It is a solemn fact that we have never called upon nor utilized the vast man power resources of the church in discharging the great commission of teaching the everlasting gospel to all nations. Occasionally a slogan such as "Every Member Win One" has been adopted with enthusiasm, yet in the majority of our churches there are capable elders, deacons, and other officers who never have personally won a single soul to Christ. And the responsibility for this failure rests not so much upon the laity as upon the ministry.
Facilities offering unlimited possibilities are granted to God's people for spreading the message. The Spirit-filled preaching of the word is regarded as the most rapid means of reaching the largest number of souls, and of finishing the work. Yet the possibilities of our home missionary program are perhaps the most neglected. Emphasis upon the work of the minister as evangelist should be constant; but his work as teacher and trainer might be equally stressed with profit.
The present financial crisis has forced upon us stringent economy measures. In some sections our force of laborers is exceedingly meager. Yet the calls and openings on every hand constitute a mighty challenge to the church commissioned to finish the work in this generation. As we face the future, it is evident that the ministry as such, even though multiplied a thousandfold, will never reach all who must hear the message. Our reserves must be trained and thrown into the field before we can achieve victory. A vast army of capable laity must be chosen, called, trained, and finally placed in the front-line trenches of soul-winning endeavor.
The pastor evangelist should talk evangelism to the men and women of the church. Training classes may be profitably held in which methods are discussed and instruction is given in Bible study and in the presentation of the various doctrinal subjects presented in a series of evangelistic meetings. In a short time the recruits will want to "take the field." A small hall can be secured and an effort begun. The minister should assist the speakers by providing sermon notes, stereopticon slides, counsel, encouragement, prayer, and in every way except actually preaching. The duties of a lay member may not permit him to conduct services every night, but three or four nights a week will bring results.
In Johannesburg, South Africa, a training class was formed early in the year, which met each Saturday evening. There was excellent interest and attendance. At each meeting several members gave explanations of texts previously assigned to them. This led to a discussion of difficult passages, and the class placed in their notebooks the best interpretation of the texts. Then one of the members gave a talk upon a doctrinal subject, which likewise was discussed by the class, and appropriate notes on the topic were preserved.
Two laymen's efforts have been conducted by members of the church this year. During this time the pastor was holding a larger effort. The conference provided the small sum of £10 for the laymen's efforts. The one resulted in the baptism of six persons and the formation of a Sabbath school with a membership of twenty-six. The other effort, held out in the country, will yield twelve for baptism shortly.
Our laymen's classes begin very soon their winter session, to prepare for another "offensive" in the spring, when we hope to launch three laymen's efforts in addition to the pastor's public effort. It is encouraging to know that others are following similar plans. Surely this feature of our work should be developed, and all our ministers should seek out able men in every church who will become self-supporting soul winners.
Johannesburg, South Africa.