When Jesus organized the Christian church He selected twelve men to be His first ordained ministers. "Apostles," they are called in the Scriptures. These men were to be with Him during His ministry here upon the earth. Then later he selected "other seventy" to go before Him to every city and place to which He Himself would come.
Here we have the setting for the organization of the church this side of the cross. Two types of church leaders were selected by the Master, each to do a similar kind of work in the church. The apostles were to be the leaders, the ones to oversee the work, preach the gospel, and set things in order. The "other seventy" were to aid them in carrying forward the work.
Later we come to the days after Pentecost. A large number of new members had been; added to the church. There were many problems and there was much detail business to look after. The word came to the apostles that they were not to serve tables. That is, they were not to do the many ordinary things that needed to be done in a church of that size. So: the Holy Ghost spoke through the twelve, and gave the following counsel: "Brethren, pick out from among yourselves seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, and we will appoint them to undertake this duty. But, as for us, we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." Acts 6:3, 4, Weymouth.
"We will appoint them to this duty," said the apostles. Meaning what? That it would be up, for them to undertake to train and organize the seven deacons so that they would know what to do and how to carry forward the work. It is true that the ministers were to be freed from the ordinary tasks of church administration; Nevertheless, they still were charged with the responsibility of having the "oversight of the churches."
We come to later developments of the apostolic church, and find Paul organizing churches with a full complement of officers. In his council to Titus he said, "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee." Titus 1:5.
When Jesus ascended up on high it is said that he "granted gifts unto men." "He Himself appointed some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers, in order to fully equip His people for the work of serving for the building up of Christ's body." Eph. 4:11, 12, Weymouth.
Church officers, which include elders, deacons, Sabbath school officers, church missionary officers, M.V. society officers, -and all other church personnel, are to associate with the minister in his ministry. Each one in his place is to help carry forward the "work of serving." If and I emphasize that word if the minister would learn to utilize every church officer and church worker, his own task would be lightened, and he too would have more time to de vote himself "to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
So often we hear ministers say that they hardly have time to study their Bibles, barely time for prayer. Why? Because they are too busy "waiting on tables," doing the work which elected church workers should be doing.
It is of interest to note that Joshua, upon whom the mantle of leadership fell after the death of Moses, used the same type of church organization as that which had been developed under the leadership of Moses, who had received counsel from God at the hand of Jethro, his father-in-law. When. Israel was about to cross the Jordan to go into the Promised Land, "Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it." Joshua 1 :10,11 .
God's Plan of Organization
Joshua did not go directly to the people. He utilized the organization which he had under his command. He called the officers together and gave them the instruction which they were to pass on to the people. This is God's plan for today. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has in it a genius of organization, a plan of leader ship, which, if followed, would help us to accomplish much more than we do.
Sometimes when we talk about our ministers instructing and training their church officers, we are met with words such as these: "I do not have the time to instruct the church officers." "My work is not that of training church officers. I have been called to preach the gospel." "It is the work of the administrative officers and departmental secretaries to train the church officers." And so on, at great length, many make excuses. But if the minister would take pains to train the elders, deacons, and other church officers, his work would be much easier and he would have fewer problems. No tice this statement from Acts of the Apostles:
"The appointment of the seven to take the oversight 'of special lines of work, proved to be a great blessing to the church. These officers gave careful consideration to individual needs as well as to the general financial interests of the church; and by their prudent management and their godly example, they were an important aid to their fellow-officers in binding together the various interests of. the church into a united whole." Page 89.
We would call attention to the following phrases which emphasize the work that these men were to do and the effect it would have upon the church: "Oversight of special lines of work," "consideration to individual needs," "general financial interests of the church," "prudent management," "important aid to their fellow-officers," "united whole." Important officers, those deacons. Would that ministers might recognize the true importance of church officers today.
Ministers have a decided responsibility in assisting in the selection of officers for the churches. Their counsel should be highly regarded by church members. Mrs. White has said:
"Great care should be exercised in selecting officers for the new churches. Let them be men and women who are thoroughly converted. Let those be chosen who are best qualified to give instruction, those who can min ister both in word and deed. There is a deep-seated necessity for work in every line." Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 85.
Keeping in Touch With Church Departments
Surely the minister has an interest in seeing to it that the Sabbath school accomplishes its purpose. It is his prerogative to counsel with the officers regarding any observations which he may have to make. It is most assuredly his work to supervise the direction of the missionary work of the church, not directly, but through his assistants, the church missionary officers. It is possible that Missionary Volunteer Societies would be farther advanced if the minister would make it a point to attend the meetings as often as possible, and also give counsel and guidance to the leaders of the society as he sees there is need. Deacons and deaconesses certainly need help and instruction as to their duties. Oftentimes local elders are at a loss to know what they should do and how they should conduct the services and do the many other things for which they are responsible. The treasurer, and the church clerk too, need his helpful counsel.
The minister, therefore, may be likened to the captain of a company of soldiers. He is the commanding officer, but under him are lieutenants, sergeants, corporals, first-class privates, and the men in the ranks. He does not go directly to the men with his instruction, but his commands are carried down to the men in the ranks through his subordinate officers. Thus it is that the army functions perfectly and moves towards its objective systematically and steadily. So it should be in God's church upon the earth. So it will be when we all recognize our full responsibility in the matter of training church officers as well as church members to act their part in cooperation with the ministers, as God would have them to act.