The Ministry and the Laity

A study of the relationships, methods, and objectives of the ministry and the laity.

By STEEN RASMUSSEN, Secretary, Home Missiotiary Department

At the ordination of "the twelve," and the calling and commission of the "other seventy," the Founder of the Christian church formed a golden circlet uniting the ordained ministry and the laity for the com­pletion of the gospel work. This bond can never rightfully be broken until the "church militant" becomes the "church triumphant," and the Bridegroom receives His bride at the completion of the designated commission.

Very soon after the ordination of the twelve, this special group of seventy—almost six times the number of the twelve—were by the same authority chosen, called, commissioned, and sent forth. The hands of ordination were not laid upon them, and it was not required of them that they ordain successors, or that they stand as the foundation pillars of organiza­tion, development, and direction of the church, as the twelve disciples were to do. (See "Acts of the Apostles," p. 17.) The duty of this "other seventy" was to go forth as pioneer messengers, preparing the way for the or­dained ministry. The scope of their activity was even greater than that of the twelve, for they were to enter territory which the twelve were forbidden to enter. (See "The Desire of Ages," p. 488.) The seventy were sent "two and two before His [Christ's] face into every city and place, whither He Himself would come."

The "other seventy" represent the laymen in the Christian church from the time of its organization to the end of its mission. As compared with the work of the ordained minis­try, the commission of the laity differs in de­gree, but not in kind. The layman is not called to make the proclamation of the gospel his vocation, but to make it his life. As re­gards technical skill, he is a layman; as re­gards participation in the spreading of gospel truth, he should be a master workman.

The fundamental method of spreading Chris­tianity is by personal testimony. Life speaks to life, and every man who is in vital touch with Jesus Christ is to make Him known to all with whom he associates. The carrying out of the great commission requires that to public preaching there shall be added genuine wit­nessing in the market place, in the shops and factories, in schools and offices, on the street, and on faraway frontiers, as well as in the churches. We recognize, as Lord Kitchener once said, that "generals may win battles, but armies win campaigns." Our supreme con­cern is that the campaign 'for the Lord, of preaching the gospel to every creature, shall be completed victoriously in this generation, For the accomplishment of this purpose He requires that the entire church—both ministry and laity—be united. Thus we read:

"The work of God in this earth can never be fin­ished until the men and women •comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers." —"Gospel Workers," p. 352.

Layman's Army a Mighty Force

Upon the Home Missionary Department of the General Conference has been placed the responsibility of helping to enlist the laity of the remnant church for service, and to train and lead them in action. The layman's army of today is a mighty force, representing all ages, nationalities, traits of character, talents, and experience. As compared with the 3,847 ordained and licensed workers of the present day, the laity, or "other seventy," number 448,911. The ratio of the unordained, humble witnesses in the ordinary channels of life to the ordained ministry is very great, just as it was when the gospel commission was first given. For efficiency and success in the speedy finishing of the proclamation of the gospel to every creature, it is most essential that the two groups be properly united, and that every layman understand his place and part and render wholehearted service.

It is said of John Wesley that he attributed the great success of the movement of which he was the head, to the hearty cooperation of his followers. Of their work he said: "They were all at it, and always at it. Each new ad­herent was not only set to work, but kept at work." It was Wesley's ability to awaken the interest and enthusiasm of his people, to im­press them with a sense of their obligation as servants of Christ, and to secure their coopera­tion, that enabled him to make the movement with which his name is connected such a strong factor in his day. And the same principle applies to the success of the layman's missionary movement in the remnant church.

The duties, responsibilities, and work of the ministry are clearly. defined. This is equally true as pertains to the duties, responsi­bilities, and work of the laity. In no sense is the work of either group competitive, but each is supported and sustained by the other. For the greatest efficiency of both, there must be full recognition of fundamental principles, which may be outlined briefly, as follows:

Fundamental Principles Applying to Both

1. The ordained ministry should be thor­oughly familiar with the activities to be per­formed by laymen, and experienced in them. This was true in the beginning of the gospel dispensation. The full and definite commis­sion to the ordained twelve was duplicated in the commission to the seventy. There was no separate work, but the ordained group were the first to be initiated into the divine service—to learn its secrets and experience its meaning, and thus be fully prepared to understand and choose, to assign and direct, the greatly en­larged force of laymen.

2. The laity should become familiar with the burdens and responsibilities of the minis­try and the conference leaders. The leaders of the Home Missionary Department recognize the importance of training the church members to support the program of the pulpit. In our endeavor to cooperate with the ministry and the plans of the local conference, we seek to help our members to see they must not move ahead of the aggressive and constructive plans and program which the ministry or the con­ference may have outlined, or substitute some other plan. Lay members can most effectively support the work of the ministry by living up to the high standards set by the ministry, as demonstrated in the home and the church, and in the daily occupations of life. We believe it to be the responsibility of the leaders of the Home Missionary Department to help the church members to see the importance of speaking well of the church and its ideals, to support the conference ministry and church officers by personal testimony and witnessing, by prayerful interest, and by accepting their counsel and following their leadership.

3. There must be mutual recognition of the place each group occupies. We need to under­stand more fully that we are not to expect of the minister that he carry responsibilities be­longing to the laity, or vice versa ; but there must be a working fellowship, in which the layman endeavors to the best of his ability to fit into God's program. This must be the goal of every church and every believer, as preacher and people live and work out together their own salvation in fear and trembling, and bring the Light of the world to others.

4. There must be mutual willingness to give and to receive counsel.

5. There must be mutual confidence and love.

6. There must be mutual loyalty to the divine Leader.

7. There must be complete consecration to the task assigned.

The need of the hour is for a revival that will restore to full and hearty adoption, the spirit, methods, and usages of apostolic times. Wherever the apostles went, the laity became coworkers with them in giving the gospel to the people. Ofttimes the laity pioneered the way before them—creating an interest and preparing the people for the heralds of truth. So it would seem, that today laymen are especially sent as pioneers into new territory, and their work may largely be described as scattering literature, visiting the people in their homes for Bible studies and cottage meetings, caring for the sick, and helping the needy. Thus is the way prepared for the ordained minister to quickly bind off the interest and establish new believers in the church.

The laymen of the early church not only aided in the establishment and building up of churches, but after the departure of the or­dained leaders, they assumed the care and direction of the new converts. No church was left without public worship because there was no ordained minister to take charge. It was expected of the laity and by the laity that they would build upon the foundations which had been established by the apostles.

As the marvelous growth of the early church was largely due to the cooperation and sup­port of the laity, so the decadence of spiritual power in the church during the first and second centuries may be attributed to lack of recogni­tion and approval of the work of the laity, accompanied by the gradual exaltation of the clergy. The reign of spiritual death, which followed the widespread perversion of the divine plan for the extension of the gospel, was intercepted by the coming of the Prot­estant Reformation, which, in a degree, brought about a return to the methods of the primitive church. To the church of God at this hour comes the divine summons, "Let ministers and lay members go forth into the ripening fields."--"Christian Service," p. 67. The laity must learn to take up the message of the sacred desk and convey it to families and individuals who stand aloof from the min­istrations of the sanctuary or who live beyond the sphere of its influence.

"God has given His ministers the message of truth to proclaim. This the churches are to receive, and in every possible way to communicate, catching the first rays of light and diffusing them."—"Testi­monies," Vol. VI, p. 425.

More and more, as we near the time for our Lord's appearing, there must be mutual under­standing and hearty cooperation between these two evangelical groups in the church—the ministry and the laity. Through this united force, the large unentered territories will be quickly covered, and the message of truth pro­claimed to every soul.

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By STEEN RASMUSSEN, Secretary, Home Missiotiary Department

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