20 June, 2024

Plainspoken Advice from a Veteran Minister, Circa 1900

by | 16 January, 2020 | 0 comments

We focus today on two short articles by J. M. Land, a man who preached several decades on either side of the Ohio-Indiana line, up until his death in 1905.

Land usually shared obituaries or news items during the time he wrote for Christian Standard, spanning from 1873 to 1901, but he also wrote more than a dozen mainly shorter articles like the two we share today.

The first piece by Land offers observations on how older ministers and younger ministers should relate with one another, and the second shares advice for how an incoming minister can resolve an inherited conflict.

(Separating the two articles is some information about Land, gleaned from his obituary.)

Land’s articles are not scholarly treatises; rather, they are plainspoken advice pieces based on experience and his desire to serve God well.

_ _ _

Old Preachers and Young Preachers

By J. M. Land
February 3, 1900; p. 7

There has been much said about old ministers being retired, because they are of little worth now to the cause of Christ; and it is said young men can do the work better. The old preachers do not entirely agree that this is true. I have been thinking I would tell where part, at least, of the trouble lies.

Now, I do not claim to be an old preacher, for I passed my sixty-fifth milestone only last September. I have only been a member of the church fifty-two years and a preacher thirty-five years. So, that tells the story, and convinces all that I am not as old as some men. I have not failed to preach every Lord’s Day for over twenty-nine years, except two Lord’s Days when I was sick and could not go. I have had no trouble to have all my time employed. I have no reason to complain of the salary, nor to find fault with my treatment by my preaching brothers.

I run across, once in awhile, a young brother who thinks old ministers are out of date and do not know half as much as he; but I think he will learn better after awhile, and come out all right; and I go on with my work, and pray that he may do great good. Now, I think that the fault is largely with us older men. We get to complaining, grumbling and criticizing younger men; and people soon get tired of that.

Some quit studying, thinking they know enough. I heard a preacher say he was good for ten years yet, and did not have to study any more. Now he has no place to preach. Do you wonder at it? We must study and prepare new subjects, or quit preaching. We can’t help becoming grey; time will furrow our cheeks, and dim the eye and make the step less elastic; but we can keep young inwardly. We must keep in sympathy with the young, or they will get out of sympathy with us; besides, it helps us to mingle with the young, and keeps us sweet.

Then, again, upon the young depends the future of the church. When we are about to severely rebuke the young or criticize their conduct, let us stop long enough to think how we did when we were younger than we now are, and we will be more gentle and guarded in our words. If old people want to be respected, let old age act respectably.

There are duties on both sides. Now, we old ministers should keep sweet, and go right along with the work of the Lord, spending no time in faultfinding; mingle with the young; keep abreast of the times; help the young preachers, be an example to them; and if they can do better work than we can, bid them Godspeed. David, only a lad, did what Saul refused to do, and slew the giant. We need the young preachers, and they need us. Let us quit faultfinding, and make haste to do the Lord’s will. “The King’s business requireth haste.”

_ _ _

An obituary for James M. Land on page 35 of the July 22, 1905, Christian Standard (written by L. A. Winn of Centerville, Ind.) shares some information about his history, personality, and ministry.

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J. M. Land

J. M. Land was born in Jefferson County, Ind., Sept. 8, 1834; died May 26, 1905. He was brought up to manhood on a farm near Madison, Ind. Was converted to a disciple of Jesus Christ at fourteen years. He was baptized into Christ in the same stream with his eight brothers and five sisters.  Several strong preachers were sent out by old Liberty Church. . . . That the “tree is known by its fruits” is well demonstrated to any one visiting the churches where he served, in western Ohio and eastern Indiana, and to meet the elders and deacons, and many other able disciples of Christ whose love and zeal are richly blessing the Church of Christ to-day. . . . Any young minister of the gospel was to be considered fortunate by coming into communion and daily association with J. M. Land. . . . Like all the Lord’s faithful servants, Bro. Land’s life on earth was one of much travail of soul and body. As the writer sat by his invalid chair, and passed to his worn-out trembling hands the emblem of the body and blood of the blessed Lord, with tears of wondrous joy streaming down his withered cheek, he said, “If the emblems alone bring such peace and glory, then what must it be when we see our Lord face to face?” . . . Bro. Land began his ministry of the gospel in early manhood, and continued until he was unable to stand. His last three years were of unceasing pain in body. . . . J. M. Land quite successfully served, as regular minister, the church in Rushville, Franklin, Milton, Lynn, Centerville and Newhope, Ind.: the latter church did not give up his ministry till he went to be with the Lord. Many other congregations were blessed by his regular ministry: Harrison, O., seven years; White Oak, O., sixteen years; Macedonia (O.) Church, twelve years; Harrisburg, Ind., twelve years: Spartansburg, Ind. The funeral service was in the Centerville Church. . .  . He was buried at Harrison, O., May 30, 1905. . . .

_ _ _

And now, an article that might help a minister just starting a new work with a church.

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How to Settle Troubles in the Congregation

March 18, 1891; p. 12

. . . The plan generally adopted is to send for some person or persons who have not taken sides to hear both sides, and decide what is the duty of each side, and as a rule both sides agree to abide the decision; and generally they do for a time; but the reconciliation does not last as a rule. I have known of troubles thus settled to assume a worse form before the committee had time to report their success. The cause of the trouble is seldom removed by this plan, and unless the cause is removed the trouble will remain. The plan I have adopted is to go and preach for the church, and the first thing I do is to request[,] yea, forbid any one to talk to me about the trouble . . . refusing to hear a word from either side. I do this for the following reasons.

1. If you allow them to tell their side, there will be something to condemn, and the person telling will ask what you think of that? If you say that they did not do right, they will claim you [as being] on their side. Then when you hear the other side there will be something to object to, and they will claim you [as being] on their side, then it is time for you to leave, for you are between two fires, both sides claiming you favor their cause.

2. If you allow them to tell you their trouble, and in preaching you condemn anything that either party is guilty of, the opposite party will think you have been told, and will blame you for rebuking in public before hearing both sides; then your influence is gone so far as that party is concerned.

3. It keeps the mind of both parties so full of the trouble that there is but little room for anything else. But if you forbid any one telling you a word about it, then you can preach against all wrong, and none can claim when hit that you are taking sides or some one has been telling their side. When you get them all to see their wrong and feel that they are doing wrong, and from a desire to be Christ-like they want unity of action restored, desiring to forgive as well as be forgiven, being filled with the spirit of Jesus, they will as naturally flow together as water flows down grade. The cause will be removed and the effect will cease. The hearts of men must be touched, wrong pointed out and duty made clear, if you would remove all trouble and bring peace and prosperity to any congregation. I have always adopted this plan, and never failed to restore peace and harmony. . . .

If a committee gets both parties together and binds them to abide the decision, they often do it because they promised and not because their hearts have been tendered. . . . [T]he same feeling exists and [is] only covered up, and the first provocation will come to the surface in a more aggravated form. But when taught and so filled with the Spirit of Christ they feel compelled to forgive and love each other and work together for the glory of God and the good of humanity. Without this realized your labor is in vain. With this accomplished God is honored and humanity blessed.

J. M. Land

_ _ _

—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard


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