In order to preach this gospel in all the world, we are going to have to harness the great body of laymen who comprise the church, and put them to work for Christ. There is no higher calling that can come to us as pastors than to make the members of the church our colaborers. Active missionary endeavor is one of the prominent evidences that one has received the new-birth experience. It not only is essential for the finishing of the work but contributes to that individual's own spiritual growth.
"God demands that every soul who knows the truth shall seek to win others to the love o£ the truth. If we are not willing to make special sacrifices in order to save souls that are ready to perish, how can we be counted worthy to enter into the city of God?" Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 103.
If I read this quotation correctly, it is a command that is directed to every soul who knows the truth. The reason the Lord makes it so explicit is that it is essential to the development of Christian character.
"In order for us to develop a character like Christ's, we must share in His work." The Desire of Ages, p. 142.
An Effective Method
As ministers of the gospel, we are responsible for the care of those who have been entrusted to us. How can we properly care for and minister to them, and at the same time finish the gospel commission in the district where we have been called to work? By leading them out into the harvest field and teaching them to work! There is no lack of missionary opportunities, and when we follow this divine command the blessing will be double. First, their own characters are going to be strengthened, and we will thereby be fulfilling our responsibility to them as pastors. Second, we will be greatly multiplying, through their labors, our own usefulness in the district.
For the last few years it has been my privilege to be connected with this type of work in a very intimate way in one of the fields of the Inter-American Division. After the yearly lay workers' training institute, at which all the local pastors also were present, plans were laid for the organization of a lay workers' society in each of the local churches where there were enough people able to carry on this type of work, using laymen who had attended these institutes as key members in the local societies. Usually they are composed of from four to twelve members. They meet and elect a chairman, who in turn presides over the weekly meetings of the group. In the case to which I refer it is the custom to meet every Sabbath afternoon about sunset, after the afternoon's missionary activities, in which nearly the whole church has been en gaged.
These sundown meetings are for the purpose of laying down -plans for the efforts to be held in the different homes around the city where an interest has been awakened either through weekly tract distribution or by following up interests that have been started through other activities in the church. At this meeting the pastor studies with the laymen the topics that are to be presented by them during the following week in their own efforts and cottage meetings. He goes over these topics point by point, instructing them in the best manner of presentation. Whenever possible he visits one or more of these meetings while they are in progress, making a note of the pertinent points on which they need further help. In certain localities it is possible to get this information without the layman's knowing his pastor is present, especially if it is a summer effort and the windows are open. The following Sabbath afternoon, when the time comes to study the methods being followed, with confidence he commends Brother John Doe for the strong way in which he brought his hearers to see the importance of taking their stand on some particular topic. He is also in a position to make tactful suggestions that will be helpful not only to the brother who was giving the study that night but to all who are present. The laymen in turn will see that their pastor is vitally interested in their activities, that he is one of them in this soul-winning project. These sundown meetings are also a time to study the cases of interested ones, who as they reach the testing truths are made the subjects of special prayer by the entire group.
Through this particular society of laymen the pastor of the local church has been able to exert a far greater influence than would ever have been possible had he limited his activities in evangelism to his own series of meetings. At one time this last year there were eight efforts in progress by his laymen! However, with every candidate the time comes when the pastor must step in and assist in binding off the interest and bringing the prospective member across the line. Surely this fulfills the very purpose for which we organize churches, namely, organizing the members for work!
Talents Waiting to Be Used
When one considers the wonderful wealth of talent that is to be found in our Adventist churches, he immediately sees how it will be possible under God to rise and finish the work through organized efforts.
"Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the whole church, so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his ability." Acts of the Apostles, p. 111.
This great gospel commission is not going to be finished by our evangelists alone. Too many of our good members are willing to let the evangelists do the work for them, but the time has come for every member of the church to be harnessed and to work with them. When every activity of the church is directed toward the one great purpose of winning souls, we shall see Pentecost repeated in our midst. Hearts that are cold will be set on fire again. The voices of members now silent, and who come to church only to receive, will go forth to proclaim what they know of the saving power of God.
It is encouraging to see the definite trend in this direction that has been manifested. We must lay the burden on the hearts of our dear brethren and sisters for the sake of their own souls' salvation. There is a place for each one in the work of proclaiming the message, and in this way we shall be able to defeat this danger of which the messenger of the Lord warns us:
"Everywhere there is a tendency to substitute the work of organization for individual effort. . . . Christ commits to His followers an individual work, a work that cannot be done by -proxy." Minis try of Healing, p. 147. (Italics supplied.)
Adventists are a very liberal people, and of course the work needs their financial assistance, but even more important, the work needs them! Heaven needs them!
"With almost impatient eagerness the angels wait for our co-operation; for man must be the channel to communicate with man. . . . Angels rejoice that they may speak through our voices to reveal God's love." The Desire of Ages, p. 297. (Italics sup plied.)
Prayerfully let us lay this work upon our people, showing them, teaching them how it is done. They will respond, and where we now see hundreds coming into this blessed truth we shall see thousands.