Biblical model – Lay Ministry Today
The following quotation from Ellen White’s writings, used earlier in this book, is worth repeating here.
“Upon all who believe, God has placed the burden of raising up churches. The express purpose of the church is to educate men and women to use their intrusted capabilities for the benefit of the world, to employ the means God has lent, for His glory. He has made human beings His stewards. They are to employ His intrusted talents in building up His work and enlarging His kingdom. Our churches, large and small, are not to be treated in such a way that they will be helplessly dependent upon ministerial aid. The members are to be so established in the faith that they will have an intelligent knowledge of true missionary work. They are to follow Christ’s example, ministering to those around them. Faithfully they are to fulfil the vows made at their baptism, the vow that they will practise the lessons taught in the life of Christ. They are to work together to keep alive in the church the principles of self-denial and self-sacrifice, which Christ, His divinity clothed with humanity, followed in His work as a missionary. It is imparting the knowledge of Christ’s love and tenderness that gives efficiency to all missionary operations.”1
If God Himself has laid the burden of planting new churches upon all who believe, we must believe that this burden is light. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” We must follow the same instruction that Moses gave to Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:8. “And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.” We cannot fail as we follow God’s instructions in faith and humility because “God is our refuge and strength.” Psalms 46:1.
Mark 9:23, “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” If we truly believe, we will have faith. If we have faith, it will be manifest by our works because ”Faith without works is dead.” James 2:26. Even if you do not currently possess any formal ministerial training, God can train you as you go forward in faith.
For lay members to have a thoroughly Biblical model of ministry, it will require some ministers to step out of their way, thus enabling the laity to gain experience in the absence of professional ministers. Ellen White stated, “If the ministers would get out of the way, if they would go forth into new fields, the members would be obliged to bear responsibilities, and their capabilities would increase by use. — Letter 56, 1901.”2
She wrote this very uplifting paragraph in the Review and Herald, June 9, 1895:
“God has given ‘to every man his work.’ Why is it that ministers and Conference officers do not recognize this fact? Why do they not manifest their appreciation of the help that individual members of the church could give? Let church-members awake. Let them take hold and help to stay up the hands of the ministers and the workers, pushing forward the interests of the cause. There must be no measuring of talent by comparison. If a man exercises faith, and walks humbly with his God, he may have little education, he may be accounted a weak man, yet he can fill his appointed place as well as the man who has the finest education. He who yields himself most unreservedly to the influence of the Holy Spirit is best qualified to do acceptable service for the Master. God will inspire men who do not occupy responsible positions to work for Him. If ministers and men in positions of authority will get out of the way, and let the Holy Spirit move upon the minds of the lay brethren, God will direct them what to do for the honor of His name. Let men have freedom to carry out that which the Holy Spirit indicates.”3The Review and Herald, July 9, 1895.
Ellen White even tells church members what to say (respectfully) to the ministers who are hovering over the established churches. ‘Instead of keeping the ministers at work for the churches that already know the truth, let the members of the churches say to these laborers: “Go work for souls that are perishing in darkness. We ourselves will carry forward the services of the church. We will keep up the meetings, and, by abiding in Christ, will maintain spiritual life. We will work for souls that are about us, and we will send our prayers and our gifts to sustain the laborers in more needy and destitute fields.’”4
In 1989, there were a few Adventists who lived in Fulton County, Pennsylvania. There was no Adventist church in that county. Each week they would travel through part of Fulton County, then through a part of the state of Maryland, then into West Virginia to go to church. They decided to plant a church in Fulton County. The goal was to have an Adventist presence in that county; a base from which to evangelize that area.
The group did not want to have a minister preach to them each week. They planned to take care of the pastoral needs of the congregation according to the Biblical model. They planned to evangelize the county themselves as knowledgeable Seventh-day Adventists. They desired that the tithe they sent to the conference each month, would be used by the conference to pay a minister to plant another new church in another unentered area. They had no desire to be the object of their own tithes and offerings.
Some members of the group found a church building for sale in a town called Needmore. In November of 1989, a mission group was established in Needmore, Pennsylvania. The mission group progressed and became an official church in the Pennsylvania Conference. The name of the church is the Needmore Seventh-day Adventist Church. The name says it all. We really do Need More Adventist churches in every nation, state, county, parish, borough, city, town, and many villages all around the globe.
Today, as I am writing this book (2019), the Needmore Seventh-day Adventist church still operates each week as a lay planted, lay pastored Seventh-day Adventist church in an area which had no Adventist church before. The members still faithfully return their tithe to the conference but do not drain the time of a professional minister. The church has grown and is flourishing even though it is in a rural area.
We are in a war against Satan and his angels. Our duty is to reclaim lost sinners. Every single church member is to be busy, with the salvation of lost sinners being the highest priority. No one is excused. No one is exempt from active service to God in His mission to reach all inhabitants of this planet with the good news of salvation through Christ. “The harvest is truly great, but the labourers are few.”5 Are you an active soldier, fighting against Satan’s plan to destroy all who are created in God’s image? Or, do you just go to church on Sabbath, listen to the sermon, and then just quietly mind your own business through the week making no real efforts to reclaim lost sinners?
We must be very cautious. If we are satisfied to just attend church, letting the professional ministers do all the soul-winning work while we demand a sermon every week, then we are consumers and not producers.
Total Member Involvement
“It is not only upon those who preach the word that God has placed the responsibility of seeking to save sinners. He has given this work to all. The words, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,’ are spoken to each one of Christ’s followers. All who are ordained unto the life of Christ are ordained to work for the salvation of their fellow-men. The same longing that He felt for the saving of the lost is to be manifest in them. Not all can fill the same place, but for all there is a place and work. All upon whom God’s blessings have been bestowed are to respond by actual service; every gift is to be employed for the advancement of His kingdom.”6
“The work is soon to close. The members of the church militant who have proved faithful will become the church triumphant. In reviewing our past history, having travelled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled with astonishment and with confidence in Christ as Leader. _We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and his teaching in our past history._ We are now a strong people, if we will put our trust in the Lord; for we are handling the mighty truths of the word of God. We have everything to be thankful for. If we walk in the light as it shines upon us from the living oracles of God, we shall have large responsibilities, corresponding to the great light given us of God. We have many duties to perform, because we have been made the depositories of sacred truth to be given to the world in all its beauty and glory. We are debtors to God to use every advantage he has entrusted to us to beautify the truth of holiness of character, and to send the message of warning, and of comfort, of hope and love, to those who are in the darkness of error and sin.”7
While it is a good thing to evangelize the same territory year after year, it is not good enough. It will not be good enough until we have accomplished the mission which God has specifically given to the Seventh-day Adventist church. The mission for both members and ministers is to take the Three Angels’ Messages to all who live on this planet. There should not be any inhabited area on earth where there is no current, strategic plan to reach the inhabitants with the Three Angels’ Messages. When we become producers instead of consumers in God’s work, He will bless our efforts, and Jesus will return when we “finish the mystery.”
- Ellen White, Pacific Union Recorder, August 1, 1901, Volume 1, page 1, paragraph 7.
- Ellen White, Evangelism: (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946) 382.
- Ellen White, Review and Herald, July 9, 1895, page 434.
- Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6: (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1901) 30.
- Luke 10:2
- Ellen White, North Pacific Union Gleaner, December 4, 1907, page 4.
- Ellen White, General Conference Daily Bulletin, January 29, 1893, page 24.