Extracts on Laymen's Work

It is our policy to foster close relationships between the laity and the ministry, each having vital functions to perform in the work of the church. We feel the following quotations on the subject will be of interest to our readers.—Eds.

W. E. Read, retired administrator

From Edward Gibbon:

In his chapter on the causes of the rapid spread of the Christian religion in the Ro­man Empire, Gibbon assigns the first place to the fact that

it became the most sacred duty of a new convert to diffuse among his friends and relations the in­estimable blessing which he had received.—Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1, p. 515.

From Dr. R. S. Storrs:

In the book Liberating the Lay Forces of Christianity, by J. R. Mott, the author quotes from an address of Dr. Storrs given some years ago.

A man who had come from the country to New York City went to the rector of an Episcopal Church who had several difficult and important enterprises on his hands. "Now," said the rector to the man, "I would like to have you take hold of that." The man said he did not have time to attend to it. "Well, then, this," said the rector. "No," said the man, he was engaged on that evening. Said he; "Rector, to tell the truth, I have been very busy in the different churches where I have been in the country, and I have come to New York to have a little quiet time to myself." "Oh," said the rector, "I see; you have come to the wrong church: you want to go the Church of the Heavenly Rest, around the corner!"—Page 57.

From Dr. R. E. Speer:

He emphasizes the obligation of the lay­man in the following words:

Any man who has a religion is bound to do one of two things with it, change it or spread it. If it isn't true, he must give it up. If it is true, he must give it away. This is not the duty of ministers only. Religion is not an affair of a profession or of a caste. . . . The minister is to be simply colonel of the regiment. The real fighting is to be done by the men in the ranks who carry the guns. No ideal could be more non-Christian or more irrational than that the religious colonel is engaged to do the fighting for his men, while they sit at ease. And yet, perhaps, there is one idea current which is more absurd still. That is that there is to be no fighting at all, but that the colonel is paid to spend his time solacing his regiment, or giving it gentle, educative instruction, not destined ever to result in any downright manly effort on the part of the whole regiment to do anything against the enemy. —Ibid., p. 55.

From Dr. Harnack:

Harnack, in his Expansion of Christian­ity in the First Three Centuries, mentions that—It was not merely the confessors and martyrs who were missionaries. It was characteristic of this religion that everyone who seriously confessed the faith proved of service to its propaganda. . . We cannot hesitate to believe that the great mission of Christianity was in reality accomplished by means of informal missionaries. . . . We may safely assume, too, that really women did play a leading role in the spread of this religion.--Vol. 1, pp. 459, 460.

From Barnes:

Seventy others besides the apostles. They were appointed for a different purpose from the apostles. The apostles were to be with Him; to hear His instructions; to be witnesses of His miracles, His sufferings, His death, His resurrection and ascen­sion, that they might then go and proclaim all these things to the world. The seventy were sent out to preach immediately, and chiefly where He Himself was about to come. They were appointed for a temporary object. They were to go into the villages and towns, and prepare the way for His coming.--Popular Commentary on the New Testa­ment, vol. 2, Luke-John, p. 64.

From Tarbell's Notes:

The harvest was plenteous and more laborers were needed; this was one great reason why Jesus sent the seventy forth on their mission. But there was also another reason: He would train these men for His work. They had been studying in His school and now they were to learn by putting their knowl­edge into practice. They were not Apostles, they were only disciples; they had not been with Jesus throughout His ministry and they were not skilled teachers, yet He entrusted them with His work and knew that in teaching others they would themselves learn; and they must have been among the number upon whom He depended for the continuance of His work after His death and resurrection. What an encouragement for untrained teachers who do not feel competent for the work! It is the Great Teacher's plan that they shall learn as they teach, and it is His wish that they carry on His work.— Tarbell's Teachers' Guide to the International Sunday School Lessons for 1914, p. 42.

From J. Stewart:

The merit of having carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Turco-Tartar tribes of Central and Eastern Asia belongs entirely, he says, "to the untiring zeal and the marvellous spiritual activities of the Nestorian church," the most missionary church that the world has ever seen. "We cannot but marvel" he adds, "at the love of God, of man, and of duty which animated those unassuming disciples of Christ."—Nestorian Missionary Enter­prise, p. 139.

At the beginning of the eleventh century the power of the Nestorian Patriarch extended from China to the Tigris and from lake Baikal to Cape Comorin. And all this was accomplished without any of the elaborate machinery that we have come to look upon as necessary for the carrying on of the missionary work of the twentieth century.

If one compares the outcome of the missionary activity of the "Church of the East" with the results of the more highly developed organizations of to­day one may well ask if the missionaries of these early centuries have not, even yet, something to teach us as to the methods and conditions that are essential for the gathering out and building up of a Christian community which shall be not only self-supporting and self-governing but, most important of all, self-propagating as well.—Ibid., p. 165.

From Dr. J. R. Mott: He mentions that

The most vital and fruitful periods in the history of the Christian Church have been those in which laymen have most vividly realized and most ear­nestly sought to discharge their responsibility to propagate the Christian faith.—Liberating the Lay Forces of Christianity, p. 11.

The laity wrought actively with the apostles. Recall the significant word descriptive of what fol­lowed the first persecution of Christians: The dis­ciples "went everywhere preaching the Word. . . ." Every convert was a witness.—Ibid., p. 12.

The religion of Christ is primarily a matter of the will. Religious knowledge, conviction, and emotion require expression in service, or character becomes untrue and faith unreal. A multitude of laymen are today in serious danger. It is positively perilous for them to hear more sermons, attend more Bible classes and open forums, and read more religious and ethical works, unless accompanying it all there be afforded day by day an adequate outlet for their new-found truth and newly ex­perienced emotion in definite witness-bearing, un­selfish service to others, and resolute warfare against evil.

It is asserted that in many communities nine-tenths of the work of the churches is done by one-tenth of the members. So far as the male members are concerned this is probably true.—/bid., pp. 56, 57.

If the all-too-latent lay forces are not being lib­erated, there must be something lacking in the Christian leadership. May we not find the explana­tion in three basic lacks? Many so-called Chris­tian leaders today, whether clergymen or laymen, whether speakers, writers, or organizers, are lack­ing in sense of direction. How few seem to know the way! Listen to their voices. Study their diag­nosis of prevailing ills of society and of individuals, and their proposed remedies. Examine their plans of action for meeting emergent problems. What confusion of thought! What conflicting voices! What divided counsel! What resultant uncertainty and indecision! Even in such a vital and supremely im­portant matter as ideals, values, standards of con­duct, guiding principles, what lack of conviction and agreement!—Ibid., pp. 108, 109.

The need of the hour is an awakening of the laymen of all the churches to a realization of their latent energies and their pressing responsibility and the relating of that boundless power to the programme of the Living Christ.—/bid, pp. 53, 54.

The organized missionary movement is indispen­sable, but you never will evangelize the world with professional missionaries. It never has been done. It cannot be done. . .

We are waiting for the day when every man who goes out from this land to build viaducts, or bridges, or great factories on the other side of the world, will go out to live a Christian life and to preach the Christian faith. We ought to send to Asia only men who will live pure Christian lives and give their influence to build up and not tear down the wall of the Kingdom of God over all the world.­ibid., pp. 74, 75.

*An interesting discussion of this theory by P. W. Heward (for) and F. F. Bruce (against) will be found in the Journal of Transactions of the Victoria Institute, LXXVIT (1946), 13-37.


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W. E. Read, retired administrator

July 1963

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