SPECTATORS or participators? In which category do the members of your congregation fall? Someone has described church as the favorite Sunday morning spectator sport. The type of leadership given by the pastor will determine whether his congregation become and/or remain spectators or participators. According to the inspired counsels given to this church, the primary function of the pastor is to train his members for the work of winning souls. In order to do this the pastor himself must know how to lead a soul to Jesus Christ.
Dr. D. James Kennedy suggests that in evaluating the effectiveness of a man's ministry we might better ask, How many trained soul winners did he leave behind in his last pastorate? rather than, How many did he baptize? Of course, to train soul winners is to assure not only present baptisms but continuing baptisms. Spurgeon expressed the same thought in these words: "He who converts a soul, draws water from a fountain; but he who trains a soul-winner digs a well, from which thousands may drink to life eternal."
The chief work of the pastor is to train soul winners. "The people have had too much sermonizing; but have they been taught how to labor for those for whom Christ died? Many would be willing to work if they were taught how to begin. They need to be instructed and encouraged. Every church should be a training school for Christian workers." Christian Service, p. 59.
The Church a Training Center
Pastor, is your church a training center? And if not, why not? "There should not only be teaching, but actual work under experienced instructors. Let the teachers lead the way in working among the people and others, uniting with them, will learn from their example. One example is worth more than many precepts." Ibid.
Is it possible that many of us are too busy for the very activity that would provide us with helpers to lighten our load? It is easier for a mother to bake a cake than to take time to teach her daughter how to do it. But think of what it means to mother when daughter finally learns to bake a cake all by herself. "If pastors would give more attention to getting and keeping their flock actively engaged at work, they would accomplish more good, have more time for study and religious visiting, and also avoid many causes of friction." Ibid., p. 70. The wisdom of God's counsels is reconfirmed when we witness the fact that the most rapidly growing movements in the world today are those that do what we are instructed to do---mobilize their total membership. Countless religious leaders have voiced the conviction that only in this way can the cause of Christ triumph. In his book Beyond Cotabata, Curran L. Spottswood states: "There is no hope of winning this world to Christ through the efforts of professional missionaries and ministers only. It is far too big a job. The only hope in a day when the forces of darkness threaten to overwhelm us is to mobilize the total manpower of the church every pastor, every missionary, and also every lay man and woman must be Christ's ambassador, if we are even to begin to measure up to the fateful hour in which we live."
Speaking before the General Ministers' Association of Greater Fort Worth, Texas, Dr. E. Stanley Jones declared that the next great spiritual awakening will come through Christian laymen "the great untapped source of power in the church to day." Leighton Ford in his book The Christian Persuader relates how the Latin American Mission made a study of the fastest-growing groups in that field Communists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Pentecostals. The surveyors concluded that, "The successful expansion of any movement is in direct proportion to its success in mobilizing and occupying its total membership in constant propagation of its beliefs."
Utilizing the Gift Bible Plan
In the Gift Bible Plan God has given us a method both simple and effective. It affords an excellent opportunity for team work between pastor and layman. If you have not adopted this plan for your church, or if your gift-Bible program needs a boost, try the following procedure. Personally recruit some of your stronger laymen to work with you in the gift-Bible program. Select names from your interest file (every church should have an ever-growing inter est file utilizing the 4 by 6 file cards recommended by the General Conference Ministerial Association) to be approached with the gift-Bible offer. These might be readers of our missionary journals, correspondence school interests, et cetera. Take a member with you as you attempt to place a gift Bible and the first two lessons in these homes. Help the layman to find a visiting partner who will go with him as he makes the weekly visits. As a pastor you can take a team of women with you on the initial visit without any difficulty or embarrassment. In your contact with the laymen encourage the idea that as they gain experience they will each recruit an other partner who has not been active in the Gift Bible Plan, and together they will take care of another interest. The two teams eventually make four, and so on.
After you have gained some personal experience in this type of field work and have trained at least a small group of workers you will be ready to share the plan with the church. Your presentation will be strengthened because you will be talking from experience. Also you will have the testimonies of those whom you have trained. This will give added inspiration. People will follow a leader who leads not only in words but in actions as well.
Introducing the Plan to the Congregation
At a Sabbath morning worship service preach a stirring revival sermon. Do not scold the people. Our failure to train and lead them into service is mainly responsible for their lethargy. Sound a note of optimism. Enthusiastically share your own experiences in personal soul-winning involvement. Conclude your message with an altar call, giving your members an opportunity to commit themselves to active Christian service. Announce a rally for a suitable hour on Sabbath afternoon. Urge all to attend. Explain that this can be the first step in making good the commitment they have just made. The urgency of the times demands our earnestness.
At the afternoon meeting share a few more personal experiences and then go into the mechanics of the Gift Bible Plan. Have some demonstrations showing how to deliver a Bible that has been requested, how to offer the Gift Bible Plan to a friend, and how to seek new interests by the door-to-door approach. Explain how to tactfully arrange a time for the regular weekly visits and how to check the lessons and gain a decision at each step of the study. Allow time for questions. Challenge the members to dedicate two hours each week to personal witnessing and gift-Bible visitation.
At the conclusion of the afternoon meeting have Bibles and lessons at each exit of the church. The supplies should be tended by capable individuals who will dispense them according to instruction. Each person should be encouraged to take at least one, and not more than three Bibles. With the Bible there should be a set of lessons, instructions, a decision card, a pad of weekly report blanks, a placement card. One portion of this card will be filled out immediately so the church will have a record of how many Bibles each member has taken. The other portion will be filled out and returned to the gift-Bible secretary as soon as the Bible and the first two lessons have been placed. A radio-TV log, if such is available, should also be included in each package so that students will be come acquainted with our programs.
Before dismissing this afternoon meeting the pastor will announce a certain time each week when he will meet with his co-workers in the Gift Bible Plan. This will be a time for sharing of instruction and experiences as well as seeking counsel from the pastor. It should be urged that the remainder of the afternoon be spent in placing as many as possible of the Bibles issued at the meeting. Announce a special meeting for Wednesday evening at which time the members will share experiences that God has given them while placing Bibles. From this time on Bibles, lessons, and the other materials mentioned above should be available from the gift-Bible secretary at the church each Sabbath. A rubber band will keep the items together as a packet. It is essential to the success of the program that each lay participant have a complete kit of materials.
The pastor should let it be known that he and those whom he has trained in advance will be available to give on-the-spot training to church members who feel their need of help in their gift-Bible work. A brief pastoral visit to members who did not take at least one Bible at the time of the Sabbath afternoon meeting will be the means of recruiting many more participants in the program. The pastor should have supplies with him in the car when he makes these calls. Such visits will be the highest type of pastoral visits in harmony with the divine blueprint: "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, la bored for." --Christian Service, p. 69.
The Gift Bible Evangelism Secretary
Every church should have a Gift Bible Evangelism secretary who will handle sup plies and keen the records involved. A receptacle should be provided at the church into which members can drop their weekly report blanks indicating the lessons they have checked during the week and also registering decisions made by the students who have responded to the personal response questions in the lessons. The gift- Bible secretary will transfer the information from the weekly report blank to the 4 by 6 decision card in the gift-Bible file. As the weekly report blanks are checked against the card file there may be some names for which a weekly report was not submitted. In such cases the member should be contacted and encouraged to make the visit as soon as possible. If the visit has been made, the report may be taken over the telephone. When a layman misses two consecutive weekly visits the pastor should be notified. The gift-Bible secretary will also schedule appointments for the pastor or group leader to accompany the lay visitor on the visits he makes fol lowing the lessons on the Sabbath and the state of the dead.
Wherever possible diplomas should be presented in church. The graduate should be invited to the pastor's Bible class if he has not already become a member of that class. A Sabbath dinner invitation will add to the effectiveness of this day and increase the possibilities of the graduate's becoming regular in Sabbath attendance. The lay man should offer transportation for his student, should sit with him, and should introduce him to a few members who will have been alerted in advance that a gift- Bible graduate will be visiting Sabbath school and church. The desirability of inviting the student to the pastor's class and the church service should be stressed, be cause it has been observed that those most likely to become church members are those who begin church attendance by the time they complete the course or before.
As soon as a gift-Bible student is baptized the layman who delivered his lessons should team up with him to foster a new gift-Bible interest perhaps a relative or a friend of the new believer. In this way the new convert will begin working for souls as soon as he comes into the church.