The ministry is, perhaps, even more over-crowded than either medicine or law. There are several reasons for this. In the first place, there are from four to a dozen churches in most places where one would render far better service. These churches are, many of them, poorly supported, and, therefore, inefficient. Yet each must have a pastor. Second, the fact that a theological or pre-theological student can secure aid in pursuing his education tempts many young men into the ministry. Recently a university student called upon us. He told us he was working his way through the university by supplying pulpits on Sunday. “But it’s hard work,” he confessed, “particularly when one must enthusiastically proclaim things he does not believe.” This young man was, doubtless, an exception, but we have seen many poorly equipped for the ministry, “studying theology because they could not afford to take some other post-graduate work.”
How greatly over-crowded this ancient and honorable profession has become may be guessed by the fact that a fine, intelligent man may spend four years in preparatory school, four years in college, and three years in a theological seminary, may acquire twenty-five years of successful experience, and still receive for his services only $500 a year. Moreover, he is expected to contribute to the cause not only all his own time and talent, but also the services of his wife and children. This, of course, is pretty close to the minimum salary, but the great majority of ecclesiastical salaries range very low—nor have they responded to the increase in the cost of living.
After all, the question is not one of the over-crowding of a profession, but of fitness for success in it. No matter how many may be seeking careers in any profession, the great majority are mediocre or worse, and the man with unusual aptitude and ability to work and work hard easily outstrips his fellows and finds both fame and fortune. The trouble is that the lure of the professions takes thousands of men into them who are better fitted for business, for mechanics, for agriculture, and for other vocations.
Because they have the capacity to work hard, because they are conscientious and because they have some ordinary intellect and common sense, many men make a fair success in medicine, in the law, in the ministry, as college professors, as engineers, or in some other profession. All through their lives, however, they have the feeling that they are not doing their best work, that they would be better off, better satisfied, and happier if engaged in some other vocation. How well every true man knows that it is not enough to have kept the wolf from the door, it is not enough even to have piled up a little ahead. Every man of red blood and backbone wants to do his best work, wants to do work that he loves, work into which he can throw himself with heart and soul and with all his mind and strength. Merely to muddle through with some half-detested work, not making an utter failure of it, is no satisfaction when the day’s work is done. Not only the man himself, but all of us, lose when he who might have been a great manufacturer and organizer of industry fritters away his life and his talents as a “pretty good doctor” or a “fair sort of lawyer.”