We find ourselves diametrically opposed to the methods and doctrines of Rome. Nevertheless, we must admit that their church buildings are centers of intense religious activity. Their membership cannot be judged by the seating capacity of their chapels. Close observation shows that they hold services practically every hour on Sundays from 6 A. M. to 9 A. M., and frequently on every week day. It is not uncommon for them to have a local membership three or four times greater than the seating accommodation of the church.
In view of this, we may well inquire, How much of the time are our church doors open? When are they open? Is it only once or twice a week? Is the Sabbath service the one general meeting weekly? What is the nature of divine worship,—is it public or private? Would it be comparatively true to say that we conduct our church services more as if they were secret societies or private gatherings, rather than as active, aggressive missions?
Many of our leading ministers are convinced that the time has come for continuous public evangelism. In large cities where there is a sufficient populace upon which to draw, large congregations can be held indefinitely to hear this message proclaimed where there is an earnest and aggressive evangelist. If services for the public were held in every city, town, and village where we have a church, or even a company, the cumulative results of this work would give tremendous impetus to our advance.
Moreover, our local elders and deacons would welcome instruction in the art of holding an audience--also chuch members generally would be willing to use their influence to bring friends and neighbors to such public services, and thus take part in effectual soul-saving home missionary work.
The writer knows from personal experience that much good results from such a plan. In one city, in a church having a number of men in its membership, a plan was organized of conducting weekly church services for outlying districts. Several deacons and church officers conducted these meetings, not only on Sabbaths, but on Sundays and week nights. This released the conference worker, and enabled him to enter new territory, thus augmenting our evangelistic endeavors.
The visit of the conference president or departmental secretary to the local church should not end with "wise counsel" to the members, or the "patching up" of a church quarrel; or in the case of the secretary, in the stimulating of general missionary endeavor. It should, if possible, include a public address to the "friends" of the church at the Sunday evening service. Some special phase of present truth could be expounded, and personal work be done with those attending who are on the border line of accepting the truth.
The writer recalls an experience in a certain church during his work as field missionary secretary. At a public service of the church on Sunday evening there was present a young woman with whom the faithful local elder had been laboring for months. The visit proved opportune. A complete surrender to Christ was made. The young lady became a student in our college, and later entered the work. So in this and in many other ways the influence of the visiting minister may be turned to good account in re-enforcing the public work of the local elder.
In England, spiritism has increased by leaps and bounds. The total of its actual adherents is not accurately known, but is estimated at approximately one million. Yet it is but twenty years since spiritism was comparatively obscure in this country. Nor is it content with quantity merely, for it numbers among its followers scientists, novelists, lawyers, clergymen, etc. Recently the national papers discussed spiritism pro and con, and finally closed their discussion with an article by the leading organizing secretary of the movement. He boasted that spiritism was destined to sweep the country and supersede the orthodox religion. One secret of their success was attributed to the fact that in fully ten thousand homes every week their beliefs were actively practiced. Family seances, where neighbors are invited, play an important part in their phenomenal growth. Can we say that in ten thousand Adventist homes the vital truths of this message are expounded?
In the sphere of worldly amusement, intense activity is the order of the day. There are "nonstop" wireless programs, talkie and movie shows, dance and theater performances, etc. Their promoters realize the need of great enthusiasm and enterprise to maintain their grip on the public. Surely Satan is working hard, knowing he has but a short time.
If, in our conferences throughout the world, all our churches were fully alive, and the local leaders zealously laboring for the unsaved in their neighborhood, their work would greatly add to the number of new converts. Why not have goals for souls won by all our churches• throughout the world? Let the ministers, evangelists, and conference officials stimulate every unit to intense activity of a real soul-saving endeavor.
The Lord has placed in this movement the genius of organization, as is apparent in building up and establishing, under the mighty hand of Providence, all the various institutions and departments of the church. Why not then harness the organizing genius among us for this, the greatest of all enterprises, the unfinished task—universal evangelism? The work of spiritualizing our whole movement into a world-wide continuous evangelism ought surely to be the dominating impulse of every Seventh-day Adventist leader.
Let us "keep the church fires burning."