God is calling His people from the plane of low standards to the heights of perfection and holiness. In their ministry for souls, conference workers should ever maintain high spiritual standards. We should never attempt to establish our own standards, but should always teach and lead candidates for baptism, as well as church members, to obey the standards of God's Holy Word, Various methods may be employed to win souls, but only those which establish members in the church of heaven should be used.
Standards for Candidates for Baptism.—We may count baptisms, but God counts souls sealed for His kingdom. Time is a great factor in the work of God. He could have created the earth in less time than six days, but He thought it best to wait until the sixth day to finish His work. It takes time to establish converts in the message. I am convinced that instead of baptizing candidates too quickly, it is far better to wait until they show by their lives that they have been born again. They should give evidence to the church that they desire to live in harmony with the spiritual standards of the denomination.
Over a period of three years fifty-one were accepted as members of a church. Three years later twenty-eight were dropped for apostasy. One was teaching for the Shepherd's Rod, twelve more were under question, and several should have been dropped. Some were very young. Only a very few were in good standing. I have seen similar conditions in other churches. This leads me to quote from the "Testimonies:" "There is need of a more thorough preparation on the part of candidates for baptism. They are in need of more faithful instruction than has usually been given them."—Vol. VI, p. 91.
I know that some will say that if we wait too long our candidates will never join the church. This may be true. However, if they come in with evil habits, it will take a long time for the church to overcome their influence. Eventually the church must follow the Bible instruction in dealing with members of such low standards, who are not, and possibly never have been, converted to the truth. The growth of a sound vine, even though slow, is far better than the rapid growth of a decaying vine, for the time of reaping will surely come.
Spiritual Standards for Church Members.—Spiritual standards of the church can be upheld by feeding and caring for the flock. We hear much today about a balanced diet. Great care should similarly be exercised in selecting the proper food for our churches. This food should not only be of the best, but should be adapted to these trying times. It should be so prepared that even the lambs may eat. When the church partakes of a well-balanced diet, we can expect a spiritual growth. For years I held baptismal classes in a small room, or during the Sabbath school. Now I hold my classes with the church as a whole, for I find that the members of the church also need this instruction. Many of our church members have lost sight of our standards and have forgotten their baptismal vows. They need to be reminded of these great truths.
During a recent month I devoted three Sabbaths to the baptismal class. It was held during the regular services of the church. It is true that several left the meeting while I was talking about things which they were doing, but several more saw their need and resolved in their hearts to stop using tobacco, drinking liquor, and going to the theater. They also decided to keep the Sabbath again and pay an honest tithe. On the third Sabbath I knew that all would remain to see the baptism; so I reviewed all the standards for the benefit of those who left the first Sabbath. Thus all may know the spiritual standards of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I have never seen a baptism help a church as this one did. If we are to uphold the spiritual standards, we must preach them.
Low Standards of Church Members.—If there are members in our churches who do not live up to the spiritual standards of the church, and refuse to heed the voice of the church, I feel that they should be dropped from the body. We should always follow the Bible instruction in dealing with such members. We should never drop members before every effort has been made to save them. For nearly two years we have been working with some of our members who have been drinking and using tobacco and snuff. Not until this last month were some of them dropped. When we see no change after earnest labor, and recognize that these members are influencing others by their example, then we should drop them. We must prune the vine if we expect it to bear fruit. We should protect our churches and endeavor to present them faultless before the throne of God.