From Spectator to Participant

As ministers, we must answer to God for the accumulative talents given to our keeping.

By F. G. CLIFFORD, Evangelist, Southern Rhodesia. Africa

The "professionals are playing a game of football. A crowd is intently watching. A player rushes down the field with the ball, skill­fully evading his opponents, his every move­ment watched by the multitude. At last he kicks the ball, and another goal is scored amid the thunderous applause of the assembled allihrong. Probably every man in that crowd arnestly desires to be able to do with that ball what the professional has just done. But, alas, the man in the crowd is untrained. He has had no opportunity to develop his ability. He might have become a professional player, but he re­mained a mere spectator.

Consider another scene. An evangelist is speaking. The,sea of faces before him registers tenseness. Appeal follows appeal, and the souls of men are stirred to action. One person after another indicates his surrender to God. Our lay brethren look on. Many would give all they possess to be able to do such work, But, alas, no one has ever offered to train them. They were not given an opportunity to develop their latent abilities. Those who were capable of training them along this line were not inter­ested or were too busy. This is a true picture that makes our hearts yearn as we contemplate the army of spectators who sit on the side lines in our churches, and yet who might have be­come efficient soul winners.

As ministers, we must answer to God for the accumulative talents given to our keeping.

There are potential soul winners under our care. One of the most important lessons we as a people can learn from the reformatory move-meats of the past, is the fact that the flood tide of soul winning and expansion has been marked by the development and labors of large numbers of lay evangelists.

The historian, D'Aubigne, who recorded the story of the great Reformation of the sixteenth century, in a section entitled, "Row the Refor­mation Was Carried Forward," tells us that "men of the lowest station, and even the weaker sex, with the aid of God's word, persuaded and led away men's hearts."—"History of the Ref­ormation," Vol. III, p. 127, American, Tract Society edition. Later, under the leadership of Wesley, England experienced a mighty spiritual awakening under the labors of scores and hun­dreds of lay preachers and evangelists. These movements resulted in the liberation and devel­opment of a wealth of native talent, sanctified and endued by the Holy Spirit, producing re­sults outstanding in the history of religious activities.

The word of prophecy not only foretold such a development in the inception of the move­ment, but predicts a similar, though more marked, manifestation, near its close. "The advent movement of 1840-44 was a glorious manifestation of the power of God, . . . and in some countries there was the greatest religious interest which had been witnessed in any land since the Reformation of the sixteenth century: but these are to be exceeded by the mighty movement under the last warning of the third angel. . . . Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given." —"The Great Controversy," pp. 611, 612. It is the privilege of our ministers and Bible workers who understand the art of soul winning to lead these thousands into that large field of action.

The reformatory movements of the past pro­duced wonderful fruitage in the early years, through the active cooperation of ministry and laity in soul winning—the ministry leading, guiding, and helping; the laity following, sus­taining, participating, cooperating, developing. But we cannot ignore the fact that too fre­quently a change has marked the growth of such movements. Professionalism, with its hands of death, has taken hold of the reins. The ministry has become absorbed in caring for the flock. A program of deadly routine is carried on by the pastor. The official evangelist has been developed and placed on a, pedestal as the successful soul winner. Thousands have become mere spectators, looking on while the professionals do the work.

The spirit and principles that have wrought in the mighty movements of the past must control and animate this people more definitely as we near the last great opportunity for soul winning. As evangelical, soul-saving preachers, we must multiply ourselves manyfold in the lives of those under our care. We must en­courage our brethren to get a vision. Then we must assist them in preparation, yoke up com­patible groups for aggressive labor, guide them in securing suitable meeting places, give coun­sel concerning, the advertising, supply suggestions for conduct and notes for sermons. It will sometimes be necessary to secure financial aid from church or conference to pay essential expenses incidental to the conduct of a campaign. Frequently such expense will be borne by our brethren themselves, but in some cases worthy and capable soul winners are hindered unless financial assistance is rendered.

And when the brethren are hard at it, counsel them, pray with them, encourage and assist them, and foster their endeavors, and the Lord of the harvest will give an abundant fruitage.

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By F. G. CLIFFORD, Evangelist, Southern Rhodesia. Africa

September 1937

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