Writing a Minister-elect
A question was given to me by one of the readers of the Standard Bearer who wishes to know whether it is proper for the consistory and members of a vacant congregation to write to a minister whom they have called.
There are various opinions about this. Some consistories do write the minister they called, some societies write him, and some individuals. But there are also consistories and members of the congregation who think it is very wrong to write the minister-elect. They reason that they must not try to influence the minister to accept their call, nor must they try to influence him in any way. The minister must be guided by the Holy Spirit to make a decision pleasing to God.
The main question is, what is the purpose in writing a letter to the pastor-elect? If the intent is to persuade him to come, to try to talk him into accepting the call because he is a man whom everybody likes, then certainly this is wrong. The congregation may be sorry in the future that they resorted to those tactics.
But there can also be a good motive and a sound purpose in writing the minister who is considering the call. This purpose must be to inform him of the needs of the congregation and the specific labors that will fall upon him if he accepts the call. This is especially true if the minister is rather far removed from the congregation and may not know the particular needs of that flock. In that case, particularly the consistory should write him, giving him an honest account of the needs of the flock.
We must bear in mind, that when a minister considers a call from another congregation he is actually confronted with two calls, the call of the church he is serving and the call from another church. He must decide whether the Lord wants him to stay where he is, which should always have the preference, or whether he is called of Christ to labor elsewhere. He knows the needs of the flock he is serving. But he may not know the specific needs of the calling church. He does not receive a voice from heaven telling him what he must do. He cannot judge by mere feeling, or by what appeals to him personally. He must objectively weigh the two calls in prayer before the face of God, asking, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?” The result may be, after prayerful consideration, that he feels that the needs of the church he is serving outweigh the needs of the calling church. Or he may even conclude that he does not have the necessary gifts and talents to take up the labors in the church that is calling him. It may also be that he comes to the conclusion that the Lord is telling him that his work is finished in his present field of labor and that the Lord wants to use him in the church that has called him. In either case, he has objectively weighed the facts, has answered the call, and has peace with himself that he has done the right thing.
I see no reason why individual members should not write the minister-elect, if only they bear in mind that they are not trying to influence the minister to act contrary to his convictions, but are sincerely informing him of their own personal needs in the church. But it is my humble opinion that a consistory should by all means write the pastor-elect to present to him in all sincerity the specific needs of the flock entrusted to their care. God will use also these means to guide a minister in what is always a difficult and painful decision to make.
Praying for Babylon’s City
A request came to me from one of our readers that I should make a few comments on the passage from Holy Scripture in Jeremiah 29:7, “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”
The question centers about the fact that the Jews in Babylon are told to seek the peace of whatever city in which they find themselves. They must also pray for the city. The question is therefore twofold: First, why would they be admonished to pray for a wicked city of a nation upon which the judgment of God rested? Secondly, what was to be the content of those prayers?
From the context it is evident that Jeremiah is instructed by God to write a letter to the captives in Babylon, who were brought there with Jeconiah, the king of Judah, and a number of his princes. This letter was written shortly after these captives had arrived in. the mace of their captivity, probably during the early part of the reign bf Zedekiah. The occasion for this letter was the deceptive lies of the false prophets who tried to assure the people that their stay in Babylon would be very brief. Soon they would return to their own country. Nothing could be more demoralizing than to wait year upon year for their return, which did not come. Jeremiah warns the captives that they should not listen to these false prophets, for their sojourn in Babylon would be for a long time, even for three generations, a period of seventy years.
Because of this long stay in Babylon they must settle down, build themselves houses and dwell in them, plant gardens and eat of their fruit (verse 5). They must not forget God’s covenant, but remember His promise, “I will be thy God and the God of thy seed after thee” for an everlasting covenant. Only because of this promise they would in due time return to Canaan; that the Christ might be born. In that confidence they must marry wives, beget sons and daughters, take wives for their sons and give their daughters to husbands from among their own people, that they may bear sons and daughters and may increase in the land of their captivity.
It is from that point of view that they must seek the peace of the city in which they sojourn, and must also pray for the city. They must not despair, as if the future held no ray of hope for them. They must not engage themselves in underground activities or in riots or any kind of disturbances, but they must live peaceably as strangers in a strange land, going about their affairs in a normal manner. They must also pray that God would be with the in the land of their banishment, supplying their every need both physically and spiritually. They must pray for rain and sunshine, for food and drink, for clothing and shelter, making all their needs known in prayer and supplication. But they must also pray that, even though they hung their harps on the willows and could not sing the songs of Zion in this strange land, they should receive grace to cling to God’s promises, continue to bring forth children and seek grace to train those children in the hope of God’s promise. Finally, their prayer should include that they might be faithful witnesses of their God, testifying of Him as the only true God, that God might use their witness in this strange land to His own good purpose, always praying with their faces toward Jerusalem in the hope of their deliverance. Excellent examples of this were Daniel and his three friends.
That this is the idea of the text is evident from the verse itself, “For in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”
This is also evident from other parts of the Scriptures. We likewise are called to be pilgrims and strangers in the enemy’s country, the evil world round about us. And we also are exhorted by God to make “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” I Timothy 2:1, 2.