Every preacher and almost every church member in the New Testament church was an evangelist. Therefore it was successful in bringing Christianity before the world in a short time. On this principle, "every preacher and church member an evangelist," hinges the success of the church today in reaching the world.
Too often the minister has become overburdened with the multitude of problems arising within the church, and has thereby been prevented either partially or completely from effective contact with the outside world. Is it for the good of the churches that the ministry is becoming entrenched, and somewhat lacking in time for direct evangelism? Should the minister become a full-time counselor and church-activities organizer?
It is essential that the minister first educate the elders, deacons, and church members in service so that he can devote his energy to the true objective of ministerial work:
In laboring where there are already some in the faith, the minister should at first seek not so much to convert unbelievers, as to train the church-members for acceptable co-operation.... When they are prepared to sustain the minister by their prayers and labors, greater success will attend his efforts.—Gospel Workers, p. 196.
When this task of education is completed, the minister can devote his full energy to promoting the gospel among non-Adventists. Is not this the true Adventist ideal?
Our ministers are not to spend their time laboring for those who have already accepted the truth. With Christ's love burning in their hearts, they are to go forth to win sinners to the Saviour. Beside all waters they are to sow the seeds of truth.—Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 19, 20.
In every church there is an untapped source of power that, if fully utilized, would release the pastor for evangelism and strengthen the church immeasurably:
The secret of our success in the work of God will be found in the harmonious working of our people. There must be concentrated action. Every member of the body of Christ must act his part in the cause of God, according to the ability that God has given him. We must press together against obstructions and difficulties, shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart.—ELLEN G. WHITE in Review and Herald, Dec. 2, 1890.
It is not God's purpose that the ministry should be left alone to carry on the proclaiming of the three angels' messages. Rather, the minister should so organize his church that the abilities of each member are most effectively harnessed in the work of the church. There are men and women in the church who can contribute to lightening the minister's load so that he can engage in evangelism. Too long the burden has fallen on the shoulders of a few. It is time that the ministry make full use of the tremendous potential of a fully organized church.
Every minister is in charge of a working force. The foreman is the organizer, trainer, and adviser, not the sole worker. He is the coordinator behind the strength of a consecrated army of lay workers. Thus cooperatively much more can be accomplished than by the work of one minister.
There are capable laymen in every church who can be put in charge of small bands of members. Preferably these laymen should be deacons, and associated with them should be a deaconess. These bands are not a new innovation, but a divinely appointed plan to spread the burden and utilize the untapped source of power in the church that can move the world:
The formation of small companies as a basis of Christian effort has been presented to me by One who cannot err. If there is a large number in the church, let the members be formed into small companies, to work not only for the church members, but for unbelievers. . . . Let them labor in Christ-like love for those outside the fold, forgetting self in their endeavor to help others. As they work and pray in Christ's name, their numbers will increase. —Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 21, 22. (Italics supplied.)
The objective of these laymen-sponsored bands is twofold: First, to work for church members and, second, to work for unbelievers.
The deacon in charge of the band becomes a spiritual shepherd for those particular individuals. He, through visitation and interest, but without undue inquisitiveness, discerns their problems. If someone is absent from church he generally should know why. The minister's work is thereby lightened within the church, and the members are constantly kept in touch with the church through this method. If serious problems arise they are referred to the elder by the deacon. This would not mean that the minister visits only members in serious trouble, but this would mean that members are more effectively guided. Through this method the minister of the large church solves the problem of keeping in touch with members.
These bands are also invaluable in sponsoring campaigns in the church. Each deacon could promote each project within his group. Financial drives, Ingathering, et cetera, should closely follow the band structure. Through this method the distracting, time-consuming promotion of campaigns could be largely eliminated from the pulpit on Sabbath morning. As far as possible, all promotional aspects should be eliminated from the worship service. This can be accomplished by the deacons being thoroughly organized and instructed and then going out and talking things over earnestly with their band members in their homes during the week. A weekly reporting system would be necessary.
Besides being an active source of power within the church, these bands can be effective in giving Bible studies and in visiting contacts and evangelistic prospects. The personal touch can thereby be given to these interests. Properly trained, these bands of laymen can conduct effective soul-winning campaigns that will add not only numbers to the church but also spiritual strength to the individuals involved.
To be truly effective and vigorously progressive, the Seventh-day Adventist Church should encourage and train every member to be an active worker. This goal can be reached only if the minister trains and strengthens the members through periodic training classes within the church. There must be careful persuasion, not compulsion, in working out these plans.
If this plan is carefully followed, definite results can be realized.
The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers.—Gospel Workers, p. 352.
If every minister with every member would become a living missionary going out to evangelize, the gospel would soon be proclaimed to all nations, all peoples, and tongues.