I’ve been working my way through the biography of James Robertson, written in about 1907 or 08 by Ralph Connor. Robertson was the mission superintendent for most of Western Canada for the Presbyterian Church in Canada in the late 1800’s He (and the Holy Spirit!) is responsible for the explosion of Presbyterian Churches across the west during that period. Amazing story!
From page 238:
He [a young minister coming to the west for the first time] thought a minister’s duty was to preach the Gospel, and not be bothered with horses. I [Robertson] had to tell him that if he could not reach the people to whom he preached without a horse, then he must learn to drive and ride – in fact, that if these were his ideas he had no business in the North-West – that I would rather have a man know less Latin and more Horse, and that without some knowledge of horses a man was useless. The man looked amazed, but took all well and is going to work.”
So, today’s horse? We might want to immediately say – “the car” – duh! But maybe it’s social media – twitter, facebook, youtube. Robertson was talking about physically getting around (which was a real challenge that pastors had to pay attention to) – but that is not really an issue anymore. Today,we have a culture of privatism and rampant individualism. That culture is not being broken down by going door to door, but look what social media is doing. It is allowing people to connect in unprecedented ways, and people are actually “talking” to people that they would never have met otherwise, or talking more with people who used to be more peripheral in their lives. Robertson’s point was if you want to “reach the people” you need to get to where they are (on your horse!). Where are people today? More and more are moving into online social networks (Oprah’s on twitter now, so the floodgates are open!)
So, if we want to “reach the people”, our preference should be for pastors who know less greek and more twitter.