These words of an ancient prophet comeforcibly to mind as we consider our assigned topic: "Who Hath Despised the Day of Small Things?" The command to us today is to go out with a compelling message, not only in the highways but also in the byways. While we are putting forth the strongest possible efforts in our large centers of population, our message must also go quickly into the smaller cities and communities. The record of Jesus is, "He went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God."
A century after our message started there are still hundreds of cities and communities where no effort has ever been held, and where we have no representatives. That is one reason why we are told on pages 20 and 21 of Evangelism:
"Too much time has been given to those who already know the truth. In the place of spending time on those who have been given opportunities to learn the truth, go to the people who have never heard your message. . . . The places in which the truth has never been proclaimed are the best places in which to work."
The foundations of our work were laid by small efforts. I venture to say that most of us who are ministers today were brought in through small efforts. And who can measure the influence thus set in motion? One small effort held in a country village hall long ago was regarded as a failure. Only two women took their stand. One of those women was my mother, My sister became a missionary nurse to China, and I say it not boastfully, but in the course of my ministry the Lord has given me the blessed privilege of winning hundreds of precious souls for Him. Many of these in turn are giving their lives to the work. One of the conference presidents is the fruitage of my labors in a schoolhouse effort in a little mining town in southeastern Ohio. His son in turn has caught up the torch and is dedicating his life to the ministry. The influence of that humble effort in my boyhood town will go on in ever-widening circles until earth's end. Many in our group of workers could tell a similar story. What a joy it will be to trace the heavenly records together as we lay our sheaves at the Master's feet. How insignificant will seem the hardships and sacrifices as we enter into the joy of our Lord.
Speaking of rural evangelism, we are told that "the people who live in country places are often more easily reached than are those who dwell in the thickly populated cities. . . . There will be some raised up to help support the cause of God by their means and their labors."Ibid., p. 46.
Illustrating this statement, years ago a young man, Carlyle B. Haynes, held a small effort in a rural community in Maryland. Twenty substantial men and women became charter members of the Blythedale church, and erected a church building in a cow pasture. The lives of our people had a profound effect on the community. In the course of years modest efforts built up a membership of two hundred. Sons and daughters have gone into the work, and the church is maintaining a steady flow of funds to support the work.
Every district leader should streamline his church work so as to hold at least two efforts a year. A good hall is preferable. Tent efforts are still producing good results. In some places it is possible to carry on a successful effort in our churches.
The cause needs more men with the spirit of Jonathan. Saul and Jonathan owned the only swords in the army, but with one of these swords, single handed, Jonathan scrambled up the mountainside and put the whole Philistine army to flight. All David had was a sling and a bag of pebbles, plus faith in God and a consuming zeal for his cause. But with that sling he felled the giant and led Israel to a glorious victory. John Wesley said, "Give me a hundred men on fire for God, and I will set the world afire."
We are living at a thrilling Moment in the world's history. As the Archbishop of York succinctly puts it, "The writing on the wall of threatened doom and destruction can now be read clearly by all thoughtful men."
Over the world the atomic bomb, like the sword of Damocles, hangs by a brittle thread. A tidal wave of crime and violence is sweeping the world to chaos and ruin. Our civilization is rapidly going to pieces. Men turn in vain to the popular churches for help, but they have no message. Dead forms and lowered standards mock the cry of anguished souls. People are turning to us in such numbers as I have never seen before in all parts of the field.
"All over the world men and women are looking wistfully to heaven. Prayers and tears and inquiries go up from souls longing for light, for grace, for the Holy Spirit. Many are on the verge of the kingdom, waiting to be gathered in."—Acts of the Apostles, p. too.
We have the last message of mercy—a message that meets the longing of the sin-burdened heart, that comforts the sorrowing, that delivers men and women from bondage to sin, a message that proclaims the coming of the King of kings to put an end of war and sin and suffering and sorrow, and to set up His kingdom of everlasting joy and peace.
It is time for a new era in our work. We have bogged down under the weight of our top-heavy machinery. Our pastors are swamped by the flood of plans and campaigns and goals turned loose by batteries of industrious secretaries. Let's have a moratorium. Let's give our preachers a Sabbatical year, devoted to soul winning Let our departmental ministers go out and conduct an effort. Nothing would so inspire our people as to see our presidents leading out in an effort. If the work will never be finished till we harness the latent talents of our laity, why not launch the greatest laymen's movement in all history? And if our most urgent need is a heart-searching revival and reformation that will bring the outpoUring of the latter rain to finish the work, why not definitely plan and work and pray for it?
If we put the same prayer and effort into this all-out soul-winning movement that we put into raising Ingathering goals, Pentecost will be repeated, thousands will be converted in a day, and the work will be cut short in a mighty display of divine power. The hour is late. The time is short. Why further delay? "O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God "