When Clyde R. Hoey was governor of North Carolina, he visited the western part of his state and met a country pastor. The usual question about how many members there were in the church brought the response “Fifty.”

When the Governor asked, “How many of them are active?” he got the same answer. “My,” he remarked, “you must be an unusual preacher to have a 100 per cent active membership.”

“Well,” the parson admitted, “Twenty-five are active for me and twenty-five are active against me.”

This wry story illustrates the precarious role played by the preacher-pastor. Keeping the flock intact is never an easy task. A true shepherd must have a heart that is compassionate, concerned, and even broken over the needs of his people; but he must be willing to suffer their scorn when he attempts to lead them out of the comfortable rut into which they have settled.

A pastor must first be willing to expend any amount of love and time to rescue the lost. The story is told of how the Italian General Garibaldi one evening met a Sardinian shepherd grieving over the loss of a lamb. The big-souled Garibaldi at once turned to his staff and organized a great search party. Lanterns were lit and the elite of the army went off through the mountain ravines. But no lamb was found, and finally the order was given for the men to retire.

The next morning after the sun had risen, Garibaldi’s servant found him fast asleep. Upon being awakened, the old general took from under the covers the lost lamb. He had searched through the night until he had found the little creature. The heart of a true pastor will drive him to do the same thing. He will preach Jesus who came to seek and to save the lost. And he will seek the lost with love.

But there is another side to the ministry. Besides trying to rescue and comfort the lost, the pastor must also protest and disturb.

The word “preach” comes from a Latin word that means “to make publicly known.” Something needs to be said in defense of righteousness; it burns into the heart of a godly man, and he proclaims the divine message to men around him.

Christian preaching is the proclamation of God’s Word. The Word will not always be preached in the same way. Men differ greatly, and each minister will have his own preaching characteristics. But all who love God will preach the same Bible and the same truth.

Spirit-filled preachers are one of God’s channels for conveying divine truth. Sometimes this truth makes people uncomfortable. This is good. The revealed truth of God’s Word should disturb men’s hearts.

That the preached word is often disturbing caused Billy Sunday to say to someone, “Cheer up, you are not in church.” And J. Edgar Park says that a congregation might be relieved if the man in the pulpit said, “Cheer up, I am not going to preach.” But when all is said and done, God uses the foolishness of preaching “to save them that believe.”

By shying away from the rugged preached word, the finest ministers have faltered in their greatest responsibility. So much needs to be done, and so many have no concern. Some good laymen seem amused when the preacher becomes disturbed about spiritual conditions, for they have decided to stop being concerned and have given way to pessimism.

The story is told about Nathan Bangs, who, as a young minister, became discouraged by difficulties and lack of success. He was about to give up when he dreamed he was working on a rock with a pickax. Blow after blow had no effect. He threw down his pick, and cried, “Useless!”

A stranger came to him and said, “You will work no more?”

“No more.”

“Were you not determined to finish the task?”


“Why stop it?”

“I make no impression on the rock.”

“What is that to you? Your duty is to use the pick.

Your work is in your own hands; the result is not!”

In the dream Nathan Bangs resumed his task. At the first blow the rock fell into pieces.

In this careless day in which we live, the inclination is to stop crying out against sin, to open the gate and let the marauders—the world, the flesh, the devil—ride wildly into the fields of spiritual grain. It cannot be this way. Let us be on the alert for the trampling, devastating forces of sin.

Walter E. Isenhour tells of an English farmer at work in his fields: “He saw a party of horsemen riding about his farm. He had one field that he was especially anxious they should not ride over. So he sent one of his boys to the field, telling him to shut the gate, and then watch it, and on no account to let it be opened.

“The boy went as he was told, but was scarcely at his post before the huntsmen came up and ordered the gate to be opened. This the boy refused to do, stating the orders he had received and his determination not to disobey them. Threats and bribes were offered, alike in vain.

“After a while one of the huntsmen said in commanding tones, ‘My boy, you do not know me. I am the Duke of Wellington, and I command you to open that gate that I and my friends may pass through.’

“The boy lifted his cap and stood uncovered before the man whom all England delighted to honor, and then answered firmly, ‘I am sure the Duke of Wellington would not wish me to disobey orders. I must keep that gate shut, and not allow anyone to pass but by my master’s permission.’

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“Greatly pleased, the old warrior lifted his own hat, and said: ‘I honor the boy or man who can be neither bribed nor frightened into doing wrong.’ Handing the boy a sovereign, the old Duke put spurs to his horse and galloped away.”

All of us are gatekeepers. Let us do our work firmly, kindly, nobly, but well. Don’t be afraid to preach, pastor. The soul that needs to be warned may be your own. By the foolishness of preaching we keep our own hearts pure and bring cleansing to the Church and to society.

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