Are Bible Instructors a Vanishing Breed?

A Ministerial secretary interviews a Bible instructor regarding her feelings about her work, and the importance she attaches to it.

-Ministerial secretary for the South American Division at the time this article was written

Probably the first question that comes to the mind of most is, Why did you choose this work?

Because I consider it the front-line work in the cause. Perhaps it is not the easiest, but without doubt it is one that produces the most lasting satisfaction.

What is that satisfaction?

Many times I have read the inspired declaration that says that Christ would have come to this earth for only one soul. I do not believe this to be an exaggeration. In my work I see many lives and homes remade as a result of the reception of the truth. When I think of the happiness of having been used as an instrument for the accomplishment of this miracle, I consider that the fruits of the work extend for years and years to succeeding generations who will grow to manhood and womanhood with another vision in life.

What has been your experience in working under the direction of various pastors? Do you remember one in particular who is highlighted by his virtues or by the manner in which he carried out his work?

Yes. I especially remember the first one with whom I worked. What an inspiration it was for me in beginning my work to discover that the interests felt captivated by the genuine consecration of the pastor! One of them said, "This man could not occupy an other position. He was born to be a pastor." I have worked with other pastors who seemed like real fathers. They were concerned that the work be good and ofttimes helped me visit the people. They were interested in my health, my financial situation, and in general, were aware of all my necessities. They knew the value of my work, and this fact filled me with courage and strengthened me for the battle.

In a special way I remember a pastor whom I appreciated for his dedication to the work of God. On a very cold winter day, when it was almost in tolerable to stand in the street, he gathered the Bible instructors together and said to us: "My friends, the days are very cold. I understand all that. But the work entrusted to us is the greatest given to mortals, that of rescuing souls for Christ. We must do this work with love, loyalty, sacrifice, and pleasure even though it is cold. If someone does not have a sufficiently warm overcoat I will help that one to acquire such and she may reimburse me when she is able. I have sold some things that I didn't need and I can help you." That was unforgettable; it revealed the love and affection of a real pastor.

What are the positive qualities you expect in a pastor as they relate to his spiritual life?

There are many qualities that I appreciate. One is integrity. That is to say, that he live what he preaches and is a fount of inspiration for the Bible instructors. Others include purity in his thoughts and acts; love enough for the work to give it first place in his life; that he love souls, that he be open-minded, not legalistic, but faithful to the principles and norms; patient; without anger; and that he know how to be prudent during those difficult moments in his treatment of the Bible instructor and the church. Also, I believe that it is important for him to realize that the Bible instructor is a soul to whom he is obligated to watch over the same as any other member of the church.

There are principles of ethics that help to maintain good relations. Are these very important in the ministry? Which virtues in this area do you especially appreciate in a pastor?

The field of ethics is quite vast. It has to do with relationships with the church, with the committee meetings, as well as with the Bible instructors. As far as the brethren are concerned, impartiality is expected. Everyone must receive the same friendliness. In a special way this is essential in the application of ecclesiastical discipline. The pastor must be upright, applying it impartially as needed, not to timid brethren alone. Besides, he should not make promises he cannot fulfill, thus gaining fame as a liar. He must respect another's opinions, encouraging and inspiring good ideas without attaching undue importance as to where they come from.

In the treatment of his fellow laborers he should be faithful, frank, communicative, and balanced. He should have confidence in them, offering counsel and guidance. Reproof or suggestions for improvement should not be administered in the hearing of those they do not concern. By this appreciation of our work he must stimulate us to action, progress, and overcoming. He should be courteous and a gentle man, not a "professional type."

There are situations where a pastor has both an intern and a Bible instructor as his colleagues. What recommendations do you have that might help him to avoid possible friction or the spirit of rivalry?

The Bible instructor hopes that the pastor will recognize and acknowledge her work along with that of the intern. People at times underrate the work of the Bible instructor because the intern's work is more visible to the public. The Bible instructor, I believe, should be a member of the church board. As one who knows most of the members well, she can be a great help. One pastor, when presenting new members to the board, invited me to the meeting. As the meeting began, he asked their pardon for having invited ,me, explaining that "she knows the candidates." To me that seemed unjust.

What about the organization of the work in the church? What help should the Bible instructor expect from the pastor?

There are few things more discouraging than to have to work under a pastor who doesn't want to work. Bible instructors expect the work to be organized and delegated in a fair way; that the pastor not keep the most promising and leave them with the difficult.

Some may ask, Is it the pastor's responsibility to provide the Bible instructor with work or should she look for it herself? We know that it is our duty to take advantage of each opportunity that presents itself to us, but sometimes we find ourselves in an almost agonizing situation, because we do not have interests and cannot see any preoccupation on the part of the pastor to secure any for us. For a Bible instructor, it is a tragedy not to have adequate work. We know that unless we have a great number of interests to study with it will be impossible to produce that which is expected of us. The pastor has other areas of output, but if we fail in this, our only area, we have nothing with which to justify our existence.

I believe that it is very important to respond immediately to the pleas for spiritual help from the interests. And it is gratifying to observe a pastor who does not look at his watch or his calendar before reacting to such cries for help. Even though the Bible instructor may have been the one most closely associated with these individuals, there are times when a visit from the pastor is necessary.

I like to work with a pastor who is on time for meetings and other appointments. In my opinion, this speaks well of him.

It is true that there are difficult moments in the experiences of all Bible instructors. Do you believe that the pastor can do something to help her in these crises?

In the duties of the Bible instructor can be found much happiness and satisfaction from rescuing souls for Christ. But there are also moments of discouragement and sadness that come when we realize that the harvest is not as great as it might have been. It is at these times that the Bible instructor needs the understanding and support of her superiors.

There is no doubt that our work is God's work, but it must not be forgotten that we are human and when we do the best within our capacity we like to be encouraged either personally or in some other way. Perhaps by way of a letter. There is nothing which motivates us to greater achievements in soul winning than a word of sincere appreciation. At the same time this brings to the church and to the interests a confidence in our work. There is no human being who is all good or all bad. And we are no exception. We know that we commit errors. But we also know that we get results.

Finally, an instructor wants to be a part of a team. We are daily surrounded by incredulity, doubt, problems, et cetera. How much we need to know that our pastor is interested in our work, so much so that he is willing to make visits with us. When there are triumphs they are ours, and when there are failures they also are ours. (Sometimes we feel that we are part of a team only when they want to know how many candidates we have for baptism.)

Do you believe there is something that could be done to augment the number of Bible workers?

1 believe there are two principal reasons why we do not have more women in this work. The first is that there are so few interested in using this method of saving souls. Then, too, the students in our colleges are attracted to other branches of work which they consider easier or offer greater financial returns, such as teaching, secretarial sciences, nursing, et cetera.

The second reason is, I believe, of a much more serious nature than the first. Too often there is not much demand for Bible instructors, and some finish college only to be employed in other occupations for which they have not really been trained or do not really have an interest or skills. What a paradox!

In my opinion, the solution is to inspire young women of talent and vocation to enter into the Bible ministry. This could be done through promotion campaigns in the local churches. At the same time measures could be taken to employ more Bible instructors, for, from the economical point of view, we are inexpensive; and from the output point of view, we are effective. Many souls have been brought to decisions through the instruction of Bible instructors. Ellen G. White, in commenting on their value, stated that we should have twenty where now there is only one.

There is a challenge here that should linger in the hearts of all of us. To the pastors who have the joy of a Bible instructor in their churches we recommend that they encourage her joyfully to fulfill her mission. To the administrators we would say, Make a place in the budget to have more consecrated women doing this holy work. And all of us can join in searching for those who could make the Bible instructors' work their life. We should urge them to receive a full preparation in college, then dedicate themselves to soul winning.

Let us not forget to pray often for these women of god, asking Heaven for strength and protection for them so that their mission might be completed.

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-Ministerial secretary for the South American Division at the time this article was written

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