The Church's Supreme Task

The task before us is the salvation of our fel­low men. What are we doing to save them?

By Bernard E. Sparrow, Departmental Secretary, North England Conference

The task before us is the salvation of our fel­low men. What are we doing to save them? Our answer falls into two sections:

Public Evangelism.ft must be admitted that this only scratches the surface of the populations in our great cities and is a net that catches only the fish who are prepared to swim into it. Some­thing more comprehensive is needed before our consciences can really be at rest.

Home Missionary Work.—When we think of the increase in membership if each member added one other during the year, we can see how lay work has great potentialities—but it has few "actuali­ties." Improvement is both possible and impera­tive.

Sober consideration of the little we are accom­plishing will bring us to acknowledge the failure of the church : we cannot be satisfied with "things as they are." The "church triumphant" is wish­ful thinking and not an actual fact. We have yet to fulfill God's purpose for His church. We believe we shall accomplish this purpose, but the great question is, "How shall we do it?" We must fol­low divinely ordained methods, from which we draw the following six points for emphasis:

1. Divine power is -imperative. We can accom­plish nothing of ourselves. Mark 9:29 : "By prayer and fasting." Matt. 19:25, 26: "When His- disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, say­ing, Who then can be saved? But Jesus . . said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."

2. Soulsaving is an intense business. The dis­ciples "left all."

3. Selflessness is essential. The Master was at the world's beck and call for twenty,four hours each day.

4. Sinners were saved, and the sick healed, when brought to Christ. He is still the only Saviour.

5. The best advertisement for our faith is our works—good works.

6. Persecution quickens the productive activity of the church.

How is all this idealism to be put into practice? It is of first importance that the ministry and laity be inseparable. The Bible draws tittle, if any, dis­tinction between the soul-winning work of minis­try and laity. Soulsaving is the task of the whole church, not merely a privileged section of it. If we want success we must work more closely together, so that ministry and laity assist each other in this urgent work. Evangelists and pastors are so ordained that they may be able "fully to equip His people for the work of serving." Eph. 4:12, Weymouth.

"Those who labor in visiting the churches should give. the brethren and sisters instruction in practical methods of doing missionary work."—Testimonies, Vol. IX, p. 117.

"The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church mem­bership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers."—Gospel Workers, p.

Let us frankly realize that if we had a church of truly converted ministry and members, this discus­sion would be unnecessary. Souls on fire would find their own methods, and as long as they did something, there would be little cause for worry. The root of the problem, therefore, is a spiritual one, namely, Do we possess enough of the Christ life to do some of Christ's work? If we do not, campaigns will not solve the problem. Conversion is the initial remedy.

Practical Christianity Will Win

Next, let us note that the Gospels and the Testi­monies say very little about formal, doctrinal teaching as an aid in gaining converts. They do, however, say much about what we term "practical Christianity." (Is there an "impractical' Christianity ?)

"The unstudied, unconscious influence of a holy life is the most convincing sermon that can be given in favor of Christianity."—Ibid., p. 59.

"A kind, courteous Christian is the most powerful argument that can be produced in favor of Christianity." —Ibid., p. 122.

"There is need of coming close to the people by per­sonal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comtorted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counseled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit."—Ibid., p. 363. (See also Matthew 25:31-40, and James 1:27.),

Stich practical methods of accomplishing our purpose are often decried as "soft stuff," or are referred back for use by the Salvation Army. Let us not be deceived on this matter. These methods were Christ's methods in A.D. 30. They are still His methods today. Their absence or practice is a good indication of the depth of our religion.

A method used by an ardent worker may not be a hundred per cent correct; nevertheless, it is better than no work at all. If we are sincere, surely the Lord will overrule any serious errors—and in any case human nature does respond to some queer approaches! While unorthodox methods may and will succeed, let us not fail to- study sound plans. Some tangible ways are as follows:

We need more fully and continually to exploit the social sphere via neighborliness, Dorcas Work, home nursing, and health teaching. Form a lending library from which lay workers can draw books for their prospective converts. Form a "Fisherman's Band" of willing workers who pledge themselves to make sustained efforts to bring others to public services where the message can be heard in an attractive form. The "Fisher­men" would thus co-operate with the minister by supplying him with an interested congregation.

Educate our people to realize that "it is the plan of Heaven that those who have received light shall impart it to those in darkness."—Acts of the Apostles, p. 534. Teach them that it is a concomi­tant of salvation.

The church's conscience is asleep. Awake it by "soul-saving" sermons at least once a month; faithful, enthusiastic support of the monthly, mis­sionary meeting; use of the five-minute weekly missionary service. Exercise a more personal, thorough care for our young people; and thus save good potential members.

Such a program will yield results—"A working church is a growing Church."—Gospel Workers, p. 198. And, "If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be bar­ren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" 2 Peter i :8. In Christ's name, and for the unsaved's sake, let us put these or other plans into immediate action.

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By Bernard E. Sparrow, Departmental Secretary, North England Conference

August 1945

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