Ministerial Multifariousness

Here is another gem from the book by Theodore Graebner, Pastor as Student and Literary Worker:

“Another misconception frequently met with is that the up-to-date congregation ought to be very thoroughly organized and that, in consequence, the pastor must give much time to the cultivation of the various organized groups within the church. He must oscillate between the Altar Guild, and the Ladies’ Mite society, and the Men’s club, keep the Young Ladies’ Circle in fitting Pollyanna state of optimistic activity, attend the Missionary Society evenings, retain pleasant relations with the Alumni Club and with the Sunday-school teachers, with the ushers and elders and deacons, encourage and direct the budget committee, the finance committee, the junior finance committee, and the building committee, and, in addition, give time and attention to various inter-congregational committees and associations. Brother, if you imagine that a full pastorate, a busy, humming, successful ministry (or to use the language of certain synodical beaurocrats today, “bee-hives of activity”) is built up on such multifariousness,–disabuse your mind. Let me quote to you from Men and Books: “The best culture for success in the pastoral office is not consistent with the appropriation of any large proportion of time to the miscellanies of the church…I think I have seen more deplorable waste of ministerial force in needless dissipation of time upon executive miscellanies than in any other form which has come under my notice, which did not involve downright indolence. For one thing, you will soon discover, if you go into this kind of work to any great extent, that it costs a large amount of time for ten men to do the work of one. When did ever a committee of ten men on anything work fast? William Jay, the celebrated pastor at Bath, once said, that, if Noah’s ark had been intrusted to a committee for the building of it, it would still be on the stocks. It is inherently difficult to secure unanimity among an able committee, so that work can go on rapidly. Remember always that your most brisk and efficient work must be solitary work. One hour in your study is worth three in the committee room. You do this miscellaneous work, if at all, at this enormous cost of time.” “Preach; let other men govern. Preach; let other men organize. Preach; let other men raise funds, and look after denominational affairs…Make a straight path between your pulpit and your study, on which the grass shall never grow. Build your clerical influence up between those two abutments.” But to make your preaching the corner-stone of your pastorate requires reading, and more, it requires study. The productive ministry is a scholarly ministry” (pp. 16-17).


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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4 Responses to Ministerial Multifariousness

  1. FatherDMJ says:

    I’ve read this little book twice. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    Perhaps this is a tome that Emanuel Press could republish (hint)?

  2. Pastor Beisel says:

    I’ve had the volume for a while, and now am finding it very helpful. The only problem with reprinting it is that much of the content is outdated, particularly in regard to the suggestions for theological library, etc. What will probably happen eventually is that someone like Fr. Mayes will just write another book like that. 🙂

    But hey, I’ll run it by Chaplain Frese. There are many other gems in this book that I might post in the days to come.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Chaplain? In what branch does Rev. Frese serve? Just curious.

  4. Pastor Beisel says:

    Frese is in the army I think, stationed in Germany. He just completed chaplaincy training this last Spring.

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