Every great church movement of history, after passing the time of its founding struggle and initial spread, has ultimately settled back into pastoring its parishioners, building attractive church buildings, beautifying its worship—and lapsing into spiritual lethargy. The churches have continued to maintain the form, but without the spirit, having a name to live, but being spiritually dead. Evangelize or perish, is therefore the law of strong church life and spiritual growth and continuance. It is the imperative for survival.
Will we as a movement escape the fate of all who have gone before us ? The answer is obvious: Only if and as we keep the evangelistic fires burning intensely and continuously. The peril of institutionalism among us is becoming very real and very grave. The disproportionate emphasis and effort, with its financial and man power tie-up, is increasing. We need institutions, and we naturally need churches. We should have proper church homes, well located an& suitable for our people. But we would stress the fact that all church buildings are to be destroyed by the leveling fires of the last days—Adventist along with the rest. Redeemed souls alone will leap the abyss that separates time from eternity, and live on forever. Therefore let us place our major.emphasis and effort where it will bring the greatest returns in eternal investment. Let us make material things secondary. Let us keep a proportionate balance.
Moreover, we shall soon be driven from our larger churches in the great cities, preparatory to withdrawing from the smaller ones. The times of trouble and persecution are before us and are closer than many of us may think. The high esteem in which we may be held in certain quarters, and the good reputation we may enjoy in some places, can change overnight. Public opinion is exceedingly fickle. The cheers and plaudits of the crowd today can easily become the jeers and hisses of mob violence overnight. Present friendliness of religious leaders can quickly change to hostility and bitter accusation. We will not long be popular. We should, of course, seek to allay all prejudice possible. We should build good will. We should win as many friends as we can. But many will ultimately fall away from us. This we should never forget.
Meantime the world is perishing without God and without hope. Multitudes are dying without Christ and His gracious salvation. Humanity is distracted, desperate, and anxious—not knowing which way to turn for refuge and security. Crisis piles upon crisis in the international field. Turmoil and violence rage in the industrial side of the domestic front. We live in a world of uncertainty and upheaval—a world that is deteriorating rapidly.
We have a message from God for this crucial hour. We can declare the meaning of the times to mankind. We have a mandate to proclaim it ev7 erywhere and at all times, a mission to perform in all lands and communities. It is the biggest thing in the world, and should overshadow all other projects. It is the sole reason for our existence.
Our mission is to search out, and then to call out and prepare a people to leave this world, not to stay on here in attractive, well-pastored churches. We are to foster the evangelistic passion, in all its ministerial and lay phases, and embrace not only evangelical but medical missionary aspects as well. We are to encourage our people to scatter out, not to congregate in large centers. We are to go everywhere preaching and teaching the message of God for these last days, and uplifting the Saviour as the sole hope of the world.
We must instill this evangelistic vision in the minds and hearts of all our people. We must become the vital, saving force in the world that the Lord expects us to be. We are to foster the spirit of the crusader—ever on the conquering march for Christ, conquering hearts, not holy lands of sacred shrines, penetrating every stronghold of heathenism, Catholicism, and apostate Protestantism. That is our business on earth. It is not places or things at all that are to interest us, but men, women, and children for whom Christ died. Ours is a gigantic rescue of human souls. This is our supreme and only task. Such a concept will revolutionize the whole course of life.
We need a clarion voice to call us back to our great commission. We need leaders with clear, evangelistic world vision and passion—leaders who have come up through evangelistic and pastoral ranks. We need treasurers who are ministerial-minded. We need departmental secretaries whose primary burden is the winning of souls, to which everythine, else is subordinate. We need to hear and heed the call to advance on all fronts. Every able-bodied man needs to be on the front line. Wherever he can get a meeting place and an audience the Adventist minister should give his message with power and persuasion. This we must take to heart if we are to meet the mind of God.
Let the home guard be organized to protect and hold things steady at home. Let all others be released, for this is world warfare for Christ. Let us organize our entire man power, and pool all our resources for the last great conflict with the forces of darkness, opposition, and apathy: We need to pray for a sense of urgency, for a divine intensity to grip us and impel us ever forward. The days of greatest evangelistic advance are just before us. They must be, for the Majority of God's children are still in Babylon. These we must call out into the remnant, commandment-keeping company.
Away then, with the defeatist attitude, "It can't be done," and, "The day of large evangelism is over," "Let us concentrate on holding our own." Nay, the call is Advance on all fronts!
We are merely puttering around with the great metropolitan centers of earth, barely touching them with the tips of our fingers. Making little impression—largely unknown, unheeded, and frustrated as far as getting the actual ear of the multitudes is concerned—we need to place in these great centers men of force and pulpit power who can shake these mighty cities. They are more than local problems. The message of God must be declared to them. We need more holy boldness and faith, and more daring for God. (No, not more sensationalism, gaudy tinsel, and theatrical display, but Spirit-born messages, and wise, broad planning.
We need hundreds of men and women of lesser experience to compass the smaller places and penetrate the dark counties. Our task is utterly beyond our man power, our financial resources, or our ability to compass. Divine power alone—apostolic, pentecostal power, coupled with complete abandonment to a great task—can supply the dynamic requisite for our great work. For this we should unitedly seek and continuously pray. We are on our way out of this old world. Let us plan accordingly, and take as many with us as we can. Advance, then, on all fronts is the word.
L. E. F.