I would bring to you a passage of Scripture: "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth." John 4:35-37.
We will all agree that this is a true world vision which Jesus tried to impart to those men chosen as the ministerial body of His new church. The world vision was of a whitened harvest and of the great prospect of reaping results from others' sowing. I judge that from a human standpoint the disciples found themselves in a very unprofitable field; but under the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit they got that vision and saw their field of opportunity. The harvest truly is great, as Jesus said; and the greatness of the harvest was revealed in the experience recorded in the eighth chapter of Acts, already referred to. When Philip went down to Samaria, the whole country was stirred by his preaching. The reason for apostolic results must be associated with the piety and devotion of those men who were living at that particular time.
In Luke 3:15, we read of the people who heard John the Baptist, "The people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not." Notice that they "mused ["reasoned," margin] in their hearts." Here we see the conditions that made possible the results brought about by the outpotrring of -the-Spirit of- Gad.
History gives abundant proof that preceding every great movement of God there has been a period of great change. Reference is made to the sixteenth-century Reformation, and to those mighty preachers raised up by God for that time. It was a time when the church had lost the larger vision, and preaching had almost passed into extinction. Such a situation afforded the platform on which the great Reformation launched out to give its message to the world. As in the days of John the Baptist, "the people were in expectation," they were musing in their hearts, they were reasoning among themselves.
And what was true in the sixteenth century is even more true today. Similar conditions obtain in every country of the world today. Many factors have contributed to the present situation. The World War has changed many things. The world map is changed. Economic conditions have vitally changed. In fact, we are in a different world altogether in these postwar days. But the greatest change of all is the change which has taken place in the thinking of men and women. That change constitutes a matchless opportunity for the people of this advent movement. Nations are beginning to realize that they must solve their own problems. The old world leaders have gone; they have proved unsatisfactory. The world conference of nations has collapsed and has produced nothing. The failure of this world conference of national leaders has awakened in the hearts of men a feeling of suspense, a condition of expectancy. Everywhere men are under a conviction that something is going to happen.
I was conducting an evangelistic series not long ago in the city of London. One Sunday night, at the close of the meeting, a man came to me and said, "Mr. Anderson, I am interested in what you are doing."
I asked, "You are interested in spiritual things?"
"Not exactly," he replied. "I am a man of the world. I spend my life for the accomplishment of business interests in the world. But I pride myself on being a student of history; and if I can read conditions aright, I would say unhesitatingly that we have come to a time when we must expect a great revival to take place in the world!'
"It seems good to hear you say that," I replied, "but just what observations led you to this conclusion?"
"Well," he said, "these are days which parallel in so many ways the days of John Wesley, and of all the other old evangelistic preachers. Those preachers personified the spirit of great evangelism. It was that kind of men, and the answer to earnest prayers on the part of burdened hearts, which, under the movement of the Spirit of God, brought about the great revival of the Reformation."
Now we find today that there are many great religious movements throughout the world. Many of them, perhaps most of them, are counterfeit; they are not genuine. But, through it all, we can discern an awakening of the people—an expectancy, a musing of heart. And I think that the greatest sign of the times is not found in the political world, but in the religious world. We are not merely to see these signs, but we are to seize them as God-given opportunities for ever-mightier preaching, under the Spirit of God. Other men have been led by God to sow the seed, and the Lord has raised up this ministry to enter into their labors. But if we are to rise to the greater evangelism, we must catch the greater vision.
Let me turn to Matthew 9:36: "When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion." When Jesus saw the multitudes—that is significant; that word "saw" is very meaningful. Jesus, when He saw the condition of the world, saw multitudes of men. And we must see that as our responsibility today we must catch a vision of the multitudes. We must have that larger vision of the needs of the world today, and with hearts "moved with compassion" we must go forth to preach as did Jesus.
As we were coming along in an automobile a few days ago, on the way to this conference, we passed through many of the great cities of this great country of America; it was all most interesting to me. I had with me the directory of Seventh-day Adventist churches in this country, and I was interested to see if we had a church or churches in the towns we drove through. I wanted to see just what kind of church each was. I talked with some of our ministers who are located in the larger cities of this country, and inquired what was being done to reach the masses with a knowledge of the gospel of Jesus. I discovered that in many cases we have possibly a small church or an institution somewhere within the borders of a city or town, but that the great strongholds of these cities, where the masses are to be found, are as yet scarcely touched by this mighty message. And we find the same situation in the cities of Europe and in other countries.
I would say that the greatest challenge we face in this great Conference is: How are we going to move these multitudes? How are we going to reach the masses in these great populous centers of every country in the world? How shall we do it? And I answer, By the foolishness of preaching.
The preacher must become the means of grace to men. If we discovered the real purpose of the ministry, something would happen. We read this word: "Those who will study the manner of Christ's teaching, and educate themselves to follow His way, will attract and hold large numbers now, as Christ held the people in His day." Notice that they will hold and attract large numbers as did Jesus in His day. Yet we know that Jesus never hesitated to lay down the mighty challenge of His message, bidding men to follow Him, but making it unmistakably clear that it would mean giving up home and friends. He said the foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but He plainly stated that He had not where to lay His head. Yet that was the life to which Jesus called men.
I believe the days are past when we need hesitate to tell people just what this message means to them and what it claims from them. We read that the Italian patriot, Garibaldi, in calling for men to enlist, said, "Men, I have nothing to offer you but homelessness and death; but if you will follow me, we will carry out our purpose." And many more enlisted than he could find place for. That is the spirit that should ring through our preaching. This cause is going through to the kingdom of God, and what we must do is to reach the multitudes, to make them see the challenge of the call of God to the inhabitants of the world at this hour. And we are to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that people will be impelled to recognize the power of the message, and will be convinced that their destiny for life or death depends on their response to the challenge.
In John 7:45, 46, we read: "Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought Him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this Man." The officers had been sent to take Jesus, and the reason they gave for not doing so was that "never man spake like this Man." He was a preacher. The officers came to take hold of Him, but He had taken hold of them. They came to arrest Him, the Preacher; but the Preacher had arrested them. I tell you, dear friends, that is what we want. I once heard a man say that we must take the words of God from the book of God and somehow make them live in daily life, so that men will see the message of God. Then that text flashed into my mind: "To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery." Eph. 3:9. We must turn men's ears to hear the message, and we must take men's eyes and make them see the fellowship of the mystery.
There are three kinds of preachers. One is the kind that you cannot listen to; the other is the kind you can listen to if you try; but the only kind of preacher that God can really use in the great task of world evangelism is the kind of preacher that makes men listen whether they want to or not. And I somehow feel in my heart a response to that standard, and I humbly bow my head and ask God to bestow upon me the power that will grip men with the message and lead them to turn to the Lord and be saved. That is our task, that is our work. And God is calling upon us to get that larger view. What is our response to it?
Do we find our hearts moved with compassion as we go about the cities and mingle with the moving multitudes lost in vice and sin? 0 dear friends, God help us to sense the responsibility which rests upon us for proclaiming this saving message of grace to every soul in our large cities! But we must have our hearts moved with compassion. Our hearts must overflow with the desire to rescue men and women from sin, as we would strive to rescue a drowning man.
Some time ago I read of a boat, filled with pleasure seekers, which struck the rocks and was wrecked not far from shore. A fisherman had just come in from his day's work and had tied up his boat, when his attention was directed to the scene of the catastrophe. He jumped into his boat and rowed out toward the wreck in the hope of doing what he could to save the drowning men and women. The waves were running high, and he could reach only a few of the perishing men and women. His boat was small and was soon filled to capacity, and he started to row back to shore as fast as possible. On every side, men and women called to him in their distress, begging him to take them into the boat. But all he could do was to go straight ahead in order to reach shore with the people he had picked up out of the angry waves. The dying men and women all about him presented a mightier challenge than he was able to meet, and he looked up to heaven and exclaimed, "O God, for a bigger boat!" As ministers and as evangelists, we must have just such a burden for lost souls on our hearts; and as we see the moving multitudes going down to destruction, we, too, will cry out in agony, "0 for a bigger boat!" I trust that we shall catch the vision of bigger boats, of larger evangelism, and of a more fruitful ministry for the finishing of God's work. That is my prayer for His name's sake.
* Address at Ministerial Association Hour, May 27.