By F.M. Wilcox
How sad it is to see men in this world lose their position of leadership! I do not refer to official leadership, which comes and goes with passing years, and is dependent upon many varying fortunes and circumstances. I refer to that leadership which makes one a man among his fellows, which makes of him a source of hope and inspiration, a strong factor for God and his fellow men, a body of light instead of a body of darkness. This kind of leadership is possessed by thousands who do not occupy any official position in state or society or church; indeed, the loss of official position has sometimes enhanced rather than lessened the power of such influence.
Loss of leadership in the church of God is particularly pathetic. I was impressed with this several years ago when I visited a man who at one time was a strong, forceful leader in the ranks of Seventh-day Adventists. Others had looked to him for instruction and guidance; they had leaned upon him as a pillar. But there had come a change. Reverses had entered his life; and these reverses, instead of driving him nearer to God, as heaven designed, had weakened his faith and confidence. He had come to doubt the speedy realization of the advent hope. He was balancing in his mind, to determine anew their truthfulness or falsity, some of the cardinal doctrines, such as the sanctuary, and other questions which in former years he had preached with zeal and enthusiasm. He had come to question seriously the place of the Spirit of prophecy in the remnant church, and instead of judging this gift by the fruit it had borne and the spirit accompanying it through the years, he was permitting his mind to rest upon little technicalities, and giving serious consideration to the charges of opponents. This man felt that the denominational organization was wrong, that his brethren were out of harmony with him, and that they were responsible for the ills that had befallen him. He had also lost faith, in a large measure, in the word of God. The spirit of so-called higher criticism had entered his heart, and he was beginning to question some of the cardinal truths of the blessed word.
This good brother presented a sad picture—a derelict, afloat upon the sea of his own vain imaginings, the prey of every evil suggestion and ill foreboding which the enemy sought to press into his mind. As I witnessed his sad state, I prayed that God would send him deliverance by giving him a new vision,—a vision of himself and a true vision of Christ and of His message for today. There came vividly to mind the statement of the Spirit of prophecy, to the effect that in the closing days of this work of the third angel's message some of the brightest stars would go out in darkness, and some who had been strong advocates of this message would depart from it; that where we would naturally expect floors of wheat, we would find but chaff. How truly has this statement been fulfilled in the experience of this man, and also, unfortunately, in the experience of many others.
Here was a sad object lesson, one of many through the years, and one which it is hoped all may heed, as it is passed on for that purpose. Let all pray that God will save us from the unfortunate condition in which this brother was found, for we recognize the weakness of human nature in ourselves as well as in others, and realize that we are subject to the same temptations, and if left to ourselves, will inevitably drift away from God.
In these days of peril we need to keep near to God, to walk humbly before Him. We need to keep near to our brethren in love and confidence. Under God, we can build up our faith in Him and in His word and in His gospel message for this day; or we can turn from Him and cherish doubt and unbelief. We can look for the good in our brethren and sisters, and find it; or we can look only for the evil and see only that.
Above all else, we need to recognize the evil that is in our own hearts and the goodness that is in Christ Jesus. He is our example; and as we think on Him, we shall not find time nor have inclination to permit our minds to think on the evil around us. And as we commune with Him, and come into the secret of His presence, we shall be able to go out from that presence with new power and strength to labor for those who need our help.
Takoma Park, D. C.
Shepherd the Sheep
By W.H. Schacht
Alyea stress is being laid upon evangelism at the present time, and particular emphasis is placed on teaching, while the work of the pastor receives very little attention. In fact, this is a subject which is largely pushed to the background, and in some instances is condemned to an unwarrantable degree. Not infrequently one hears the outspoken remark to the effect that " Seventh-day Adventists are getting into the practice of pastoring churches, the same as the churches of the world." This would seem to infer that to seek and encourage pastoral effort is just cause for reformation; and yet in the Scriptures we find that the work of the pastor is a gift bestowed by Christ, " for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Eph. 4: 11, 12.
In the early days of our work it was customary for the minister to enter a community, pitch his tent, announce his meetings, and proceed to hold an evangelistic effort of six or eight weeks' duration. The usual result was the organization of a church, composed of the newly baptized converts and possibly a few resident Seventh-day Adventists. A church elder was elected, and other officers assigned their respective duties, and then this newly organized church began to function in the regular way, while the minister moved his tent to another locality.
But times have changed. Our work is growing rapidly, and notwithstanding all instruction to the contrary, Seventh-day Adventists do congregate in the larger centers, and the result is the establishment of city churches with a rapidly increasing, though somewhat changing, membership. Such a constituency requires attention which local church elders are not prepared to give, and calls for pastors who will devote their life to shepherding the sheep.
One of the outstanding problems of this movement is that of apostasy,—the large number of men and women who drop out by the wayside from year to year, and are lost to the church. Many of these people have left good positions, ignored opportunities for personal advancement, and forsaken friends in order to take their stand with this people. They are baptized and brought into the church, and then left to themselves, or " turned loose " without a shepherd's care.
At the close of the year the church committee inspect the church records, and find there the names of many persons with whom they are unacquainted, or who cannot be found at the address given. Considering it unfair to be charged with such a large membership, in view of per capita requirements, the committee proceed to eliminate the " dead timber," without taking the time to follow up patiently these unknown people and find out just what their spiritual situation is. It is often the case that when the backslider is found, his excuse for remaining away from the church and becoming careless and indifferent, is because no one in the church seemed to care anything about him. Men and women who have been in this message for thirty years have, within recent months, told me that I was the first Seventh-day Adventist minister to step across their threshold.
One of the greatest needs of Seventh-day Adventists is more Christian sociability. We stand more or less isolated from the rest of the Christian world, and therefore our greater need of encouragement from each other. May it not be that this is one of the " back doors " through which so many are slipping away from the church?
The remedy for the situation is not far to seek. The church memberS must be shepherded. I cannot see how a church with two hundred fifty members or more, can be made to function properly unless some one devotes his entire time to the spiritual life of the members. To bring them in from the outside, is one thing; to build them up in the faith, and cause them to grow in knowledge and experience in our Lord Jesus Christ, is another thing.
In all phases and departments of our organized work, the place of the pastor is emphasized the least. Ample provision is usually made for well-functioning machinery, with secretaries, bookkeepers, stenographers, assistants, et cetera; but if the budget is limited, the church will be asked to do without conference help, and get along the best way it can. And yet, ten per cent of the tithe of a large church will provide a pastor.
Visiting among our people by the ordained ministers is practically a thing of the past; and yet we are told through the Spirit of prophecy that " they should not neglect the duties of a pastor, as they visit from house to house. They should become familiar with every member of the family, that they may understand the spiritual condition of all, and vary their manner of labor to meet the case of each. . . . The preaching of pointed, testing truths to the people, and corresponding individual efforts from house to house to back up pulpit effort, will greatly extend the influence for good, and souls will be converted to the truth."—" Testimonies," Vol. III, p. 233.
Preaching the gospel is the work for which we are organized, and the saving of souls our first consideration, whether these souls be outside or within the fold. Is it not possible to strike a better balance between evangelism and pastoral work, so that those who are brought into the church shall be established and nurtured in the faith?
Los Angeles, Calif.
A Further Experiment in Faith
By L.H. King
Our initial experience in conducting the missionary campaigns of the church solely on the basis of faith and prayer [see MINISTRY for March, p. 77, which brought such gratifying results, has been followed by another year's endeavor following the same spiritual method, and for the second time the signal blessing of the Lord has attended our efforts.
The members of the church board, representing a church of 250 members, were called together for prayerful consideration of the Harvest Ingathering. In view of the past experience, it was urged that prayer be the medium through which the campaign should be carried forward. Instead of discussing details of plans, paraphernalia, and methods, there was united acceptance of the proposal to seek the Holy Spirit to impart the inspiration for the campaign, and we earnestly sought the Lord in prayer for that result.
The matter was then presented to the church on Sabbath, and it was agreed that there should be but one reporting day, no reports being called for previous to that day. As a result, 210 out of 250 people went out into the field to work. I made no solicitation for the use of automobiles, and did not ask people to take part in the field days unless the Holy Spirit moved them to do so. I did not call for the raising of hands or any other indication of willingness to serve, but just suggested that it would be well to engage in this work if the Holy Spirit impressed the heart to do so, and expressed the faith that if the Lord impressed thirty people to go, He would also send the automobiles required to care for them. The result was that more people went out on field days than we had ever had in the past. When the set time came for reporting, the people turned in on that Sabbath $3,122 toward a goal of $3,750, and the balance was immediately subscribed; so in that one day the entire Harvest Ingathering goal for that large church was taken care of.
On the same day I went to another church a short distance away, where there is a membership of fifty, and the campaign was conducted on the same spiritual basis. I talked to the people in terms of souls rather than in terms of dollars, and the result was that when the aggregate was determined, more than $15 per member was turned in. In that church there is a man who has been saved from drink and the lowest sort of life, and has been thoroughly redeemed by the grace of God, and stands firm in the message. I baptized him the day following the Sabbath when the final Harvest Ingathering reports were made. But in that Sabbath service, when the Spirit of the Lord was so apparent in the experiences and testimonies related, this man stood up, to my great surprise, and with tearful voice he said, "I have been working in this campaign, and I want to make a report.
I have gone out among the people, and have entered many business offices, and have asked if they have anything to give to Jesus."
"How much do you have, brother?" I inquired.
His reply was, "$106."
All the missionary campaigns are conducted on the same spiritual basis as that upon which the Harvest Ingathering is operated. I receive from the conference office ribbons as awards for collecting $15, $25, or $35, but they lay on my desk unused. I have no thermometer or other expensive device, not even a slogan in the church. I do not decry these mechanical methods. I have used them in the past.
But I have found a better way,—feeding our people the bread of life, setting before them the objectives of this message, and the absolute and essential need of a genuine experience in the power of the Holy Spirit. This method will send people forth to do effective service as nothing else will. The theme at our weekly prayer meeting has been the work of the Holy Spirit, and the people are eager for this instruction. Often there are 100 people present at the prayer meeting.
At the time of the Big Week campaign, I called the members of the church board together, and we got down on our knees and prayed for wisdom as to what we ought to do. I had no idea of setting a definite goal for the church in the Big Week effort, unless our minds were impressed by the Holy Spirit that we should settle upon a definite amount. After our season of prayer, one member of the board said, "I certainly do not think we should take any backward steps. This church ought to raise more than a thousand dollars." All the members of the board indicated that they were in harmony with this conviction. The church had never raised more than $450 for the Big Week at any previous time, but I agreed that if they felt impressed that $1,000 should be raised, I would present the matter to the church at the, prayer meeting and at the Sabbath service.
On Sabbath morning I preached on a wholly spiritual theme, dwelling on the love of God for sinners, and the provisions for victorious and fruitful Christian life afforded through the ministration of the Holy Spirit, and in conclusion I referred to the Big Week effort as affording an excellent opportunity for us to win some lost souls. As soon as I had finished speaking, a woman in the audience arose and asked if she might say a few words. I knew her to be an earnest Christian,—a widow and the mother of a little girl sib years of age,---and I could see by her face that the Holy Spirit had touched her heart. When I gave her permission to speak, she said:
"I have been thinking and praying about Big Week. I have also been very much worried of late concerning the future of my little girl. I can only obtain employment in homes where my wages are small, and it is not often that I find a good place where ray child can be with me, so I have had many anxious thoughts as to how I could properly care for her. But I had a dream which has brought comfort to me, and I believe the Lord sent it to me. I seemed to be in the presence of the Lord, and He looked on me so lovingly and tenderly, and put His arm around me and my little daughter, and said, 'Don't worry! I will take care of you.' And immediately my worries and fears were taken away. For the past six months I have been trying to save a little money, and now have $25 in the bank. But I am so grateful for the sense of security and happiness that the Lord has given me in this experience that I want to contribute my last two weeks' salary (exclusive of the tithe) and the $25 in the bank, making $35 in all, toward this Big Week soul-winning fund."
As the result of this woman's personal testimony of love and willing sacrifice for Christ, there was an immediate and general response. People all over the church were weeping, and many stood to speak. One person said, "I had intended to give $5 for Big Week, but I want to give $50 now." Another said, "I want to give $100." Still another said, "I will give $25." Just by that one demonstration of the work of the Spirit of God, as revealed through the simple testimony of that poor widow, we received a Big Week offering amounting to $1,395, which was the largest offering which had ever been made by any church in our conference in the Big Week effort.
Buffalo, N. Y.
(To be continued)