If the church were to depend entirely upon the efforts of the elders to win souls, the task at times would seem almost hopeless. However, this is not the case in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The church is so organized that it gives the elders many helpers. Every department of the church exists for the purpose of winning souls. Each adds its contribution to the total church program and the building up of God’s kingdom upon the earth.
The Sabbath School is especially conducive to winning souls. The leaders of the local congregation should recognize this and capitalize on the various facets of the Sabbath School to enlarge the church membership. It has often been said that the Sabbath School is the church at study. But it is more than this. It can be, and many times is, a baptismal class and an introduction to a more personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is common knowledge that in the fast growing divisions in the world the Sabbath School membership exceeds that of the church. It was my privilege to serve overseas for one term of service. In one place the baptized church membership was fifteen, but the Sabbath School membership was two hundred. What a glorious opportunity existed there for the winning of souls to Jesus!
It goes without saying that the elders should attend the Sabbath School. Because most of our churches are not large, the elders can greet the members as they arrive. This gives the members an opportunity to introduce to the elders visitors they may bring with them. Knowing who is present will help to guide the elder in his sermon, and greeting the visitors as they arrive will give the elder an opportunity to invite them to be in his Sabbath School class. The fact that the elder is there to welcome them shows the members that he is interested in the Sabbath School.
The elder’s work with the Sabbath School should begin in the Sabbath School planning committee. There he can guide the affairs without dictating. He should urge the officers to see that the school operates smoothly, that no embarrassing incidents take place that would give an unfavorable impression to visitors. He can let the officers know that he will support them in their program. In the Sabbath School planning committee meetings the elder can guide in the selection of teachers who will put their best into their teaching.
When the teachers have been selected, the elder or the pastor can give guidance to them in presenting their lessons. They should be cautioned to use tact, never arguing with the members or visitors. The teachers should be encouraged to present additional facts and thoughts related to the lesson, because most of the members have studied the lesson at least once. The teachers can be reminded that they have the “first chance” with the class members and visitors; that is, they can make a good or bad impression on them before the preacher presents his sermon.
,One of the elders will want to have a Sabbath School class. Visitors should be urged to attend this class, and the Sabbath School members should be encouraged to introduce any visitors to the pastor or elder if he has not already met them. When there is a likelihood of many visitors not of our faith, an adaptation of the Sabbath School lessons is helpful. These do not follow the regular lessons, but contain the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. Some of the less-informed members of the church may be invited to join this class also so their faith can be strengthened, and they will thus form a nucleus for the class. If non-Adventist visitors attend this class regularly, they can be led step by step into the message.
One of the most fruitful phases of the Sabbath School is the branch Sabbath School. This can be conducted in a variety of places. If members live some distance from the church and cannot attend regularly, they should be encouraged to have a branch Sabbath School in their homes, or some other suitable place. If this is held in the afternoon, the elders and other members of the church can assist. Sometimes after a series of Bible studies there are still some in the community who are interested but who have not been baptized. This provides an excellent opportunity for a branch Sabbath School. I had this experience a few years ago. I had baptized several people as a result of personal work in the community, and since the new members lived about sixty miles from the church, a branch school was organized in one of the homes. I took laymen from the church to carry on the school when I could not attend. After a few weeks I left that district, and three weeks after my departure, nine souls were baptized from this branch Sabbath School.
Another avenue of soul winning in the Sabbath School is the Vacation Bible School. To most people their children are their dearest possessions. If an interest is taken in the children, it will be easier to reach the parents. Many baptisms have resulted from the follow-up of a Vacation Bible School. Sabbath School members and church school pupils have been secured also as a result of Vacation Bible School. Fortunate is the evangelist who can conduct an evangelistic campaign in the same location immediately following a Vacation Bible School. The children can serve as advertisers for the meetings.
There were times when the General Conference asked all departments to be especially evangelistic, but the Sabbath School should always be geared to use every means for the winning of souls. The elder and pastor can use this department to distinct advantage, not by dictating to the Sabbath School officers, but by guiding them. The elder should let them know that he is vitally interested in their work and will give them every support.
Milton T. Reiber was a pastor in the Pennsylvania Conference when he wrote this article.
HERNAN DARIO A. SEPULVEDA
Hernan Dario Alzate Sepulveda is a local Church Elder at Centro Evangelistico de Palermo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bogota, Colombia. He is married to Carmen and has 2 children, Karen and David. He has been an Adventist since 1988 and has been an Elder for 2 years now.
“I am very happy to be a Church Elder. It is a great privilege and big responsibility to accept this call from the Lord and it is my prayer that my ministry be fruitful. Through this experience, I have been able to help the members of my church to increase their Christian experience, working together in harmony with my fellow elders and pastor to receive all of God’s blessings. My biggest prayer is to equip the members spiritually and prepare the church for Jesus’ soon return.”