Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

July 9, 1895

The Duty of the Minister and the People

By Mrs. E. G. White

God has given to “every man his work.” He has not left the spiritual interests of the church wholly in the hands of the minister. It is not for the good of the minister, nor for the good of the individual members of the church, that the minister should undertake exclusive charge of the Lord's heritage. Each member of the church has a part to act in order that the body may be preserved in a healthful condition. We are all members of the same body, and each member must act a part for the benefit of all the others. All members have not the same office. As the members of our natural body are directed by the head, so as members of the spiritual body, we should submit ourselves to the direction of Christ, the living head of the church. We are as branches of a common vine. Christ speaks of us as branches that have been grafted into himself, the True Vine. If we are true believers, living in daily, hourly connection with Christ, we shall be sanctified through the truth, and shall act our part in blessed union with the other branches of the True Vine.

The minister and the church-members are to unite as one person in laboring for the up-building and prosperity of the church. Every one who is a true soldier in the army of the Lord will be an earnest, sincere, efficient worker, laboring to advance the interests of Christ's kingdom. Let no one presume to say to a brother who is walking circumspectly, “You are not to do the work of the Lord; leave it for the minister.” Many members of the church have been deprived of the experience which they should have had, because the sentiment has prevailed that the minister should do all the work and bear all the burdens. Either the burdens have been crowded upon the minister, or he has assumed those duties that should have been performed by the members of the church. Ministers should take the officers and members of the church into their confidence, and teach them how to labor for the Master. Thus the minister will not have to perform all the labor himself, and at the same time the church will receive greater benefit than if he endeavored to do all the work, and release the members of the church from acting the part which the Lord designed that they should.

All through our ranks, individual talent has been sadly neglected. A few persons have been selected as spiritual burden-bearers, and the talent of other members has remained undeveloped. Many have grown weaker since their union with the church, because they have been practically prohibited from exercising their talents. The burden of church work should be distributed among its individual members, so that each one may become an intelligent laborer for God. There is altogether too much unused force in our churches. There are a few who devise, plan, and work; but the great mass of the people do not lift their hands to do anything for fear of being repulsed, for fear that others will regard them as out of their place. Many have willing hands and hearts, but they are discouraged from putting their energies into the work. They are criticised if they try to do anything, and finally allow their talents to lie dormant for fear of criticism, when if they were encourage to use them, the work would be advanced, and workers would be added to the force of missionaries. The wisdom to adapt ourselves to peculiar situations, the strength to act in time of emergency, are acquired by putting to use the talents the Lord has given us, and by gaining an experience through personal work. A few are selected to hold responsible positions, and the work is divided up among these brethren. Many more who ought to have an opportunity to develop into efficient workers for the Lord, are left in the shadow. Many of those who stand in places of trust, cherish a spirit of caution, a fear that some move may be made which is not in perfect harmony with their own methods of labor. They require that every plan should reflect their own personality. They fear to trust another's methods. And why are they not to be trusted?—Because they have not been educated; because their leaders have not drilled them as soldiers should be drilled. Scores of men should be prepared to spring into action at a moment's warning, should an emergency occur which demanded their help. Instead of this, the people go to church, listen to the sermon, pay their tithes, make their offerings, and do very little else. And why?—Because the ministers do not open their plans to the people, soliciting the benefit of their advice and counsel in planning and their help in executing the plans that they have had a part in forming.

There are to be no secret societies in our churches. “All ye are brethren.” The minister's work is the lay member's work as well. Heart should be bound to heart. Let all press forward, shoulder to shoulder. Is not every true follower of Christ open to receive his teachings? And should not all have an opportunity to learn of Christ's methods by practical experience? Why not put them to work visiting the sick and assisting in other ways, and thus keep the church in a workable condition? All would thus be kept in close touch with the minister's plans, so that he could call for their assistance at any moment, and they would be able to labor intelligently with him. All should be laborers together with God, and then the minister can feel that he has helpers in whom it is safe to trust. The minister can hasten this desirable end by showing that he has confidence in the workers by setting them to work.

Who is to blame for the deficiency in the churches? Who is to be censured because willing hands and zealous hearts have not been educated to labor in a humble way for the Master? There is much undeveloped talent among us. Many individuals might be laboring in towns and cities, visiting from house to house, becoming acquainted with families, entering into their social life, dining at their tables, entering into conversation by their firesides, dropping the precious seeds of truth all along the line. As they exercise their talents, Christ will give them wisdom, and many believers will be found rejoicing in the knowledge of the truth as a result of their labors. Thousands might be getting a practical education in the work by this personal labor.

Neither Conference officer nor minister has a call from God to indulge distrust of God's power to use every individual who is considered a worthy member of the church. This cautiousness, so-called, is retarding almost every line of the Lord's work. God can and will use those who have not had a thorough education in the schools of men. A doubt of his power to do this is manifest unbelief; it is limiting the Omnipotent power of the One with whom nothing is impossible. O for less of this unsanctified, distrustful caution! It leaves so many forces of the church unused; it closes up the way so that the Holy Spirit cannot use men; it keeps in idleness those who are willing and anxious to labor in Christ's lines; it discourages many from entering the work who would become efficient laborers together with God if they were given a fair chance. Those who would be laborers, who see the great necessity for consecrated workers in the church and in the world, should seek strength in the secret places of prayer. They should go forth to labor, and God will bless them, and make them a blessing to others. Such members would give strength and stability to the church. It is the lack of spiritual exercise that makes church-members so weak and inefficient; but again I would ask, Who is to blame for the state of things that now exists?

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. Do not put the shackles upon humble men whom God would use. If those who now occupy positions of responsibility had been kept at one class of work year after year, their talents would not have developed, and they would not have been qualified for the positions they hold; and yet they make no special effort to test and develop the talents of those newly come into the faith.

Women who are willing to consecrate some of their time to the service of the Lord should be appointed to visit the sick, look after the young, and minister to the necessities of the poor. They should be set apart to this work by prayer and laying on of hands. In some cases they will need to counsel with the church officers or the minister; but if they are devoted women, maintaining a vital connection with God, they will be a power for good in the church. This is another means of strengthening and building up the church. We need to branch out more in our methods of labor. Not a hand should be bound, not a soul discouraged, not a voice should be hushed; let every individual labor, privately or publicly, to help forward this grand work. Place the burdens upon men and women of the church, that they may grow by reason of the exercise, and thus become effective agents in the hand of the Lord for the enlightenment of those who sit in darkness.

There is a world to be warned. Let not humanity presume to stand in the way, but rather let every man stand aside, and let God work by his Holy Spirit for the accomplishment of the redemption of his purchased possession. Some of these new workers may make mistakes, but let the older ones counsel with them and instruct them how to correct their methods. They should be encouraged to surrender themselves wholly to the Lord, and go to work in a humble way. Such service is acceptable to the Master, and he will supplement their efforts by the power of his Holy Spirit, and many souls will be converted.

Let every church awake out of sleep; let the members unite themselves together in the love of Jesus and in sympathy for perishing souls, and go forth to their neighbors, pointing them to the way of salvation. Our Leader has all power in heaven and in earth. He will use men as agents for the accomplishment of his purposes whom some of the brethren would reject as unfit to engage in the work. Heavenly intelligences are combined with human instrumentalities in carrying forward the Lord's work. Angels have their places assigned them in connection with the human agents on earth. They will work through every person who will submit himself to labor in Heaven's ways; therefore, not one human being should be cast aside or left with no part to act.

The members of our large churches are not in the most favorable situation for spiritual growth or for development of efficient methods of labor. They are inclined to let others bear the burdens that the Lord designs all should have a part in carrying. Perhaps there may be a number of good workers, and these take up the work so spiritedly that the weaker ones do not see where they can get hold, so they settle down in idleness. It is a mistake for our people to crowd together in large numbers. It is not in harmony with God's plans. It is his will that the knowledge which we receive of the truth should be communicated to others; that the light which shines upon us should be reflected upon the pathway of those walking in darkness, so that we may lead others to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. But where a large number are congregated together in one church, this work in a large measure is neglected, and the light of truth is often only reflected back and forth upon the church-members; the world is left in darkness, the alarm is not sounded, the warning message from Heaven is not given.

The Lord has given “to every man his work,” and he must have space to work. If one is ignorant of ways and means of carrying on the work, the Lord has provided a Teacher. Jesus said, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” There is altogether too little said concerning the sufficiency that God has provided for every soul that accepts the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Eternal Father, the unchangeable one, gave his only begotten Son, tore from his bosom Him who was made in the express image of his person, and sent him down to earth to reveal how greatly he loved mankind. He is willing to do more, “more than we can ask or think.” An inspired writer asks a question which should sink deep into every heart: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Shall not every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ say, “Since God has done so much for us, how shall we not, for Christ's sake, show our love to him by obedience to his commandments, by being doers of his word, by unreservedly consecrating ourselves to his service?”

Where is the faith of those who claim to be the people of God? Shall they also be included among that number of whom Christ questioned, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Jesus died to redeem us from the curse of sin and from sin itself, and shall we render him only a feeble half of those powers which he has paid such an infinite price to ransom from the hands of the enemy of our souls?

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” He in whom “dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” descended to our world, humiliated himself by clothing his divinity with humanity, that through humanity he might reach the human family. While he embraces the human race with his human arm, he grasps the throne of God with his divine arm, thus uniting humanity to divinity. The Majesty of heaven, the King of glory, descended the path of humiliation step by step until he reached the lowest point possible for humanity to experience; and why? That he might be able to reach even the lowest of mankind, sunken in the very depths of degradation though they be, that he might be able to elevate them to the heights of heaven. He has promised, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Wonder of wonders! Man, a creature of the earth; dust, elevated to the throne of the King of the universe! Marvelous love! inexpressible, incomprehensible love!

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