Lost, strayed, or stolen! These words have burned themselves into my soul as I think of the large number in our ranks in the North American Division alone which fell in that classification during this past year of 1942. The statistics reveal a loss by apostasies of 4,694 last year, and ten years ago (1932) the same item revealed a loss of 3,146. What a sad picture ! Yet it reveals something far more serious than temporal setbacks. It actually reveals the probable loss of eternal salvation for that vast number! Think of the price to be paid!
Ten years ago (1932) an increase of 6.24 percent was realized in church membership, whereas in 1942 we find that with the combined efforts of the entire ministry of North America we had a net increase in membership of only 3.08 per cent. Why such a drop in percentage ? Is it due to the vast number of apostasies?
The question concerns us as Bible instructors in a vital way. Inasmuch as we are an integral part of the ministry, do we have anything to do with the causes for this great loss in membership ? If so, what can we do to stop the leaks which may have come either directly or indirectly through our work? Are any of these figures due to our lack of fully discharging our duty before God as faithfully as we should, or have we been too concerned and overburdened with secondary considerations ? Are those with whom we have studied fully instructed in the third angel's message? Are they thoroughly indoctrinated when presented for baptism ? Does the candidate fully realize the fuller meaning of the step about to be taken?
In my last field of labor I discovered that one of our members still belonged to the Baptist Church as well as the Adventist Church. She was in regular attendance at the Baptist church and saw nothing amiss in this. It seems that this point was not presented to her at any time. At the time I entered the feld, she had made herself conspicuous by her absence at our Sabbath school and church services. This revealed to me that we sometimes do not give the testing truths a reasonable time to show evidence of producing Christian characters in accordance with this message before the solemn and sacred step of baptism is taken. It is surprising how little people remember on the first hearing of any subject. Note the following:
"There is a danger of passing too rapidly from point to point. Give short lessons, and often. . . After you have opened to the people the precious mines of truth, there is yet a great work to be done for those who have become interested in the subjects presented."—Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 1, p. 7.
Just why have so many turned their back on Christ? Why have so many "strayed" away from the fold? Why have so many been "stolen' by the enemy of souls ? What can we as Bible instructors do to prevent the recurrence of such facts and figures ? We are not responsible for all losses from our ranks, of course, and yet it might be helpful to analyze a few of the possible causes and our relationship to those causes.
It would be well if we could remain in the territory long enough to gather these new converts together after baptism in a Bible class, where we could go over the precious truths again, perhaps from a different angle.. We are admonished by God's messenger to repeat these precious truths again and again. And in repeating, we will find that we have more thoroughly indoctrinated our candidates, and this will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, greatly add to the strength of the church spiritually. The better informed the converts, the fewer the losses we will suffer. It would be well to include in this class, if possible, some who are already in the church, but who could benefit by a more thorough indoctrination. We must hold our members in the church after getting them there, rather than losing so many of them out the back door of the church.
To do this the Bible instructor will have to remain in the field a reasonable length of time following the close of the evangelistic meetings. However, there is generally a great need for her to remain anyway, to follow up and properly bind off the interest that has developed during the last few weeks of the meetings, and which cannot be left to languish. She will also be needed by the new converts. They will require encouragement. A sympathetic, understanding, praying Bible instructor, in whom they have confidence, can do much to save these "babes in the truth" from being "stolen" by the enemy, or in straying from the fold and losing their way from the path of the Christian life.
If more of these precious souls were firmly anchored to the Rock before we had to leave them, we would see less backsliding in our ranks. This would mean a longer period of time spent in one field of labor yet the result would be more souls in the kingdom as a testimonial of a more thorough and finished work.
The Bible instructor is not thought to be responsible for all these losses from our ranks ; however, we are analyzing a few of the possible causes and our relationship as Bible instructors to those causes.
In summing up, let us not be lax in thorough indoctrination of our readers, giving sufficient time to see results in lives before baptism. Let there be no failure on our part to encourage and guide the new in the faith, not forgetting the weaker ones already in the fold, and doing all in our power to cement firmly their confidence on a solid foundation. When our spiritual life, spiritual devotion, and spiritual power are manifest in our work, the result will be a gain in spiritual influence and material blessings and membership without such great losses. This will pave the way for a deeper Christian experience on the part of the church membership, and we will see greater gains in the more difficult times we are soon to face.