Every man who stands in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday has his moments, and sometimes his seasons, when he wonders whether all his efforts are futile. His congregation grows slowly if at all; his sermon-critics judge the Word but remain mere sermon-tasters, not judging themselves by the Word. His preaching seems to change nothing; the saints seem hardly to grow in saintliness, and all things seem to remain as they were. Discouraged he doubts his own effectiveness. At worst, he may even doubt whether his Gospel really says anything relevant to a social, political, economic, and cultural order caught up in convulsive upheavals and revolutionary changes. Looking back over the year, he finds little in his congregation that reflects any real difference, and he wonders half consciously, half instinctively, whether he can bear to go on for another year.
It is not difficult to understand why futility and debilitating discouragement soon overtake the man of the pulpit who offers his hearers only his own best insights and suggestions for the agonizing human problems of our times. Has such a pulpiteer any right to expect an effective ministry and to enjoy the sense of accomplishment? In his heart of hearts he knows that he has no ultimate answer, that the next man’s suggestions are as good as his. How can he expect to fill church pews and human souls if the main diet he offers is a review of best sellers, something his members can get—and get better—from newspapers and local literary clubs? If the only light he raises to cheer man’s way is an analysis of the latest political crisis in Istanbul, by what right does he expect any radical change in men’s lives and hopes? Lippmann, Cronkite, and Krock do this more expertly, and even they ...1
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