God's Call to His Church

Autumn Council Highlights

By J. L. McELHANY, President of the General Conference

What kind of call should we send out to the church at large in a time like this? I speak par­ticularly to our leaders who are gathered here—the men who have oversight of the work in the various confer­ences. Living as we do in these times of peril when prophecy is certainly being fulfilled, when everywhere about us we see the mul­tiplying evidences of the soon coming of the Lord, what kind of call should go forth to the churches from this Council?

Are we satisfied with things as they are? I believe that if there is a leader here tonight who is satisfied, God should help him really to understand his own great need. Such a leader needs a new experience in God to qualify him for the work. I repeat that question: What kind of call should we send out to the church in times like these? Has not the time come when that call sounded by the prophet of old ought to echo to the church today?

"Awake, awake; put on thy strength, 0 Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city. . . . How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice." Isa. 52:1, 7, 8.

The time has surely come when the watch­men should lift up their voices and sound the call to the church, to Zion, a call that shall be so clear and definite that the church of God will hear and respond.

"Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice ; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted His peo­ple, He hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God." Verses 8-10.

The call that should sound to the church is, Arise and forsake the garments of sin and of self-righteousness, and be clothed with the beautiful garments, with the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. I believe tonight that we need a victorious and triumphant church,—a church that knows what it means to prevail with God and to have de­liverance from sin and from all evil; a church cleansed from worldliness; a church in which Jesus is lifted up in the lives of its members; a praying, believing church! We need a church today in which the cruel, satanic spirit of criticism is overcome and put away, a church in which the members are more in­terested in true missionary service than they are in social cliques, ungodly games, and worldly amusements. We need a church wait­ing for the coming of the Lord, a church hoping and praying and looking forward to translation into the eternal kingdom of God.

It is the responsibility of the leaders gathered here to help lead the church into that experi­ence, to develop a church whose interest is wholly enlisted in carrying this gospel message to the ends of the earth. We need a church filled with a true missionary spirit, a church that responds fully to the great commission given by the Head of the church Himself; a church that believes and acts upon that com­mission to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. We shall fail to fulfill our divine commission if we neglect to accomplish this great task. It is highly im­portant that we keep that ever in mind.

We need a church cleansed from sin and clothed with the righteousness of Jesus. We know not when the Lord may come. It is not given to us to know that. But I am convinced that the time has come when the waiting church ought to be a triumphant church. The church should be freed and cleansed from sin, knowing the power of the Lord to deliver from all worldliness, and made ready for the glori­ous appearing of her Lord.

There is another phase of this question that I wish to discuss with you. In order that the church may be perfected and prepared for glorification and translation, what kind of leaders and ministers does it need? I hope that during this Council the Spirit of God may rest upon us as leaders in such measure that we may have a serious understanding of the responsibility that rests upon us, and that God may help us to find a way to discharge that responsibility.

I do not want to appear presumptuous, but I believe I have the right to speak for the church in a collective capacity, when I say the church needs a ministry made up of earnest men, godly men, spiritual men, men who pray for the outpouring of the Spirit of God. We are to pray for rain in the time of the latter rain. I believe that we ought to seek to make this an occasion for earnest, importunate prayer that God may visit us with rain in the time of the latter rain, and that He may pour upon us copious showers of His blessed Spirit's power. There is a great work to be done, and it can be accomplished only with the divine power He has promised to bestow upon the church.

We see here and there different kinds of movements arising, usually based upon some extreme or fanatical conception. But let me say seriously to our leaders that I believe one factor in dealing with such movements is that we do not stress enough the great, outstanding truths that would feed the people in their inner­most lives. I believe that as a rule our people have a pretty fair conception of the times in which we live. I meet brethren and sisters here and there who have a great burden to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord. Let us lead on before them, and help them to find their way into experiences of victory.

Yes, we need men who know how to pray for the outpouring of the Spirit of God, men who know how to regard their influence and example more than they regard the popular sports and amusements of this day. I believe that we ought to be a ministry that lives above the influences and pleasures of the world; men who put into their own life practice every principle of truth for which this message stands. Is that an extreme position? I think it is just another way of saying that we ought to practice what we preach.

I believe the church today has the right to such a ministry—one that puts into its own life practice every principle for which the church stands. I believe we need men who are tenderhearted, good shepherds of the sheep; men who love to look after the interests of the Lord's flock. We need men who preach Jesus Christ both by precept and by example, men who have a burden for souls, men who in their preaching depend upon the convicting power of the Holy Spirit rather than upon their own wit and levity.

If we reach the hearts of men and women today, we need to have the preaching of the Word accompanied by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, rather than to make our appeal in some other way. Every leader ought to be a solid, thorough Seventh-day Adventist who preaches the truths of this message. He should be more interested in bringing to those for whom he labors the great principles of this message than in preaching on some hobby or some theory.

We need men who are wholly devoted to the work, and have no time for side lines. "This one thing I do" ought to be the motto of every man who devotes his life to this cause. I speak of that because I believe it is a necessary thing. We need to have men in the ministry who keep themselves above the taint of suspicion and moral corruption.

We need men in this work who are not provincial or nationalistic in their outlook, but who are just as eager to help the work in distant lands as in their own local sphere of labor. Any man who is a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ ought to have on his heart, as a part of his religion, the responsibility of the carrying of the blessed gospel message out to the far ends of the earth.

Yes, we need a. ministry made up of men who have a real burden to help people prepare for the coming of the Lord; men who would rather lay down their lives than to betray their sacred trust as ministers of Christ. I be­lieve with all my heart that the church needs as leaders a ministry like that. I pray that while we are here at this Council together we may have an experience in the Lord that will lead us one and all into that kind of experience. I believe that the time has come when the church ought to move forward into an experience of new victory, new spiritual power, deeper con­secration, holier living, more religious devo­tion, more earnest effort in finishing the work of God in the earth.

During this Council you will all hear many earnest appeals for help in meeting heartbreaking, urgent calls from the ends of the earth. I have several letters from one of our leaders away out in a distant mission division, expressing the hope that here during this Council God may help us to answer some of these petitions and urgent appeals for help. Some of you will be on the finance committee. Some of you will be charged with the respon­sibility of sitting on the budget committee, and you will hear of these great needs, either in written form or perhaps directly from the lips of some of our leaders.

I have spent a little time with our treasurers, going over our resources, and we find that over and above all the resources that we have in hand, there will be urgent, earnest pleas for upwards of a million and a half dollars to fill crying needs, for which we do not have a cent. Oh, somehow I wish we could all pray that God may help our people and help the world to turn their treasure into the work of God while souls can still be won in these days. The time will come when it will be too late. Al­ready we are beginning to face the prospect of being excluded entirely from some coun­tries, our work being hindered by the condi­tions I have described tonight.

What are we going to say to our brethren out in the uttermost parts of the earth? The calls are multiplying. We need more money to answer these earnest appeals, but, my friends, more than our need of money is our need of power, our need of an infilling of the Holy Spirit so that we may be a cleansed people, a victorious people, a godly people! Along with our efforts to supply the cause of God with the needed funds—let us pray for an aroused church. Let us pray for a great spiritual advance toward the kingdom of God. Do you believe we ought to pray for that? We need to sound the call for a forward march toward the kingdom. The hour is here when the church ought to be summoned to a great forward spiritual advance toward the kingdom of God.

* Portion of opening address at the Battle Creek Council, October 20, 1937.

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By J. L. McELHANY, President of the General Conference

January 1938

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