The Pastor and Lay Missionary Activities

IF A pastor senses the need of leading the members entrusted to his care into a true witnessing experience motivated solely by the love of Jesus Christ, how does he begin?

IF A pastor senses the need of leading the members entrusted to his care into a true witnessing experience motivated solely by the love of Jesus Christ, how does he begin? On his arrival to serve a church, the minister will not, of course, step into a lay activities vacuum. The church may have raised their Ingathering goal for several years in succession. The layman currently leading the lay activities of the church may have an active program for distributing Signs of the Times or Bible in the Hand. The new pastor will try to fit into the existing program.

However, his first concern will be to as certain the spiritual experience of his members and in particular whether they are able to give, and are active in giving a warm, sincere witness of what Jesus means to them. He may do this as he visits in their homes, by asking them the question in a simple and natural way. He may also, after a few weeks, give opportunity for people to testify at the worship service or prayer meeting and see whether there is obvious reluctance, reserve, and very little joy and radiance in the testimonies given and whether they are self-centered and dealing with personal resolutions to turn over a new leaf, et cetera, or centered in the living Christ and what He means to them and has done for them. If the result is negative, the minister must begin, under God, to lead the members into personal contact with Jesus and an experience with Him so they will have something to witness about.

The Preaching Ministry

However, the pastor must have a living experience himself. He must be able to speak naturally and with warmth and joy of what Jesus means to him and of the changes Jesus is making in his life. Other wise he cannot lead others to this experience. His life will bear the greatest influence in leading the church into this witnessing experience.

The pastor's sermons should be such as the Spirit can use to produce in the members the personal experience with Jesus which is preparatory to a life of witnessing. They will, therefore, over several weeks or months include the following purposes:

1. The awakening of a sense of need for this personal contact with Christ: e.g., by exposing the vital difference between nominal Christianity and the life of faith in and fellowship with Jesus Christ, or by revealing the subtle dishonesties common to professed Christianity (such as singing in church "Sweet Hour of Prayer," and neglecting to spend even a moment in personal Bible study and prayer), or by unveiling the self-centeredness common to man.

2. A description of what Christ has done to change lives: e.g., by the minister giving his own testimony or that of someone else and thus creating a thirst for the more abundant life.

3. Making plain the way to personal contact with Christ, to full commitment, to the experience of forgiveness, of acceptance with Christ, and of sharing life with Christ day by day.

4. Pastoral visitation should include heart-to-heart discussion of the sermons. The pastor will share what God has done for him and encourage the members to speak of their own relationship with Jesus. Prayer in the homes concerning this vital matter will be of great value.

5. Prayer meeting: The "School of Prayer" series of six prayer-meeting pro grams (see THE MINISTRY, October, 1964) has been found to contribute a great deal toward cultivating a real and personal con tact with God, Whether or not this plan is followed, the prayer meeting could be so conducted as to encourage a personal en counter with Christ.

Group for Strugglers

6. Begin a group for strugglers. After a few weeks or months the pastor will begin to know who are the spiritual leaders of the church, those most hungry to know God. These will hopefully include some of the elected church leaders and may include others not in church office. The pastor should speak to about eight of these personally, inviting them to join him, say, every Tuesday evening, in an informal circle of fellowship and prayer. The only criterion for joining the group would be that each one would want to give his life to God (even though some may not understand just how to do it). The group is not to be a clique, gossip session, or debating society. Its clear purpose is to get to know the living Christ. An essential characteristic of the group is spontaneity there is no rigid leadership, the meetings are informal, the group should begin without any announcements being made in church, and it should meet in a member's home. When the group meets, there will be opportunity for each to share with the others his failures, joys, and the things which happen to him as he tries to take Christ consciously through the routine of his days and nights. There is no room for pretense in such a group. Even the pastor must not pretend to have arrived spiritually. Thus the group members will begin to see together the contemporary footprints of Christ, through their lives. There may be difficulties at first, fear of each other and embarrassment; but the freedom and informality of the pas tor can be infectious.

The group meetings should also include devotional study, e.g., the Gospel of Mark, the first six and last four chapters of The Ministry of Healing, et cetera. This devotional study is not patterned after the conventional Bible study of Sabbath school lesson study. The group should pause in their reading whenever someone is impressed to comment on a passage or thought. Then they should pray together, specifically, and for one another.

Significant Results

In places where this plan has been fol lowed, there have been significant results. Jesus seemed to come into the members' homes in a very real way, and it became natural to speak of Him in their homes. People who would have struggled for years over resentment toward a neighbor or some other problem have heard suggestions from others who had had similar problems, and victories have come. All have benefited from the balance, correction, and love of such a group, and the witness of lives being changed before their eyes has helped them to find freshness again when their experience had become stale.

The pastor may be tempted to feel that he has no time for this. Jesus spent a large share of His active ministry with twelve men. Through these twelve, a multiple progression of life-changing lives began.

Companies of Christian workers should gather to ask for special help. . . . The presence of the Spirit with God's workers will give the proclamation of truth a power that not all the honor or glory of the world could give. The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 50, 51.

After the pastor has met with the original group for several months, he will encourage the members of the group to divide up into little groups of two or three. Each little group will then approach other members of the church to join them, and so there will be four or five groups each, consisting of eight or ten people. So the groups will increase in number until hopefully each member of the church is involved.

In laboring where there are already some in the faith, the minister should at first seek not so much lo convert unbelievers, as to train the church members for acceptable co-operation. Let him labor for them individually, endeavoring to arouse them to seek for a deeper experience themselves, and to work for others. Evangelism, pp. 110, 111. The formation of small companies as a basis of Christian effort is a plan that has been presented before me by One who cannot err. Ibid., p. 115.

The groups for strugglers help to sustain (as well as start) the Christian life for many people. When this situation prevails in a church, the members will usually be gin witnessing spontaneously. The Spirit will often impress them to launch out in specific areas of witness. Now they will have something to tell, something they have seen and heard together.

Training for Witness

It should be emphasized, however, that an experience not shared will be lost. Encouragement and direction along lines of witness will be necessary. (See Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 129-142.) Therefore, as the pastor sees that the members are discovering the living Christ in a new and real way, he will begin to provide guidance and training for them. This may be incorporated into the midweek prayer meeting. In conducting this training class, he must ever keep in mind that this is not just another program to be pushed. It is a way of life into which Christ and he are leading the people.

As they put forth calm, steady, devoted effort to educate the church members to engage in personal work for souls wherever there are favorable openings, success will mark their labors. Ibid., p. 115.

The Saviour did not despise education; for when controlled by the love of God, and devoted to His service, intellectual culture is a blessing. The Desire of Ages, p. 249.

In his training the pastor should remind the group that:

1. We are not advocating the "live the faith and not talk about it" idea. If a man in a dread disease ward marvelously met a doctor who effected a cure, and while he secretly began to be cured, he only walked around helping other patients to be more comfortable in their dying, without introducing them to his doctor, he would be little less than criminal.

2. Many sincere and devoted Christians who really want to speak to others of Christ do so in a pious and obscure manner in stead of being simple and natural about it, using everyday language.

3. We are most winsome when we are unconsciously being ourselves with other people and accepting them just as they are, without trying to manipulate or change them in any way. Because we are not self-conscious at such times, we cannot evaluate our success too well and do not realize we are doing more good perhaps than when we prepare strenuously.

4. While one level of communicating living Christianity involves studying the Bible and other related books, speaking to groups about God, Sabbath school teaching, preaching, and living an upright life, the level of communicating the gospel that we are most concerned about involves a person-to-person ministry; an actual conscious readiness on the part of an individual Christian to put another man or woman in touch with the living Christ. This cannot be obtained in canned form. It involves a way of thinking about and being related to other people, based on the realization that behind the placid masks we meet on the street, in the office, et cetera, there are frustrated, fearful hearts, pained by meaninglessness. However, people do not recognize this as guilt and separation from God. They are inwardly crying out for peace and direction. They will listen to someone who is genuine.

The gospel would be effective only as it was proclaimed by hearts made warm and lips made eloquent by a living knowledge of Him who is the way, the truth, and the life. The Acts of the Apostles, p. 31.

5. The member of the church who does this kind of witnessing will invite his interested friends to the group for strugglers he attends each week. This will lead in the course of weeks and months to church attendance, instruction in the teachings of Scripture, and hopefully to the interested friends' finding a place in the church of Christ. The new member is in turn encouraged to witness. (With this kind of witnessing going on by the members in the community, the pastor will find a ready audience for public meetings, which will aid in binding off many of the interests.)

If witnessing is a way of life and not a program, it is done all the time we are alive. While there may at times be a special crusade on a Sabbath after noon (for example, the start of public meetings), the emphasis on finishing the work will require more than Sabbath afternoon work. We will have to witness every day. The people should be encouraged often to make Sabbath afternoon a creative family time. (This in it self would contribute toward the development of the Christian home and the saving of our children.)

The demand for devoted and zealous leaders is only emphasized by the above plan leaders who will inspire people to engage in the work of God, using methods of Jesus. To some this seems a long way around. "Are there not quicker ways to get the layman working?" they ask. If they are aiming at much movement and big reports, the answer is Yes. But if the goal is to lead the members into a true witness experience ("Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee") and for the members to do this out of gratitude and love for Jesus Christ and for the results to be recorded in heaven and not just on earth, then the answer must be No.

God hasten the fulfillment of the fol lowing prediction of His messenger:

In many places consecrated men and women may be seen communicating to others the light that has made plain to them the way of salvation through Christ. And as they continue to let their light shine, . . . they receive more and still more of the Spirit's power. Thus the earth is to be lightened with the glory of God. Ibid., p. 54.

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February 1970

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