CHRIST tells us through His messenger exactly why He founded the church:
"The church is God's appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 9.
Here, then, is the great criterion for judging whether we as a church are succeeding. If the church is to succeed in this mission, the ministry must include every one of its members. We are told:
"The Lord requires that far greater personal effort shall be put forth by the members of our churches. Souls have been neglected, towns and villages and cities have not heard the truth for this time, be cause wise missionary methods have not been made."—Evangelism, p. 113.
Our greatest challenge, then, as overseers of the church, will be to get the church members under our care to be missionaries —home missionaries. How are we to in spire our members to witness actively, and thus fulfill the purpose of Christ for His church? What we do will depend on several factors, including:
1. Our personal concept of what witnessing is.
2. Our concept of the relationship be tween the minister and the layman.
3. What we regard as the true and acceptable principles of motivation in the Christian's life.
What Is Witnessing?
God has said, "Ye are my witnesses" (Isa. 43:10). The simple meaning of the word witness is to tell what one has personally seen, heard, and experienced. That Christ intended His people to so understand their work is apparent from His commission to the newly converted demoniac: "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee" (Mark 5:19). This lay-activities program of Jesus has several advantages. Very little, if any, cost. No prolonged training necessary. All can participate, each in his own way, telling his own story. No one can argue about one's own personal experience. It has power to reach hearts and arouse faith.
While it may be important to hand out papers, collect Ingathering funds, conduct Bible studies, et cetera, each must above all have a personal relationship with Christ; he must be able to "tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee."
The Relationship Between the Minister and the Layman
If we have envisioned the minister as the great evangelist who must "use" as many laymen as possible to make "his" campaign successful, then we must experience a dying of our ecclesiastical ego. The work of the church must be a cooperative effort that extends deep into community life. "We who have been trained to be the central actor in the liturgical drama, played out in the center of the parish stage, have long had our people as the paying audience. God has been in the wings whispering the minister's cues. But now the minister is being called on to become the backstage prompter in the wings while his lay people play out the drama of con temporary redemption on the larger stage of their homes and communities and the world."—KEITH MILLER in The Taste of New Wine, p. 112.
Notice the force of this modern translation of the Epistle to the Ephesians: "These were his gifts: . . . some pastors and teachers, to equip God's people for work in his service, to the building up of the body of Christ" (chap. 4:11, 12; N.E.B.).* We must face the fact that we are often not in intimate touch with "pagan" man where he lives and works, so the missionary of Christ must in many cases be the Christian layman. And the minister must be the coach, the teacher of the laymen.
The Christian's Motive for Service
We must persuade men to become active witnesses for Christ. To what motives are we to appeal in order to get this action? Sometimes this "appealing to motives" in order to persuade people is done without much conscious thought. However, it is important that we take an honest look at this vital factor. One has written very frankly as follows:
The enemy of souls ... is persuading men. He bombards them incessantly with his powerful propaganda. The evidences of his methods of high-pressure salesmanship are everywhere to be seen. He employs the mass media to peddle his wares— television, radio, stage and screen, newspapers and magazines, billboards. He uses any and every method that comes to hand. He appeals to any and every motive he can discern in the carnal heart of man—desire for supremacy, love of display, appetite, insecurity, fear.
God's men, however, are precluded from con ducting their activities according to such an order of things. "The love of Christ," the apostle says, "constraineth us" (2 Cor. 5:14). The motivation which inspired the apostle Paul's herculean labours in the cause of truth was awe and gratitude. He beheld the love of Christ, and by beholding, he became changed (2 Cor. 3:18). The work that he accomplished and the sufferings he endured he offered up to God as an act of worship from a heart filled with love. This is the motivation which has brought the best out of God's men at all times. It is the only motivation acceptable to heaven for any good that Christians do.
Even before Calvary, Jesus was already protesting against wrong motivation. "Take heed," He said, "that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 6:1). . . .
On the level of Christian experience these are principles which I trust we all accept. The moment, however, that we turn from the realm of personal Christian experience to that of Church administration, what a change! And what a sorry spectacle we find!
Church administration is infected from its heel to its head with practices that strengthen the propensities of the carnal heart of man. The damage is for the most part done by devout men, who would shrink back in horror were they able to see the harmful results of their well-intentioned actions. Yet the system is so deeply entrenched that these things go on unrebuked, even for the most part, unsuspected. . . .
Some churches award badges to people who win souls. Other incentives could also be mentioned. Some churches present star collectors with certificates, and even, more lately, with ballpoint pens.
What a comedown it is from serving the Master out of love to earning for yourself a ballpoint pen! This present-day emphasis on the outward act (results reflected in reports) rather than the motive of love definitely tends to foster the spirit of legalism which shows its head so often among more zealous Christians.—C. D. BERTELSEN, "Don't Feed The Tiger," in The Christian Minister, August, 1968, pp. 3-36.
We shall need insight and courage from God to work on the proper level. God's messenger says: "Motion is not necessarily life. We may go through all the forms and ceremonies of religion; but unless we are alive in Christ, our work is worthless. The Lord calls for living, working, believing Christians."—Evangelism, p. 117.
Love is the most impelling force in the world. God's messenger assures us that "he who loves Christ the most will do the greatest amount of good" (The Desire of Ages, p. 250).
With this background, how does the pas tor begin fostering lay activities on arriving at a new church? The next article will outline a suggested plan of leading the church members under our care into true witnessing for Christ.
(To be continued)
* The New English Bible, New Testament. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1961. Reprinted by permission.