Gospel Workers (1915 ed.)


Practical Suggestions

Formal Discourses—Some ministers, in the preparation of their discourses, arrange every detail with such exactness that they give the Lord no room to lead their minds. Every point is fixed, stereotyped, as it were, and they seem unable to depart from the plan marked out. This is a grave error, and if followed, will cause ministers to become narrow-minded, and will leave them as destitute of spiritual life and energy as were the hills of Gilboa of dew and rain. GW 165.1

When a minister feels that he cannot vary from a set discourse, the effect is little better than that produced by reading a sermon. Tame, formal discourses have in them very little of the vitalizing power of the Holy Spirit; and the habit of preaching such discourses will effectually destroy a minister's usefulness and ability. GW 165.2

God would have His workmen wholly dependent upon Him. They must listen to hear what saith the Lord, asking, What is Thy word for the people? Their hearts should be open, so that God may impress their minds, and then they will be able to give the people truth fresh from heaven. The Holy Spirit will give them ideas adapted to meet the needs of those present. GW 165.3


Reverence—I have heard some ministers talk of Christ's life and teachings in a commonplace manner, as if recounting incidents in the life of some great man of the world. Indeed, it is not unusual for ministers to speak of Christ as if He were a man like themselves. When I hear this sacred subject treated in such a manner, I feel a grief that I cannot express; for I know that although these men are teachers of truth, they have never had exalted views of Christ; they have never become acquainted with Him. They have not that elevation of thought which would give them a clear conception of the character of the world's Redeemer. GW 165.4

Those who have a correct view of the character and work of Christ, will not become self-sufficient or self-exalted. The weakness and inefficiency of their own efforts, in contrast with those of the Son of God, will keep them humble, distrustful of self, and will lead them to rely on Christ for strength to do their work. Habitually dwelling upon Christ and His all-sufficient merits, increases faith, quickens the power of spiritual discernment, strengthens the desire to be like Him, and brings an earnestness into prayer that makes it efficacious. GW 166.1

Irrelevant Anecdotes—Ministers should not make a practice of relating irrelevant anecdotes in connection with their sermons; for this detracts from the force of the truth presented. The relation of anecdotes or incidents that create a laugh or a light thought in the minds of the hearers is severely censurable. The truth should be clothed in chaste, dignified language; and the illustrations used should be of a like character. GW 166.2


How to Overcome Inattention—Often a minister is obliged to preach in a crowded, overheated room. The listeners become drowsy, their senses are benumbed, and it is almost impossible for them to grasp the truths presented. GW 166.3

If, instead of preaching to them, the speaker would try to teach them, speaking in a conversational tone and asking them questions, their minds would be aroused to activity, and they would be able more clearly to comprehend the words spoken. GW 167.1


Small Congregations—Do not become discouraged when there are only a few present to listen to a discourse. Even if you have but two or three hearers, who knows whether there may not be one with whom the Spirit of the Lord is striving? The Lord may give you a message for that one soul, and he, if converted, may be the means of reaching others. All unknown to you, the results of your labor may be multiplied a thousand-fold. GW 167.2

Do not look at the empty seats, and let your faith and courage sink; but think of what God is doing to bring His truth before the world. Remember that you are co-operating with divine agencies—agencies that never fail. Speak with as much earnestness, faith, and interest as if there were thousands present to listen to your voice. GW 167.3

A minister went to his church to preach one rainy morning, and found that he had only one man for an audience. But he would not disappoint his hearer, and he preached to him with earnestness and interest. As a result, the man was converted, and became a missionary, and through his efforts thousands heard the good news of salvation. GW 167.4


Short Sermons—Let the message for this time be presented, not in long, labored discourses, but in short talks, right to the point. Lengthy sermons tax the strength of the speaker and the patience of his hearers. If the speaker is one who feels the importance of his message, he will need to be especially careful lest he overtax his physical powers, and give the people more than they can remember. GW 167.5

Do not think, when you have gone over a subject once, that your hearers will retain in their minds all that you have presented. There is danger of passing too rapidly from point to point. Give short lessons, in plain, simple language, and let them be often repeated. Short sermons will be remembered far better than long ones. Our speakers should remember that the subjects they are presenting may be new to some of their hearers; therefore the principal points should be gone over again and again. GW 168.1


Directness—Many speakers waste their time and strength in long preliminaries and excuses. Some use nearly half an hour in making apologies; thus time is wasted, and when they reach their subject and try to fasten the points of truth in the minds of their hearers, the people are wearied out and cannot see their force. GW 168.2

Instead of apologizing because he is about to address the people, the minister should begin as if he knew that he was bearing a message from God. He should make the essential points of truth as distinct as mile-posts, so that the people cannot fail to see them. GW 168.3

Time is frequently lost in explaining points which are really unimportant, and which would be taken for granted without producing proofs. But the vital points should be made as plain and forcible as language and proof can make them. GW 168.4


Concentration—Some have cultivated the habit of too great concentrativeness. The power to fix the mind upon one subject to the exclusion of all others, is good to a limited degree, but those who put the whole strength of the mind into one line of thought are frequently deficient on other points. In conversation these become tedious, and weary the listener. Their writings lack a free, easy style. When they speak in public, the subject before them holds their attention, and they are led on and on, to go deeper and deeper into the matter. They seem to see knowledge and light as they become interested and absorbed, but there are few who can follow them. GW 169.1

There is danger that such men will plant the seed of truth so deep that the tender blade will never find the surface. Even the most essential, manifest truths, those which are of themselves clear and plain, may be so covered up with words as to be made cloudy and indistinct. GW 169.2


Simplicity—Argument is good in its place, but far more can be accomplished by simple explanations of the word of God. The lessons of Christ were illustrated so clearly that the most ignorant could readily comprehend them. Jesus did not use long and difficult words in His discourses; He used plain language, adapted to the minds of the common people. He went no farther into the subject He was expounding than they were able to follow Him. GW 169.3

Ministers should present the truth in a clear, simple manner. There are among their hearers many who need a plain explanation of the steps requisite in conversion. The great masses of the people are more ignorant on this point than is supposed. Among graduates from college, eloquent orators, able statesmen, men in high positions of trust, there are many who have given their powers to other matters, and have neglected the things of greatest importance. When such men form part of a congregation, the speaker often strains every power to preach an intellectual discourse, and fails to reveal Christ. He does not show that sin is the transgression of the law. He does not make plain the plan of salvation. That which would have touched the hearts of his hearers, would have been to point them to Christ dying to bring redemption within their reach. GW 170.1


Revivals—When the Lord works through human instrumentalities, when men are moved with power from on high, Satan leads his agents to cry, “Fanaticism!” and to warn people not to go to extremes. Let all be careful how they raise this cry; for though there is counterfeit coin, this does not lower the value of that which is genuine. Because there are spurious revivals and spurious conversions, it does not follow that all revivals are to be held in suspicion. Let us not show the contempt manifested by the Pharisees when they said, “This man receiveth sinners.” [Luke 15:2.] GW 170.2

There is enough in the life of Christ to teach us not to sneer at His work in the conversion of souls. The manifestation of God's renewing grace on sinful men causes angels to rejoice, but often this work has, through unbelief, been termed fanaticism, and the messenger through whom God has worked has been spoken of as having zeal that is not according to knowledge. GW 170.3


Sabbath Services—The one appointed to conduct Sabbath services should study how to interest his hearers in the truths of the Word. He should not always give so long a discourse that there will be no opportunity for those present to confess Christ. The sermon should frequently be short, so that the people may express their thanksgiving to God. Gratitude-offerings glorify the name of the Lord. In every assembly of the saints holy angels listen to the praise offered to Jehovah in testimony, song, and prayer. GW 171.1

The prayer and social meeting should be a season of special help and encouragement. All should feel it a privilege to take part. Let every one who bears the name of Christ have something to say in the social meeting. The testimonies should be short, and of a nature to help others. Nothing will so completely kill the spirit of devotion as for one person to take up twenty or thirty minutes in a long testimony. This means death to the spirituality of the meeting. GW 171.2