Harnessing the Man Power of Our Churches

Practical suggestions on tapping our potential resources.

By J. ADAMS STEVENS, Secretary of the Sabbath School Department

Man power is of vital importance in this age of marvelous mechanical in­vention. Vast armadas on land and sea are impotent without men. A nation may have multiplied thousands of tanks and other mechanized military equipment, and sufficient planes to fill the skies, but its power of destruc­tiveness and power to conquer depends on men, men well trained and well led.

The church has always recognized the need of men, Spirit-filled men, to do the work of the Lord. "Moses chose able men out of all Is­rael." Ex. 18:25. "And there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched." I Sam. 10 :26. These references, as do many others, reveal that leaders in the Lord's work not only sensed the need of men to help in the work, but they suggest that as leaders they had a responsibility to develop the latent talent in these men in order that they might do the best possible work for God. Christ set an example for every responsible church leader in making the best possible use of the man power of the church.

"Passing by the self-righteous Jewish teachers, the Master-worker chose humble, unlearned men to pro­claim the truths that were to move the world. These men He purposed to train and educate as the leaders of His church. They in turn were to educate others, and send them out with the gospel message. . . . For three years and a half the disciples were under the instruction of the greatest Teacher the world has ever known. By personal contact and association, Christ trained them for His service."—"Acts of the Apostles," p. 17.

Not only did Christ give His personal atten­tion to the training of the twelve for their fu­ture leadership in the church, but He also gave careful attention to the training of other men. "As He had sent out the twelve, so He 'ap­pointed seventy others, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself was about to come.' These disciples had been for some time with Him, in training for their work. When the twelve were sent out on their first separate mission, other disciples accompanied Jesus in His journey through Galilee. Thus they had the privilege of intimate association with Him, and direct personal instruction."—"The Desire of Ages," p. 488.

Wherever the gospel is preached, men respond to its truths. Thousands of them are being brought into our churches every year. What are we doing with this vast resource of man power ? A few, comparatively speaking, become church elders. A larger number are elected deacons, Sabbath school. superintendents, and teachers. But the vast majority of these earnest men simply join our ranks, become more or less regular attendants at Sabbath school and church services, support the work with their tithes and offerings, and that is all. Probably not half the men of a church of a hundred or more are personally acquainted with the other half, and in our larger churches it is not un­common for half or more of a large Sabbath school class to be unacquainted with the other half. This is a serious weakness in our organ­ization.

Many years ago the denomination took steps to harness the capabilities of the women of the church, and today all our larger churches are doing stronger work because of an efficiently functioning women's organization, the Dorcas Society. Their activities reach out in many avenues of helpfulness, and the truth is mag­nified, in the estimation of the public, because of their earnest labors for the poor and needy.

But we have been slow to sense a like re­sponsibility to harness the man power of the individual church. One pastor remarked that he did not have a man in his congregation of more than three hundred members who was fitted to serve as elder, and that congregation included successful businessmen, as well as men of various trades. But nothing had ever been done to cultivate the talents of those faithful brethren to make them capable of church leader­ship. In other churches there are men con­nected with business concerns who bear heavy responsibility, and there are educators, doctors, contractors, and other men of ability. Why don't we make greater use of the talents of these men ?

Set Potential Forces to Work

Wherever there is a pastor he should band the men of the church together and train them to be his helpers in the church and in the com­munity, co-operating with him and the church and Sabbath school officers. What a vast reservoir of potential power would be set to work in the activities of the church and Sabbath school, if such a marshaling of our men could be brought about. There would be greater effi­ciency in every church activity, and there would be many lines of activity where now the men are just being "sheared." There would be set in operation the various phases of lay evan­gelism adapted to the opportunities and needs of the locality of each church. A more successful and shorter Ingathering campaign would pro­vide more mission funds, and conserve time for other important work. The spiritual tempera­ture of the church would rise because of the personal interest of the pastor in his men through such an individual acquaintance; and as in apostolic times, each brother would see in his fellow believer "the divine similitude of love and benevolence."

Dr. John Timothy Stone, in his book, "Re­cruiting for Christ," says : "When a man comes into the church he has only started. His work has only begun, and it is the business of all of us who are in the church to see that he is kept by the power of God and trained to become an efficient workman. Still, many come into the church and stop there, thinking it is the final instead of the initial step. As if a man received his diploma as soon as he matriculated at col­lege! His very matriculation implies a long and steady course of study. And that course of study in itself is simply a means to an end, for it is to fit him for his lifework."—Page 214.

But together with training work, in such a grouping together of the men the church will also have its social relationships cultivated and strengthened. With more or less regular times for meeting, the forward-looking pastor can secure talented speakers to enrich the fund of information, and instruction can be provided from varied sources. Perhaps a doctor could be secured to give a simple address on modern heart troubles, hardening of the arteries, gas­tric ulcers, proper diet, etc. A missionary from foreign fields could give men an intimate glimpse of native life and needs. Our edu­cators could give helpful talks on public speech, how to study, how to gather and index helpful informative material, etc. Occasionally an or­thodox vegetarian supper could be spread, at which friendly businessmen and other men could be invited as guests. Much of the busi­ness of great industries is promoted around the luncheon and dinner table. The work of win­ning men is even more important. Jesus took advantage of such opportunities and mingled with men in social intercourse.

The Seventh-day Adventist worker of today is presumably a very busy person. And he certainly is, if he faithfully endeavors to do all that requires doing. This is doubly true of our pastors. Hence the foregoing suggestions may seem useless. "There is no time," some say. It was Carlyle who said, "Every noble work is at first impossible." How impossible it must have seemed to onlookers for Jesus to train His twelve disciples for leadership ! But no one now would question the wisdom of spending three years on such unpromising material. They were busy years, but the future of the work depended on those twelve men. By harnessing the man power of the church today we as workers can greatly enlarge our field of in­fluence by a distribution of responsibility among the men of the church by training them for just such burden bearing.

Again quoting Doctor Stone, "If, as men within the church of Christ, we can bring about this condition, differences and littlenesses will disappear; glowing coals, close to one another, will grow brighter and brighter. White heat will radiate a warmth and glow which will at­tract and bless, and the church of Jesus Christ will become the fireside where son and stranger are always equally welcome; a place where magnetism of human sympathy blends with the power of the Son of God."—Page 224.

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By J. ADAMS STEVENS, Secretary of the Sabbath School Department

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