A Ministry to Every Woman
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us…” Romans 12:6 NIV
During the 1860s, the Seventh-day Adventist church was also coming into being. In the same time and culture, it was engaged in an attempt to save men and women who were dying spiritually. Ellen White lived during these years, and felt a great burden for the Three Angels’ messages to reach a world that was perishing for a want of the truth. Workers were scarce and, as we see from Ellen White’s own experience, often overburdened trying to minister to the needs of the new church and to spread the message.
In such a situation as this, she was adamant that no hand be restricted that could be helping. Everyone must do their part. No one should believe that they were excluded from God’s service, and no one must forbid another from doing their part. It was in this evangelistic, practical view that Ellen White spoke about the role of Christian women in service. In her writings and in her example she urged women to be active in giving the gospel to the world and laboring for lost men and women. Her arguments regarding the work women were to do were practical, not theological. This is what she said:
We greatly need consecrated women who, as messengers of mercy, shall visit the mothers and the children in their homes, and help them in the everyday household duties, if need be, before beginning to talk to them regarding the truth for this time. You will find that by this method you will have souls as the result of your ministry. —Review and Herald, July 12, 1906
When a great and decisive work is to be done, God chooses men and women to do this work, and it will feel the loss if the talents of both are not combined. —Letter 77, 1898.
There are women who are especially adapted for the work of giving Bible readings, and they are very successful in presenting the Word of God in its simplicity to others. They become a great blessing in reaching mothers and their daughters. This is a sacred work, and those engaged in it should receive encouragement. —Letter 108, 1910.
Women can be the instruments of righteousness, rendering holy service. It was Mary that first preached a risen Jesus. . . . If there were twenty women where now there is one, who would make this holy mission their cherished work, we should see many more converted to the truth. The refining, softening influence of Christian women is needed in the great work of preaching the truth. The Lord of the Vineyard is saying to many women who are now doing nothing, “Why stand ye here all day idle?’ Zealous and continued diligence in our sisters toiling for the spread of the truth would be wholly successful, and would astonish us with its results. —Review and Herald, Jan 2, 1879.
There should be selected for the work wise, consecrated men who can do a good work in reaching souls. Women also should be chosen who can present the truth in a clear, intelligent, straightforward manner. We need among us laborers who see the need of a deep work of grace to be done in hearts; and such should be encouraged to engage in earnest missionary effort. —Letter 54, 1909.
Sister R and Sister W are doing just as efficient work as the ministers; and some meetings when the ministers are all called away, Sister W takes the Bible and addresses the congregation. —Letter 169, 1900.
Teach this, my sister. You have many ways opened before you. Address the crowd whenever you can by any association that can be made the means of introducing the leaven to the meal. Every man and every woman has a work to do for the Master. Personal consecration and sanctification to God will accomplish, through the most simple methods, more than the most imposing display. —Review and Herald, May 9, 1899.
Women who are willing to consecrate some of their time to the service of the Lord should be appointed to visit the sick, look after the young, and minister to the necessities of the poor. They should be set apart to this work by prayer and the laying on of hands. In some cases they will need to counsel with the church officers or the minister; but if they are devoted women, maintaining a vital connection with God, they will be a power for good in the church. —Review and Herald, July 9, 1895.
The sisters can do much to reach the heart and make it tender. Wherever you are, my sisters, work in simplicity. If you are in a home where there are children, show an interest in them. Let them see that you love them. If one is sick, offer to give him treatment; help the careworn, anxious mother to relieve her suffering child. —Review and Herald, November 11, 1902.
The Lord has a work for women as well as for men. They may take their places in His work at this crisis, and He will work through them. If they are imbued with a sense of their duty, and labor under the influence of the Holy Spirit, they will have just the self-possession required for this time. The Savior will reflect upon these self-sacrificing women in the light of His countenance, and will give them a power that exceeds that of men. They can do in families a work that men cannot do, a work that reaches the inner life. They can come close to the hearts of those whom men cannot reach. Their labor is needed. —Review and Herald, August 26, 1902.
We are lacking in deeds of sympathy and benevolence, in sacred and social ministering to the needy, the oppressed, and the suffering. Women who can work are needed now, women who are not self-important, but meek and lowly of heart, who will work with the meekness of Christ wherever they can find work to do for the salvation of souls. —Review and Herald, January 2, 1879.
Women who are willing to consecrate some of their time to the service of the Lord should be appointed . . . We need to branch out more in our methods of labor. Not a hand should be bound, not a soul discouraged, not a voice should be hushed; let every individual labor, privately or publicly, to help forward this grand work. Place the burden upon men and women of the church, that they may grow by reason of the exercise, and thus become effective agents in the hand of the Lord for the enlightenment of those who sit in darkness. —Review and Herald, July 9, 1895.
God wants workers who can carry the truth to all classes, high and low, rich and poor. In this work women may act an important part. God grant that those who read these words may put forth earnest efforts to present an open door for consecrated women to enter the field. —5MR 162.
Women who have the cause of God at heart can do a good work in the districts in which they reside. Christ speaks of women who helped Him in presenting the truth before others, and Paul also speaks of women who labored with him in the gospel. But how very limited is the work done by those who could do a large work if they would. —Letter 31, 1894.
Women may have a transforming influence if they will only consent to yield their way and their will to God, and let Him control their mind, affections, and being. They can have an influence which will tend to refine and elevate those with whom they associate. But this class are generally unconscious of the power they possess. They exert an unconscious influence which seems to work out naturally from a sanctified life, a renewed heart. It is the fruit that grows naturally upon the good tree of divine planting. Self is forgotten, merged in the life of Christ. To be rich in good works is as natural as their breath. They live to do others good and yet are ready to say: We are unprofitable servants. —Testimonies to the Church, vol. 2, p. 465 (1870).
Wonderful is the mission of the wives and mothers and the younger women workers. If they will, they can exert an influence for good to all around them. By modesty in dress and circumspect deportment, they may bear witness to the truth in its simplicity. They may let their light so shine before all, that others will see their good works and glorify their Father which is in heaven. A truly converted woman will exert a powerful transforming influence for good. —Manuscript 91, 1908.
Woman, if she wisely improves her time and her faculties, relying upon God for wisdom and strength, may stand on an equally equality with her husband as advisor, counselor, companion, and co-worker, and yet lose none of her womanly grace or modesty. She may elevate her own character, and just as she does this she is elevating and ennobling the characters of her family, and exerting a powerful, though unconscious influence upon others around her. —Good Health, June, 1880.
Women of firm principle and dedicated character are needed, women who believe that we are indeed living in the last days, and that we have the last solemn message of warning to be given to the world. They should feel that they are engaged in an important work in spreading the rays of light which Heaven has shed upon them. Nothing will deter this class from their duty. Nothing will discourage them in the work. They have faith to work for time and for eternity. They fear God, and will not be diverted from the work by the temptation of lucrative situations and attractive prospects. The Sabbath of the fourth commandment is sacredly kept by them, because God has placed His sanctity upon it, and has bidden them to keep it holy. They will preserve their integrity at any cost to themselves . . . These are the ones who will correctly represent our faith, whose words will be fitly spoken, like apples of gold in pictures of silver. . . . Sisters, God calls you to work in the harvest field and help gather in the sheaves. —Review and Herald, December 19, 1878.
All who work for God should have the Martha and the Mary attributes blended—a willingness to minister, and a sincere love of the truth. Self and selfishness must be put out of sight. God calls for earnest women workers, workers who are prudent, warmhearted, tender, and true to principle. He calls for persevering women, who will take their minds from self and their personal convenience, and will center them on Christ, speaking words of truth, praying with the persons to whom they can obtain access, laboring for the conversion of souls. —Testimonies to the Church, vol. 6, p. 118. (1900).
Our sisters, the youth, the middle-aged, and those of advanced years, may act a part in the closing work for this time; and in doing this as they have opportunity, they will obtain an experience of the highest value to themselves. In forgetfulness of self, they will grow in grace. By training the mind in this direction, they will learn how to bear burdens for Jesus. —Review and Herald, January 2, 1879.
One well-ordered, well-disciplined family tells more in behalf of Christianity than all the sermons that can be preached. Such a family gives evidence that the parents have been successful in following God’s directions, and that their children will serve Him in the church. Their influence grows; for as they impart, they receive to impart again. . . . The neighborhood in which they live is helped, for in it they have become enriched for time and for eternity. —Review and Herald, June 6, 1899.
We may safely say that the distinctive duties of woman are more sacred, more holy, than those of man. Let woman realize the sacredness of her work and in the strength and fear of God take up her life mission. Let her educate her children for usefulness in this world and for a home in the better world. —Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, p. 77 (1890).
We are still in the midst of a war—the war which Ellen White called “the Great Controversy.” Men and women are presented with God’s offer of eternal life, surrounded by an enemy who doesn’t want them to understand or accept it. You and I live in the final stages of this war. And when we see our lives in that context, it is easier to understand the urgency behind the statements we have just read—it becomes plain why Ellen White was more concerned over the great need of workers than over justifying the roles of women.
As women we can see that the need is greater today than ever. Today the call to give our energies for God is greater than at any time in earth’s history. Fortunately, in most parts of the world we no longer face the cultural bias against women that existed in Elle White’s day. So now we have no excuse.