The instruction given this people has emphasized over and over the necessity of training laymen to evangelize their immediate community. The Lord was picturing an actual experience that is taking place in many parts of the world today when He inspired His messenger to write:
"Hundreds and thousands were seen visiting families, and opening before them the word of God. Hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and a spirit of genuine conversion was manifest. On every side, doors were thrown open to the proclamation of the truth. The world seemed to be lightened with the heavenly influence."—"Testimonies," Vol. IX, p. 126.
The Bible is filled with examples of lay workers. The work of these Biblical lay preachers was always attended with good results. Outstanding among these examples is that of the demoniac of Gadara. After being freed from demon possession, he besought the Lord "that he might be with Him," but "Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee." There was no long course of training nor years of instruction. His was a work which no one else could do as effectively. He entered immediately upon his active work, learning as he labored. Thousands of consecrated members of this movement could do as much for the Lord if they saw the possibilities of their simple labor.
From the early inception of lay preacher's work, the South Bend, Indiana, church has conducted a lay preachers' class, including both men and women. This has not been a spasmodic effort, but rather a constant part of the church program. At a regular hour each Sabbath afternoon this class meets for counsel and study. Part of the time is spent in the study of various courses from the Home Study Institute,* and emphasis is plated on proper methods of labor. Some time is given to actual practice, when various members of the class present brief phases of the message and profit by the constructive criticism of fellow workers. Many of the more talented workers visit other Seventh-day Adventist churches in the district on Sabbaths, and thus not only help to spread the enthusiasm of the lay movement, but in addition give valuable spiritual help to needy companies.
Does such a program produce results? Is it worth the effort? Such questions are often asked. A lay program does not produce immediate results. Some have hesitated to devote the time necessary to sponsor such a plan, because it does not give evidence of fruit. It takes months of constant building to train some lay workers. Then it takes more months to complete a series of cottage meetings and see souls definitely accept the message. But patient, persistent effort will bring results.
Our church membership is siightly more than two hundred. From this number, about a score of lay preachers have been gleaned, and also several lay Bible workers. The attendance at the weekly class averages between fifty and a hundred. The major portion of the work done by this class has been throng) cottage meetings and Bible studies, rather than public efforts.
"\ recent report shows this group to be reaching members of more than one hundred families every week. In more concrete figures, these humble laymen are weekly presenting this message to nearly three hundred . persons not of this faith. This report does not include the occasional Bible study or the chance evening discouvse.
Typical of the work done by the group are the following experiences: One brother holds regular Sunday night services in a neighboring Seventh-day Adventist church, with all the pews occupied. Two already have been baptized this year. One sister holds as many as three studies in one day, and conducts studies nearly every day. She contacts approximately twenty families every week. In five months five have been baptized. Another brother serves as pastor for a community church, and he is slowly changing the thinking of a congregation of nearly seventy-five so that they are more favorable to this message. He is forbidden to make direct efforts to proselyte in the church. Another sister just began a cottage meeting with for,y-three persons not of our faith attending.
This story might be lengthened without end, and if written, it would be a modern "Acts of the Apostles." Not only are souls being turned to this message, but the lay workers are reaping spiritual benefits to their own souls as well. Seldom does a district leader need to spend time dealing with lay workers who err from the path of right. Every soul who engages in active service thus becomes one less problem in our busy whirl. Any district leader who longs to see the Spirit of God working in his territory should try this plan that God has given to His people.
*See announcement, page 43.—Editor.