The Twentieth Century Book of Acts

How Lay Team Workers Started a Chain Reaction

GEORGE A. COFFEN, Pastor. Berrien Springs Village Church. Michigan

The Great Christian Action Movement of the first century was re­corded for us in the book of Acts, and what a glorious record it is. In the twentieth cen­tury we can and we must write a new book of Acts to prepare a people for the soon com­ing of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The gospel was then preached to "every creature" by the com­bined efforts of the ministers and the laity. Every convert was a convert maker. The gospel commission can only be ful­filled today in the twentieth century by an identical Christian Action Movement that once again combines the consecrated ener­gies of both priest and layman. "Everyone who professes the truth should be a living preacher."—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 260.

While I was pastor of the Providence, Rhode Island, church I saw in a small way this book of Acts for the twentieth century being written by consecrated colporteurs working together with laymen and their pastor. Frank Nieb, a dedicated and ener­getic member of the Providence church, was a linotype operator for the Providence Journal-Bulletin. He was successful in his work in a worldly sense and made excellent wages, but he was not entirely happy. He owned a beautiful home, had a lovely wife and fine family. He was well thought of in the neighborhood and in the church, but he was not satisfied with himself. He de­sired to do more work for the Lord, and for a while he contented himself by doing part-time colporteur work, holding on to his job at the Journal at the same time.

Soon, however, Frank grew restless. He longed to do more work for the Lord. He began to come under the conviction that he ought to do full-time colporteur evan­gelism. On a number of occasions Frank and I prayed together about this convic­tion. His family was praying, the church was also praying. When prayer is offered like this something is bound to happen. I can never forget the day when he and his wife came to see me. We talked this matter over in my office, looking at it from every angle. Then we knelt together, claiming the promise that "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst." When we got up from our knees our eyes were moist, but a decision had been made. Frank and his wife to­gether decided that he would enter full-time colporteur work. They have never regretted this decision. He was successful from the beginning and was the first col­porteur in Southern New England to sell $20,000 worth of books in a single year. For the past few years Frank has been as­sistant publishing secretary in the South­ern New England Conference.

Under the blessing of God, Frank Nieb began to write his chapter in the twentieth century book of Acts. As he went from door to door selling truth-filled books he also sought opportunities for Bible studies. Soon he had more studies than he could handle and asked for my assistance. I took over a study with Mr. and Mrs. Edward Matteson and their two girls. This resulted in the baptism first of Mrs. Matteson and her two daughters, and later the husband. The Mattesons and Brother Nieb became interested in the Bosworth family and studies developed wherein both Brother Nieb and Sister Matteson tried to lead the Bosworth family into the truth. Again my help was enlisted, and after several months

I had the privilege of baptizing Ralph Bos­worth and his son, Norman. Mr. Bosworth was a contractor by trade and we engaged him after his conversion to build our church in Wickford, Rhode Island, at a saving of many dollars. Thus another page in the book of Acts was written.

Brother Bosworth got Brother Nieb in­terested in Mr. and Mrs. Richard, but Frank, too busy to handle another study, got Brother Bosworth to begin the studies. Soon he sought my help, and after several months of studying with the Richards, who were Roman Catholics, I had the privilege of baptizing both Ted and Delia Richard. In a short while Ted Richard became a colporteur, and soon he had a Bible study interest with Mrs. June Randall. Later he turned the interest over to me, and in a few months I had the joy of baptizing Mrs. Randall. Another page in the book of Acts had been written. Soon Frank Nieb developed another interest and I began studies with Mrs. William Brown and her daughter, Mrs. Mary La Porte. At the com­pletion of the series, it gave me great joy to baptize Mrs. Brown and Mrs. La Porte. Their help has blessed the church.

Franklin Greene, a dedicated lay elder of the Burrillville, Rhode Island, church, won Mrs. Mildred Fenley and her son, Eu­gene, into the message. These were two of at least a dozen souls whom this layman and his faithful wife had brought into the faith. Mrs. Fenley entered the colporteur work and has been wonderfully successful. She not only consistently sold much litera­ture and truth-filled books over the years but under the blessing of God she has helped to win at least sixteen souls to Christ. Her faithful witnessing is respon­sible chiefly for the establishment of a small church in Putnam, Connecticut. Just be­fore I moved from this district in Rhode Island, Mrs. Fenley had me conducting a good-sized cottage meeting, and thus far two persons have been baptized as a result.

Combining their efforts with that of the minister, as the servant of the Lord has written should be done, these faithful col­porteurs and laymen have shared in the winning of nearly forty souls. God bless our consecrated colporteurs and dedicated laymen who give their time to the work of soul winning, and thus are daily writing the twentieth century book of Acts.


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GEORGE A. COFFEN, Pastor. Berrien Springs Village Church. Michigan

April 1965

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