The American people have been deeply disturbed in recent months, because they have feared and felt that they were being given chiefly the rosy side of the war picture. Victories and gains were played up, but reverses and losses were being withheld, glossed over, or but tardily released, so that allies and opposing nations alike were sometimes aware of certain unpalatable facts before the American public became cognizant of them.
Spokesmen for the people so vigorously decried this policy that it has been changed. Such have contended that the people want the full facts and can take them—that the reaction from false optimism based on selected facts, creates a fatal complacency, brings vicious results, and lowers morale, while the full facts constitute a sobering challenge to which men and women will rise.
Is there not a needed lesson here for the church? Should not complete frankness and full information characterize all our portrayals of the warfare of the church? For example, are not our losses as necessary to the true picture as our gains ? And is this information not as essential to the sound morale of our full worker body as are the full war facts to the citizenry of the nation? We need never be afraid of realism. Our workers and our people will rise to the challenge of the full facts. But uneasiness and unrest will result if there is a feeling that only advances in finances or membership are publicized, while unfavorable trends are glossed over. The rank and file of our workers want to know our exact status.
Lethargy is the inevitable result of a one-sided optimism, and lessened activity results from an ill-founded impression of "All's well on all fronts." To illustrate : A comparison of tithe income and proportionate foreign mission giving over two decades reveals a proportionate decrease in per capita offerings, despite a larger total sum for missions because of increased membership. Or to turn to another aspect : A study of our convert losses will spur us to find out the cause of our sobering leakages. The loss of souls is of infinitely greater moment than the loss of a battle. Inadequate prebaptismal instruction, lack of constructive personal work, insufficient follow-up, and subsequent impoverished spiritual diet in the churches, all have their bearing on the results. Our goals for souls ofttimes result in carelessness and superficiality in method.
We need to test soul winning by souls retained, rather than merely by souls gained. The test of any evangelist's work is really discovered a year, or better still two years, after baptism. We need to throw a new emphasis upon sound conversion, thorough indoctrination, and genuine integration with the church. We want our converts to be full-fledged Adventists, including belief in the Spirit of prophecy, health reform, and all the rest. It is infinitely better to have one thousand added with nine hundred remaining, than fifteen hundred added and goo remaining. It is better for the church, better for the people involved, and better for the evangelist.
We are dealing with souls for whom Christ died. Those who start well but turn back are often worse off than before, and are frequently more inaccessible. A false philosophy of superficial mass evangelism, promulgated by some who have left us, has made a tragic impress that remains with some to mar and minimize sound, abiding results. It is not enough merely to get people into the lifeboats. We must bring them into port. This is the evangelist's task.
L. E. F.