OUR family, like others, enjoys eating out occasionally and we have a special cafeteria in our town where we often go. Franke's offers a large variety of tasty foods colorful salads, a nice selection of vegetables, savory desserts, and refreshing drinks. The choice is difficult, but we usu ally end up with a salad, two or three vegetables, a dessert, and a drink.
The minister's work program should be something like eating a meal. A balanced diet is important. We often attend ministers' conferences where our minds are filled with wonderful ideas. We drink them in, and then go home inspired to do greater things. At the same time, however, our heads are in a whirl, and we wonder how we are going to accomplish it all. A few of us just give up in confusion and despair, only to allow the program to continue in the same old routine. As pastors we need to sit down and plan the annual program of soul winning. In doing so we must re member that the church members need a balanced diet, but keep in mind also not to overload the platter.
In the year's program we should begin with a serving of "soil preparation." This can be any kind of public relations Five- Day Plans, health and welfare work, better-living centers, or just being kind to our neighbors. Add to this a serving or two of "seed sowing." This would likely include the gift-Bible program, subscriptions to our full-message magazines, and other literature distribution plans. A serving of "cultivation" is necessary in preparing the people for baptism. This would be Bible studies. A serving or two of "reaping" (evangelistic meetings) has a large place in the successful church's yearly diet.
The menu needs variety. The same old routine year after year will lose its taste to the average church member. He must be kept interested and busy.
Don'ts and Do's
Counsel comes to us from the Lord as to how we are not to work as well as how to work. We are not to hover over the churches (see Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 231, 232; Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 18), but go out to the unsaved and work for them. We are not to be burdened with "minor matters" (ibid., p. 247), such as managing the church's financial affairs or constantly attending committee meetings. We are not to preach to the church every Sabbath but are to let the laymen tell their experiences (ibid., p. 19).
We are told too that we are to be "wise generals" (Gospel Workers, p. 351) training an army of workers to save souls and assist in the work of the church. Do you remember the "foreman" (ibid., p. 197) of a gang of laboring men, who was fired because he did the work of six men while they idly looked on? Our business as pastors is to get the members working. We are told: " 'The best help that ministers can give the members of our churches is not sermonizing, but planning work for them. Give each one something to do for others.' " Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 82. If this is done there will be less "friction" (Gospel Workers, pp. 197, 198) among the members and more will be accomplished.
In looking over my baptismal list for this past year I see twelve who were baptized as a result of the labors of our active and dedicated laymen. Two souls were won by a barber and his wife; four persons received this message through the work of two colporteur families; three persons came into the church as a result of the work of two nurses and an American Airline secretary. One church member simply lived the message before a neighbor. Two others studied the gift-Bible lessons with a relative and his wife. Many others were children who were won by their parents. About all that I did as the pastor was to review the points of doctrine with them and perform the sacred rite of baptism. These are all thrilling experiences for both the pastor and the laymen.
On one occasion we had a series of meetings where the laymen did all of the speaking for the first fifteen nights with the last four decision sermons being given by an evangelist. Several souls were won through this series. After the meetings were over I heard one of the lady speakers say, "This is the first time we have ever been allowed to do anything like this in the church." The plan was for two laymen to speak each night on related subjects. For instance, one would speak twenty minutes on the law and the other would take twenty minutes on the Sabbath. On another evening one layman took the subject of death, while the other spoke on hell. With this plan one layman didn't feel that the whole responsibility of the evening program depended entirely on him. The meetings were held in the church and the attendance was good. A baptism was conducted at the close of the last meeting.
On another occasion we conducted a Voice of Youth series where the youth did all the planning, working, and speaking. A young Catholic man attended the meeting the night Revelation 13 was dis cussed, and a few weeks later took his stand for the message. He has now become a deacon in the church. His conversion was the result of dedicated youth sharing their knowledge and love of the Bible and their church beliefs. Needless to say, this program was a real asset in reviving the spirit of the church members.
Recently a lay soul winner called me on the phone and said, "We've got to do something about so and so. She is being mistreated by another church member." You see, the person or persons responsible for converting the new member will watch over him. However, when a pastor or evangelist wins him without involving a church member and then moves on to greener pastures, who is going to watch over this new convert? There is great danger of his being neglected unless someone has previously been assigned to stay close to him. As a parent is more likely to love his own children than someone else's, so there is always a deeper concern for a soul by the one who has won him than by anyone else.
The Health Approach
A few months ago we used the health approach in one of our series of meetings and utilized several physicians and other medical personnel in the church as speakers. They did half of the speaking each evening, using the health message as the entering wedge. We are told in Counsels on Health, page 533, "I wish to tell you that soon there will be no work done in ministerial lines but medical missionary work."
I firmly believe one of the very best ways to reach people is through our health program hospital work, Five-Day Plans, cooking schools, et cetera. We have good counsel as to how to start new work in the unreached cities. We are first to work for the "teachers and leaders of the people," "those who belong to the higher ranks of society," and the "wealthy" (Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 229, 230). This can best be done through the help of our dedicated physicians and others trained in medical lines. The temperance and medical work are the entering wedge.
In a recent Five-Day Plan conducted in Little Rock, various duties were assigned to the members of the church in order that the program might be successful. The doc tors assisted in the teaching phase of the program. Several members were in attendance on the opening night to help with the registration and to give out the control booklets. Others took a personal interest in the ones who came by calling them on the telephone periodically to see what progress was being made and to lend them encouragement. The dedicated telephones of our laymen can be such an important utensil in this phase of the church pro gram. With a telephone handy one need not have a car to be a willing and working church member.
Friendships among the wealthy have been developed in the Five-Day Plan that may well result in souls won to the mes sage of the three angels. The Lord wants whales in the gospel net along with the minnows and other fish. One man attending the Five-Day Plan was heard commenting, "You have good ideas about temperance, what else do you teach?"
We all know how valuable participation is when the Ingathering campaign is in progress. During the past Ingathering sea son our church brought in as much as $661 on a single night. It would have taken me alone several weeks to accomplish this. Many hands make light work. Participation is a key to success in soul winning too. Every member needs to be involved.
A New Church Organized
We have recently organized a new congregation of 40 enthusiastic members in North Little Rock. The nominating committee elected the officers, and laymen who have done very little in the church for several years are now being put into action. One man who has taken the lead in get ting the newly purchased building prepared for the day of organization said to me, "For the first time in the many years I've been a church member I feel needed in the Lord's work." This newly formed congregation asked for the names of all former Seventh-day Adventists and interested people who live in their city of 70,000 population. The list was promptly turned over to them and they are making plans to visit and win each person on this list. What a load off the pastor. This new church will soon be a strong and thriving congregation.
We are told that every new convert is to be put to work. (See Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 30.) If a seed is to be preserved, it must be replanted or it will soon lose its germinating power, and a new convert will soon lose his first love of the truth if not given a work to do for the Lord in winning more souls. Sometimes we as pastors get the mistaken idea that we are the only ones who have the know-how for winning souls. How unfortunate! Most of our members are willing to do something, even a small part, if only they are given the opportunity. Don't be surprised if they outshine us pas tors, for many are more capable of winning souls than some of us. Just a gentle nudge out of the nest is all some need and the rest just falls into place. After all, we don't want to be selfish with the soul-winning business. Everyone needs the joy of seeing someone for whom he has labored take his stand for the precious truths we love.
The laymen in looking over the work menu of the church will not be inspired to take a "bite" of every program that comes along, but with such a variety of "foods," there will be at least one or more in which he can actively participate and feel his soul satisfied. The pastor must know how to whet the layman's appetite to come and taste and see that it is good. What a joy it is for the pastor to see them enjoying the fruits of their labors.
The Bible says, "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few." As wise "generals" and "foremen" we are to give special thought and effort to the most important program of the church that of putting the laymen to work. They are the power of the church. Working with them like a mighty army, the work will soon be finished and Jesus will come.