MOST of the General Conference and Autumn Council resolutions and recommendations begin with one or more "Whereases." In other words, with a reason or reasons why specific actions were taken. It was not much different at the last General Conference session when 1971 was designated as Laymen's Year for the Advent Movement. In the official action taken, the word whereas does not appear, but a two fold meaningful reasoning was recorded:
"Realizing that fulfilling prophecy signals the rapid approach of probation's end and challenges laymen to concerted evangelistic action, and recognizing the urgency of coordinated soul winning, 'the minister and the church-members are to unite as one person in laboring for the up-building and prosperity of the church. . . . Let all press forward, shoulder to shoulder.' ELLEN G. WHITE, in Review and Herald, July 9, 1895, and
"Believing the inspired promise, 'It is true that in the time of the end, when God's work in the earth is closing, the earnest efforts put forth by consecrated believers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit are to be accompanied by special tokens of divine favor.' The Acts of the Apostles, p. 54.
"We, the delegates at this fifty-first session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, call upon the great army of Adventist laymen around the world to unite with the ministry in seeking the Lord for a revival of spiritual life and praying, studying, planning, and working together under God to assure the greatest soul harvest in 1971, designated as Worldwide Laymen's Year."
This is a historic document. It will, with the evangelistic accomplishments of this year, be recorded in the history of the remnant church.
You have noticed it was not addressed to laymen only. The ministry is a very vital part of the laymen's movement as are lay men of ministerial experience. The one cannot come to a complete bloom without the other. One has to complement the other. This is the way God planned it.
Around the world in 1971 the spotlights are on the laymen and ministers as a team. And who could better picture this team relationship and its importance to the work of the church than has been done in the many Spirit of Prophecy references with which we are familiar.
Laymen's Year and the Objectives of the Church
The Laymen's Year with all its programs and objectives first of all focuses on the church. We must re-evaluate our relation ship to the church and discover anew the divine purposes of this unique organization in the world. It is known to us that the church enjoys an exclusive position not given to any other organization on earth. It is the only organization established by Christ and it was established for a great purpose--to carry the gospel to the world.
During Laymen's Year we are facing many heart-searching questions: What does the church mean to us? How big is the church in the lives of our laymen? How much of the life of our parishioners belongs to the church? Are the members in your church church-conscious members? Church-consciousness will be a very intimate and important part of the great final revival.
At this time the church is to put on her beautiful garments "Christ our righteousness." There are clear, decided distinctions to be restored and exemplified to the world in holding aloft the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. The beauty of holiness is to appear in its native luster in contrast with the deformity and darkness of the disloyal, those who have revolted from the law of God. Testimonies to Ministers, p. 16.
As we consider the possibilities of greater lay involvement, it might be well to ponder first the basic philosophy concerning lay participation in the proclamation of God's last message. Who is it that is called to proclaim the message only the evangelist or pastor? Of course all pastors recognize that this is not so. If one thinks otherwise he is making---
A Fatal Mistake
It is a fatal mistake to suppose that the work of soul-saving depends alone upon the ministry. The humble, consecrated believer upon whom the Master of the vineyard places a burden for souls is to be given encouragement by the men upon whom the Lord has laid larger responsibilities. Those who stand as leaders in the church of God are to realize that the Saviour's commission is given to all who believe in His name. God will send forth into His vineyard many who have not been dedicated to the ministry by the laying on of hands. The Acts of the Apostles, p. 110.
For years we have read the following
In the future, men in the common walks of life will be impressed by the Spirit of the Lord to leave their ordinary employment and go forth to proclaim the last message of mercy. Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 27.
In all fields, nigh and afar off, men will be called from the plow and from the more common commercial business vocations that largely occupy the mind, and will be educated in connection with men of experience. As they learn to labor effectively they will proclaim the truth with power. Through most wonderful workings of divine providence, mountains of difficulty will be removed and cast into the sea. --Ibid., vol. 9, p. 96.
As a people we look forward to the mighty outpouring of God's Holy Spirit under whose power the work will be finished. Yet we have this sobering statement:
The great outpouring of the Spirit of God which lightens the whole earth with his glory, will not come until we have an enlightened people, that know by experience what it means to be laborers together with God. When we have entire, whole-hearted consecration to the service of Christ, God will recognize the fact by an outpouring of his Spirit without measure; but this will not be while the largest portion of the church are not laborers together with God.—Review and Herald, July 21, 1896.
In the light of these inspired statements that we dare not ignore, what should be our first responsibility?
A Divine Directive
Every pastor has the directive to prepare every member of the congregation for service.
Just as soon as a church is organized, let the minister set the members at work. They will need to be taught how to labor successfully. Evangelism, pp. 353, 354.
The best medicine you can give the church is not preaching or sermonizing, but planning work for them. --Ibid., p. 356.
United in Hope and in Service
The minister and the church-members are to unite as one person in laboring for the up-building and prosperity of the church. . . . The minister's work is the lay member's work as well. Heart should be bound to heart. Let all press forward, shoulder to shoulder. . . . All should be laborers together with God, and then the minister can feel that he has helpers in whom it is safe to trust. The minister can hasten this desirable end by showing that he has confidence in the workers by setting them to work. --Review and Herald, July 9, 1895.
A Noble Example
The number of centurions is increasing fast around the world. One of the world divisions had 70 in a single year. Nine of them were double centurions, four ministers baptized between 150 and 199 souls, and 57 reported 100 to 149 baptisms. These ministers accomplished this through utilizing the energy and dedication of the lay men in harmony with the divine blueprint. Let us remember, every soul won by lay men in the church is a soul won by the ministry. By working with our laymen, we always gain.
1. The laymen around the world have purposed to win 128,000 new members through the evangelistic outreach of 1971.
a. Afro-Mideast 500
b. Australasia 5,000
c. Central Europe 600
d. Far East 15,000
e. Inter-America 20,000
f. North America 17,100
g. Northern Europe 6.500
h. South America 25,000
i. Southern Asia 8,000
j. Trans-Africa 25,000
k. Trans-Mediterranean 5,300
(Laymen's objective: 2 souls for every SDA family.)
2. Bible studies one million each month. (Laymen's objective: 2 Bible studies a week per member.)
3. Lay efforts 15,000. (Laymen's objective: a lay effort in every church.)
4. Literature distribution 48,250,000. (Laymen's objective: A tract a day per member.)
Now comes the vital question, How can the ministry capitalize on the opportunities of the Laymen's Year program?
1. Impress an urgency upon the hearts of the members of your church and appeal to them to work with love for the lost souls. We have but a very little time to accomplish this task.
Let ministers teach church-members that in order to grow in spirituality, they must carry the burden that the Lord has laid upon them the burden of leading souls into the truth. Those who are not fulfilling their responsibility should be visited, prayed with, labored for. Gospel Workers, p. 200.
2. Acquaint the church with the great assignment philosophy of God and give to every member in your congregation a definite assignment within the church territory. "Everyone who is added to the ranks by conversion is to be assigned his post of duty." Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 30.
3. Provide everyone with the needed training.
God expects His church to discipline and fit its members for the work of enlightening the world. An education should be given that would result in furnishing hundreds who would put out to the exchangers valuable talents. Ibid., vol. 6, pp. 431, 432.
4. Dedicate the first Sabbath of every month to Laymen's Year. In churches where this is practiced, great spiritual revival has been experienced and the missionary program activated. An inactive church is a problem church and an inactive member becomes a spiritual weakling.
5. Revive prayer meetings in your church. A praying church will be trans formed into a soul-winning and growing church.
6. Call upon the laymen to tell their soul-winning experiences at least every first Sabbath of the month. Utilize also the weekly ten-minute lay activities service for fresh testimonies.
7. Plan and discuss the Laymen's Year program with the lay activities council so that every member can act his part in total church evangelism.
8. Provide the laymen an opportunity to have a lay effort in your church. Let them be spokesmen for God at least once during this year.
We will have success. The promise God made to His people of old is also valid for His people in modern times: "And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight. . . . For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you" (Lev. 26:8, 9). What will happen to the Advent Movement if all of the two million Adventists are truly united in hope and service? The laymen are waiting and eager. Let the ministers welcome them to the team, then train them for service, and together we can evangelize the world.