It seems that there is a danger that the call to a larger evangelism may become so generalized in its application as to largely neutralize its effect. As we see it, this call is primarily to our ministry, and secondarily to all other forces within our ranks. It is a call to the ministers to put forth greater soul-winning efforts for those not of our faith, and to enlist the full co-operation of our church membership to this end. It is a call to our presidents and mission field superintendents to put first things first in their work, throwing themselves into this public service as real leaders of their field forces.
Far too many of our ministers are allowing the greater portion of their time to be consumed in other work. Like Martha they are busy about many things, and have permitted themselves to overlook that "better part" for which they have been chosen by God and their brethren. There was a time when as a people we had no church pastors, and all our evangelical forces were occupied in going from town to town and city to city conducting public meetings and raising up new churches.
This plan, of course, cannot be followed fully today because of the fact that the thousands of believers who were thus raised up must be pastored and cared for; they must be trained for service and carefully directed in the discharge of their responsibility to the cause at home and abroad. This clearly is the work of the ministry. But in this changed situation there is grave danger that we swing too far away from the aggressive evangelism of former days, and become too deeply engrossed in the details of church administration.
We believe that our ministers should study carefully how they can carry on a balanced program in their ministry. To abandon the churches entirely would be a serious and costly mistake.
And largely to give up evangelism that we may the more efficiently serve the churches is, we believe, just as grave an error.
It seems to us that every church pastor should earnestly study how to lay upon the laymen in his congregation many of the detailed responsibilities which he otherwise would have to carry, and thus relieve himself of much that necessarily consumes his time and energies. He must stand as a trainer of the talent God has placed in the church. He should recognize that it is better to put ten men to work than to try himself to do ten men's work. In many churches there are laymen who, if trained by the pastor, could do successful work in pastoral visiting, and who could lead out in missionary efforts, such as distributing literature, health work, etc. They could carry many of the detailed burdens of the Harvest Ingathering and Big Week campaign efforts, the pastor of course standing by and helping with counsel and personal influence and effort as the needs of the occasion demand.
This is in harmony with the instruction given us:
"Those who have the spiritual oversight of the church should devise ways and means by which an opportunity may be given to every member of the church to act some part in God's work. Too often in the past this has not been done. Plans have not been clearly laid and fully carried out, whereby the talents of all might be employed in active service. There are but few who realize how much has been lost because of this.
"The leaders in God's cause, as wise generals, are to lay plans for advance moves all along the line. In their planning they are to give special study to the work that can be done by the laity for their friends and neighbors. The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers."—"Testimonies," Vol. LI, pp. 116, 117.
"The best help that ministers can give the members of our churches is not sermonizing, but planning work for them."--Id., p. 82.
The chief duty of the pastor, therefore, in so far as it relates to his church, is that of thoroughly training his members for service. This cannot be done when he himself tries to carry all the load. The responsibility of organizing the church and directing its missionary efforts should be distributed, and others should thus be trained to become strong burden bearers. Thus our pastors might be relieved of much of their present detail work, and it would become possible for them to spend a larger portion of their time in definite evangelism, conducting public efforts for those not of our faith.
And how else can the work be finished? We are commissioned to go to the entire world with the advent message in the short space of one generation. That generation is growing old, and the night is coming on apace when no man can work. And yet look at the cities, towns, and country settlements yet unwarned! Look even at the untouched sections of the cities in which many of our churches are located. Who is going to warn these waiting millions? Who, if not our ministers? The laymen cannot do this work alone. They can and should help, but it is the minister who must go and arrest the attention of the multitudes. "How shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent?"
Let us look squarely at the situation. Suppose we have six ministers in a certain conference, counting both ordained and licensed workers. Suppose also that there are six fairly large city churches with perhaps one to three smaller churches near each of them, and it is felt that each of these six centers must have a pastor. The six ministers are therefore made pastors of these six city churches, and at the same time given the oversight of the smaller congregations nearby. They find much to do. The laymen are glad for their help and labors, and lean heavily upon them. Soon the chief burdens of the various departments of the churches are resting upon them. When they were sent there, it perhaps was the plan that they should simply oversee the work of the churches, and devote their time largely to public efforts. But the longer they stay, the more their pastoral burdens increase, and the less time they have for anything but their church work. They may get in a six weeks' effort once a year somewhere in their district; maybe not. They are busy, it is true; often they are overburdened. But the question is, How shall we, on this basis, ever reach the multitudes who are still unwarned in the territory covered by the conference?
In this same conference we will say there are five hundred towns and cities. Many of them have never heard the message. Some have, but it was years ago. New people have moved in and children have grown up. They also constitute practically virgin soil.
The six ministers who are serving as pastors are so tied down with their local duties that they cannot get to these other towns and cities. Perhaps their work as pastors may take them into an average of three towns each. That would make eighteen in all. Eighteen out of five hundred! And in these eighteen perhaps very little aggressive field work is done. But what about the other four hundred eighty-two towns? Who is to work there? Can we leave them to the colporteur, or the stray traveling member who may leave a few tracts behind? Can we overlook these masses of humanity, and yet be clear in the judgment? True, we go there in our Ingathering campaigns, and we send colporteurs with books, but is this enough? We are sure that all will agree that it is not. We must do more if we would fulfill the purpose of God.
Do you ask how it can be done? There is only one way. Our ministers must go into these cities and preach the message; and if they are pastors of churches, they must enlist the help and co-operation of their churches just as far as this is possible. We believe that each conference president should confer with the laborers in his field, with a view to helping them so to block out their time as to make it possible for them to spend definite and adequate periods each year in evangelistic efforts for those not of our faith. We simply cannot finish our task until we throw the weight of the talent God has given us into these centers of population, and arrest the attention of the multitudes.
Let us note the following earnest counsel given us by the Lord:
"With Christ's love burning in their hearts, they [our ministers] are to go forth to win sinners to the Saviour. Beside all waters they are to sow the seeds of truth. Place after place is to be visited. Church after church is to be raised up. Those who take their stand for the truth are to be organized into churches, and then the minister is to pass on to other equally important fields."—Id., Vol. VII, pp. 19, 20.
So, brethren in the ministry, this call to greater evangelism is a call especially to us. It includes all our forces, of course, but primarily it is our call. It is for us to lead the way. It is for us so to reshape our program of labor as to make the influence of our message felt among the masses, and at the same time keep our churches strong, and an ever-increasing flow of funds going on to the fields beyond the seas. This is a man's task. It is not a human undertaking, but it is God's plan, and God will bless those who attempt it in His name. Let no minister therefore shift the call from himself to his members. It is to them also, but in a special sense it is to him. We must take up the battle cry anew. We must lead. Then we must train and marshal our forces. The time of the latter rain is here. It is time for the loud cry to be raised in earnest. Every city and village must ring with the cry, "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come."
Washington, D. C.