Try It. You'll Like It.

ONE OF THE basic beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist ministry is our insistence on the fact that the backbone of the church is the lay man. Over and over again we re peat and hear repeated the thought that the work of God in the earth will never be finished until the laymen are accorded their rightful place in the church and arouse themselves to superior effort. . .

-pastor of the Alhambra Seventh-day Adventist church, in the Southern California Conference at the time this article was written

ONE OF THE basic beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist ministry is our insistence on the fact that the backbone of the church is the lay man. Over and over again we re peat and hear repeated the thought that the work of God in the earth will never be finished until the laymen are accorded their rightful place in the church and arouse themselves to superior effort. This belief is not only stressed by reference to many quotations in the writings of Mrs. White but also has received emphasis in the various programs and meetings sponsored throughout the world field by the laymen of the church.

There are two areas on a local level, however, where the lay men can especially contribute in a beneficial way to the work of the local church, the organization as a whole, and be particularly helpful to the pastor or pastoral staff.

One such area is that of church school board representation. Why is it necessary for a minister to be a voting representative on a local school board? Is he saying, in effect, that the only way he will serve and promote Christian education is in exercising a controlling voice? Would his participation be any less and his commitment any less if he were to use only moral persuasion rather than controlling interest?

If we are to be honest about it we have to recognize that many laymen are more qualified in to day's complicated and specialized world to deal with the specific problems of personnel, finances, and administration than the pas tor himself. It is often delightfully amazing to see how efficiently the laymen can operate a school with the support, but not the control, of the pastor.

When the minister does serve on the school board without a vote, he is not so apt to be pitted against his fellow ministers or other church laymen in a decisive ' struggle for control or direction. One of my most treasured compliments came from a layman who told me, after observing my way of working with the school board, that he greatly appreciated the fact that I didn't try to change everything to my way of thinking so it had to be rechanged after I left.

Another delightful way in which the layman can lift some of the burden of the pastoral staff is in the matter of proper use of the church board. How many times we see a strong-minded minister pitted against a strong-minded board. How often this results in factions seeking for control, thus thwarting the effort for effective organization and spiritual growth.

The Church Manual stresses time and again that the church board is only advisory, and that caution should be exercised in using the board to override the wishes of the church. It is clearly stated that the board is not authorized to disfellowship members, spend church funds, or to commit the church in any pro gram without authorization of a duly called open business session.

One of the methods we have used over the years that has brought great satisfaction and, we believe, greater efficiency, has been the use of the open church business meeting, which primarily functions as a church board. Matters of general church interest are brought to this open meeting. No preliminary board work has to be done or is even necessary if the minister has first persuaded the board of this method of operation and has also carefully counseled the members. It is much easier to approach most problems in an open forum without any duplicating process.

One of the interesting results has been that, if the minister does his homework adequately, the church as a whole will support him much better than it does through the more traditional approach. Layman may disagree with layman on the floor, but it leaves the minister largely free for reconciliation and compromise, which is really his main administrative function. Of course, delicate and personal matters should be taken to a regular private meeting of the church board.

The results of following this method of operation have been most gratifying. The people who support the church with their funds and their effort feel they have a meaningful voice. The factions are largely negated through the open forum, and the minister's position as an administrator and spiritual leader is left untarnished. It is true, as some say, that the minister doesn't always get his way by this method, but then isn't that the meaning of it all? To lead where people will follow and not to push them where they aren't willing to go.

Try it. You'll like it.


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-pastor of the Alhambra Seventh-day Adventist church, in the Southern California Conference at the time this article was written

August 1974

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