After an extended absence from headquarters of over eighteen months, Elder A. G. Daniells, general secretary of the Ministerial Association, has just been greeted by his coworkers at the General Conference in Takoma Park. His travels in behalf of a greater, more spiritual ministry have taken him throughout the Australasian Division in ministerial institutes, general meetings, and special labor. Many important Association interests and problems here at the American base await study and decision, in which his leadership and counsel is needed. We still await the return of Elder Meade MacGuire, one of the associate secretaries, who has been doing similar work in the Far Eastern Division for over two years. He is scheduled to reach America in the early autumn. Such extended overseas service makes eminently fitting this little word. To both a hearty Welcome Home.
The Balanced View
Two opposite and apparently contradictory views of our denothinational achievements, our spiritual status, and our individual and collective needs, are frequently expressed. At times this conflict of presentations becomes bewildering to those not in possession of all the facts.
The one attitude is frequently referred to as the pessimistic or realistic view; the other, the optimistic or idealistic. Both are sincerely held and expressed. The simple fact is that the one presents things more as they are; the other, things as they sometimes seem or as we would wish them to be. For example, in the one the gross membership increases by baptism are glowingly presented; in the other the net increases, with the serious losses deducted so that we know just where we actually stand. Both are in their special sense true, yet vastly different in the impressions produced. The question is, Do gross increases give a fair and faithful picture, or do they build a castle of unreality and a sense of false security and satisfaction?
Again, a wonderful interest is developed in the homeland or mission field, and is reported at the psychological moment before the actual results are crystallized. It makes fine propaganda and most thrilling reading. But when the sifting, binding work is accomplished, the anticipated results have frequently shrunken materially, and are not usually reported. Many feel that the disillusionment of the first impression, when the actual facts are finally disclosed, is more damaging than we can estimate, and so lean toward the more accurate and conservative, though less dramatic presentation.
Or again, a visiting worker touching a camp meeting or institution talks with a few earnest, godly souls pressing onward and upward with increasing spiritual growth and power, and gives an enthusiastic report, making a general application of his limited findings. He unwittingly gives the impression that paradise is almost restored. Another worker seeks out the discouraged, drifting ones, those who are desperately in need of help (and there are multitudes of such to be found), and labors and prays to restore them.
Beyond controversy there is indeed a " mixed multitude " along with the church today. We find both the wise and the 'foolish, the wheat and the tares, the true and the false. Now the so-called pessimist naturally sees the vivid need, and his picture is presented in more somber hues; while the no-called optimist glows with his thrilling word pictures. It is easy to seek for and find certain things, overlooking others and permitting our judgment to be overbalanced. Another disconcerting element is the occasional conflict :between the public reports for general consumption and the private statements of some. It savors of playing to the galleries. It is hard to reconcile with strict Christian integrity.
In working among the youth, some mingle with those outstanding young spiritual leaders who are destined shortly to become the backbone of this movement. Other laborers are dismayed by the number of careless, sinning sons and daughters whom they see slipping away from the church, caught in the undertow of a relentless tide. It makes a world of difference whether one's contacts and impressions are formed largely from behind the desk gazing into a sea of bright, smiling faces, or whether gained from personal work growing out of public presentations.
Similar illustrations could be multiplied indefinitely, but right here in these attitudes lies the background for these two apparently discordant views. Now the fact is that there is some truth in both presentations, but not a balanced view tallying with all the facts. Here is a principle that should help: " Watchman, what of the night? " is Zion's eager and legitimate inquiry. Note the answer: " The morning cometh, and also the night." Isa. 21: 11, 12. There is bound to be both night and morning, darkness and light, cheer and concern, courage and warning, in the true watchman's report. To present only one side of the picture so as to leave a partial, distorted, and really false impression, is to give a false report for which God will hold the watchman accountable.
The sober truth is that two marked classes are developing simultaneously in the remnant church in this late harvest time of the world. The honest, earnest seekers after the righteousness of Christ are drawing nearer to the kingdom, while the worldly and careless are growing more worldly and indifferent. Let us acknowledge the facts. And this cleavage is seen in the ranks of the workers as definitely as among the people of the pew.
We live in the night of human history, with time far spent and gross darkness pressing in on every hand. Yet eternity is about to dawn, with the rising Sun of Righteousness. Light and healing and wholeness lie before us. Glorious hope and blessed prospect! Let us therefore be fair, honest, and balanced in both our observations and our reports. Let us pray for a broad, clear vision of conditions, needs, and achievements. This is God's movement on the road to triumph. His people will be prepared according to His specifications. We need not fear. The call is for faithful, loyal labor to win the lost, to reclaim the wanderers, to upbuild the faithful, entering first ourselves into all of God's provisions.
L. E. F.