Biblical Model - Professional Ministry Today
It should be made clear that ministers of the gospel and local church pastors have two different roles. By definition, a minister is someone that is sent with a message – an emissary. Today, ministers of the gospel today should be the modern equivalents of the apostles in the Bible. Before the Damascus road experience, the unconverted Paul was an apostle of the Jews. He was sent by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem with a message for the synagogues in Damascus. The message was for the synagogues to persecute Christians. When he was converted to Christ, he became an apostle of Christ. After that, he was primarily itinerant as he was sent to the Gentiles in many areas, with the message of the Gospel of Christ. Today, the Adventist church must send ministers of the gospel to those who need the gospel. The church must not reserve the ministers of the gospel for the use of church members who already have received the gospel.
Seventh-day Adventists are unique among Christian denominations. God has given us a much more significant role than other Christians. Our ministers are to be sent with the Three Angels’ Messages to those who need to hear them. It is imperative that they be more itinerant than ministers of other denominations because the population of the entire earth must be reached with the Three Angels’ Messages before Christ returns. Pastors, however, are not itinerant. They are settled in specific areas and serve the needs, interests, and outreaches of established churches. Pastors are not “pastors of the gospel”; they are pastors of local churches. While they still preach and teach the gospel, they do it in the area that surrounds each of their local churches.
Why is it so important to preach, specifically, the Three Angels Messages, to the whole earth? The Three Angels Messages contain certain teachings which are not found in most other denominations. Every single topic generally seen in our evangelism campaigns fits, in one way or other, into the context of one of the Three Angels Messages. Some examples include the messages of the Sabbath, the change of the Sabbath, the entire law of God, the origin of evil, and the messages of Daniel 2 and 7. These Bible truths are not found in most other churches. The Sanctuary message, however, is found only in the Seventh-day Adventist church.
The Sanctuary message contains the truth of the investigative judgment, which began in 1844 and is still going on today. Right now, as you are reading this book, many people do not understand that they can be judged for eternity while they are still living. Their eternal destiny can be decided even though they are totally unaware that it is happening. How can we, as church members, be so callous as to ask our ministers of the gospel to preach every week to Adventist church members who already know the truth, while millions of people remain unwarned of the end time judgment? Time passes by year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation, and millions still have not been reached with this knowledge. Can we live with that? Can we even claim to be serving our Saviour?
The Bible gives us examples of what we must do and how we must do it. From Ellen White, “Foremost among those called to preach the gospel of Christ stands the apostle Paul, to every minister an example of loyalty, devotion, and untiring effort. His experiences and his instruction regarding the sacredness of the minister’s work, are a source of help and inspiration to those engaged in the gospel ministry.”1 If we want to know what a Biblical model of professional ministry should be like today, we must examine the following 3 examples of ministry:
- The ministry of Jesus when He was on this earth.
- The ministry of the apostle Paul.
- The ministry of the early Adventist pioneers.
Jesus’ Ministry on Earth
We need to know what Jesus did and what He did not do when He ministered on earth. Jesus never settled as a pastor of a synagogue. He preached in synagogues, but his purpose was to point synagogue members to Himself as the long-awaited Messiah. Essentially, He was preaching to convert them to what would later become known as Christianity.
Jesus was itinerant. He was continually moving from place to place in search of lost souls to help, heal, and preach to them. Jesus was efficient in His mission to save those who were lost. He did not spend a lot of time with those who had already accepted Him, except that they followed Him and received training as He went on His mission to save the lost. Ellen White had this to say regarding how He trained His disciples, “It was by personal contact and association that Jesus trained His disciples. Sometimes He taught them, sitting among them on the mountainside; sometimes beside the sea, or walking with them by the way, He revealed the mysteries of the kingdom of God. He did not sermonize as men do today. Wherever hearts were open to receive the divine message, He unfolded the truths of the way of salvation. He did not command His disciples to do this or that, but said, “Follow Me.” On His journeys through the country and cities He took them with Him, that they might see how He taught the people. He linked their interest with His, and they united with Him in the work.”2 Jesus’ method of teaching His disciples would be similar in some ways to what is now called “on the job training,” or mentoring.
Ministers today can do the same kind of training. In previous evangelism campaigns, both in the US and abroad, I have used this method of taking church members with me as I visited people who were attending the campaign, in their homes. While driving to visit non-Adventist attendees, there is often the time for instructing and mentoring the church members who accompany the minister or evangelist. Also, special instruction sessions for all church members who are willing to be involved in evangelistic visitation is useful. This dramatically expands the ability to handle larger audiences as the church members are empowered to do effective visitation. In many instances, there are not enough ministers available to do this kind of work in campaigns. I used this method in Romania when I held an evangelism campaign in a church when the pastor was not even in Romania at the time. The attendance was large. I used a translator to help me train the members in visitation, both in special sessions as well as in actual visits. The results of that campaign were blessed, resulting in many baptisms. The lay members were empowered to be better soul winners. Visitation and mingling among the people are critical in gospel work. While texting and social media are highly beneficial in evangelism, it is not wise to consider them as adequate replacements for personal, face-to-face visitation.
“Jesus saw in every soul one to whom must be given the call to His kingdom. He reached the hearts of the people by going among them as one who desired their good. He sought them in the public streets, in private houses, on the boats, in the synagogue, by the shores of the lake, and at the marriage feast. He met them at their daily vocations and manifested an interest in their secular affairs. He carried His instruction into the household, bringing families in their own homes under the influence of His divine presence. His strong personal sympathy helped to win hearts.”
The Desire of Ages, p.151.
“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’”3
Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” A doctor cannot be very successful in treating patients if his focus is on something other than his patients.
The examples which are provided in Jesus’ ministry, shows that Jesus spent His time focused on lost humanity. That was Jesus’ mission. The disciples were not the focus of His mission. Instead, they were given on-the-job training to focus on His mission which was lost humanity. Thus, He gave them His mission to carry the message of salvation to the ends of the earth. Ministers today should strive to copy Christ’s model of ministry.
In training His disciples, He sent them “two and two” on trips into areas where the people needed to know about salvation through Jesus. He never had a practice of sending someone alone to a territory to minister. Let’s look at two familiar verses in Luke, and we will see something which most people overlook.
1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.
2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.
When Jesus sent out the seventy, He sent them “two and two,” and told them that the harvest was very large and that there were only a few labourers. Then, He instructed them to pray for more laborers. Why didn’t Jesus send them out one by one, so that they could go into twice as many places? He sent them out “two and two,” because the labourers were too few. If there had been more than enough labourers, He could have sent them out in larger groups than just two to each place. Two is the smallest number which God will approve when sending ministers to labor in unreached areas. Jesus only said things which were approved by God the Father.
28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
By comparing Luke 10:1-2 with John 8:28-29, we learn that Jesus never did anything that was out of harmony with God the Father and what the Father had taught Him. From this, we can know that God the Father was responsible for Jesus sending out the seventy “two and two,” even though there were very few workers.
Ellen White tells us, “I am instructed to say that where an effort is made to open the gospel work in a new field, there should be not less than two speakers to labor together in the ministry. When Christ sent forth His disciples on their missionary tour, He sent them out two by two. This is the Lord’s plan.”4
In 1892, Ellen White wrote, “Why is it that we have departed from the method of labor which was instituted by the Great Teacher? Why is it that the laborers in His cause today are not sent forth two and two? “Oh,” you say, “we have not laborers enough to occupy the field.” Then occupy less territory. Send forth the laborers into the places where the way seems to be opened, and teach the precious truth for this time. Can we not see the wisdom of having two go together to preach the gospel?”.5
Ellen White states in Gospel Workers, page 481, “The Lord does not apportion to any one man some special territory in which he alone is to labor. This is contrary to His plan. He designs that in every place where the truth is introduced, different minds, different gifts, shall be brought in to exert an influence upon the work. No one man has sufficient wisdom to manage an interest without helpers, and no one should think himself competent to do so. The fact that a person has ability in one direction, is no evidence that his judgment on all other subjects is perfect, and that the wisdom of some other mind does not need to be united with his.”6
The apostle Paul tells us how the Lord gives the gifts of the Holy Spirit to different individuals. In 1 Corinthians 12:7–11, he says:
1 Corinthians 12:7–11
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
The Holy Spirit does not give to any individual all the gifts needed to reach everyone in an unentered territory.
The method that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit created, has not changed from the time of Christ to the present time. Malachi 3:6, “For I am the LORD, I change not ”. Psalms 89:34, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.”
The Apostle Paul’s Ministry
Since we have already examined the ministry of the apostle Paul, elsewhere in this book, this section will focus on a few areas not previously covered. In doing that, it will be helpful to compare the religious groups in the Roman empire at the time of Paul, with the religious groups of today. In the apostle Paul’s day, there were 3 kinds of religious groups.
Religious Groups in the Roman Empire During Paul’s Time
- There were both Gentile and Jewish Christians who accepted all the Old Testament Bible truths including the Sabbath and the other commandments, plus the truth about Christ as their Saviour. This group would compare well with Adventists today.
- There were Jews who accepted the Old Testament Bible truths including the Sabbath and the other commandments but had not accepted the truth about Christ as their Saviour.
- There were also Gentiles who did not accept Bible truth.
Religious Groups Today
- There are Adventist Christians who accept all Bible truths.
- There are Jews and other kinds of Christians who accept some, but not all Bible truths.
- There are others who do not accept Bible truths, due to either ignorance or rejection.
Even though Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, he made it a practice of preaching in the synagogue first, when going into new territory. Since the Jews already had Biblical knowledge, he did not need to spend a lot of extra time teaching them all the essential doctrines and lifestyle issues. He only needed to share the truth of Christ as their Saviour. Some accepted Christ as their Saviour, and Paul was able to add to his force of gospel workers quickly in the new territory. This method added efficiency to his work and enabled the gospel to spread more rapidly. If Paul had spent all his time with the Gentiles at first, it would have taken much longer to get a knowledgeable workforce capable of helping him to spread the gospel.
Similarly, Adventist ministers today, who go into unentered areas (areas with no Adventist presence) might do well at first to attend the Sunday Schools of other denominations from time to time, and participate in the discussions.
Regarding this kind of method, Ellen White said, “Let some of the workers attend religious gatherings in other churches and, as there is opportunity, take part in them. Jesus when only twelve years old went into the school of the priests and rabbis at the temple and asked questions. In this temple school, studies were conducted daily, somewhat as we conduct Bible studies. Jesus asked questions as a learner, but His questions furnished new matter for those learned priests to think upon. Similar work might be done today. Judicious young men should be encouraged to attend the meetings of the Young Men’s Christian Association, not for the sake of contention, but to search the Scriptures with them and suggest helpful questions.
I like to visit Sunday Schools from time to time. When I arrive at the church, I introduce myself to the greeter as an Adventist minister. Then I let the greeter know that one benefit of preaching on Saturdays, is that it allows me to visit other churches on Sundays. This usually puts them at ease, and they laugh. Then I attend an adult Sunday School and participate in the discussion when appropriate, in a way that is not confrontational. I like to meet the pastors and pray with them for God to guide and direct in their ministries. Whenever a new pastor comes into the area where we live, I like to go and welcome the pastor to town and have prayer with him. Friendships develop, and much prejudice and resistance can be overcome or avoided this way.
Ellen White said, “When our laborers enter a new field, they should seek to become acquainted with the pastors of the several churches in the place. Much has been lost by neglecting to do this. If our ministers show themselves friendly and sociable, and do not act as if they were ashamed of the message they bear, it will have an excellent effect, and may give these pastors and their congregations favorable impressions of the truth. At any rate, it is right to give them a chance to be kind and favorable if they will.”9
Elsewhere in the same book she wrote, “Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ’s messengers, we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock.”10
In several different Sunday churches, I have been invited to teach their Sunday School class. In one, I taught the health message for two weeks. In another, I taught for about 5 months while covering the subjects of Daniel 2, Daniel 7, the Sanctuary doctrine, the Sabbath, and the change of the Sabbath. Also, during those 5 months, 13 weeks were spent on the parables of Christ, using the abridged form of Ellen White’s book, Christ’s Object Lessons as their quarterly. The shortened form, He Taught Love, has 13 chapters. These different opportunities might not have ever been possible if I had not become friends with the pastors and attended their Sunday Schools and church services at times.
Paul did not pastor any church for a considerable length of time after it was planted. Even in the extremely pagan city of Ephesus, he stayed only 3 years.Much of that time was spent in evangelism. Successfully evangelizing profoundly pagan cultures requires more time than when working among people with some Bible knowledge. When he was finished though, he did not ask the leaders in Jerusalem to send a pastor to care for the church in Ephesus. He ordained elders which the church elected. Then, he left the care of the church with the elders, who sought guidance and instruction from the Holy Spirit.
Both Jesus and Paul used the “two and two” method. That method is still the God-given method for the end-time remnant church to use, as also evidenced in the writings of Ellen White. Even the wisest man, King Solomon, declared the following:
9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Jesus sent his ministers “two and two” to the lost; Paul went “two and two” to minister to the lost; the wisest man, King Solomon, said, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.”; and Ellen White wrote that we need to send ministers “two and two” to the lost. Since Jesus, Paul, King Solomon, and Ellen White all agree, why do we avoid sending ministers “two and two” to the lost, but send them alone to take care of baptized Adventist church members in established churches?
Like Jesus, Paul was itinerant and had no plan to settle in any area and pastor a church long term. He never planned to come after another pastor left and take over a church district. Romans 15:20-21, “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.
One thing that needs to be understood is that the call to gospel ministry is a divine call, not merely a career choice. The call to gospel ministry does not always come with a salary. Do you remember reading about the times when Christ sent his disciples on missionary journeys without money, clothing, etc.?
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,
10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.
Some people understand the last part of verse 10 to mean that when you are sent to minister, you should receive a salary from the conference. That would be nice, but it is not always going to happen. This is the reason why Paul supported himself by his trade of being a tentmaker. But there are other times when you may have to do gospel work without any money from a trade, profession, or the church. We need to understand that verse 10 is in context with the rest of the passage where Jesus is sending them on a missionary trip with no money and no other financial support. They were not going to be preaching to people in churches already in existence. They were going to be taken care of by the people for which they would be ministering, the non-Christians. Just because you receive no paycheck from any conference does not mean that Jesus has not called you to evangelize unentered areas. God has many ways to take care of you with or without a paycheck.
“Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service of God supreme, will find perplexities vanish and a plain path before their feet.”11The Ministry of Healing, p.481.
My wife and I have experienced that kind of ministry first-hand in church planting efforts. We were functioning like Paul who made his living from tent-making. We were planting with no paycheck from a conference, in a previously unentered area where the people were mostly Roman Catholic. At one point, however, I was unable to get a job. I had no income. The target audience, non-Adventists, took care of us. One day, non-Adventist neighbors came over to the house and said, “Wes, we want you to go online and show us which iPad you want.” Over time, non-Adventists provided many things which I used in my ministry – a new iPad, a new iPhone, new Sabbath shoes, new Sabbath preaching suit, new tires on my van, etc. I never once asked for these things. One time, a pastor from another nation was visiting us. As we were about to leave town on a speaking itinerary which included two of our Adventist universities and 3ABN, a non-Adventist neighbor came to our residence and said, “Here is a check for your trip.” The check was for $700. The neighbor just gave it to me without any request on my part. As for my wife, neighbor ladies treated her to lunch 3 to 5 days each week in different restaurants for about 3 years, and the neighbor ladies paid for it all. They just did it without us ever asking. We were treated like royalty.
There is a Sunday pastor in the area where we now are planting, who regularly prays during his first service on Sunday, for the Lord to bless me and my ministry. The only thing I ever did was to go and welcome him to town when he first moved here from another parish. I became his friend. He acknowledges that the Sabbath is Saturday. God works on the hearts of the pastors of other denominations. We need to befriend them and pray with them and for them. God works in mysterious ways. One day, even pastors of other faiths will rally to the call and join the Adventist remnant movement.
For those who must labor like Paul who earned his living with his hands, and for those who may from time to time have no paycheck at all, the words of Christ in Matthew 6 are reassuring.
11 “Give us this day our daily bread.”
In the Lord’s prayer, we are taught to ask for our daily bread. Each day tell God what you need and don’t worry about tomorrow. Further, in verses 31-34 He says:
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
The Adventist Pioneers’ Ministry
The early Adventist pioneers became Adventists by studying the truths in the Bible. The model of ministry in the Bible is not the Protestant model, some variation of which is seen today in almost all non-Catholic churches. The early Adventists used the Biblical model we have been talking about. They worked in the gospel vineyard the same way that Jesus and Paul worked. This has already been explained earlier in this book. There is a popular expression in America, “Don’t try to fix something which is not broken.” The Biblical model of ministry used by Jesus, the apostles, and the early Adventists is not a broken model. There has never been anything wrong with it in the past. There is nothing wrong with it today. There is no need to try and fix it.
Why then, did we abandon that model and spend more than a century being disobedient to God? Our long experiment in disobedience has predictably failed. Confession and repentance are required now.
- Ellen White, Gospel Workers: (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946) 58.
- Ellen White, The Desire of Ages: (Mountain View, CA.: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1898) 152.
- Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing: (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1905) 143.
- Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 15: (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1986) 59.
- Ellen White, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, April 19, 1892, first page.
- Ellen White, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, April 13, 1886, paragraph 2.
- Camp meeting in Ellen White’s time were similar to evangelism campaigns today. Churches were often planted from the newly baptized members in these camp meetings.
- Testimonies for the Church. (1855). (Vol. 6, pp. 74–75). Pacific Press Publishing Association.
- Ellen White, Evangelism:(Washington, D. C: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946) 143.
- Ellen White, Evangelism:(Washington, D. C: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946) 562.
- Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing: (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1905) 481.