Ministerial Behavior



Paul’s letter to Timothy, chapter 3, verses 14 and 15 contain these words: “Though I hope to come to you before long, I am writing to you in this way, in case I am detained, to let you see how people ought to behave within the household of God, the pillar and bulwark of the Truth” (Moffatt’s translation). From this part of Holy Writ we attempt this article on the above subject. We do so in the fear of the Lord with a feeling of our own unworthiness, not in the attitude that we know it all or that we feel that we are the perfect example but as a fellow minister and laborer in the great vineyard of the Master. As John said in his Revelation message, “I, John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” But if God will enable us to set forth some things that will be beneficial, we feel sure our time and effort will not be wasted. Surely there is a desire in the heart of every true minister
and saint to be more efficient and valuable in their respective fields of labor.

The ministry is one of the greatest of all vocations and callings. Every real minister is called of God. As Paul has said in his Galatian letter, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen.” Also Christ said to Paul, “For this purpose I have appeared unto thee, to make thee a minister and a witness.” God calls men into the ministry and wants them to reflect and portray the graces and attributes of the Lord Jesus Christ in their own lives and conduct.

The ministry is pictured in the Revelation as being in the right hand of the Lord. This right hand signifies power, strength, and safety. The only safe place, the only place of power for the ministry is to be found in a life that is hid in Christ. May God help us to stay close to him, for our sufficiency is of Him and in Him. Along with such a special calling and great calling comes special and terrible responsibility. Since the minister is in the forefront of the battle, since he is looked to as the leader and example in all ethics and
decorum, what should be his attitude toward certain things and what should be his behavior under certain circumstances? This subject would be inexhaustible. We will touch on some of the things which we feel are
more pertinent.

First of all, we will deal with industry and diligence. One of the besetting sins of this hour is slothfulness. Sloth may be defined as sluggishness of disposition, indolence, laziness, habitual inactivity or idleness, a state of mind tending to melancholy. The Greek meaning of the word implies a state of listlessness and
indifference to good. Some of the vices springing from this condition are negligence, tardiness, slackness, coldness, sluggish undevotion, and inactivity. Someone has said, “The busy man is troubled but with one devil, and the idle with a thousand” and, “Men are usually tempted of the devil but slothful men actually tempt the devil.” God’s ministers should be energetic. They should be systematic in their prayers and study.

The business of the ministry should be just as essential as natural business. If your church is self-supporting, there is no reason why that you should not enter at an appointed hour into your study. You
owe it to your people and your God. Dr. J. H. Jowett counseled ministers to be as systematic and as businesslike as other businessmen. Said he, “Enter your study at an appointed hour and let that hour be as early as the businessman goes to his work.” “I remember in my early days,” said he, “how I used to hear the factory workers passing my home on the way to the mills where work began at 6 o’clock. The sound of
their feet on the pavement fetched me out of bed and took me to my work. Shall the minister be behind them in his quest for the bread of life?” I ask this question, “Is our ministry being swept by a spirit of
laziness, overeating, and overindulgence?” May God help us to be an example even as Paul encouraged the Romans to “be not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” And again in Galatians where he said that it was good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.

Someone has said that empty-headed ministers often account for empty pews. G. Ray Jordan in his book, You Can Preach, says, “Some men do not want to take time to learn, since they declare that they cannot
afford to fiddle while Rome burns. Rome is certainly burning, but, then, we ourselves cannot afford to fiddle in the pulpit. The world is hungry, but unless we have bread there is no use of our going out to
feed them. The world is dying of thirst, but unless we have the water of life and know how to help them quench their thirst there is no use of our going out to them. The world is wounded, but unless we know how to engage in spiritual surgery and bind up wounds of the heart we may become the cause of moral infarction, altogether incapable of doing the work of a skillful physician.” May God help us preachers to take time to prepare. Study is not enough. One man said at the end of his ministry, “I have not failed to study, I have not failed to write and meditate, but I have failed to pray. Why? Sometimes I was too busy,
other times I did not like to.” Many ministers talk about prayer and even preach about it but do little of it themselves because of slothfulness.

When we get into the physical realm we also notice this laziness and slothfulness taking hold of the ministry. Parsonages and churches are in stages of dilapidation, weeds growing and lawns uncut. I’m not
saying that it is the full responsibility of the ministry to keep up the church property, but it will not hurt him to do his share in keeping it in a state of repair and presentable. Call a work week on district projects and just a handful will answer the call. Some of them that do arrive spend as much time talking and loafing as they do in useful employment. Brethren, let’s be an example in industry and diligence.

The minister should be an example in moderation. Paul said in Philippians 4:5, “Let your moderation be known to all men.” To be moderate means to be free from excess, to keep within reasonable limits, not extreme, excessive, or radical. Also, mild, calm, temperate, and gentle. In what things should a minister practice moderation? Let’s begin with finances. A preacher should not be a spendthrift. He should be conservative in the use of his finances. The Lord will demand an answer to the stewardship of our money. The Bible teaches that we should not be stingy. It teaches that we have a financial debt to God that we should pay. It also teaches thrift, I believe. Some people’s nose is constantly on the grindstone because
they use no wisdom in handling their finances. Some have had good incomes for years and then when an emergency arises they have not a single dollar available. It is very easy for us ministers to live in excess of our incomes. This will always bring us mental worries that impair our potential and usefulness. The minister, above all men, should endeavor to leave no debts behind to be a hindrance to the man of God who follows him. Some men have lost their usefulness in God’s work because of unpaid debts.

I feel that a minister should be conservative and wise in the handling and spending of church monies. No church likes to be kept in a constant financial strain. Thousands of dollars are wasted because someone leaves lights burning that are not needed, stoves and heaters going when they should be turned off. This may sound like foolishness to some, but remember that the Lord’s money, the church’s money, is being used to pay these bills.

We should use moderation in dress. The Bible speaks of modest apparel. Simplicity is preferred above conspicuousness. We are not forced to conform to current styles and trends. Apparel that distracts from true worship is detrimental. We are warned of costly array. Surely, true ministerial behavior forbids excessiveness in apparel.

Moderation also teaches forbearance, good temper, self-control. The minister must keep himself under control at all times if he is to be an effective teacher of others. He must practice kindness and gentleness and have, as Daniel, that excellent spirit. He must be no striker, backbiter, gossiper, or delight in talebearing.

Above all, excessive lightness and excessive joking, exaggerations, and extreme foolishness should never characterize a preacher in the pulpit. God said in Jeremiah 23:32 that He was against the prophets because of the lightness. I would be the last one to say that a certain amount of humor couldn’t be used in profitable way, but excessive displays of lightness and jesting lower the dignity that should grace the pulpit. Of all the people that should take the things of God seriously, the man of God should lead the way.

No article on ministerial behavior would be complete without touching upon the subject of ministerial courtesy and the ethics used in our relationship one with another and in our dealings with the churches. Paul said in I Thessalonians 4:11 that we should make a quiet life our ambition and mind our own business (Weymouth’s translation). Also Peter warned us in I Peter 4:15 that we can suffer as a busybody in other men’s affairs. There are certain written and unwritten precepts in the United Pentecostal Church that deal with these matters. When a pastor leaves a church, he is supposed to break off all relationship with this church as pastor. He should sever his contact with them, avoiding visitations, letter writing, and phone calls. He needs no longer to advise the people, but if they contact him he should refer them to their present pastor. Much harm has been done, many hardships worked on new pastors by the refusal of former pastors to quit interfering where they one time labored. Various and divers means are sometime used to influence saints from one church to another. God help us not to be proselyters. Many ministers by correspondence
probably collect money that belongs to another pastor.

Campaigns are sometimes waged with all the skulduggery of politicians to oust someone as pastor or from other official positions. Brethren, we all must meet God someday and give account of our motives and actions. Let’s treat each other right and try to practice the golden rule. Sometime we get the idea that by running some minister down we build up ourselves. This is far from right. Then we realize that jealously can creep in. The pastor becomes jealous of the evangelist. He is afraid he will steal the hearts of the people. One pastor becomes jealous of the other. A feeling can arise in our hearts when we hear one preacher praised for his preaching abilities and the work he has done. We listen attentively for our name to be called. Lord, lift us above such trifles into higher thinking and higher living

Sex, and it is almost a despicable word, is rearing its ugly head in the ranks of the church. Professor Sorokin of Harvard, an authority on human behavior, says that Americans are drifting toward sex anarchy.
“Americans,” he said, “are victims of a sex mania as malignant as cancer and as socially menacing as communism.” He continues, “We are completely surrounded by the rising tide of sex which is flooding every compartment of our culture, every section of our social life. Our morals have changed so notably that continency, chastity, and faithfulness are increasingly viewed as oddities of a prehistoric age.” It is a sad commentary, but one we must face; this horrible thing is reaching into the ranks of our ministry. We cannot be too careful in our contacts and relationships with the opposite sex. We need to keep ourselves from dangerous environments and circumstances. Put no confidence in the flesh. Avoid bodily contacts, keep our eyes and minds sanctified. Avoid excessive conversations that might lead to deeper feelings and developments that might prove dangerous. Keep ourselves pure, is the admonition of the Book.

Ministerial behavior involves both a minister and his family. A preacher’s family contributes much to his success or they can be a continuous drawback. Peter tells us that there is a way that families can live harmoniously that their prayers are unhindered. Quarrelsome, nagging, grumbling families will never contribute to the success of a minister. A minister’s wife, according to the instructions Paul gave to Titus in chapter 2:5, must be a keeper at home. Many translations render this domesticated, or devoted to housekeeping. I am a firm believer that this is part of a woman’s obligation to God, to be devoted to housekeeping. A home should be kept clean. Most people judge a woman, a family, a minister, by the way a house is kept. Cleanliness is next to godliness. I can’t accept the theory that you cannot serve God and keep a clean house. That is part of your duty to God, may I repeat, to be devoted to housekeeping. An able-bodied woman is without excuse. I recently entered the home of a lady who was 73 years of age. Everything was spic and span and it was a joy to sit down in the midst of cleanness and eat the meals prepared. It is unfair to the children in your home, especially if you have girls, not to teach them by word and example the blessedness of cleanliness and the virtues of domesticity. They will someday have a home of their own; what will be the results of your training? Of course, there can be over-fastidiousness, but it is seldom found.

A minister’s wife should not be worldly minded or worldly looking in her appearance. She should carefully observe the standards of holiness and follow the teachings of the Bible in having long or uncut hair. She can contribute much to the teaching of the women saints by her godly example. She should avoid becoming too thick with any of the church members while avoiding others. Never should she become a partner to a clique in the church, thereby causing confusion. Likewise should a minister’s children be properly trained to respect God, His house, people, and property. Never should they be allowed to be destructive, infringing on the rights of others. Uncontrolled children incur the displeasure of older people when really the parents are to be blamed. One of the requisites of the ministry is to be able to control the household.

Finally, may we heed the injunction of the apostle Paul as he says, “I put no obstacle in the path of any, so that my ministry may not be discredited; I prove myself at all points a true minister of God, by my great endurance, by suffering, by troubles, by calamities, by lashings, by imprisonments, mobbed, toiling, sleepless, starving; with innocence, insight, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, unaffected love, true words, the power of God; with the weapons of integrity for attack or for defense, amid honor and dishonor, amid evil report and good report, an impostor but honest, unknown but well known, dying but here I am alive, chastened but not killed, grieved but always glad, a pauper but the means of wealth to many, without a penny but possessed of everything. O Corinthians, I am keeping nothing back from you my heart is wide open for you” (I Corinthians 6:3-12, Moffatt’s translation).