Thorough Indoctrination of Candidates *
By J. C. Stevens
The Bible is the foundation of all true doctrine. Seventh-day Adventists are a Bible people; our message is based upon the Bible and the Bible alone. Some would maintain that the " Testimonies for the Church," or, in other words, the writings of the spirit of prophecy, are to be added to the Bible as furnishing the foundation of true doctrine. But this is an error. We accept, believe, and revere the writings of the spirit of prophecy. But that the Bible is the foundation of all true doctrine is the position held by our denomination from the beginning of our organization. The following statement of denominational position on this matter was made by Elder James White, our recognized pioneer leader, in April, 1851, and was approved by the General Conference Committee at a later date, and the position has in no wise been altered since that time:
"Every Christian is therefore in duty bound to take the Bible as a. perfect rule of faith and duty. He should pray fervently to be aided by the Holy Spirit in searching the Scriptures for the whole truth, and for his whole duty. He is not at liberty to turn from them to learn his duty through any of the gifts. We say that the very moment he does, he places the gifts in a wrong place, and takes an extremely dangerous position. The word should be in front, and the eye of the church should be placed upon it, as the rule to walk by, and the fountain of wisdom, from which to learn duty in all good works."—Review and Herald, April 21, 1851.
At a later date of writing, Elder White made a still more emphatic statement:
"It is well known that we have been charged with testing all men by the visions, and of making them the rule of faith. This is a bold untruth, of which those who uttered it were not ignorant. This I have denied, and deny it still. . . . I still) say that the Bible is my rule of faith and practice, and in saying this, I do not reject the Holy Spirit in its diversities of operations."— Review and Herald, Feb. 14, 1856.
The teaching of the " Testimonies for the Church " is in exact accord with these statements, ever referring to the Bible as the test and standard. As an example, note the following statements:
"It [the Bible] teaches the whole will of God concerning the sons and daughters of Adam. It is the rule of life, teaching us of the character that we must form for the future life.. . In the Bible every duty is made plain." " Our watchword is to be, ' To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.' We have a Bible full of the most precious truth. It contains the alpha and omega of knowledge." " With the word of God in hand, we may draw nearer, step by step, in consecrated love to Jesus. As the Spirit of God becomes better known, the Bible will be accepted as the only foundation of faith."—" Testimonies," Vol. VIII, pp. 157, 299, 193.
Be Fair With the Candidate.— In dealing with candidates for baptism and church membership, it should be made plain that (1) our message is based upon the Bible, (2) that they are uniting with a Bible people, and
(3) that church membership involves the exemplification of Bible truth in the life. It would be manifestly unfair to conceal from the candidate some point of doctrine, such as are sometimes termed our " peculiar " doctrines, lest it discourage him from going forward in the step contemplated. Nothing whatever should be omitted from the prebaptismal instruction; the place of the spirit of prophecy in the church, feet washing, health reform, dress reform, tithing, et cetera, all should be brought to attention, and it should be made very plain as to just what the tests of fellowship are.
A Point for Emphasis.— One point in our instruction of candidates for church membership should be especially emphasized, and that is the vast difference between uniting with the Seventh-day Adventist Church and any other church; that difference being that in uniting with our church one becomes a part of a great prophetic movement. The candidate should clearly understand that he is uniting with a people who have been raised up in fulfillment of prophecy for the specific purpose of giving to all the world, in these last days, the three angels' messages of Revelation 14. We should recognize that he is connecting with the " remnant church " of Bible prophecy, and should understand that this is a great privilege, and a great responsibility likewise, devolving upon him solemn obligation to do his part in meeting the requirements placed upon the remnant church.
The All-Important Essential.— But there is something which in importance far transcends all else, and that is to make sure that the candidate for church membership fully qualifies in the primary essential,— that of being a Christian Seventh-day Adventist. Because of widespread neglect at this point, we are at the present time confronted by a deplorable situation in our churches. This situation is graphically' described in the writings of the spirit of prophecy, with which we as workers are familiar.
As a consequence of the negligence in maintaining the true spiritual standard for church membership, our denominational statistics to-day reveal a back-door exit from our churches, through which is passing a steady stream of those who have entered by the front door of promiscuous standards of indoctrination,— mentally assenting to doctrines, but barren of heart experience in Christian living. Every minister of the gospel is under solemn responsibility to do his full duty in helping to check this exodus from the church.
It is true that there have always been two classes in the church of Christ, and this will be true until the close of probation. The proclamation of the gospel is like a net cast into the sea, which brings to the surface the good fish and the fish which must be cast away. In spite of our best endeavor, there will be found within the church those who are weak and unstable, and who either drift out of the church or who remain to the detriment of the spiritual life of the membership. Nevertheless, it is manifestly incumbent on us as workers to guard diligently the sacred portals of the church, and never lower the standard of foundation principles of church membership in the remnant church in order to entice or accommodate those who persist in clinging to worldliness and sin. There must ever be a bringing of the people up to the standard.
In referring to the spiritual decline which is apparent in the popular churches, Dr. J. E. Conant, in " Every-Member Evangelism," with which we should all be familiar, and included in this year's Ministerial Reading Course, sets forth his analysis of the fundamental cause of the decline in these words:
"Think of the serious annual lapsing of church membership. What is the fundamental cause of it?—Receiving the unregenerate into church membership! 'Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world,' said Paul. And if Demas loved this present world enough to forsake the church, he was probably never born again, for ' if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,' and probably never was in him, or he would not have lapsed into the world."
The Most Simple, Yet Most Difficult Point of Doctrine.— Our first business, in dealing with candidates for baptism and admittance to the church, is to lead them to Christ and teach them how to live for Him and grow in grace. In sermons and in prebaptismal instruction we should plainly point out the steps which are necessary to become a Christian. The instruction must be very simple. It is astonish. ing to find how shallow many minds are when it comes to comprehending spiritual things. Satan has indeed succeeded in darkening and beclouding the mind in the spiritual realm, and the way must be made very plain. Minds which are keenly receptive to the logical reasoning which proves the accuracy of the prophecies, the true state of the dead, the definite seventh-day Sabbath, et cetera, may have a great struggle to comprehend and apply the principles of the new birth; but without this fundamental truth, all other knowledge is unavaiiing.
There must be a clear explanation and the response of definite understanding of the great transactions of repentance and consecration. Righteousness by faith, both imputed and imparted, should be set before the candidate in such a clear and simple Manner that even though he be a child, he will comprehend its meaning and application.
All who enter the church by baptism should have a personal acquaintance with the Head of the church, and willingly subscribe to all true doctrine set forth in the word of God. Unless this is the situation, they will become dead members of the body of Christ, and in due time become severed from the church. As ministers and workers, we must do more thorough work at the entrance to the church, in order to maintain the spiritual life of the church and close the door of exit.
Battle Creek, Mich.
* Paper read at the Lake Union Ministerial Institute.
At the close of the presentation of the paper by Eider J. C. Stevens, at the Chicago meeting, opportunity was given for discussion of the principles set forth. In the few moments available the following remarks were made, which are suggestive of the inner thought and feeling created by the principles set forth.
The first to speak was an evangelist-pastor, who had evidently experienced difficulty in blending the new believers with the old: " I am wondering if there is not some way to standardize our methods, so that those who come in as new members will be on the same platform as the older ones. I would also like to ask, What would you do with the older members of the church who do not live up to the standard set forth for church membership? "
Another pastor answered the query by saying: " I find that the greatest need and desire of our people is to know how to be saved from sin. If we will teach them the way of deliverance from sin, and they have Christ abiding in the heart, then both old and new members will be living according to the same standard."
A conference president said: "Elder Stevens has covered the ground and touched every important principle to my satisfaction. • I believe in going from the bottom to the top in this matter of thorough indoctrination of converts. We should start with simple lessons of the message, and urge people to read our literature giving the history of this movement. It takes weeks and months to make thoroughgoing Seventh-day Adventists. While I believe we should use wisdom, and not hold people off too long before taking them into church fellowship, yet we should be thorough, remembering that the making up of the remnant church must be done quickly. I wish to join in this effort to do more thorough work for the establishing of our people in this most holy faith."
Prom Cause to Effect
By W.P. McLennan
dun heavy loss in church membership through apostasy is a matter deserving most careful consideration; and it seems to me that earnest study and persevering effort on the part of the ministry should materially help in changing this regrettable situation. Let us face both the " front door " and the " back door " church situation fairly and squarely. Personally, I am convinced that greater carefulness exercised at the " front door " will greatly relieve the situation at the " back door," and that the primary need is to " lift up a standard for the people," and bring the people up to the standard. It is becoming more and more apparent that we are not so thorough in the prerequisite instruction for baptism as we once were. There is a tendency to lower the standard in order to increase our membership, and in so doing receive into the church many who have not experienced conversion. Such people find it easy to get into the Church, and equally easy to get out.
They are not " grounded and settled," and therefore do not continue in the faith.
Would it not be worth while for, a conference to keep an accurate record of additions and apostasies during the year, and in combination with such a record, call each worker to account for those under his charge who have apostatized? There may be danger of becoming lax about this matter of preventing apostasies, because of the apparent lack of attention to tracing from cause to effect.
While I do not believe that the system of goal setting is responsible for the heavy loss in membership, yet I do believe that herein lies the emphasis on taking hasty action on names. We note that such action is especially observed during the last quarter of the year, and this is due to the heavy financial obligations resting upon the church, which leads to close scrutiny of the membership record in order to adopt the minimum per capita goal.
O how much effort we put forth to bring a soul into the fold, and how little effort is often exerted to establish and keep him there. Let us do thorough work at the " front door," that there may be less and less use of the " back door."
Follow Paul's Motto
By J.F. Piper
It is becoming altogether too apparent that new converts unite with the church, and are often given places of responsibility in connection with local church work, without being instructed regarding the use of tea, coffee, wearing jewelry, and following the fashions of the world; neither have they been taught the importance of tithe paying, or led to firm belief in the spirit of prophecy. Many times our evangelists, fearing to discourage interest or reduce attendance at the meetings, will lightly or with indifference pass over such subjects as diet, dress, plan of gospel support, the spirit of prophecy, et cetera, concluding that these essential points of doctrine will be presented after people have united with the church. But this is a very unwise procedure. There is no one who can so appropriately or successfully lead new converts into obeying every phase of the message as the worker who has been instrumental in awakening the interest.
I recall the case of a man who was encouraged to unite with the church before he understood our position on tithing and the spirit of prophecy. When these points of faith were brought to his attention, he became very antagonistic, and did not cease his opposition until he and his entire family severed their connection with the church.
Paul's motto is a good one for every minister: " I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you. . .. I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." If all would follow such a course, untold perplexities in church discipline would be avoided.
The Vital Question
By S.A. Ruskjer
Before converts are ready for baptism I believe they should, in addition to being thoroughly converted, be fully instructed on the following doctrinal points:
1. Sabbath Keeping.
2. Second Coming of Christ
3. Tithes and Offerings.
4. Missionary Endeavor.
5. Sabbath School Attendance.
6. Prayer Meeting Responsibilities.
7. Abstinence From Tobacco and Liquor.
8. Avoidance of Stimulants, Including Tea and Coffee.
9. Outward Adornment With Silver or Gold.
10. Refraining From Questionable Places of Amusement—Theater, Dance Hall, Pool Room, etc.
I believe that we do people an injustice when we take them into church fellowship before they fully understand what it means to unite with this movement. We should not spring surprises upon people by presenting to them after they have been baptized additional points of doctrine with which they should have been made familiar. People often become discouraged when they find that part of the message was withheld from them until after they were baptized.
I know of cases where individuals have been baptized and taken into church fellowship before they have observed even one Sabbath. In other instances, individuals have been baptized and taken into church fellowship who have attended church service only upon the one occasion of being taken into fellowship. In all such cases, our experience has been that these names must be removed from the church roll at an early date, as not being fully indoctrinated before baptism, for they seldom respond to further instruction after being baptized. Thorough work before baptism means successful Christian development and growth and activity after baptism; while careless work done before baptism means discouragement and backsliding afterward, as is demonstrated in altogether too many cases.
After all, the vital question is, not as to how many souls are brought in by an evangelist, but as to how many of the souls brought in, stay in, and be-, come defenders of the faith and the bearers of burdens? It is the fully converted, carefully indoctrinated members who add strength to this movement. To bring such into the faith is our solemn responsibility.
Lacombe, Alberta, Canada.
The President's Viewpoint
By I.J. Woodman
I gave more than once suggested that it would be a wonderful experience if every evangelist could serve as a conference president for a year or two, in order that he might more fully realize the importance of, and all that is involved in, seeing that all new converts are thoroughly grounded and instructed in all points of truth before being baptized and received as church members. I never appreciated all that it means to have a candidate fully instructed as I have been led to do through my experience as a conference president; and I am sure that if evangelists understood the difficulties which are involved by lack of thorough instruction, they would be more particular in this respect. If I were again an evangelist, the conference president would have very little difficulty in dealing with the people brought into the truth through my efforts, so far as their failure to understand all points of truth is concerned.
Statements Often Heard
By A.S. Booth
In dealing with delinquent members of the church, we frequently hear the statement, " The minister who brought me into the truth did not explain to me about the spirit of prophecy; " or another will say, " I was never told that Seventh-day Adventists observe the ordinance of feet washing." Many other points of doctrine are also mentioned as being subjects concerning which there was entire ignorance, although the individuals had been taken into the church as well-informed members.
Is it possible that in view of the wonderful amount of truth which we possess, it becomes an easy matter to take for granted that interested people know more concerning it than they really do? The only safe method, when receiving people into the church either by baptism or on profession of faith, is for the minister to take a personal interest in each candidate, and very carefully go over with him every point of the message.
It often happens that some minister is so anxious to baptize a large number of people that he overurges. As a consequence, people are taken into the church before they are prepared, and when they find we believe some things which they had never heard of, they consider this an excuse for dropping out
We read that on the day of Pentecost, " they that gladly received his word " were baptized and added to the church. A Christian must be born of the Spirit and of water. When the Spirit of God impresses a man to take his stand for the truth, there will be no question as to his accepting all points of the faith; but the various doctrines should be faithfully presented for his information and acceptance before •he unites with the church. The apostle Paul labored to " present every man perfect in Christ Jesus; " and this is the true motive in bringing people into the church.
Watch for the Fruit
By O. Montgomery
ME test which John the Baptist required of candidates for baptism was this: " Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance." Luke 3: 8. It is the duty of every messenger of truth to watch for the appearance of the " fruits worthy [answerable to amendment of lit el of repentance " in those for whom he ministers, and to expect these fruits to become apparent before baptism is administered. But there can be no fruitage where there has not been seed sowing, therefore there must be thorough instruction on all points of truth involved in church membership. It is true that we do not have a " probationary period " in our denomination, as some other denominations do, but I believe there should be more thorough work in the baptismal class. I believe that every minister and evangelist should follow the plan ot having a baptismal class; and, better still, that he should follow the plan of dealing with the people personally, giving careful instruction to the individual members of the class or taking them two by two. There should be a careful sifting of the baptismal class, baptizing those who are ready, and holding back those in whose lives the fruits of repentance and indoctrination are not yet seen. If we would be more careful about this very important matter, our churches would not be filled with conditions which we find existing today.
Takoma Park, D. C.