The Duties of Members and Ministers
The duties of the minister are clearly outlined in the Bible, especially in the writings of Paul. The responsibilities are clearly shown in the writings of Ellen White as well. There is no need for us to be ignorant on this subject.
General Conference Bulletin, April 12, 1901, p.204.
“The work of a minister is to minister. Our ministers are to work on the gospel plan of ministering. It has been presented to me that all through America there are barren fields. As I traveled through the South on my way to the Conference, I saw city after city that was unworked.
“What is the matter? The ministers are hovering over churches, which know the truth, while thousands are perishing out of Christ.”1
The word, “hovering,“ is commonly used in American English to illustrate someone who is intently supervising something.
Ellen White continues in the same article,
“If the proper instruction were given, if the proper methods were followed, every church member would do his work as a member of the body. He would do Christian missionary work. But the churches are dying, and they want a minister to preach to them. They should be taught to bring a faithful tithe to God, that he may strengthen and bless them. They should be brought into working order, that the breath of God may come to them. They should be taught that unless they can stand alone, without a minister, they need to be converted anew, and baptized anew. They need to be born again.”2
Can you see that we need to rethink how we use the gospel ministers? If you are so blessed as to have a minister assigned to your church, please don’t use his or her time taking care of you. Why don’t you let the minister lead you and other members out to labor as Christian soul winners? Let the minister train you for service, for evangelism, for outreach, for church planting. Let your church be known as a church which actively trains it young people for missionary service in different parts of the world, and then sponsor and send them.
This is one of the most striking statements regarding what ministers should not do.
Australasian Union Conference Recorder, August 1, 1902, paragraph 7.
“Our ministers are not to hover over the churches, regarding the churches in some particular place as their special care. And our churches should not feel jealous and neglected if they do not receive ministerial labor. They should themselves take up the burden, and labor most earnestly for souls.”3
Did you catch that? That means no church assignments for minsters! Ministers are supposed to be like the apostle Paul and start new churches instead of taking care of old ones. In the early days of the Adventist denomination, the gospel ministers were not assigned to take care of churches. They were like the apostle Paul. They raised up new churches and ordained elders which had been elected by the churches. After that, the elders were responsible for pastoring and caring for the churches. Then, Paul would move on to other new areas to repeat the process, which is one reason that Paul had to write letters to the churches. He had left the churches in the care of the elders – he was no longer there.
God has a plan for his church today; the same method as in the days of Paul. God has not changed—and His plan has not changed.
What are church members supposed to say to the gospel minister? Should they whine and complain if the minister does not preach to them each week, or should they manifest true missionary spirit? In Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 30, Ellen White tells us exactly how to act and exactly what to say to gospel ministers who have been spending all their time taking care of existing 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.’”4Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 30
In Pacific Union Recorder, August 1, 1901, Ellen White indicated that church members themselves are to play an active role in church planting.
“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 [sic]”5 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.”6Pacific Union Recorder, August 1, 1901
With this kind of support from the churches, the ministers would have better results for their labors. When returning to the churches from time to time, the mission reports they could give would be inspiring to hear. The ministers and the churches alike would have powerful, compelling stories to tell — stories of new Adventist churches being planted in cities where no Adventist presence had previously existed. Reports of new churches being planted with new converts rejoicing in the truth would fill existing churches with life and joy. The Saviour’s work would be advancing as the churches hastened the coming of Christ. We could go home to heaven sooner. Amen and amen.
Our ministers need to be following the example of the early Christian church in the book of Acts, and the church members need to support that kind of ministry. The apostle Paul is the prime example.
“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.”7Gospel Workers, p. 58
Paul labored for the one lost sheep, while he left the ninety and nine in the fold. His travels took him to areas of the world where the message of salvation in Christ had never been heard. He knocked on closed doors. His own stirring words, found in the 15th chapter of Romans, show his passion for Christ’s mission to save humanity.
20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:
21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.
22 For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.
He did not make it a habit of settling as a pastor over an existing church and preach to church members year after year. He knew that the lost would remain lost without the living preacher seeking them.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
The gospel absolutely must go to the whole world before Jesus returns. How else can all nations be blessed as was promised to Abraham? How else can the heathen be saved?
8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham,saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
Are we the children of Abraham today? Are we the spiritual seed of Israel. Are all nations to be blessed through us?
The Bible tells us that the work will be cut short in righteousness.
27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
28 For he will finish the work, and cutit short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
Romans 9: 28 is conditional as to when the work will be cut short. Ellen White shares just how and when this will happen.
“The Lord God of heaven will not send upon the world His judgments for disobedience and transgression until He has sent His watchmen to give the warning. He will not close up the period of probation until the message shall be more distinctly proclaimed. The law of God is to be magnified; its claims must be presented in their true, sacred character, that the people may be brought to decide for or against the truth. Nonetheless, the work will be cut short in righteousness. The message of Christ’s righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel.”8
Questions for Consideration
- What are the responsibilities of the minister as defined by God through the Bible?
- What responsibilities have been laid upon you or your minister that could be considered extraneous?
- Who can those extra responsibilities be given to besides the minister? How would this affect your church?
- Ellen White, The General Conference Bulletin, April 12, 1901, 204.
- Ellen White, Australasian Union Conference Record, August 1, 1902, par. 7.
- Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church Vol. 6: (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1901) 30.
- The word “intrusted” is an archaic word that has the same meaning as “entrusted.
- Ellen White, Pacific Union Recorder, August 1, 1901, Volume 1, page 1, paragraph 7.
- Ellen White, Gospel Worker: (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1915) 58.
- Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6: (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1901) 19.