Responsibility for Shepherding the Flock

Extraordinary efforts must be made to counteract the pressure of the world.

By I. H. EVANS, Field Secretary of the General Conference

When Christ came to this world, He said of Himself, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." On another occasion He said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Since Christ loved even sinners so much that He gave His life for them, we are within bounds when we say that He loves His own blood-bought, washed, and regenerated people with infinite love. Such men and women are more precious in His sight than all the riches and treasures of earth besides.

The church constitutes the body of Christ, and He is its head. Not only is Christ the head of the church, but He has bought each individual member of the church with His own life, and redeemed each from the bondage of sin. So closely is the Lord attached to His people, that He speaks thus to them: "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye."

In the parables of the lost sheep, the lost piece of silver, and the prodigal son, Christ makes very plain how Heaven regards those who have once belonged to the fold and have later gone astray. One cannot read those parables without feeling how deeply concerned Christ is for those who once were His, but who have lost their way. We read:

"I testify to my brethren and sisters that the church of Christ, enfeebled and defective as it may be, is the only object on earth on which He bestows His supreme regard."—"Testimonies to Ministers," p. 15.

"The church, enfeebled and defective, needing to be reproved, warned, and counseled, is the only object upon earth upon which Christ bestows His supreme regard."—I.d., p. 49.

One of the saddest spectacles we know is that of a person who was once a Christian, who has tasted the words of life, and who has been washed and cleansed and given a new heart, but has lost his way, and again become a willing servant to self and sin. If the con­version of a sinner is cause for the angels to rejoice, what must be the suffering of heaven when a justified soul returns to the service of Satan! Christ showed the height and depth of His love for the people who rejected Him as their Saviour, when He approached Jerusalem just before His crucifixion, and uttered the soul-piercing words:

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children to­gether, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate."

What love, what compassion, what agony, is pent up in these brief words from the lips of Christ! At the moment of that exclamation, He knew that soon those very people would demand His crucifixion.

It should be the concern of every preacher that all who come to Christ shall be saved. The ministry is responsible for the flock. Min­isters are the undershepherds, who must give an account of their ministry to the Chief Shep­herd. A grave responsibility is laid upon all men who are called to preach the gospel. Men and women must be made ready for the coming of Christ, and we who are preachers must re­member that God holds us responsible for our appointed work.

It may seem that a church cannot be in need of special help when it has a pastor who speaks to the members weekly, and has the general oversight of them through the whole year. But men and women not only need spiritual food on the Sabbath to keep them walking in the narrow way, they also need sympathy, understanding, and wise counsel. Some have lost their courage, and are slaves to habits which they know will lead them to eternal ruin; yet they seem indifferent, or unable to find victory. They are discouraged and disheartened concerning their own experi­ence. Unless something is done to revive their faith and hope, they will be lost.

What can be done for the church to help it meet present world conditions, to strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees, in this generation of self-indulgence and pleas­ure? These days fit into the picture the Scriptures draw of the time of the end. The daily papers bombard our homes with scream­ing headlines, depicting the world's increasing unrest. Flaming magazines, of which it may truly be said that they are "set on fire of hell," present nude pictures and relate tales of crime that familiarize their readers with cunning, deceit, and all manner of evil-doing. Every­where in the press and over the radio, alcoholic drinks are extolled and advertised in alluring language.

The theater and the opera enter our homes at the turn of a switch, as do also all forms of music, both wholesome and evil, reports of ball games, horse racing, and the like, and lectures on all sorts of themes, good and bad, many of which make a mock of faith. In fact, every moment can be fully occupied, so that no time is left for prayer and meditation. All these things, and many others that might be men­tioned, cause the thoughtful men who stand aS our leaders to study what can be done to arouse the church to stem the appalling tide of evil, and unitedly to seek a deeper spiritual experi­ence.

With an earnest desire that the church shall become clean and holy, the recent Autumn Council gave earnest study to the question of shepherding the flock. The church must be kept strong in faith and in vigorous spiritual condition if our young people and the new members are to have an experience that will fit them for the coming of the Lord. In these last days, when men's hearts are failing them for fear and for looking after the things that shall come upon the earth, the church must not be indifferent, must not fail to seek God in all humility and sincerity.

At the Council, an appeal was formulated and numerous recommendations were adopted which are an expression of the prayers of the leaders that the church may earnestly seek God for help at this time. These should be read and studied, and set in operation to stimulate the members to seek for a new experience in the Lord. They follow this article, so that all workers may read again what was adopted by the Council. The suggestions are practical and needful at this time.

There is a great world-wide work to be done for the lost. Many now in sin must be won to Christ. As the world goes deeper and deeper into darkness, and we approach nearer and nearer the great final struggle that will take place between the forces of evil and the remnant church, the people of God must rise higher and higher in spiritual power and godli­ness.

May we repeat that this appeal and these recommendations deserve the careful study of every pastor and preacher in our denomina­tion. It would be well to have them read before our members, so that all may know how the recent Council regarded the seriousness of the present situation.


Shepherding the Flock

We, as members of the General Conference Committee in Autumn Council assembled at Battle Creek, Michigan, most earnestly appeal to our ministers and workers everywhere to arise in the power of God and lead our dear people into a deeper spiritual experience, stabilizing them in the faith and uniting every one with us in a great soul-winning endeavor, quickly to finish the work of the gospel in the earth. We should ever re­member the words of our blessed Master, "Feed My sheep," "Feed My lambs," in His counsel to the apos­tle Peter. 'We find the same apostle, in later years, exhorting the elders to "feed the flock of God."

"The church, enfeebled and defective, needing to be reproved, warned, and counseled, is the only object upon earth upon which Christ bestows His supreme regard."—"Testimonies to Ministers," p. 49. The members of the church are to be nourished and fed with spiritual food. To feed the flock is the solemn duty of every faithful shepherd ; the Lord will hold him responsible for the way he fulfills this duty. He is to do his work "not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind." The prom­ise to elders and leaders who thus feed the flock of God is that "when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." Said the apostle Paul to Titus, "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee."

God's earnest appeal through Ezekiel to the shep­herds of Israel, who fed themselves but not the flock, clothed themselves with wool, but had not cared for the sheep, is a direct message to the elders and leaders of the church of Christ in this day. We have fallen upon perilous times, when men are lovers of their own selves, and covetous. Seldom has the church of Christ been in greater danger than that in which we see it today. While it is our duty to give the last message of warning to the world, it is also our duty spiritually to feed, nourish, and in every way care for those who accept the truth. It is a grievous thing to see souls leaving the ranks of the people of God, and especially at a time when so many new believers are being won to the truth. Under no circumstances must we lessen our evangelistic efforts for new converts; rather should we greatly multiply them, yet at the same time see to it that we properly feed and nourish the flock. To this end—

We earnestly recommend, 1. That when a new church is organized, special attention be given to the selection and training of local leadership, in order that the new church may be strongly established.

2. That proper instruction be given to each member in order that he may understand and appreciate his personal relation to the church of God as a world or­ganization. God deals not only with His church as a whole, but directly with each member individually. The instruction of the apostle Paul concerning church organization should be so deeply impressed upon each member that he will at all times feel his own personal responsibility in the welfare and work of the church, and will draw spiritual food for himself from the word of God as given in the Bible and the Spirit of prophecy.

3. That local conferences and missions arrange for a two to four day convention every year if possible, to instruct, inspire, and qualify the church officers for their sacred work. It is suggested that among other things, the following essentials should be taught :

a. The principles and methods of church organ­ization.

b. The relation of the church to the conference.

c. The responsibilities of elders, church leaders, and Sabbath school, Missionary Volunteer, and home mis­sionary officers and leaders.

d. The necessity of personal contact with and inter­est in each member of the church.

4. That each member of the church be trained in active soul-winning service with the definite objective of winning at least one soul to Christ each year. We suggest that to accomplish this the church be organ­ized into working groups:

5. For house-to-house Bible studies.

6. For the circulation of literature.

7. For evangelistic work, enlisting particularly the young people, to hold evangelistic efforts.

8. For visiting the sick and needy.

9. For pastoral work to cooperate with the elder or pastor in visiting the home of every church member, several times a year, to visit those who absent themselves from the services of the church, encouraging them to faithful attendance, and to visit those who have drifted out of the church, endeavoring to win them back to the fold.

a. That we urge each member of the church to be a member of the Sabbath school and to be faithful in the daily study of the Sabbath school lessons and in attendance at Sabbath school ; and that we encourage our Sabbath school teachers regularly to visit the members of their classes.

b. That every pastor connected with our churches be encouraged to hold or connect with at least one evangelistic effort a year, at the same time enlisting the active cooperation of all the members of the church in giving Bible studies, distributing literature, aiding in singing, etc.

c. That we urge our institutions—publishing houses, schools, and sanitariums—to arrange for evangelistic efforts to be carried on in their neighborhoods by workers in these institutions.

d. That we encourage the maintenance of the fam­ily altar in every home, also the faithful payment of tithes and regular and systematic offerings to the church and to foreign missions.

e. That a welcoming committee be appointed in each church :

f. To greet all strangers who come to Sabbath school and church services.

g. To see that such persons are invited into a Sab­bath school class and introduced to the teacher and the members.

h. To ascertain whether they are members of a sister Seventh-day Adventist church, and whether they plan to change their place of residence ; if so, to solicit the transfer of their membership.

i. To urge them to become regular attendants while in the vicinity of the church.

j. To take special interest in members of other Seventh-day Adventist churches who happen to be in attendance on the occasion of the celebration of the ordinances of the Lord's house, and to see that they are invited to participate.

k. To call immediately upon those who have been received into the church, whether by letter or on pro­fession of faith, welcoming them into church fellow­ship and encouraging them to unite with one of the groups engaged in church activity,

10. That special consideration be given to encour­aging a large attendance at the weekly prayer meet­ing of the church, but that where distances are so great as to make it difficult, in large centers, for members to assemble in this way each week, we counsel that group meetings be held at which the believers can have the benefits of these weekly seasons of prayer, it being suggested that under such circumstances united prayer meeting of the church members be held once a month.

11. That special interest be taken in our youth, to guard them from being swept away by the pleasure-loving spirit of the perilous times in which we live, and that with this in view, we encourage our people everywhere to see that their, children and young people are, as far as possible, placed in our own denomina­tional schools, that they may become firmly grounded in the truth and may receive a training that will pre­pare them for usefulness in the cause of God.

12.That, as may be arranged by conferences or mission organizations, revival services for a week or ten days be held in the churches, during which a spe­cial appeal be made to those of the community whom the members have interested in the truth, to the chil­dren of Adventist parents, to backsliders in the church, and to all, for a deeper consecration of heart to the work of God.

13.That the Review and Herald and our other church papers be recognized as an important means of feeding the flock of God, and that we encourage our members to subscribe for them; that in cases in which church members cannot read, the leader of the church see that the information and spiritual help contained in the church papers shall be brought to the unlearned by those who can read.

14.That all our believers be encouraged to pur­chase and read the writings of the Spirit of prophecy, and that our mission organizations endeavor to furnish our church members with as many of these writ­ings as possible in their own language.

Finally, brethren, we most earnestly plead that in our endeavor to carry out the above-mentioned plans, we ever bear in mind that our dependence upon the Lord is absolute. Only as we maintain a living con­nection with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, can we employ these, or any other plans effec­tively for the upbuilding of His cause in the earth. If our work is to be spiritual and truly successful, the Holy Spirit must be the impelling power in our lives and service, to the end that we may be spirit-filled men and women, fitted for the Master's use. We ask you to join with us in renewed consecration of heart and life to God, that as ministers and workers we may be of help and blessing to our dear people in the sacred work to which the Lord has graciously called us.—Autumn Council Action, 1938.

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By I. H. EVANS, Field Secretary of the General Conference

March 1939

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