No doubt many of our workers have followed with interest the remarkable forward movement now taking place in the heart of old Africa. Elder W. H. Anderson tells us that in one mission in the Congo one hundred and twenty-five teams, made up of from ten to fifteen workers in each group, have recently gone forth from the mission to preach the gospel in the towns and villages. Of special interest is the fact that these gospel teams are being led by the ministry in general. Joseph Malinki, a native ordained minister, is directing the work of thirty-one teams, four hundred strong, which are "storming the whole of the Remere district with the message of truth." Daniel, another ordained minister, is leading forty-four teams to the south, and other teams are going east and west, in what appears to be the largest lay evangelism movement ever witnessed in the Southern African Division.
In both Old and New Testament teaching, great emphasis is placed on effective witnessing in group formation. Students in the schools of the prophets were led forth in groups by Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and others, to work for the upbuilding of God's kingdom. Christ led His disciples into service as a group, and then sent them forth "by two and two" as teams of evangelists to bear witness in all the cities of Judea.
The Acts of the Apostles is a forceful commentary on the value of teamwork. Here we are informed that the first foreign missionaries went out as a team, consisting of Barnabas, Paul, and John Mark. This team was followed by another team, made up of two preachers and a publicity agent, the latter being also a Christian physician. As the apostle Paul progressed in his work and the churches multiplied, we find this veteran apostle continually calling for and training more and more helpers to be sent forth in teamwork. Some of these helpers Paul mentions by name, as, "Phebe our sister, . . . a servant of the church;" "Priscilla and Aquila, . . . helpers in Christ Jesus;" "Amplias, . . . beloved in the Lord;" "Urbane, our helper;" "Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labor in the Lord;" "Persis, . . which labored much in the Lord," and "Erastus the chamberlain of the city."
Many other names are mentioned in the record found in the sixteenth chapter of Romans, accompanied by such terms as "workfellow," "fellow prisoners," "beloved in the Lord," "chosen in the Lord," "approved in Christ," "saints," etc. Under the title of "Paul's Peripatetic School of Evangelism," Dr. L. R. Scarborough makes the following statement:
"He [Paul] traveled much in company with these helpers, and while he was conducting the great meetings, opening new mission stations, and establishing new churches, he carried on a constant school of instruction and practiced theology, unfolding the gospel, illustrating and demonstrating gospel methods, training these young workers to be leaders of effective service."—"Endued to Win," p. 223.
The plan of sending forth lay workers in teams deserves most careful consideration at this time. God's plan for finishing the work is the same as His plan for beginning. Just as He chose fishermen, tax collectors, and others from the common people to leave their occupations and follow Him, and later sent them forth as His representatives, so today He is calling men from the realm of commerce and business, from the plow and the field, and sends them forth in teams to proclaim the message of salvation in this last hour of probationary time.
That the divine plan recognizes the team method in evangelism is clearly stated in the following words: "The formation of small com panies as a basis of Christian effort has been presented to me by One who cannot err."—"Testimonies," Vol. 21. Just as prophets, preachers, and priests led men forth in teamwork in former years, so the ideal plan today is for laymen to work in small companies, as gospel teams, the capabilities and talents of all workers blending together as a whole for the accomplishment of the most far-reaching and effective work.
There are many laymen of talent in our churches at this time who could do a great work if they received the help and encouragement which the leaders in God's cause should give them. There are great potential forces in our churches lying dormant because some have doubted God's power to use, in a public way, men who have not received an education in the schools and universities of the land. The servant of the Lord exclaims, "0 for less of this uncalled-for, distrustful caution!" (See "Gospel Workers." pp. 488, 489.) We need to put away this lack of confidence in our laity, and guide them into definite service in a measu:e far beyond anything we see at present.
Christ sent forth "the seventy" two by two, but He did not send the twelve disciples with them. It is not necessary, and usually not best, for ordained workers to accompany lay preachers to the point of assisting them in pulpit work. Each soldier must go forth in his own armor. But God does expect, and especially at this time, that every worker will follow the example of the great apostle Paul in selecting and training large numbers of laymen as fellow laborers.
The Spirit of God is leading out before us in the field of lay evangelism in a very definite way, and during recent times a large number of laymen have volunteered for service. Under the encouragement and counsel of ministers and other conference workers, they have rented halls or secured the use of churches, and preached the truth of God in a simple but convincing manner, going forth at their own charges and winning hundreds of souls. In many conferences, institutes have been held for the encouragement and help of these laymen.
It is interesting to note that at one time the Methodist Church in England reported having on their evangelical staff 2,202 paid ministers and 19,956 lay preachers. The Congregationalists reported 2,886 ministers and 5,050 lay preachers. Surely it is to be regretted that we, as Seventh-day Adventists, have not led out in this lay evangelism teamwork in a stronger way. We have now reached the time when we may expect a great revival in the lay preachers' movement among us.
Washington, D. C.