I just came across an essay by Geoff Thomas which addresses this. It is entitled, “Find a Place to Settle,” and is contained in Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, ed. Tom Ascol (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2004). In this quote below Thomas provides an extended quote from Dr. James Stalker on his experience watching a man who had had such an extended ministry.
“It was my happiness, when I was ordained, to be settled next… to an aged and saintly minister. He was a man of competent scholarship, and had the reputation of having been in early life a powerful and popular preacher. But it was not to these gifts that he owed his unique influence. He moved through the town, with his white hair and somewhat staid and dignified demeanour, as a hallowing presence. His very passing in the street was a kind of benediction, and the people, as they looked after him, spoke of him to each other with affectionate veneration, children were proud when he laid his hand on their heads, and they treasured the kindly words which he spoke to them. At funerals and other seasons of domestic solemnity his presence was sought by people of all denominations. We who labored along with him in the ministry felt that his mere existence in the community was an irresistible demonstration of Christianity and a tower of strength to every good cause. Yet he had not gained this position of influence by brilliant talents or great achievements or the pushing of ambition; for he was singularly modest, and would have been the last to credit himself with half the good he did. The whole mystery lay in this, that he had lived in the town for forty years a blameless life, and was known, by everybody to be a godly and prayerful man. He was good enough to honour me with his friendship; and his example wrote deeply upon my mind these two convictions—that it may sometimes be of immense advantage to spend a whole life time in a single pastorate, and that the prime qualification for the ministry is godliness.”May we see more of this sort of ministry. This is what I was referring to previously when I referred to simply walking among our people in holiness ministering the word of God in word and deed.
The man to whom he was referring was a certain James Black of Dunnikier and little more than that paragraph of Stalker’s is known of the man or even the place where he labored. Dunnikier is too small to appear in any British atlas. Black was one that army of holy men who have served the Lord in obscure communities modestly and humbly for no reward other than the immense privilege of having so great a Master as our Christ. (pp. 363-364)