Teaching the Masses
‘Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh, Shoghi Effendi
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Teaching the Masses

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When the masses of mankind are awakened and enter the Faith of God, a new process is set in motion and the growth of a new civilization begins. Witness the emergence of Christianity and of Islám. These masses are the rank and file, steeped in traditions of their own, but receptive to the new Word of God, by which, when they truly respond to it, they become so influenced as to transform those who come in contact with them.

God’s standards are different from those of men. According to men’s standards, the acceptance of any cause by people of distinction, of recognized fame and status, determines the value and greatness of that cause. But, in the words of Bahá’u’lláh: “The summons and the message which We gave were never intended to reach or to benefit one land or one people only. Mankind in its entirety must firmly adhere to whatsoever hath been revealed and vouchsafed unto it.” Or again, “He hath endowed every soul with the capacity to recognize the signs of God. How could He, otherwise, have fulfilled His testimony unto men, if ye be of them that ponder His Cause in their hearts.” In countries where teaching the masses has succeeded, the Bahá’ís have poured out their time and effort in village areas to the same extent as they had formerly done in cities and towns. The results indicate how unwise it is to solely concentrate on one section of the population. Each National Assembly therefore should so balance its resources and harmonize its efforts that the Faith of God is taught not only to those who are readily accessible but to all sections of society, however remote they may be.

The unsophisticated people of the world — and they form the large majority of its population — have the same right to know of the Cause of God as others. When the friends are teaching the Word of God they should be careful to give the Message in the same simplicity as it is enunciated in our Teachings. In their contacts they must show genuine — and divine love. The heart of an unlettered soul is extremely sensitive; any trace of prejudice on the part of the pioneer or teacher is immediately sensed.

When teaching among the masses, the friends should be careful not to emphasize the charitable and humanitarian aspects of the Faith as a means to win recruits. Experience has shown that when facilities such as schools, dispensaries, hospitals, or even clothes and food are offered to the people being taught, many complications arise. The prime motive should always be the response of man to God’s message, and the recognition of His Messenger. Those who declare themselves as Bahá’ís should become enchanted with the beauty of the Teachings; and touched by the love of Bahá’u’lláh. The declarants need not know all the proofs, history, laws, and principles of the Faith, but in the process of declaring themselves they must, in addition to catching the spark of faith, become basically informed about the Central Figures of the Faith, as well as the existence of laws they must follow and an administration they must obey.

After declaration, the new believers must not be left to their own devices. Through correspondence and dispatch of visitors, through conferences and training courses, these friends must be patiently strengthened and lovingly helped to develop into full Bahá’í maturity. The beloved Guardian referring to the duties of Bahá’í Assemblies in assisting the newly declared believer has written: “...the members of each and every Assembly should endeavour, by their patience, their love, their tact and wisdom, to nurse, subsequent to his admission, the newcomer into Bahá’í maturity, and win him over gradually to the unreserved acceptance of whatever has been ordained in the teachings.”

From a letter 13 July 1964 written by the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies

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From reports and minutes we receive from various National Spiritual Assemblies, it is evident that your efforts to attract a greater number of receptive souls to the Cause of God, to open new areas for increased teaching activity and to consolidate the work so far accomplished are dependent upon more local travelling teachers and pioneers being assisted by the Fund to spend more of their time in Bahá’í teaching services under your direction. There is a danger in this situation which must be avoided at all costs. Despite the pressing requirements of the Nine Year Plan, no Bahá’í teacher anywhere should consider himself as permanently employed by the Faith. We do not have in the Cause of God any paid career open to Bahá’í teachers.

The beloved Guardian elucidated this basic principle of Bahá’í Administration through his repeated letters to National Assemblies from which we quote:

At present it would be quite impossible to spread the Cause if those who arise to serve it as teachers or pioneers were not given financial assistance. All must realize, however, that the monies they receive are only to enable them to fulfil their objectives, and that they cannot consider themselves permanently entitled to be supported by the Cause.

From a letter 12 August 1944 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of India and Burma

Likewise travelling teachers should be assisted financially to carry out the “projects” assigned to them. The friends should not for a moment confuse this type of support with the creation of a paid clergy. Any Bahá’í can, at the discretion of the NSA receive this necessary assistance and it is clearly understood it is temporary and only to carry out a specific plan.

From a letter 29 May 1946 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles

Each National Assembly, through its auxiliary Teaching Committees, should be able to so plan the time and efforts of its band of subsidized travelling teachers that no impression of permanency is given. As far as possible each “project” must be definite in objective and in duration.

Likewise, when pioneer projects are envisaged, it must be made clear to the pioneer that he must make every effort to establish himself in some position in his pioneering post and thus become freed from the necessity of drawing further on Bahá’í funds.

Experience has shown that the observance of these principles is essential for the rearing of healthy communities; wherever they have been ignored difficulties and complications have arisen. In the application of these principles, if you have any difficulty, you should feel free to consult with us. Also, if you have found any particular scheme proving to be successful without violating the above principles, you are welcome to send the details to us so that we may share your methods with other National Assemblies and enable them to benefit from your experience.