The Council Call to Evangelism

One of the most heartening features of the recent Autumn Council was the dis­cussion on evangelism. Here's a report.

By R. ALLAN ANDERSON, Associate Secretary of the Ministerial Association

One of the most heartening features of the recent Autumn Council was the dis­cussion on evangelism. Prior to the opening of the council, the North American presidents met for a special study of their prob­lems. Several important items came from this group of leaders, but none were as enthusiasti­cally received as the resolution on evangelism.

No sooner was the resolution introduced than a number of men asked for the floor. As one leader after another expressed his conviction on this all-important subject, the whole council re­sponded to the call. We are happy to be able to publish a verbatim report of this discussion. How we wish our thousands of workers scat­tered throughout the world could have been with us to join in this call to a greater conse­cration. The immensity of our task demands a daily dedication. The real hope of the advent cause, the very heart of the message of Reve­lation 14, is evangelism. Introducing the series of recommendations to the council, Elder Mc­Elhany said:

"I feel quite sure that the recommendations you have in your hands at the moment may prove to be the most serious, at least, so far as the North Ameri­can field is concerned, that will come before us. These recommendations touch the very vital heart of our whole program, of our work. I had the privilege of sitting in and listening to what I think was one of the most spontaneous and spirit-filled declarations on the part of these union leaders that I have heard for a long time. Now I am going to ask Brother Wilson to tell us just how it originated, and the background of it all."

N. C. WILSON (Vice-President, North Amer­ican Division) : The union presidents were in session all day Monday. We had a number of important matters for consideration, and most of the day was spent in a very earnest and care­ful consideration of what seemed to be our most vital problem, and that is the matter of soul-winning.                                                       

I think all of us are conscious this morning, and have been throughout this council, that we have come to a time when something very definite, something a bit dynamic and atomic, needs to be done in relation to this tremendous and all-important question of soul winning.

We do not want this to be considered a North American matter. This ought to be a world burden and a world call, for we are a group of men and women from all parts of the world field. In some tangible way we felt we must at least partially measure up to the challenge and the call of this hour. For us to sit quietly and idly by in this hour of challenge and tragedy, and do nothing and say nothing, would be un­speakable. The resolutions are probably not quite so long as some we have had during past years, but there are some features that we feel are very vital and very important. I do not see how we could better respond to the appeals which have come to us from the council than to set ourselves to this task of evangelism and soul winning in some way that will measure up to the overwhelming challenge and call of the hour. We feel, brethren, that we must arise and do something to meet the challenge of the hour.

RESOLUTION ON EVANGELISM

"WHEREAS, The one great reason for the existence of the advent movement is to prepare men for the day of God; and,

"WHEREAS, The voices now raised on every side proclaiming doom and the end of the world give added meaning and urgency to our message; be it "Resolved, 1. That we place a new and fervent em­phasis on evangelism, calling on everyone who is supported by the tithe, and especially on our minis­try, including secretaries of departments and institu­tional workers, to a greater consecration, and to ac­tively engage in public evangelism for as much time as possible each year.

"2. That we call on our laity to dedicate a larger portion of their time to such forms of evangelism as literature distribution, Bible studies, and lay efforts.

"3. That we encourage all our conferences and mis­sion fields to set goals for increases in membership even as we set goals for offerings, and that proper and repeated attention be called to these goals for souls.

"4. That the General Conference Committee call the conference presidents of North America together to study the possibility of revising the methods of conducting our conference work so as to release our ministers for more active and more extensive evan­gelistic work ; and that in preparation for such a meeting the General Conference Committee appoint a committee to make a survey of the situation in the field, to gather facts and to prepare recommendations on how to plan conference work to give emphasis to, and time for, evangelism.

"5.  That evangelism, both public and personal, be made the keynote of the coming union conference sessions to be held in North America, as well as in similar division councils and union sessions through­out the world."

H. T. ELLIOTT: Mr. Chairman, I move the adoption of this report.

N. C. WILSON: In seconding the motion, it may be that one or two sections or paragraphs ought to be made a little clearer. Several para­graphs may be a bit pointed and definite to some fields, but I am sure we all agree that something definite and clear and dynamic is called for.

Section 3 speaks of setting goals for increases in membership. We have given a great deal of attention in time past to our financial goals, and that is fine. Certainly we should not give less attention to setting goals for souls. Usu­ally a person accomplishes little unless he has something pretty definite in mind. Surely, when it comes to soul winning and the gathering in of those who are to be heirs of the kingdom, we should be specific and definite.

The fourth paragraph has to do with the study of the methods followed in our confer­ence work. Surely, if there is a better way which God could help us to find out, which would speed on the evangelistic work, we ought to try to find that way. And if in our confer­ence organization there are plans or methods or anything which is restricting a greater evange­listic advance, then we ought to know of that, and courageously, in the fear of God, set about making some adjustments.

The fifth paragraph is one that ought to have the full and hearty support of everyone here. What a wonderful opportunity we shall have in North America this winter in laying upon the hearts of our workers in this division the great importance of evangelism. Surely, we must make the meetings in this division during the coming winter largely and definitely of a soul-winning nature.

M. V. CAMPBELL (President, Central Union Conference) : Brother Chairman, I believe it is really time for us to give new emphasis to evan­gelism. This does not suggest that we have not been emphasizing evangelism through the years, for we have. In every union and in al­most every conference large efforts have been held through the years. But it is true that we perhaps are not giving as much emphasis to evangelism today as we did fifteen or twenty years ago. I remember at the Omaha Autumn Council when the entire thought and keynote of the council was evangelism, and it was at that time that we decided to hold evangelistic institutes. The following year a large evange­listic regional institute was held in Philadel­phia, and another one in St. Louis. These two meetings took in most of the evangelists in the United States and Canada. There was great enthusiasm throughout the field. More souls were won to the message than had been for years and years.

I notice from the Statistical Report given by Brother Conard that there is one period in North America that stands out above all others and that is the period of 1931-35. During that, period in North America fifty-five souls were won for every thousand members. The five-year period before that there were twenty-one souls for every thousand members. It jumped from twenty-one to fifty-five, and then it dropped again to thirty-three. Now, as I re­member it, this high point was during the very period following the emphasis given at the Au­tumn Council in Omaha on evangelism. It was the period that followed those two large evan­gelistic councils. And in every quarter our North American Division presidents sent out statements showing the percentage of increase of every conference in the division. This was kept before us month by month, and quarter by quarter, in the records of our increasing mem­bership.

I was president of a moderate-sized confer­ence at that time, and while we never reached our goal of io per cent increase a year, we cer­tainly worked as we never worked before try­ing to do it, and in trying hard we at least built up an increase beyond what it had ever been before.

Our General Conference brethren wrote us frequently. I remember how proud I was when I received a letter from the General Conference president, complimenting me on the fact that we had come close to the goal. I almost framed that letter. It meant a great deal to me. I be­lieve when we come to the place where we put real emphasis on everybody's putting his shoul­der to the wheel, it surely does help.

I believe very thoroughly in this first reso­lution, that every person who receives payment from the tithe should be a soul winner. Now, we are paying secretaries with the tithe, but that does not mean that they cannot be soul winners. In one of the conferences in which I labored I called our stenographers together in one of our office devotional periods, and out­lined to them my conviction.

One young woman whose husband was en­gaged in secretarial work in the office, said, "We do not know how to win souls," but they decided to take a reel and a small projector and films, and go out and give some Bible studies. The wife said she would read the titles for her husband as he turned the machine and threw the pictures on the screen, and so they went to see some people who were receiving the Signs of the Times. They first went to call, saying they were coming to follow up on the Signs of the Times. They said they, too, were receiving it and wanted to give an illustrated lecture. The woman was glad to have them come every week after that. She joined the church and was baptized. Another young woman who was in the office gave studies, too; so these two stenographers were able to win two souls to the Lord that year.

Now, Brother Chairman, I believe we really should get behind this and take it to heart, and go back from this meeting and actually put it into practice. We must get every soul who is paid by tithe to take some part in giving Bible studies and winning souls to the truth. I have been doing it myself in spite of the fact that I am away from home most of the time, and as a result I have had the great joy of seeing a neighbor recently baptized in Minneapolis.

J. L. MCELHANY : Do you all want to join Brother Campbell in favoring this recommen­dation? It seems to me that this ought to be the chief enthusiasm of this council. You know, brethren, we have opened up a subject on which we could spend all day. I wish every­body in this room this morning could express himself on this.

F. H. ROBBINS (President, Columbia Union Conference) : Brother Chairman, I am in per­fect harmony with these resolutions. Our aim is to finish the work of God. This is why we are here in this meeting today. There is a statement made in the Spirit of prophecy that the work of God cannot be finished until the laity take hold with conference workers and do. the work. Well, if the laity take hold, they should be led by ministers. And I believe that it is high time for us ministers to do 'a greater work along this line. I believe that as confer­ence presidents we should plan to hold meet­ings, and the people will respond.

We would not expect a colporteur leader and his assistant to sell all the books in his confer­ence, and we cannot expect one or two minis­ters to carry on all the evangelism that needs to be done. There is a mighty power that can be harnessed in this denomination. Years ago the water of Niagara Falls ran over the falls and was not harnessed; but later men harnessed it. Now they are operating great machines, and lighting whole cities with that harnessed power. And so I believe that when we get in earnest on this matter of evangelism as we never have before, God will bless our every ef­fort.

W. A. NELSON (President, Northern Cali­fornia Conference) : When we request every worker to give "some time" during the year to evangelism, it seems to me that we are asking for the minimum effort on the part of our workers. I wish we could change that expres­sion, calling upon the workers to give "as much time as possible" during the year, and if the chair is willing, I would like to move that we make this change in the reading. The time has come when we ought to make this part of the work the greatest part of our program.

—To be continued in February


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By R. ALLAN ANDERSON, Associate Secretary of the Ministerial Association

January 1947

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