In recent months we have heard much concerning the need for conserving our converts. Our leaders have urgently appealed by voice and pen for us to put forth every possible effort to stem our losses through apostasy. Evangelists and pastors have been admonished to do thorough work in instructing candidates for baptism in order that those admitted to that sacred rite might take the step intelligently and really experience the new birth.
The Bible worker, too, carries no small responsibility in the preparation of candidates for church membership, and I am confident that each such worker truly senses this responsibility. It goes without saying that we Bible workers must thoroughly indoctrinate our readers in the truths of this message. But there are a few other factors involved that are very essential in our labors for those thus placed in our care. A few suggestions are offered here with the hope that they will be of value to fellow workers.
I. Encourage Personal Bible Study.—It is of first importance to teach those to whom we give Bible studies to read the Bible for themselves. We frequently study the Bible with those who have never read it before. Through these studies we compass certain portions of the Scripture, but this is not sufficient. There should be continual reading. It is of material help to give a preview of certain chapters of a book of the Bible, asking the readers to peruse those chapters between times, and then at the next appointment to discuss the Scriptures read. Give out new chapters in this way until the entire book has been read understandingly. In this manner, they will learn of God's dealings with His people, and the promises by which we become partakers of the divine nature. For example, they will find the instruction in Christian living beautifully presented in the epistles. By following such a plan for reading, a taste for the Word of God is acquired, and souls are nourished into life and strength.
2. Acquaint with Denominational History.—Our new members should know the marvelous history of our movement. For this purpose we are blessed with a variety of histories which can be adapted to the need of each individual. These are: "Rise and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists" and "The Great Second Advent Movement," by Loughborough; "The Story of the Advent Message," by Andross; "The Great Advent Movement," by Howell; "Origin and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists," by Olsen.
We should speak often of the early days of our church. We are told that "we have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history."—"Life Sketches," p. 196. Our readers should be familiar with such names as William Miller, Joseph Bates, Ellen and James White, J. N. Loughborough, and J. N. Andrews, and with something of the relationship of these persons to our church.
3. Appreciate Spirit of Prophecy.—Our new members should understand the value of the Spirit of prophecy. Some of the books which will help them to appreciate this gift are: "Life Sketches," by White; "Life and Teachings of Ellen G. White;" "The Abiding Gift of Prophecy," by Daniells; "Divine Predictions Fulfilled," by Gilbert; "Ministry of Healing," by White; "Early Writings of Mrs. E. G. White," and "The Spirit of Prophecy in the Advent Movement," by W. A. Spicer.
4. Absord into Church Family.—We need to see that the new members are properly absorbed into the church family, and that they find joy and true fellowship with the older members. It would help if they were placed in some Sabbath school class other than the one taught by the Bible worker. If this is not possible, then some of the members of that class should take a special interest in them, finding seats with them during the preaching service. If this is done, they will not feel that their interest in the church must circle about the Bible worker. Thus, if she is transferred to another field of labor, these new members will not feel tempted to remain away from church because of lack of friends.
5. Foster Self-Instruction.—More responsibility should be placed upon our readers for their own instruction than is often done. There is danger that we make things too easy by doing all the studying and reading for them. Certain reading should be required before baptism, such as parts of the Bible, histories of our church, and one or two Spirit of prophecy books, as before mentioned. They should be expected to study faithfully the Sabbath school lesson. Things that come too easily are not appreciated as much as those for which we struggle. Organizations of the world, from communism to lodges, require a certain amount of reading and study by their prospective members, and surely the great truths of God should stand out in bold relief against cheap and worthless knowledge.
These suggestions can be put into practice with good results. It is true that it takes time to do this work, but it is time well spent. The great apostle said his aim was to "present every man perfect in Christ Jesus," and the Bible worker has the rare privilege of individually teaching and training some of those who seek that perfection.