The Review and Herald


October 22, 1889

Individual Responsibility in the Church

[Sermon in Basel, Switzerland, February 22, 1887.]


We should each feel a responsibility resting upon us in regard to the prosperity of the church. There should be an individual sense of what constitutes a Christian's duty in the church of God. New churches will be raised up constantly in different cities and villages, and it is necessary that we should know just how to deal with them. It is of the greatest importance that those who are associated together in the capacity of church members, should be learning how to build up the church of Christ in the most holy faith. RH October 22, 1889, par. 1

We cannot expect that ministers will be permanently located in settled charges, as they are located in other denominations; but each church member must individually learn to bear responsibility, and become a worker, making the advance of the cause of truth the first and highest interest of his life. Each one must devote his God-given power to the work of God; for every one has a part to act if the church is to be successfully established and carried on. The ignorance and inexperience of church members in regard to their duty in the church cannot be pleasing to God. The religious life of some is characterized by impulsive movements. They are as likely to be erratic as to be correct. Some are impatient and restless, while others are indolent and indifferent; and there is such a diversity of opinion and action that there is division instead of harmony in the church. RH October 22, 1889, par. 2

If each member of the church felt an interest to bless and benefit the church, he would have a keen anxiety to see it prosper. It is simple mismanagement that demoralizes our churches. It is because the members of the church do not act their part with fidelity, that the cause of truth is not further advanced. Development and discipline are essential if we would see growth and prosperity in every church. There must be concerted action, and the members of the church must move together like a band of well-trained soldiers. The mind requires constant discipline in order to be trained to do acceptable work for Jesus. The mental faculties must be constantly expanded by exercise, that their highest usefulness may be developed. If church members are educated to be silent and useless members, instead of benefiting the church, they will be a hindrance to its advancement and growth. If they are educated to lean upon the minister, they will become only inefficient and demoralized members, and the church will be powerless, instead of active and efficient. RH October 22, 1889, par. 3

God has given to his ministers intellectual ability, and this ability they have sought to bring into the work of God under divine direction. But the fact that God has called the minister to a special work in the cause of Christ, is no reason that all the burden and all the responsibility should be laid upon the minister. God has given reasoning powers to all the members of the church; and he says to the members as well as to the minister. “Ye are the light of the world.” The minister must set a godly example before the members of the church. Says Christ, speaking of his disciples, “I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” RH October 22, 1889, par. 4

The light of truth is shining upon our pathway, and it is not one light that is shining upon the minister's pathway and another light upon the pathway of the members of the church, but it is the same light. Every one who professes the name of Christ should be a laborer together with God. We are members one of another, and every member should feel a responsibility to train himself to bless and benefit the church. The members of the church should feel that the house of God is their house, and that they are of the family of heaven. They should so conduct themselves that God will be pleased to abide with them. RH October 22, 1889, par. 5

Those who profess the name of Christ should not neglect to establish, the family altar, where they can seek God daily with all the earnestness with which they would seek him in a religious assembly. They should make the season of family prayer a season of special interest, and in this way they will be obtaining an education that will fit them to become a benefit to the church. You may obtain a knowledge of how to serve God acceptably in the home. You may learn how to pray, you may learn how to believe in God; and those who neglect this means of grace in their families, are not preparing themselves for usefulness in the church. RH October 22, 1889, par. 6

If parents educate their children to have the fear of God before their eyes, if they command their households after them as did Abraham, to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, they are educating themselves and their children to bear responsibilities in the cause of Christ. But if they are content to omit the daily season of family prayer, then they are disqualifying themselves and their children to take part in the work of the church. It is of more importance to pray and bear testimony in an intelligent manner, than it is to be intelligent about matters of secular business. In association with the family, we have an excellent opportunity to bring religion into our home, and to present our petitions to the throne of grace. Church members should never feel so pressed with secular business as to neglect family prayer. It is impossible to estimate the loss sustained by such neglect, for from what source can you obtain light to guide your feet in the paths of righteousness, except through the channel of prayer? Where will you obtain the light that you are to reflect to the world, if you do not seek God often and earnestly? God is the source of our help and strength, and we should desire the light and blessing which he has to bestow upon us, that we may reflect the light upon others. RH October 22, 1889, par. 7

We should arouse every energy that God has given us, and should pray without ceasing. We should press our petitions to the throne of grace. We should plead with God to give us the spirit of supplication, that we may seek for those things which he has pledged himself to bestow upon us. If you pray in faith, you will gain a rich experience, because you will be living as in the sight of God; and when you come together on the Sabbath in the capacity of a social or prayer meeting, the angels of God will accompany you, to be round about you in the house of worship. You will not be without a testimony to bear to the glory of God. RH October 22, 1889, par. 8

Says the prophet, “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another. And the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.” You can see from this text that the burden of the social meeting does not rest upon one individual, but upon all. We are to speak one to another. There is nothing that will so completely kill out the true spirit of devotion in social worship as for one to occupy the time to the exclusion of others. When one person takes up twenty or thirty minutes in a long-drawn testimony, it is not for the glory of God, but that self may be exhibited; it is not for the prosperity of him who does it, or for the prosperity of the church. It is death to the meeting. Those who are willing to let some one else do their talking for them, are willing to rob themselves of the blessing that God has for them, and they are failing to obtain the experience which it is necessary for them to have in order that they may grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. It is essential that every member of the church should keep himself in working order, so that he can have freedom in speaking his thoughts intelligently to the members of the church. RH October 22, 1889, par. 9

When one person takes up an undue proportion of the time, he is depriving some one else of his privilege to speak in meeting, and is giving an entirely wrong mold to the service. It would be entirely proper for the one who is appointed to lead the meeting; to call upon others frequently to take his place; and let every one who names the name of Christ have a testimony to bear in social meeting. Let it be right to the point, relating personal experience as to what God has done for your soul. No one has a right to take up time that belongs to another, and so deprive a brother of his privilege to bear testimony. This long sermonizing does not benefit any of the hearers. But while one person should not occupy all the time, there should be no waiting one upon another. Those who have an abundance to say out of meeting, should not be found silent in meeting. We have certainly subject matter enough about which to talk. We have the great principles of salvation revealed in the word of God, which concern our eternal welfare, and our very souls should be all aglow with the love of God. We should be ready to speak forth his praises. Christ should abide in our hearts by faith, that we may learn of him, and be laborers together with him. We should unitedly go forth, determined, through the help of God, to bear testimony to his glory in every act of our life. RH October 22, 1889, par. 10