The Ministerial Association at 65

Why do we have a Ministerial Association? What does it really do?

The man who met me at the South Bend, Indiana, airport to chauffeur me to my appointment at Andrews University was a tall, handsome chap. I soon learned that he was a senior theology student. He asked what my job was and listened politely as I told him I was secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association. Then he threw me a curve; "But what does that mean? What does a ministerial association do?" It's a question that deserves answering.

Whatever it is we do, we've been doing it since 1922. That makes us 65 years old this year. Sixty-five is a pretty good time to stand back and ask what we've accomplished. It's also a good time to make some new plans so people will know we haven't retired.

Looking back

The Ministerial Association was authorized on May 26 at the 1922 General Conference session. The charter suggests that its purpose was to strengthen the gospel ministry in three ways: collect information relating to the work and problems of ministers; form a medium for sharing this information; and encourage young men who were training for the ministry. 1

A. G. Daniells had been General Conference president for 21 years. It was time for a change, and he was not reelected. Yet at 64 he was nowhere near ready to retire. And so on September 25, 1922, he was chosen the first ministerial secretary, and the Ministerial Association was born.

Righteousness by faith reconverted Daniells

During his General Conference presidency (1901 to 1922), Daniells had led out in meeting the Kellogg crisis, moving the headquarters to Washington, D.C., and greatly expanding our work overseas. He was largely instrumental in the development of our present organization and the forming of departments. He had become "Mr. Machinery."

Daniells later admitted that administrative pressures had caused him to neglect his own spiritual experience. Efficiency in administration had taken first place. Release from the presidency added feelings of rejection and the temptation to be critical of new leadership. He felt he must regain his own spiritual bearings if he was to really help our ministers. Throughout 1923 and 1924 he studied and restudied the underlying principles of the Advent message. 2

Daniells had been serving as a missionary in New Zealand during the 1888 General Conference session and had not been present to hear its emphasis on righteousness by faith. He later spoke with regret of his lack of awareness of the principles underlying righteousness by faith. As he now studied the subject, Ellen White's article in the March 22, 1887, Review and Herald became a favorite with him. The article begins, "A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work." Later it asks, "Will you shut out the blessed Saviour, because you are unprepared for His presence?" He didn't want that to hap pen in his own life. Studying the 1888 issues long and intensely, he gradually felt himself being drawn back to his Lord. Righteousness by faith became for him a glorious reality and a personal experience with Christ.

Speaking of an intimate relationship with Christ, he wrote to L. E. Froom in 1927, "I believe in it because I have known it in my own life. It came to me in a clump of bushes in New Zealand when I was passing through a crisis in my work there. It remained with me for years and wrought effectually on the hearts of others. But in later years administrative affairs robbed me of that conscious abiding presence of Christ and turned me into a formalist. Now I am returning to that fellowship with my Lord. . . .

"For 40 long years the Lord has been trying to lead us into that Pentecostal experience to fit us for efficiency in evangelism, but we have fallen into one trap after another and so defeated the Lord's purpose. Institutionalism, administrationism, financialism, foreign missionism these, one after another, have gripped us so hard that we have never gotten the baptism, the most important issue of all. "3

Most of the leadership elected at the 1888 General Conference session supported the righteousness by faith message. O. A. Olsen, who replaced G. I. Butler as president, accepted and preached it. In the 1890s it received considerable emphasis. Ellen White took her stand with the "young men," Waggoner and Jones, and traveled with them to camp meetings and churches, preaching righteousness by faith. Many who originally opposed the message changed their minds or faded away as leaders.

The new flame burned lower, however, as the church entered the twentieth century and was confronted with impel ling internal conflicts. Reorganization was imperative during Daniells' presidency. But if Daniells is to be accused of allowing organizational matters to over shadow the emphasis on righteousness by faith in his two decades as president, he must also be credited with reviving its emphasis and making it his one over whelming concern when he left the presidency and became ministerial secretary. The newborn Ministerial Association enthusiastically gave first priority to righteousness by faith. 4

The association in Daniells' day

Daniells began his work for the association by holding ministerial institutes on righteousness by faith. He traveled extensively during 1923, 1924, and 1925, holding institutes in the southwest, west, and northwest regions of the United States. By 1926 he had prepared a compilation from the writings of Ellen G. White, Christ Our Righteousness, the association's first book. It became the text book for institutes held around the world. Revival followed in the wake of these meetings. Men such as L. E. Froom, Meade MacGuire, Taylor Bunch, and Carlyle B. Haynes caught Daniells' spirit of revival, accepted his righteousness by faith message, and multiplied his success through their own ministries.5

When Daniells was not reelected to the General Conference presidency, he was invited, along with his work as ministerial secretary, to continue administrative duties as secretary of the General Conference. In 1926 he gave up the administrative post. The association needed him full-time. L. E. Froom and Meade MacGuire joined him that same year as associate secretaries. By 1927 there was a ministerial secretary in every world division. 6

L. E. Froom had been studying and lecturing on the Holy Spirit. In 1928 the association released his Coming of the Comforter as their second book.

Institutes had their limitations. Even with three men in the association and others assisting as lecturers, the world field couldn't be covered. A method of written communication with ministers was a must.

The association first sent out a series of mimeographed bulletins. These often included messages given at institutes. Different ministerial specialties asked for practical advice and methods successful in their particular area. Specialized bulletins were prepared for pastors, evangelists, singing evangelists, Bible workers, Bible teachers, sanitarium chaplains, and others.

It didn't work very well, just as the association had hoped it wouldn't. Every specialty wanted to learn what was being told the others. Pressure began building for the publication of a journal. This was the association's dream.

General Conference administrators seemed at first to see it more as a night mare. "We can't afford another journal," they argued. "Some bulletins and a page or two in the Review and Herald should suffice." But as demand for the bulletins increased, they too became expensive. Besides, the field wanted a journal. Finally The Ministry was authorized, and Volume I, Number 1, was released in January 1928. By 1930 circulation stood at about 2,500.

Froom did most of the editing. Daniells was like a father to him. In fact, Daniells sometimes signed letters to him "Father." Daniells retired from the association in 1931 at age 73, but stayed very close to Froom right up until Daniells' death four years later.

Froom picked up his mentor's torch. In the first issue of The Ministry, he wrote: "In 1888 we reached a new epoch in this movement. The hour had come for a neglected truth to be heralded, the message of 'righteousness by faith,' in the setting of the threefold message. It was this culminating message, with the accompanying experience required, we are told, that began the loud cry. It is to be heard. It is this that is to crown and complete our work. Feebly at first, it is destined to swell until it bursts forth with a thundering volume that will penetrate to every human ear.

"'Righteousness by faith' is not a slogan or a catch phrase. It is not merely a doctrine to receive mental assent. It is a living experience that must become a personal actuality in all who shall triumph with the movement. It is not a thing apart from the movement; it is its very essence--'the third angel's message in verity.' It does not minimize the distinctive truths that make us a separate people; it clarifies and intensifies them in an apostate age, and makes them glow with the radiant light of heaven. It gives them spiritual potency. It clothes the movement and its message with its culminating power."7

The association in more recent years

In the 65 years of its existence there have been only seven secretaries of the General Conference Ministerial Association: A. G. Daniells (1922-1931), I. H. Evans (1931-1941), L. E. Froom (1941- 1950), R. A. Anderson (1950-1966), N. R. Dower (1966-1980), J. R. Spangler (1980-1985), and W. F. Bresee (1985- present).8

At the time of Daniells' death in 1935, the association employed one secretary and two associate secretaries to serve 2,355 ministers, a ratio of 1:785. By 1985 there were one secretary, three associate secretaries, one assistant secretary, and two assistant editors. There are a little less than five travel budgets to serve 15,685 ministers, a ratio of 1:3,137.9 The Ministerial Association staff is not growing nearly as fast as the number of ministers in the field--and it needn't.

Although division ministerial secretaries were chosen almost from the beginning of the association, as late as 1942 Oliver Montgomery could say, "There are no union or local association secretaries, but contacts are made directly with the conferences, the institutions, and the individual worker."10 Since nearly all conferences and unions now have ministerial secretaries who run their own programs, and since there are about six times as many ministers as when the association began, it is neither possible nor proper for the General Conference Ministerial Association to make the impact it once did through ministerial institutes. Also, the Biblical Research Institute now gives more direct leadership to the study and defense of our doctrines than does the Ministerial Association.

As it becomes less and less realistic or necessary to serve the individual minister through field work from the world head quarters, it becomes more and more important that our field work concentrate on training division, union, and local ministerial secretaries, who can directly serve the individual minister. One thing is certain, ministers need as much help today in reviving their personal relationships with Christ as they did when the association began. The association must continue to strive to meet this need at all levels.

The 1941 General Conference session recommended that one of the three secretaries of the Ministerial Association be "an experienced, successful evangelist" and that another be "a qualified, experienced Bible worker." If the first years of the association were marked by a primary emphasis on righteousness by faith and a secondary emphasis on evangelism, more recent years have probably been marked by a primary emphasis on evangelism and a secondary emphasis on righteousness by faith. 11

Looking ahead

What is the Ministerial Association doing now? At the beginning of this quinquennium the General Conference Ministerial Association staff spent many days putting together plans and objectives for 1985 through 1990. Let me share with you a few of our projects and concerns:

Harvest 90: Evangelism is still high on our priority list. This quinquennium our emphasis centers on the association's leadership in Harvest 90. At the close of 1986, after the first six quarters, we had surpassed our objective of baptizing 22.5 percent of our total goal of 2 million souls. We actually baptized 607,162, or 157,162 over our objective. We are urging each pastor to conduct at least one evangelistic series of some type every year and every office person carrying a ministerial credential or license to be involved in two or more evangelistic series during the quinquennium.

Are we growing as rapidly now as we were 65 years ago? At the beginning of 1922 we had 198,088 members. By the close there were 208,771, an increase of 10,683, or 5.39 percent. At the beginning of 1986 we had 4,716,859 members. By the close there were 5,033,062, an increase of 316,203, or 6.7 percent. We are growing faster now than then!

MINISTRY Magazine: The early issues of MINISTRY went to 2,500 readers. Today every second issue is a PREACH issue and goes to 230,000 ministers of all faiths.

In the Now column below is listed the percentage of articles we plan to publish on each subject in the course of a year. The Then column compares this with the full length articles in the magazine's first issue, January 1928:


                                 Subject                                            Then                                                    Now


                                 Minister's Spiritual Life                          17%                                                   20%

                                 Minister's Family Relationships              00%                                                   10%

                                 Minister's Spouse                                 06%                                                   10%

                                 Theology                                             17%                                                   20%

                                 Professional skills                                 39%                                                   20%

                                 Current Issues                                     05%                                                    10%

                                 Dialogue                                              11%                                                     05%

                                 Miscellaneous                                       05%                                                     05%


Then and Now are surprisingly similar. When it started, MINISTRY did less on family and more on professional skills and dialogue than we do now.

Doctrinal Book: Since its inception the association has, from time to time, published books helpful to the ministry. We are now preparing a doctrinal book designed for ministers and other professional people, both inside and outside the church. This book will not be designed for the uneducated, or for the theologian, but for those somewhere in between. We hope it will be especially helpful to the non-Adventist ministers who have become interested in Adventism through reading our magazine or at tending one of the approximately 100 PREACH seminars we hold annually.

Continuing Education: This program was strengthened for Adventist ministers through an action taken at the Rio Annual Council in 1986. Employers are now obligated to make continuing education available to their ministers. When ministerial licenses are renewed, the committee involved is to check on a minister's continuing education record. If the minister has not kept up with his profession by averaging at least 20 clock hours of continuing education per year, the employing administrator is to help him get caught up.

Shepherdess: We hope to move Shepherdess International from a temporary pilot program to a formal, ongoing service for our ministers' spouses. Seven divisions already have Shepherdess sponsors at the division level. All but three North American Division conferences and about 50 percent of overseas conferences and missions now have Shepherdess chapters.

Ministerial Supply Center: This new center now owns the Good News for Today filmstrip series and Multi-Visual Productions. It assists local fields in adapting filmstrips to their languages and cultures. One division is presently working on six such adaptations. We sell inexpensive projectors, especially useful in remote areas of the world. Other tools for ministry include ministerial ordination, baptismal, and profession of faith certificates.

The manuscript for a new baptismal manual has been finished. It is based on all 27 fundamental beliefs of the church as taken from the Church Manual. This is now available through the Ministerial Supply Center. An updated version of the booklet Let's Get Acquainted, which introduces new members to the organization, programs, and fellowship of the church, will be available soon.

The manuscripts for these two books are also available for translation into other languages. The Ministerial Supply Center will help to foster the church's global strategy for evangelism by coordinating the development of tools used across division lines and around the world.

Interns: With all our commendable emphasis in recent years on advanced academic training for the ministry, we have neglected one of the best educational programs available to the beginning minister. Some things can best be learned in a classroom, but any kind of skill, whether it be preaching or piano playing, is best learned by doing. We are unfair to our schools when we criticize them for not teaching enough practics. The fact of the matter is that practics are best learned through field experience, taught by a teacher/model in a one-on-one setting--the ministerial internship.

We hope to prepare a course to be taken by supervisors of interns to help them become more effective teacher/ models. We plan also to prepare a series of videocassette mini-courses designed to introduce the intern to the ministry. These can be taken by the individual intern, the intern and his supervisor, or by a group of interns led by their ministerial secretary.

Upgrading the Pastor's Role: The pastor must become more respected as a significant part of the decision-making process in the church. The administrator or departmental director who has not pastored for 20, 30, or 40 years--no matter how good he is at what he does--is at a serious disadvantage when he attempts to speak as an authority on the local church and how it can be most productive. He might actually give better counsel if he had never pastored. Having been there, but so long ago, he tends to feel he knows the local congregation well when he actually knows only what it was decades ago.

The church is using laypersons more and more on boards and committees, and this is very good--unless, as is often the case, it means fewer and fewer pastors are serving and speaking up in these forums. As the local church is looked to more consistently as the center of the denomination's activities and evangelistic endeavors, the pastor, as head of that entity, should be heard and respected more, not less.

And if the local congregation is the lifeblood of the church, if there is no calling higher than pastoring, then we don't believe that those choosing to leave their congregations for desk jobs should receive a raise in pay for so doing.

Ministerial Secretary's job Description: We have prepared a recommended job description for the ministerial secretary and are refining it to make certain it embraces the entire world field. The plan is to prepare a Ministerial Secretary's Hand book so the local secretary and his administrators will have suggestions readily available as they plan how the secretary can best serve the field.

The job description suggests, "The local ministerial secretary is expected to be the minister's minister, advocate, and friend. The ministerial secretary represents his president to ministers in the local field. More important, he represents ministers to their president. It is not his place to interfere in the disciplining of a minister if needed, nor to defend the minister's mistakes. However, morale in a field is lifted and ministers are saved to the ministry if they can feel free to come to the ministerial secretary and know that he will always support them as persons, no matter what the problem. If possible, the ministerial secretary should be someone other than the president. The president's pastoral interest in his workers is commendable, but the employer cannot be liaison between employee and employer."

This is a very delicate issue, and we took this stand only after seeking very wide counsel. The ministerial secretary must not work in opposition to his president. His responsibility is to support and cooperate with him. At the same time, one of his chief responsibilities is to support the individual minister. He is a liaison person between president and pastor. But this must mean that he represents the pastor to the president as well as the president to the pastor. The ministerial secretary stands with one foot in the president's office and one in the pastor's study, doing his best to coordinate the program of each with the other. Too often the ministerial secretary is perceived as standing with both feet in the president's office, pointing his finger at the pastor.

Overseas Travel: Because we are the world Ministerial Association, we want to continually increase overseas travel until, by the close of the quinquennium, at least 60 percent of our travel time is being spent outside North America. In 1986 we reached only 39 percent.

To minimize travel expenses, an over seas trip should include a period of several weeks, and that usually means appointments in several fields. These take much planning, usually at the division level, so we don't get many such requests.

Domestic travel, being less expensive, may be to one event sponsored by one field. These trips are much simpler to arrange, and we get literally hundreds of such requests each year. But we feel strongly that it is not equitable to spend 61 percent of our travel time in a division that comprises only 14 percent of the membership.

World Ministers' Council: During 1985, in leadership's attempt to cut down on expenses at the General Conference, Elder Neal Wilson called the entire staff together and encouraged us to share money-saving suggestions. One employee ventured, "In light of the millions of dollars it costs the church, why not eliminate our General Conference session?" Elder Wilson's answer went something like this: "Expensive as it is, it is absolutely essential that representatives from the whole church get together every few years to reach consensus on our church policies if we are to continue being a world church." I am convinced he was right.

I am also convinced that it is just as essential that representatives from the whole church get together every few years to reaffirm our basic doctrinal beliefs if we are to continue being a world church. For this reason we are planning the 1990 World Ministers' Council, not as just a minor appendage to the GC session, but as an opportunity to let our world leadership sit at the feet of our most dedicated Bible students and reaffirm their confidence in the doctrines that unite us as a people.

Looking up

We've looked back and we've looked ahead, but on our sixty-fifth birthday the Ministerial Association wants to put above everything else our desire to help every Adventist minister keep looking up.

L. E. Froom, editor of MINISTRY, was sent to Glendale, California, by the General Conference to be by A. G. Daniells' bedside during the last weeks of the old man's life. Together they finished the book The Abiding Gift of Prophecy. Ten days before Daniells' death Froom asked if he would like to send, through the pages of MINISTRY, a farewell charge to the Adventist ministry. Daniells out lined what he would like to say, and Froom took it to his room to put it into final form. On March 21, 1935, Froom brought it back for approval, but Daniells was failing fast. It seemed an imposition to even read it, but Daniells wanted to hear. Halfway through, Froom glanced up from his reading to see tears coursing down the old patriarch's cheeks. Froom finished the charge, which ended with "amen." Daniells replied with all the enthusiasm his tired old heart could muster, "Amen and amen!'' Right then and there Froom added the second amen to the manuscript, and that's the way it appeared in The Ministry. Daniells died March 22. 12

I close with portions of that charge:

"I charge you all solemnly before God, to be true to your high ministerial trust, true to the expectation of your God, and true to the great verities of the Advent movement. . . . Great spiritual advances are needed in the church, and you are the ones who should make them. God calls for a spiritual revival and a spiritual reformation in our ranks, and this must come through a truly spiritual ministry. . . .

"I go to my rest firm in the blessed hope that has sustained me unfailingly through the years. My God knows my heart. My trust is in Him. Let us covenant at this solemn hour to meet in the soon-coming kingdom of our blessed Lord. Amen and amen. " 13

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October 1987

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