Working for Quality, Not Quantity

From the editor's desk.

L.E.F. is editor of the Ministry.

Despite any seeming advantages, the plan of high "goals for souls" is beset by very real pitfalls and perils. Such goals may stir to greater achievement those who are without an impelling initiative; vision, or energy. They may inspire a competitive spurt between workers and between confer­ences, and so may serve to swell immediate bap­tismal figures. But there is danger that under such a human stimulus mere quantity, rather than quality, shall become the measuring rod of evangelistic success, and that numbers for the moment rather than strong, virile accessions of a permanent character, shall become the criterion.                     .

It is strange and disquieting that human rivalry should ever surpass divine love for the lost as an incentive to numerical results. Such a mechanical motive is too much of the earth, earthy. It may seem appropriate for monetary or material ends but not for the salvation of souls. It is not a sufficiently worthy motive for spiritual objectives.

In an endeavor to secure a given number of accessions within a given time, there is a dis­tinct tendency to rush people into the church before they are ready for membership. This is usually accompanied by a lowering of standards of admission, which in turn, is an open invita­tion to future grief and difficulty. It often re­sults in gathering in largely the very young, the aged, the dependent, and the doubtful—any and all who will count in the grand total. In other words, it secures fruit most easily gath­ered—fruit that hangs on the lower branches within easy reach. But such a procedure counts for the present rather than for future stability.

Under this drive for immediate results there is a tendency to pass by the heads of families who have a difficult problem over the Sabbath, and to leave untouched work for men and women of influence, for such decide more slowly. They cannot be rushed in the race against time. There is a tendency toward pick­ing up the windfalls rather than seeking the sounder, solid fruit that ripens more slowly but is more enduring and has to be plucked by hand from the higher branches, often necessitating the use of a long ladder. Yet this is the fruit that "abides."

We must never forget that it is infinitely better to gain fifty solid, substantial Adventists of talent, means, and permanence, that will remain with us and constitute a source of sustaining strength, than to rush one hundred and fifty into the front door of the church on the first flush of the appeal of truth—three times as many who have not first counted the cost, who have not thought it all through, who are not thoroughly rooted, and many of whom will slip out through the back or side door under the pressure of adversity, criticism, or trial. The sure test of sound evangelism is the solid char­acter and permanence of its converts.

We want converts who will be an honor to the cause, self-sustaining men and women, who do not have to be continually pampered and nursed along. We want those who are fully in­tegrated into all the activities and objectives of the church—Sabbath school, church school, academy, or college, M.V. organization, Mis­sionary Men's Society, and other of the multi­ple soul-winning agencies of the church. We want earnest Bible students who will grow in the faith, who will have a burden for others, and who will become ardent propagators of the faith. We want young couples who will be po­tential workers. We want whole families—groups that will be a strength to one another, as well as to the church, and who will be strong supporters of the cause by substantial tithes and offerings.

We want lawyers, doctors, dentists, preachers, teachers, businessmen, ex­ecutives—men and women of affairs and influ­ence—who will throw their talents, training, and means into this great last-day crusade for God. These take longer to win. They require more time than is afforded by the 'short or even the ordinary effort, and therefore we often miss them.

God loves, and we must likewise love and love to labor for the halt, the maimed, and the blind. These we must also help and win. But such do not make up the backbone of a strong and virile church.

The early apostles and Paul were men of great potentiality, whose dynamic personality and force gave potency to the struggling infant Christian church. Never forget that the win­ning of one Paul, one Luther, one Wesley, one Carey, or one Moody will mean more to the church than a whole congregation—or even an entire conference, for that matter—of good souls without particular talents. That is where counting heads is deceptive; not all heads are the same. Let bs set our stakes high. Let us catch- God's vision for us. Let us build the house of God with gold, silver, and precious stones, rather than with lighter, less enduring materials. Let us reach out after the key men and women who dwell in the highways and mansions of earth. It is quality rather than mere quantity that counts, in the long run. It is the number that remain firm in the faith, rather than the number that are won initially, that is the gauge of true evangelistic success.

Heavy backdoor exits bring discouragement to the congregation. They lower the standing of the church in the community and the world; they bring evangelism into just disrepute and grieve our Lord and Master. Such ex-mem­bers are usually harder to reach and reclaim than those who have never made a start. Let us build for solidity, strength, and permanence. Let us seek God for divine love and for a pas­sionate burden for souls instead of leaning upon human substitutes in material goals that disappoint and often deceive.

L. E. F.

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L.E.F. is editor of the Ministry.

January 1947

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