A Frank Discussion on Revealing Our Identity

On evangelistic objectives and techniques.

By MELVIN K. ECKENROTH, Associate Secretary of the Ministerial Association

Frequent requests have come to the Ministerial Association for the further un­folding of an effective approach to the pub­lic in our evangelistic meetings, where our de­nominational affiliation is disclosed from the outset. What are the advantages and disadvan­tages of openly identifying the program as Sev­enth-day Adventist? Should we plainly declare our connection with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, or is the procedure too risky to adopt generally? Are there so many problems in­volved, and so many disadvantages in the iden­tification of our program that we should be de­terred from so doing?

A GREATER FRUITAGE.—It is quite apparent that our fruitage from evangelistic meetings too often is not commensurate with the expend­iture of funds and the strength of personnel in­volved. We are not advancing as rapidly as we ought. Our net results are not satisfactory in many sections of the field. With augmented re­sources, an increase of technical skills, develop­ment of educational facilities, and the strength of our organized churches—all of which are de­signed to accelerate greatly the evangelistic tempo—we are sobered by the apparent mea­gerness of the net results. This condition ex­ists imurban and metropolitan areas alike.

The problem, therefore, is a fundamental one. A frank statement of our situation should not dampen our zeal, but should challenge us to examine anew our whole evangelistic ap­proach and procedure. It should spur us on to greater achievement.

OUR BASIC NEED.—Our basic need, of course, is for men of complete consecration, ab­solute self-abnegation, and powerful persua­sion. God's ordination rests upon men, not methods ; upon His people, not processes. Men of God will, however, work with such precision and fundamental basic soundness that, under the molding hand of the Master Potter, their work will be acceptable. Note the following statements, which could be multiplied manifold, all emphasizing the personal relationship of the worker to the challenge of preaching the message.

"Evangelistic work, opening the Scriptures to others, warning men and women of what is coming upon the world, is to occupy more and still more of the time of God's servants." —Evangelism, p. 17.

"There must be no belittling of the gospel ministry. No enterprise should be so conducted as to. cause the ministry of the Word to be looked upon as an inferior matter. It is not so. . . There is no work more blessed of God than that of the gospel minister."—Ibid., p. 23.

"If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 189.

The Charge Our Enemies Make

It is over the charge of subterfuge and al­leged deception, made by our enemies, that the worker suffers particular difficulty and some­times defeat. This was clearly recognized by the messenger of the Lord, who wrote concern­ing the colporteur evangelist : "If the canvasser pursues a wrong course, if he utters falsehood or practices deception, he loses his own self­respect."--Colporteur Evangelist, p. 43.

We should face up squarely to the issue that if the evangelist similarly attempts to deceive in order to catch men's ears, he is guilty of sim­ilar deception. Tact and deception are, of course, two entirely different and opposite prin­ciples. The cloaking of our campaign under some mythical title, or even under a nonexist­ent organization, is simply a form of ecclesias­tical subterfuge. This our enemies are quick to exploit. They seize upon it to arouse the preju­dices and antipathies of the people. As a con­sequence, our work is often hedged about by serious accusations, and opposers of the truth represent us before the public in the most un­favorable light possible.

Consequently we find ourselves challenged by calls to debate religious issues. The strength and energies of our workers are thus spent in combating these rumors, and our whole pro­gram is viewed in an unfavorable light by the majority of the public. Thus we are partly di­verted from our real evangelistic charge and objective.

The Attitude of Our Laymen

Moreover, our own church members sense uneasiness in the searching question, "Who sponsors these meetings ?" when it comes from someone in the audience. Many fair evangelists have schooled themselves to answer in a sup­posedly tactful way. But the hidden, haunting sense of deception often seriously disturbs our faithful laymen. It is almost an affront to them when an evangelist tells them that at the meet­ings they should not act as though they knew him. As if to discover that the preacher and the laymen belonged to the same church would prove too much of a hurdle for the majority of people to overcome! Compare this approach to evangelism with the explicit and repeated in­struction given in the Spirit of prophecy blue­print (italics mine, for emphasis):

"A world is to be warned. Watch, wait, pray, work, and let nothing be done through strife and vainglory. Let nothing be done to increase prejudice, but every­thing possible to make prejudice less, by letting in light, the bright rays of the Sun of Righteousness amid the moral darkness. There is a great work to be done yet, and every effort possible must be made to reveal Christ as the sin-pardoning Saviour, Christ as the sin-bearer, Christ as the bright and morning star, and the Lord will give us favor before the world until our work is done."—Evangelism, p. 65.

"We are not to cringe and beg pardon of the world for telling them the truth ; we should scorn conceal­ment. Unfurl your colors to meet the cause of men and angels. Let it be understood that Seventh-day Adventists can make no compromise. In your opinions and faith there must not be the least appearance of waverings : the world has a right to know what to ex­pect of us."—Ibid., p. 179.

"God despises misrepresentation and prevarication. He will not tolerate the man who says and does not. The best and noblest work is done by fair, honest dealing."—Ibid., p. 132.

"The truth must not be hid, it must not be denied or disguised, but fully avowed, and boldly proclaimed." —Ibid., p. 281.

Wise Cautions and Directions

To these statements many more could be added, placing the emphasis upon this matter of sailing under true colors. This does not call for recklessness. It does not permit unwise, un­warranted, or brazen effrontery to the masses. It does not call for overemphasis or indiscreet approaches, or unpolished, rough introductions. In fact, we are given instruction concerning the necessity of not setting forth the challenged and misunderstood features of our message too early in the series. However, this instruction refers to the order of subjects, and in nowise contradicts the practice of carrying on our work aboveboard and laboring in an open way. Here again is the blueprint:

"Do not at the outset press before the people the most objectionable features of our faith, lest you close the ears of those to whom these things come as a new revelation."—/bid., p. 141.

"Be very careful not to present the truth in such a way as to arouse prejudice, and to close the door of the heart to the truth. Agree with the people on every point where you can consistently do so. Let them see that you love their souls, and want to be in harmony with them so far as possible."—Ibid.

"Our ministers need more of the wisdom that Paul had. When he went to labor for the Jews, he did not first make prominent the birth, betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ, notwithstanding these were the special truths for that time. He first brought them down step by step over the promises that had been made of a Saviour, and over the prophecies that pointed Him out. After dwelling upon these until the specifications were distinct in the minds of all, and they knew that they were to have a Saviour, he then presented the fact that this Saviour had already come. Christ Jesus fulfilled every specification. This was the 'guile' with which Paul caught souls."—Ibid.

"Learn to meet the people where they are. Do not present subjects that will arouse controversy. Let not your instruction be of a character to perplex the mind."—Ibid., pp. 142, 143.

"Do not arouse opposition before the people have had opportunity to hear the truth and know what they are opposing."—Ibid., p. 143.

"We need far less controversy, and far more presen­tation of Christ. Our Redeemer is the center of all our faith and hope. Those who can present His match­less love, and inspire hearts to give Him their best and holiest affections, are doing work that is great and holy."—Ibid., p. 172.

"A great and solemn work is before us—to reach the people where they are. Do not feel it your bounden duty the first thing to tell the people, 'We are Seventh-day Adventists ; we believe the seventh day is the Sabbath ; we believe in the non-immortality of the soul :' and thus erect most formidable barriers be­tween you and the people you wish to reach."—E. G. WHITE Letter 12, 1887.

Order of Subjects to Receive Attention

The cumulated intent of all these statements is summarized in the words:

"Do not at the outset press before the people the most objectionable features of our faith."—General Conference Bulletin, Feb. 25, 1895.

"We are not to misrepresent what we profess to be­lieve in order to gain favor. God despises misrepresen­tation and prevarication. He will not tolerate the man who says and does not. The best and noblest work is done by fair, honest dealing."—Evangelism, p. 532.

It is consequently clear that the evangelist is given definite instruction to spend ample time with the people on subjects which are vital but noncontroversial, until they are able to receive the more weighty subjects. It is apparent that the instruction here given refers to the order of subject presentation, which was a cautious and wise restraint applicable to that day. When the Seventh-day Adventist evangelist spends more time preaching Christ, conversion, salva­tion by faith, sanctification, forgivengss, the meaning of the cross, the atonement, justifica­tion by faith, and the rest, he need never fear to let men know his church affiliation. Under these conditions we will soon be reaping a bountiful harvest from the seed sown, and peo­ple will know that the charge that Seventh-day Adventists do not believe in Christ is a falla­cious and specious attack made by our enemies to confound the truth.

JOHN THE BAPTIST.—The work of John the Baptist was a type of this Advent Movement. He identified himself as a "voice of one crying in the wilderness," and he made no attempt to hide or submerge the fact. It is inconceivable that the disciples of John announced to the vil­lages that he was to preach at a certain place in the wilderness and that the people trudged long distances to hear him without knowing of the work he was doing, or of his preparing the way for the Saviour. Our application of the various types and shadows of this message should always be in harmony with the princi­ples of sound exegesis.

EARLY ADVENT PREACHERS.—Early in our history the Advent preachers went forth boldly proclaiming their message. They did not hedge or dodge, conceal or subvert in their entrance to homes and.cities. In fact, they were so blunt and bold in their approaches that special in­struction came to them as to a proper and bet­ter way of appealing to the public. But, as indi­cated in foregoing statements, is it not a stretch of imagination to say that the Advent ministry was counseled to hide their affiliation? Rather, are we not urged to be more cautious and infi­nitely wiser in the way we preach, and how we develop the outline of our subjects?

In various sections of the field administra­tors indicate that our executives and evange­lists are coming to the conclusion that we must alter our approach to the people and thus see a new day in evangelism. In the next issue of THE MINISTRY further material on this subject will be presented that will suggest a practical, technical application of the principles here set forth.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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By MELVIN K. ECKENROTH, Associate Secretary of the Ministerial Association

February 1948

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