Facing the Facts with Candor

An inescapable challenge confronts the remnant church today.

By LOUIS K. DICKSON, President of the Southeastern California Conference

This searching message should be pondered by every worker in the advent movement. It should be taken individually to heart, our life, attitude, and emphasis being affected thereby. There should be no attempt to evade the searching analysis or the sound counsels here given.—Editor.

If ever the advent movement had its chance, it has its chance today. National and in­ternational conditions are demonstrating conclusively that human resources, standards, and policies at their best are not equal to the demands of these bewildering days. The rem­nant church is now challenged to demonstrate that God has bestowed His Spirit and power upon her, and that His power is fully equal to present-day demands. If this is not unmis­takably evidenced in all the professed work of God now, the church will irrevocably lose her influence and her supreme opportunity to ful­fill God's plan.

Other religions than Christianity have dem­onstrated the inadequacy of human resources in the present world dilemma. Nominal Chris­tianity also has learned that despite increasing knowledge and more perfect machinery, greater skill and larger expenditure in reli­gious ministry, more thought and culture in the churches, nothing avails to put adequate inward spirit and movement into the religious life of today.

Everywhere there is tentativeness, hesita­tion, and lack of initiative. Pathetic with­drawals, deplorable retrenchments, and timid compromises mark much of so-called Chris­tian effort and missionary service.

Christianity has in many places become a synonym for compromise, when it ought to be a synonym of passion. Too often the nomi­nal church has manifested itself as a cowardly adaptation, when it ought to be a cleansing force. An almost entire loss of backbone in religious thinking and service is marking the course of the church at large today—a decline to a vague and embarrassing religion of subjectivism.

The religious leaders of the world are not altogether unconscious of the seriousness of the hour. They understand that these are critical days; that all is not well with the world, with the church, or with men. They see the whole world lying in open, pitiful need. This conviction is settling down on an ever-widening circle of leaders in religion as well as in other avenues of thought.

They desire most of all that the church shall be the all-potent influence controlling in every department of life, shaping policies, guiding industry, molding society, swaying commerce, commanding the loyal services of all intelli­gent persons, and banishing all unchristian forces.

But leaders also see that it is not so. And the reason for the tragic inadequacy in the face of the church's supreme opportunity is just as apparent as the unprecedented need itself. It is because, with all her equipment of wealth and machinery and popularity, with all her purity and culture, with all her prestige and persistence, there is not sufficient spiritual power in the church and in her ministry to make this effective. Of what avail is the most perfect organization, the most complete equip­ment, the most accurate knowledge, the most attractive service, if there be not sufficient dynamic within to make them effectual ?

MY brethren in the advent ministry, we must steer the old ship of Zion away from such shoals, for she seems dangerously near them now. It is becoming ever more evident that we must steer past dependence on a his­tory of the providential rise of a movement, past a wonderful organizationalism and insti­tutionalism, mere pride of unanswerable the­ology, and press on until we find an adequate dynamic by which the power of God becomes the power of every plan, organization, institu­tion, and representative of this great second advent movement.

When the church does this, or endeavors wholeheartedly to do it, God will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, and will accept every servant who will have part in such a program. A spiritual church, a spir­itual ministry, has nothing to fear in these troublesome days. But we must organize for it. There must be orderly leadership to that .end, that the present demand for inward spir­itual certainty and for the possession of in­ward personal power may be met.

At such an hour as this—the supreme hour of crisis in the moral and spiritual history of the church and the world—let us as ministers of Christ make no mistake as to what we need, and what the church and the world need. Assuredly it is not more science, more knowl­edge; more machinery, more organization, or even more money, but a new spiritual power.

Our struggling church, growing weary with efforts and battles, with methods and me­chanics, with figures and facts, with resolu­tions and programs, with goals and schemes, insistently and persistently calls for a new and greater spiritual power. Other needs, great as they are, sink into insignificance beside this urgent, vital need. The well-nigh lost apostolic spiritual impulse must be recovered. Nay, to merely recover that power which the apostolic church had is not enough. The church today must have a far mightier spirit­ual power in this day of complex demands, of multiplied problems, and of challenging needs than she has ever had in the past.

God is looking *to this ministry to seek and recover that power. You and I must lead the church of God into that mightier spiritual experience. This is the most urgent and im­perative problem facing the church and her ministry today. It cannot be evaded or ig­nored. We must face it frankly and honestly, and answer in terms that will appeal to the reason, convince the mind, and Satisfy the heart of every believer in the advent move­ment.

How can this mighty spiritual impulse be recaptured and strengthened? It is obvious from the story of the transfiguration, that there came a time in His ministry when Christ felt the need of quickening and enriching the spiritual life of His disciples. Note, there­fore, what He did.

He selected three outstanding personalities of the movement of which He was the leader, and took them "up into a mountain to pray." There were many other things He might have done, things in themselves of great value, but of secondary importance. He might have taken them up into a mountain to organize a forward movement, to prograrnize an effective approach to their problem, or even to project a budget or plan a campaign. But He did not.

He took them up into a mountain to pray, for the simple reason that He knew from His own experience that prayer was the only chan­nel through which the needed quickening and enriching power could come. He knew from experience that prayer was the only source of inspiring vision, unfailing energy, unlimited patience, and spiritual awakening, which those disciples needed more than anything else, and which we need today more than anything else.

We, too, my brethren, must lead the dis­ciples of today up into the mountain to pray, after we ourselves have found access to mul­tiplied spiritual power and adequate spiritual ability through prayer. Let us not wait. This is our program. This is our hope, and the hope of the church in the 'completion of her work.

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By LOUIS K. DICKSON, President of the Southeastern California Conference

June 1940

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