In speaking of the pastor as a leader in Christian education, let me state from the very outset that that is one of his pastoral duties, his ministerial obligations, his God-given responsibilities. Joel commands, "Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children." Let us briefly analyze this God-given command.
Who is to blow the trumpet in Zion? The one in charge of the church—the pastor, the priest, the minister. Is he merely to blow the trumpet? Indeed not. The trumpet blowing is the easiest part of all pastoral duties. Perhaps that is the reason it is too frequently overworked. Of what value is trumpet blowing without any specific program for the church members ? The Lord, it appears, knew full well that in the last days there would be a tendency to do a lot of trumpet blowing—a variety of meaningless "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal," without action, without doing, without results. The Lord here commands the minister to "call a solemn assembly," "gather the people," "assemble the elders," and "gather the children"—the lambs of the flock. Moreover, the pastor is to be deeply in earnest in this whole program. "Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar." Joel 2:17. .
Notice the real burden of the pastor, and the object of his all-inclusive plan for God's people as he prays : "Spare Thy people, 0 Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?" Verse 17.
The burden of the pastor's preaching and his planning is to bring people out of Babylon, out of the world, to be separate. In other words, he is to be the leader in an all-out program of complete separation from the world, from worldly practices, and from heathen philosophies. What else would you expect him to be, and to do, since he is a preacher of righteousness and a champion of present truth? In all his preaching of Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, he will definitely consider Christian education to be one of the essential, cardinal truths that make, up the very backbone of the belief and work of God's remnant church, as set forth in the following:
"When the truth for these last days came to the world in the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels' messages, we were shown that in the education of our children a different order of things must be brought in."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 12.6.
I ask, what is this "different order of things"? None other than Christian education in contrast to worldly education. No wonder the Lord repeatedly uttered such striking statements as the following, in connection with the work and object of the three angels' messages : "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." Rev. 14:8. "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins." Rev. 18 :4.
Separation From the World
Not only is the Bible specific on this question of separation from the world, and gathering our children away from worldly influences, but the Spirit of prophecy also has much to say as set forth in such quotations as the following :
"We are under solemn, sacred covenant to God to bring up our children, not for the world, . . . but to love and fear God."—Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 289.
"The companies that are raised up need a place of worship. . . . The schoolroom is needed just as much as is the church-building."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 109.
"In localities where there is a church, schools should be established, if there are no more than six children to attend."—Ibid., p. 199.
In the light of all that has been said, and for the sake of emphasis, let me ask three hypothetical questions.
1. What would you think of a Seventh-day Adventist preacher who preached this last message of truth in all its fullness and power—regeneration, conversion, prophecy, tithing, millennium, baptism, the law, the Sabbath, the mark of the beast, etc.—and urged people to accept all, and then after they accepted all and were baptized, he would say, "Now you may continue to fellowship and worship with your former friends in their church each Sunday." I can hear you say, "How utterly foolish !" And you would be absolutely right.
2. What would you think of a Seventh-day Adventist minister who took over the pastorship of a well-established Seventh-day Adventist church by saying to his congregation, "You know, it costs a lot of money to keep this church building in repair, to meet all church expenses, and at the same time support the world-wide missions program. Just across the street is a large church building with ample seating capacity. Why not go there to worship with those people every Sunday? It would save all of us money, time, and effort. They tell me they have an exceptionally fine pastor, their children and young people's division of the Sunday school are the best in the land, and they are equipped with the very latest, their teachers are exceptionally well educated and are specialists in dealing with young people."
Again I can hear you say, "How foolish ! God's message is designed to bring people out of Babylon, and to keep them out." And right you are.
3. Now let me ask you another question, What would you think of a Seventh-day Adventist pastor who would say to his congregation, "It would cost a lot of money to operate a church school for all the boys and girls in the church. You know how difficult it is to get a good church school teacher these days, and we really cannot afford to provide the school with up-to-date equipment. Also some of our children would have to go such long distances to attend the church school. But just down the street there is one of the most modern public schools, supported by our tax money. It is accredited. They have exceptionally competent teachers, and the school is well equipped. Why not send our boys and girls down there ?" We do not usually get the same wholehearted response to this third question as to the first two. But why should this be so? There is just as much danger to the spiritual welfare of the church.
4. Show me a church organization where the children and young people have access to church school privileges, and I will show you a living, growing church, with a pastor who has a real vision of Christian education. Show me a church organization where the children and young people do not have access to church school privileges, and I will show you a dying church, with a pastor who has lost his vision of Christian education. Or, show me a church organization that has lost its children and young people because of no church school advantages, and I will show you a dead church, with a pastor who has never had a vision of Christian education.