The Trained Christian Worker

By C. I. Scofield

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921), Bible student and author, born in Lenawee County, Michigan, reared in Wilson County, Tennessee, and privately educated. Fought in the Civil War from 1861-1865 under General Lee, his distinguished service earning him the Confederate Cross of Honor. Admitted to the Kansas bar in 1869, elected to the Kansas House of Representatives where he served for one year. President Grant appointed him United States Attorney for Kansas in 1873. Worked as a lawyer in Kansas and Missouri from 1869 to 1882. Converted at 36, he was ordained to the Congregational ministry in 1882, and served as pastor of the First Church, Dallas, Texas (1882-1895), and again (1902-1907); and of the Moody Church, Northfield, Massachusetts (1895-1902). Later years were spent lecturing on biblical subjects on both sides of the Atlantic. The work for which he is best remembered is his 1909 dispensational premillenial Scofield Reference Bible." (From "The Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary of the Church," page 362, Elgin S. Moyer, 1982, © Moody Press, Chicago, IL)

The day of the lay worker for Christ has fully come. For the first time since the Apostolic age the activities of the church of Jesus Christ are chiefly in the hands of the men and women who compose it. And it seems to me appropriate to the closing of another year's work of a school founded for the sole purpose of training lay workers, that I should call your attention to the immense significance of the fact that now the laity have scope for the fullest forthputting of effort in the cause of Christ: and that, because that is true, their responsibilities as Christians are enormously increased.

Fifty years ago this was not true. Outside the official circle - the deaconate or eldership - the male membership of the churches was entrusted with very few duties, and the female membership with none. In most churches it would have been thought a shocking and dangerous innovation if the saintliest woman had offered public prayer. She listened to sermons, and at home taught her children the Shorter Catechism. Even to this day many mature Christian women feel reluctant to undertake in the briefest public acts of service. The minister was then the voice of the church: and the conception of a church as a hive of eager and willing workers was but beginning to find a place in the minds of men. The development of the Sunday school, followed by the Women's Boards of Missions, with auxiliary societies in every church; women's prayer meetings; cottage and neighborhood meetings; school house meetings in the country, and slum missions in the city; the organization and rapid development of the Young Men's Christian Associations, followed by similar associations for women: and the great Christian Endeavor movement amongst the young, have given scope and sphere for effective definite gospel work to all, whether young or old, and of both sexes, who have a heart to work for the Master.

Add to all these the great evangelistic movement by and of the laity, which was set in motion by Dwight L. Moody thirty years ago, and now enlists an army of evangelists of both sexes and in every land: an army which is constantly augmenting, and demands increasing numbers, both of effective speakers and singers, and we have a brief and most inadequate survey of the field of modern lay Christian activity.

If we count Sunday school superintendents and teachers: lay foreign and home missionaries: Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Association secretaries, assistant secretaries;, and Bible and training class teachers; church visitors; pastor's assistants; evangelists of both sexes, both preaching and singing: city mission workers: workers in the newly-developed work in neglected country districts; members of mission boards and auxiliaries, and members of Young People's societies pledged to Christian work, it will be within bounds to say that in this land two and a quarter millions of the laity are at least pledged to definite work for Christ. 'What is this to mean? Well, let me say at once, it does not mean any invasion of the functions or rights of the Christian ministry. So far from being rivals of the minister, these men and women are his soldiery, his organized and disciplined army. Let that be said at once, and once for all. If the lay worker should ever supersede the ministry, the result would be as disastrous as was the suppression of the laity by the ministry, and the erection of the latter into a clergy or priesthood.

And next note the surprising fact that despite the practically unlimited field now open to lay activity, and the vast number of nominal workers therein, there is a demand for trained and effective Christian workers which far out- runs the supply. Observe, I say trained Christian workers. This age is notably marked on the one hand by minute specialization - the elaborate division of labor, and on the other hand by the demand for highly-skilled labor. I believe the time is near at hand when in all churches of any magnitude there will not only be one or more carefully- trained assistants to the pastor and a corps of skilled visitors, but also a highly-trained, salaried Sunday school superintendent. Some churches have him already. Another problem is growing in urgency and must soon be faced. I mean the problem of the small country church and its work of rural evangelization. It is a fact that, speaking generally, the country church does not thoroughly evangelize its own neighborhood, and this deplorable fact is due to the other fact that the smaller pastorates are largely held either by the ineffective residum of the regular ministry-men who have been failures in more important churches, never soul winners, or, on the other hand, by zealous but utterly untrained lay workers.

In all this lies the reason to be and the justification of such schools as the Northfield Training School and the Chicago Bible Institute. It is obvious that for innumerable reasons this host of lay workers cannot, even if it were desirable, take a regular college and seminary course. It should be equally obvious that between the high training of the regular ministry, and no training at all, some practicable middle-ground should be found. It has been found, we believe, in the Northfield Training School. This school proposes to train the lay worker, first of all, in a clear grasp of the great essential truths of the Bible; secondly, in right principles and methods of Bible study; and thirdly, in the most effective modes of presenting Bible truth, so as to convert sinners and edify Christians. The preparation and giving of Bible readings, gospel talks and addresses, and the use of the Bible with inquirers, are carefully taught. It is believed that this - whatever else may be added-must form the basis of the training of an effective Christian worker. Paul says of the Scriptures not only that they are able to make wise unto salvation, but also to “thoroughly furnish unto every good work." That statement is thoroughly believed and acted upon here.

Auxiliary to this, such instruction is given in domestic science, the care of the sick, and kindred studies as are likely to increase the effectiveness of the all-around Christian worker. It is safe to say that with four times the number of students here gathered, this institution would still be unable to supply the ever-increasing demand for workers who have approved themselves under the practical tests of actual service, “workmen who need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

-- An address at the closing exercises in 1898 of the Northfield Training School, Northfield, Mass. Reprinted from "Record of Christian Work," May 1898.

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