“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9). This was a favorite text of Ellen White. To her way of thinking, it was an incomprehensible privilege to think that we could be fellow workers with God. To be considered a fellow worker with the President of the United States would be considered a high privilege, but here we are told that we are called to be fellow workers—not with some human dignitary, but with God!
Some people think the minister is paid to do this, but we are all called to be fellow workers with God. We all have to make a living, but our primary work is to be fellow workers with God in His work. “Christ has given to the church a sacred charge. Every member should be a channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace.” The Acts of the Apostles, 600. We must realize that every day we are meeting people whom we may never meet again, and we have a saving gospel that must be presented to them.
No one is converted without a burden for souls. Part of the gospel is that we are called to be missionaries for the Lord. Jesus told the demoniac when he was healed, “Go home to your friends, and tell them the great things the Lord has done for you” (Mark 5:19). And that is what we must do.
To Grow Spiritually, We Must Be Witnessing
It is absolutely necessary for spiritual growth to spend time witnessing. If we are feeding only ourselves, we are going to grow fat, sluggish, and critical. “The great outpouring of the Spirit of God, which lightens the whole earth with His glory, will not come until we have an enlightened people, that know by experience what it means to be laborers together with God.” Christian Service, 253.
“The Lord desires that His word of grace shall be brought home to every soul.
“To a great degree this must be accomplished by personal labor. This was Christ’s method. His work was largely made up of personal interviews. He had a faithful regard for the one-soul audience.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 229. We might think that most of Jesus’ work was public teaching and healing, but most of His work was one-to-one. Much of what Jesus did is not recorded, but we know by Inspiration that He was in people’s homes and spent time teaching the disciples how to reach individuals.
Teaching Others How to Witness
We are told that the greatest help which can be given to church members is to teach them to work for God, not for the church or pastor. “Just as soon as a church is organized, let the minister set the members at work. They will need to be taught how to labor successfully. Let the minister devote more of his time to educating than to preaching. Let him teach the people how to give to others the knowledge they have received.” Testimonies, vol. 7, 20. When I read this statement, our church met together and began to plan teaching weekends. We began to try to make the church a learning center instead of just a preaching center. In the process of studying, we found that the Holy Spirit will never be poured out unless we are working to win souls, so we said, “We better start doing this.” Then we began to study how to win souls, and the Lord blessed. “Every Christian should be a missionary, working for the salvation of souls.” The Review and Herald, November 29, 1906.
Our young people in school need to learn the science of soul winning also. To do this, they must learn about true psychology, how the mind works, how to meet people, and how to reach them. They ought to know the Bible and the prophecies. If, in first grade, they had simply begun learning one verse a day, then by the time they finished academy, they would have the whole New Testament memorized!
To be effective in our witnessing, we need to be storing our minds with the truths of God’s word. We may say, “I wish I had started when I was five years old, but now I am 45.” We are never going to be younger than we are today. If we are ever going to do it, we must start right now. If we cannot memorize the whole Bible, we can memorize a whole chapter such as Romans 8 or 1 John 3.
“Our work has been marked out for us by our heavenly Father. We are to take our Bibles and go forth to warn the world. We are to be God’s helping hands in saving souls.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 150. “A great work can be done by presenting to the people the Bible just as it reads. Carry the word of God to every man’s door.” Ibid., vol. 5, 388.
God established this church on a firm basis. That firm basis was made because of a great shaking within the early movement. In the early Advent movement, the number of believers went from approximately 100,000 down to just a few hundred people, but at least these few hundred people were solid. They had given their souls and their lives and all that they had to the Lord. They went out and spread the message and preached. The Lord blessed, and the church began to grow.
N. Haskell’s Camp Meeting
In the State of California, S. N. Haskell held a camp meeting at which Ellen White and her son Willie helped. His concerns were centered on the winning of souls, so for their camp meeting, they invited non-Adventists to the evening meetings. During the daytime the people were taught how to win souls and other things that were more specifically for Adventists, but the evening meeting was always geared for non-Adventists, as well as Adventists, and was evangelistic in nature. During the day, many of the Adventists would hand out fliers in the community inviting people to come to the evening meeting. The result was that several hundred non-Adventists were in attendance at the evening meetings.
On one occasion, S. N. Haskell was ready to preach, and there were a number of non-Adventists present to hear the message. It began to rain and thunder, and since there were no microphones, people could not hear. It was a terrible catastrophe in any evangelist’s mind. He did not want to send people away; they might never come again. But our extremities are God’s opportunities! S. N. Haskell prayed earnestly, and an idea came to him to write texts on slips of paper and distribute them to the people. Then he went out into the middle of the auditorium, stood up on a table, and had everyone gather around him as close as they could—very unconventional. He would call out a question and then have the answer read from the Bible. The people might miss a few words that were read when the thunder cracked, but they could follow the text in the Bible. So it was question, answer, question, answer—all Elder Haskell was doing was reading the questions, and the people were reading the Bible.
Willie White was very impressed. He could see the people being moved as they found the answers to questions from the Bible. He later told his mother about this meeting. Shortly after this event, the Lord gave Ellen White a vision and showed her that this storm was from the Lord. He was trying to teach people how to give Bible studies, and this was His method. Up to that point, no one in the church had ever, as far as we know, given a real Bible study; rather, truth had been presented in sermon form.
A New Type of Bible Studies
Here was something so simple and so different, but very effective. S. N. Haskell was not telling people the truth; he was asking them questions and simply telling them where to find the answers in the Bible. Elder Haskell began to train people right there at the camp meeting how to use this method. Very soon the church began to develop a missionary society in the General Conference to train people. A paper was made just for that purpose. People would write Bible studies and send them in to this paper, and they would publish these studies. A number of these were gathered together and published in what became known as Bible Readings for the Home Circle.
During the 1890s, this system became fully established in the church as the method of giving Bible studies, and the church grew the most it has ever grown—almost ten percent every single year—because the laymen were out witnessing.
Bible studies have gone through various developments over the years. About 1930, we developed the first filmstrip. Nine years later, a Bible study correspondence school was developed, and the Voice of Prophecy became the main headquarters for Bible study through correspondence. When I was growing up in the 1950s, my father, my brother, and I used the 20th Century Bible studies on filmstrip.
While pastoring in the Washington D.C. area, we were training people how to give Bible studies. We were using materials we had, but we found they were not working well. I discovered the materials were written for the purpose of leaving them in the home as a correspondence course, not for a Bible worker to use in giving a Bible study. Through a year of experimenting, writing, and testing, the Steps to Life Bible studies were developed.
We had some interesting experiences! I remember a young lady who had never given studies. She said, “I cannot give a Bible study.”
I replied, “Yes, you can. Let me give you a few principles. Next week I cannot be here to give studies to this lady.” I reviewed the principles of asking questions and letting people answer them from the Bible. We gave her the Bible studies we had written. I never went back. She gave all the rest of the studies to this lady, and the lady was baptized. That so excited her that she gave them to another and another and another. In a little over a year before I left, she had given Bible studies to four young ladies, and all of them were baptized.
This work is going to be finished with laymen who are witnessing to their neighbors, and the Lord expects us to qualify ourselves for this work. There is a human element involved. In Fundamentals of Christian Education, 217, Ellen White says, “The Lord does nothing for the salvation of the soul without the cooperation of man.” She goes on to say, in spite of this, how few have qualified themselves in the work of soul winning.
Personal Bible Study
I would like to encourage you to, first of all, have Bible study every day for your own spiritual growth. I may be one of the weakest Christians in the world, so I need a lot of special help. I find that I need at least an hour a day with the Word and on my knees in order to survive. Personal Bible study is essential for personal witnessing. We must realize that every one of us is God’s fellow worker, and we are called to be active witnesses for the Lord.
There are two things that are required in order to be successful workers for the Lord. One is personal effort, using all the intelligence God has given to us, learning how to do it, not stumbling and making the same mistakes time after time. If we learn that something does not work, let us do it differently. Let us learn from one another. Let us learn all the methods that we can learn to share our faith. Let us give out literature. Like Jesus with the woman at the well, let us learn to approach people without offending them, learn different ways to share the Sabbath and various other truths. Along with that, we must realize that not one of us will ever win a single soul in our own power or with our own strength.
The Holy Spirit
The other requirement is that we must have the Holy Spirit in our lives. To have the Holy Spirit in our lives requires that we be cleansed from sin.
“The latter rain will come, and the blessing of God will fill every soul that is purified from every defilement.” Evangelism, 702. “Without the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched, no sinner won to Christ.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 21. Now, you see, the work of gaining the victory over sin becomes important, not only so we can get to heaven, but so we can be used by God to help others to be in heaven. You will never be an effective soul winner as long as you are retaining known sins in your life. The greatest reason, the greatest purpose for a holy life is not just so you can be saved, but so you can be used to be an instrument to help others to be saved—your children, your family, your neighbors, and members of the church.
When I fly on the airlines, I always like to get a seat by myself so I can study. I tell the Lord, “If I cannot have that, put someone here to whom I can witness.” In every situation, we should be looking for someone, somewhere, to whom we can witness. There are many wonderful books that can be given away, such as the book Somebody Cares. [Available through Steps to Life, this book was written by Marshall J. Grosboll.] This and other books can be given everywhere as a witness.
“There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart and lives a life wholly consecrated to God.” The Ministry of Healing, 159. Starting today, would you like to dedicate yourself to become a fellow worker with God for the work of winning souls?
Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board. This article was first published in the October 1995 LandMarks. It was the last sermon he preached just 24 hours before he died.