In our day the attitude has become dominant that being a Christian makes relatively small demands on a person. We have come to think of the Christian life in terms of petty moral requirements and institutional relationships. This mind-set almost guarantees that the average church member (and perhaps the average preacher and church vocational worker) will find it exceedingly difficult to comprehend the deep demands of God concerning the Christian life demands in terms of mission and ministry when these are presented to him. When a minister in the pulpit invites people to "make a decision for Christ," usually it is not this ministry to which he is inviting people. When people respond with a decision it is generally not this ministry to which they have committed their lives. Yet this is the very essence of the Christian life! Does this mean that we must make a significant modification in our invitation when we invite people to Christian discipleship?
Increasingly, the church is simply ministering to its own, and the masses are left untouched by what goes on within the walls of the church. It is in the world and only in the world that the majority of the people will ever be touched by a Christian witness. In this connection, the observation of Walz concerning the "gathered church" is most intriguing in its suggestions: "I have often wondered, in recent years, whether it has not been a mistake to concentrate the doctrine of the church so much on its being gathered. I think that the church will appear to be gathered from the four winds of the earth only at the end of history as we know it.
For the time being, the church is not a gathered community, but, to use the paradoxical phrase of one of the reformers (Melanchthon), 'the community of the dispersed.' Without dispersion there is no savor. It is the laymen not gathered in the church building, but busy everywhere in the world, who must truly represent the church as an element of stimulation, of creativeness and criticism, as a challenge demanding response, which means life for the world." *
If the emphasis here is correct, then the emphasis in the program of the modem churches is seriously in error. That is, almost everything that is done in the present program points toward what is to be done on Sabbath in the church as its climax. The minister and church staff make their plans, a visitation program is promoted, the teachers and other church leaders make their preparation--all pointing to Sabbath as the climax. All of this is good as far as it goes. Certainly the worship of God and the study of the Bible are important, but the doctrine of the priesthood of believers indicates that for the Christian the climax is what is done in the world during the week!
What happens on Sabbath is to prepare him for this ministry in the world during the week. It is recognized that this is what the present church program intends to do, but the fact is, a rather significant revolution will be needed if this concept is to be seriously undertaken in the life and work of the church. The present mindset and attitudes of the pastors and church staff members will have to be drastically changed. They will have to change their method of evaluating the "success" and effectiveness of their work from how many attend on Sabbath to what those who attend on Sabbath do in the world during the week. Church members also have to change their understanding of their responsibility for, relation to, and ministry in the world. They will need to change the manner of evaluating their loyalty and devotion to Christ from the number of meetings they attend on Sabbath to what they do in the world in the week. Yet these are precisely the changes that must be made if the modern churches are to implement the practical meaning of the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of believers.
But to have a deeper understanding of their ministry is not enough. They must also have the training for this ministry. To provide this training in any adequate sense will call for a new curriculum. Christians will need the opportunity to study, specifically and in depth, the relationships in which they engage in the world. The factory worker should have the stimulation and the opportunity to study what is his ministry in the world and how it should be expressed in normal relationships--in the home, in society, in the factory, et cetera. The doctor, the accountant, the lawyer, the farmer, the secretary all should be provided the same opportunity. This is not to suggest that one's ministry in the world will be expressed only through a particular vocation. Often a Christian's ministry will be expressed quite apart from his vocation. At a given time he might give himself to an intensive effort to reach the unreached through visitation, or he might desire to give special study and work for the world mission task of the church.
Therefore, the objective of the church and the emphasis of its program must be changed by whatever degree is necessary so that it will point specifically toward helping the membership to understand the essential mission God has entrusted to those whom He has called to be the people of God, and lead them to accept and fulfill this ministry in the world! --R.D.E.