Several times during their history, Seventh-day Adventists have published missionary maps of the world showing the location of our headquarters, institutions, and mission stations in the respective countries. Sometimes our outposts have been indicated on the map by black dots. At recent General Conference sessions small lamp bulbs have been scattered over a large globe to designate the places where our work has been established.
All these devices are helpful to our people in their effort to visualize the progress our work has made throughout the world, but at the same time they are likely to be very misleading. In order to be seen, the dots or the lights must of necessity be altogether out of proportion to the size of the map. This makes it appear that much more has been accomplished than really has. If the map is small, it may appear that our stations have pretty well covered the territory, whereas it is more probably true that we have actually established church centers in less than a tenth of the cities, towns, and villages of many of the respective countries shown.
In China, India, South America, Africa, and other countries, there are great stretches of territory where the advent message has never been preached, and where we have no established work. Even in the United States there are 3,506 counties, to say nothing of thousands of cities, towns, and villages in which we have never established a church. These places are suffering from absolute "blackout" so far as present truth is concerned. Many of our great cities have only one, two, or three small churches, while millions in them know absolutely nothing about our message and work.
In some centers where our work has become well established, we are in great danger of focusing our attention upon these places, largely forgetting the vast unentered or unworked territories that lie beyond. Years ago the Lord showed His messenger a copy of heaven's missionary map of the world, indicating His plan for the progress of His great judgment-hour message. It was His goal device for this people. Concerning this, Mrs. White wrote:
"In the visions of the night a very impressive scene passed before me. I saw an immense ball of fire fall among some beautiful mansions, causing their instant destruction. I heard someone say, 'We knew that the judgments of God were coming upon the earth, but we did not know that they would come so soon.' Others, with agonized voices, said, 'You knew! Why then did you not tell us ? We did not know.' On every side I heard similar words of reproach spoken.
"In great distress I awoke. I went to sleep again, and I seemed to be in a large gathering. One of authority was addressing the company, before whom was spread out a map of the world. He said that the map pictured God's vineyard, which must be cultivated. As light from heaven shone upon anyone, that one was to reflect the light to others. Lights were to be kindled in many places, and from these lights still other lights were to be kindled.
"The words were repeated : 'Ye are the salt of the earth : but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden underfoot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick ; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' Matt. 5:13-16.
"I saw jets of light shining from cities and villages, and from the high places and the low places of the earth. God's word was obeyed, and as a result there were memorials for Him in every city and village. His truth was proclaimed throughout the world."—"Testimonies," Vol. IX, pp. 28, 29.
Memorials in Every City and Village
What a map ! No blackouts ! No vacant spaces ! No neglected cities or sections, but memorials for God "in every city and village." "His truth . . . proclaimed throughout the world." What a pity the vision could not have closed with this glorious picture ! But God's messenger continues:
"Then this map was removed, and another put in its place. On it, light was shining from a few places only. The rest of the world was in darkness, with only a glimmer of light here and there. Our Instructor said: 'This darkness is the result of men's following their own course. . They have hidden their light under a bushel.' "—Id., p. 29 .
The first view was God's missionary map; indicating what He expected us to accomplish. The second is our map, depicting what we have actually accomplished—"only a glimmer of light here and there," with the rest of the world blacked out. What is wrong? Wherein have we failed? The answer is given. We have followed our own course. We have hidden our light under a bushel.
God's commission to the church is, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," but too often we, like Israel of old, have been satisfied to settle down and enjoy the fruits of early victory, and we have not gone forward to possess all the land. Too many of our evangelists are bogged down in a mass of details of church, conference, and institutional administration, and they are unable to find either time or energy to press on into new fields and districts, there to establish new memorials for God. We have built up administrative expense budgets from which evangelistic expense has been largely eliminated because other expense items have been given precedence.
The result is that in many fields we have reached a sort of stalemate, and we seem not to be able to advance much beyond our present accomplishments. We are happy to be able to say that this situation is not universal. In some places strong evangelism is being carried on, and great advance is being made, but in altogether too many places our efforts to evangelize new territories have slowed down almost to the vanishing point.
Brethren in the advent ministry, this situation ought not to exist, and by God's help it is within our power to change it. We should, without delay, set ourselves resolutely to the task of reaching the goal set before us on God's map. We should give evangelism first place in all our plans and in our budgets. We must follow God's command to "go into all the world" and no longer rest satisfied in leaving great gaping spaces of darkness within the boundaries of the conferences or mission fields for which we are responsible.
We must, of course, keep our church work strong, and this requires leadership and guidance. Yet we should not expend all our energies upon those who already know the truth, and leave those who are still in darkness to perish. We are as responsible for them as for those already in the fold. The lost sheep have as much claim upon the shepherd's care as do those who are safely housed within the fold, or more.
May we suggest that it would be helpful if the officers of each conference and mission field would make a list of all the unworked sections of their respective fields, put it up in some prominent place, and then solicit the co-operation of the executive committee and the laboring force in working out a definite plan for reaching these sections without delay ? Some fields may have to work out a three, four, or five year plan, in an effort to cover all the territory for which they are responsible. Some sections will have to be worked largely by colporteurs and lay evangelists. The larger cities and towns should be worked by our ministers. Every possible method should be employed to quickly occupy these desolate places for God.
We have lived to witness the falling of the balls of fire into the midst of beautiful mansions, causing instant destruction, as pictured to the Lord's messenger. Today earth's capitals are being leveled to the ground. Kingdom after kingdom is being overthrown, and civilization is literally crumbling to pieces. The weakness of the clay is showing up in the feet and toes of the image. The judgments of God are abroad in the land. The end is upon us. The night cometh, when no man can work. Let us hasten with our work while the day of probation lingers.