The work for which we have been called into existence is to proclaim in all the world God's message for this time, and "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." The giving of God's message to men is our mission. This fact we should never forget. It should ever be uppermost in our minds. It should determine our outlook, constantly fill our vision, influence us in all our decisions, and direct us in all our planning. Everything else is of minor importance in all the activities and interests of the church.
Never before in the history of our work have we had such a wonderful opportunity for presenting God's message to our fellow men as that which faces us just now. Happenings and conditions in the world today are stirring the souls of men and causing them to think and to question. They desire to know the meaning of that which they see and hear. Thousands are searching for some message of hope—for something on which they can lay hold with confidence in these days of uncertainty and confusion ; for something that will dispel the dread and the fear that possess their hearts. Because the judgments of God are in the earth, many of the inhabitants are seeking righteousness. What an unprecedented opportunity does this inquiring, wistful attitude on the part of men and women give us in presenting the message of God to them !
Never before have we had the opportunity of preaching the message with greater clarity, more forcefulness, or more positiveness than. now. These are days of fast-fulfilling prophecy. Events and developments of which our pioneers preached without evidence, save that of the prophetic utterances of the word of God, are now realities before our eyes. Today it is not a matter of preaching by faith concerning these events. They are now either history or facts. Events and conditions exist today which demonstrate the remarkable timeliness of our message. What a solid basis, therefore, is laid for an earnest, interest-compelling, convincing proclamation of the message at this hour!
The days in which we live are most solemn and important. With startling and staggering rapidity, events of the greatest magnitude and developments of most tremendous import are passing before our astonished gaze. Scarcely are our minds capable of keeping up with the march of world-changing occurrences. History is being made in a day. We are seeing today those things which Christ and the prophets foretold would crowd the climax hour of human history, and which would declare that the coming of Christ is very near at hand. More than thirty years ago, Mrs. White wrote:
"The agencies of evil are combining their forces, and consolidating. They are strengthening for the last great crisis. Great changes are soon to take place in our world, and the final movements will be rapid ones."—"Testimonies," Vol. IX, p. 11
Little Time Left in Which to Work
Great changes are taking place today, and everything in the world is moving toward the climax with a celerity that is stunning. The agencies of evil have combined and consolidated their forces, and are ready for the last great crisis. Most certain it is that we have now reached that crisis and that the end of all things is right upon us. What does this mean to us as a people ? It means that the Spirit of God is gradually but surely being withdrawn from the earth. Soon probation will close. But little time remains in which to carry the message of God to men and to finish His work.
The unprecedented opportunity we face at the present moment for giving the message, the timeliness of that which we have been commissioned to preach, and the shortness of the time left in which to do our work, unite in challenging us to a great forward move in evangelism. This hour urges us into a more positive, more powerful preaching and teaching of the message. It demands of us greater devotion to our task. What we as leaders need at this time is a greater consciousness of the message and a fuller, clearer vision of its power and its possibilities in the lives of men; a vision that will compel us and our people to arise with a determination quickly to finish the work entrusted to us. We read again in "Testimonies," Volume IX:
"The judgments of God are in the earth, and, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we must give the message of warning that He has entrusted to us. We must give this message quickly, line upon line, precept upon precept. Men will soon be forced to great decisions, and it is our duty to see that they are given an opportunity to understand the truth, that they may take their stand intelligently on the right side."— Page 126.
"We have no time to lose. The end is near. The passage from place to place to spread the truth will soon be hedged with dangers on the right hand and on the left. Everything will be placed to obstruct the way of the Lord's messengers, so that they will not be able to do that which it is possible for them to do now. We must look our work fairly in the face, and advance as fast as possible in aggressive warfare."—Id., Vol. VI, p. 22.
We have certainly come to the time when the way for the giving of the message has been well-nigh closed up in many places. Think of our work in the countries of Europe, for instance, and the extreme difficulties and dangers that face our workers there in the prosecution of their task. Think, too, of the restriction of liberties in many lands which makes it almost impossible for the message to be preached by our workers, or to be accepted by the people, without lives becoming imperiled.
Here in Australia, and in a few other countries, we still have liberty and the opportunity of presenting the message to the people without let or hindrance. But who knows how soon the blight of war might fall on our fair land, and we find ourselves amid conditions such as surround our people in Europe at this hour ? Great changes are taking place today with dramatic suddenness. Who knows but that at any moment we might be bereft of all the liberties, privileges, and blessings that we enjoy at this moment in this favored country ? Surely these considerations challenge us, at this time, to look our task "fairly in the face," and to plan and to work for its swift completion !
To make possible the great advance move in evangelism that this hour demands, there are some things to which we need to give attention. Fundamental to a larger evangelism are a greater diligence and devotion to our task, tireless energy, definite concentration, more efficiency, a fuller consecration, a greater self-sacrifice, and a personal knowledge and experience of the fullness of the power of God's Spirit in the proclamation of the message. Through His messenger, the Lord admonishes us in Volume IX of the "Testimonies:"
"At this time—a time of overwhelming iniquity—a new life, coming from the Source of all life, is to take possession of those who have the love of God in their hearts, and they are to go forth to proclaim with power the message of a crucified and risen Saviour. . . . Intense earnestness should now take possession of us. Our slumbering energies should be aroused to untiring effort."—Id., Vol. IX, p. 44.
"Much more prayer, much more Christlikeness, much more conformity to God's will, is to be brought into the Lord's work."—Id., p. 110.
Seeking a fuller, more abundant outpouring of God's Spirit upon us, our fellow workers, and our people, is our most important business. A larger measure of the power of the Holy Spirit is our greatest and most urgent need. Only the reception of "power from on high" can fully equip us and make us adequate for the service that God expects of us at this hour. This fact is emphasized in the following thought-provoking words of Dr. Stanley Jones:
"Whenever we have been troubled in conscience about our spiritual importance, we have added a new wheel—a new committee or commission, a new plan or program, and in the end we have found that we have added one more wheel, but with little or no power to run the old or the new. We become busy—devastatingly busy—turning old and new wheels by hand power, by sheer hand power, instead of lighting central fires. So much of this is force, nerve wearing, instead of spontaneous and healing. Pentecost is not a living fact with us. Hence we worship machinery instead of winning men."
Factors Essential to Larger Evangelism
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost resulted in the inauguration of the evangelistic activity of the Christian church. The reception of a fuller measure of the Holy Spirit will bring into being a larger, more aggressive evangelism on the part of God's church today, and will put a quality and power into its witness that has not been there before. There are other things which, though of minor importance, are nevertheless vital in connection with the heralding of the message and the completion of our task. To some of these I wish to make brief reference.
1. Evangelistic Leadership:. The leaders of our work, particularly those of conference work, while having administrative ability, must be men with evangelistic vision, outlook, and experience. They must be men who recognize that our one mission in this world is evangelism, and who are both resolved and able to give a definitely evangelistic lead to those who are under their leadership. A consciousness of the message, a burning passion for souls, and ability to lead others in successful soul-winning endeavor are essential qualifications for the leadership which the hour demands.
2. Message-Conscious Workers. Every worker in this cause, in whatever department he might be engaged, must recognize that the one thing that men need today, and that God has for them, is His message of present truth, and that the giving of this message is the one and only reason for our existence. He must recognize that evangelism transcends all else in the gamut of human professions and vocations. With every worker in the advent cause there must be that sense of obligation to men in respect to the message that will cause him, with the apostle Paul, to cry out, "Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel !" and wholly, consistently, and continually to abandon himself to the fulfillment of that obligation.
3. A spiritually contagious laity. In the early church the whole method of evangelism was founded on its members' sharing their personal spiritual experience with others. "There is no doubt," says Harnack, "that the early church won all its victories by informal missionaries." The members were spiritually contagious. They infected others with God, with Christ, with their message. To meet God's expectations of us at this hour, and quickly to complete our divinely appointed task, it is imperative that we return to this method of evangelism. (See "Testimonies," Vol. IX, pp. 117, 26.)
Little has been done to utilize the latent power and talent of our church membership in the giving of the message. In consequence, the church has become a field rather than a force for evangelism. Church members pay the minister to be their proxy. This method is easy, but it is deadly. The work will never be finished in this way. The time surely has come when the instruction given through the Spirit of prophecy should be carried into effect.
The responsibility of enlisting, organizing, and training our church membership rests not merely with the home missionary secretaries, but with every worker in the cause of God. This is made very clear both in the Scriptures and in the writings of the Spirit of prophecy. In Ephesians 4:11 the apostle Paul makes mention of some of the gifts that Christ gave to His church: "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets ; and some, evangelists ; and some, pastors and teachers." The purpose of these gifts is stated in the next verse as being "for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering." (Revised Version.) Whatever gift, therefore, has been conferred upon us, and whatever the particular department of God's cause to which we have been called, we have all been called to perfect "the saints, unto the work of ministering."
This is the responsibility of every advent worker, whether he be an evangelist, a pastor, a Bible worker, or a teacher. And not until the church members who are under his spiritual care have been organized, trained, and put to service has that responsibility been fully discharged. Work with new converts should not cease until such time as they are thoroughly indoctrinated and firmly established in the truth. They should be trained, according to their talent, and led into some line of Christian service. They should be taught how to share their personal spiritual experience with others.
4. Evangelistic Departments. Since evangelism is the primary and essential task of the advent movement, it follows that every department of the movement definitely and to the fullest possible extent must be made to contribute to the accomplishment of that task. Every department must be either directly or indirectly a soul-saving agency. If it fails-- to be that, it is merely so much dead machinery, and hence is of no value in this movement. In order for the departments, to fulfill the purpose of their creation, it is absolutely imperative that the leaders and workers connected with them recognize that they are part of an organization the mission of which is to give God's message to men, and there must be on their part a devotion, simplicity, self-sacrifice, outlook, and purpose which the fulfillment of that mission demands. Unfortunately, in our departmental work too much attention is being given to mere routine, the marginal, and the irrelevant. The crying and urgent need is for a greater sense of what is vital, and a fuller understanding of the real intention of God in respect to the advent movement.
5. Greater Circulation of Literature. The literature of the advent movement has proved wonderfully effective in bringing the message to the attention of men and women, and in leading many into an acceptance of it. Much more, however, could and must be done through this agency. What is needed at this time is more new, up-to-date message-filled literature in the form of tracts, pamphlets, papers, and books. It should be flowing from our printing presses in a constant stream, and, "like the leaves of autumn," it should be scattered among the people. Greater efforts should be put forth by our people in its sale and distribution. Careful study should be given to the price of our publications, and this should be reduced to a minimum. It should be much more reasonable than it is. Our colporteurs should be led to handle message-filled books rather than medical volumes and bedtime stories.
6. Broader Radio Evangelism. Of all the means at our disposal today for the promulgation of the message, the radio stands at the head of the list as the one which makes possible the reaching of the masses in the briefest space of time. By this means the message can be made literally to fly "in the midst of heaven" with the speed of the lightning's flash. It can be carried into the homes of the people, and can reach them in the loneliest and most isolated places of earth. Surely this modern means of communication and of dissemination of knowledge should be utilized to the fullest possible extent in the finishing of our work!
The radio is being used quite extensively in some of our conferences, but every effort should be made to broaden our use of this agency. Furthermore, consideration should be given to the co-ordination of our radio efforts. The advisability of all our broadcasts' going on the air under the same name should be studied. There is need for extensive radio evangelism. Giving the message and winning men to its acceptance must be our only purpose for going on the air. It has been demonstrated that when there is a clear, positive, full, challenging presentation of the message, the most satisfactory results are achieved.
I wish to emphasize again that our greatest and most urgent need at this time is a new and fuller experience of the outpouring of God's Spirit upon us and upon our people.
Nothing else can compensate for the absence of this. These penetrating words of Stanley Jones are true:
"Increase the ornateness of its Ithe church's] ritual as you will, improve the quantity of its religious education as you may, raise the standards of qualifications of the ministry as high as you can, pour money without stint into the coffers of the church—give it everything—everything except this one thing that Pentecost gave, and you are merely ornamenting the dead. Until this sacred fact takes place, preaching is only lecturing, praying is only repeating formulas, services cease to be service—it all remains earthbound, circumscribed, inadequate, dead."
Pentecost raised the tone of the inner life of the early apostles so that they became inwardly a match for outer circumstances. Inner life became adequate for outer life and the demands of the hour. It is to such an experience of the Spirit's power that this present hour, with all its significance, both beckons and challenges us.