to strengthen their powers, knowing that they will be weak without a constantly increasing supply of grace. They should seek to attain larger and still larger results in their work. When this is the experience of our workers, fruit will be seen. Many souls will be won to the truth.
"Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God's ideal for His children. Godliness Godlikeness is the goal to be reached. Before the student here is opened a path of continual progress. He has an object to achieve, a standard to attain, that includes everything good, and pure, and noble. He will advance as fast and as far as possible in every branch of true knowledge" (Education, page 18).
Ellen G. White was one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. A prolific writer, she produced more than 100,000pages by the time she died in 1915. Her work continues as a prophetic voice within the Adventist church. This article was taken from Gospel Workers, pp. 92-95.