The last issue of THE MINISTRY was a special number pages packed with extra interest. It contained reports and pictures of the Pre-Session Ministerial Council recently held in San Francisco. But with all its unusual features, it carried with it also a note of sad ness, for the editorial written by THE MINISTRY'S long-time editor and beloved Ministerial Association Secretary, Elder L. E. Froom, was really an announcement of his retirement as editor of the journal.
For nearly a quarter of a century he carried the burden of THE MINISTRY. He built it from a humble mimeographed bulletin to the splendid journal it is today. Here we can but ex press our humble thanks for his loyal and loving labor, but eternity alone will reveal the full result of his earnest and painstaking toil. We are sure that our workers scattered throughout the world field would want to express their appreciation for this service, and so as your spokesman I deem it a privilege to write it on your behalf.
For nine years it has been my privilege to be closely associated with Elder Froom. This has been in both office and field, and only through such close fellowship is one enabled to evaluate another's contribution. And I want to say that Brother Froom's service to this cause has been outstanding and in many ways unique.
Now that his work is changed, and he has laid down his work as editor of THE MINISTRY, the future of the association and of the journal itself will be but the reflection of his stalwart character. I think it was Emerson who said that "an institution is but the lengthened shadow of a man." And the journal through all the years of its history has reflected the high training and breadth of interest of its long-time editor. Thank you, Brother Froom, and may God bless your future service as He has so richly blessed your service of the past.
And now what of the future? Those who at tended the recent General Conference session were conscious that a new day of evangelistic opportunity has dawned a day when the whole church is awaking to a new sense of her God- given responsibility. One thought that stood out impressively in the Ministerial Council at San Francisco was the enlarged meaning given to the word Evangelism. Soul winning was not to be shut up within a certain department. On the contrary, every department of the church Sabbath school, publishing, home missionary, medical, Missionary Volunteer, educational, press, radio, and religious liberty, yes, the treasury too must become truly evangelistic. Instead of these being just so many extra bur dens to crush the already overtaxed pastor, they are actually the channels through which he may lead the whole church into the service of saving souls.
These are days when we can rightly expect that some preachers will be so empowered by the Spirit of God for the proclamation of the evangel that whole nations will be stirred. And the giant cities of earth, many of which have scarcely been touched by the third angel's message, will be shaken by the power of Spirit- filled preachers. But while a few men will be doing this, hundreds of other workers and lay members will be hurrying from home to home with the joyful news of salvation.
A Twofold Ministry—Preaching and Visiting
This was the Master's method. He went from house to house, and He taught His disciples to do the same. Theirs was a twofold ministry public preaching and personal visitation. Each was the handmaid of the other. And the picture we get of the Pentecostal evangelism is brief but beautiful. We read: "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." Acts 5: 42. Good- speed's translation is even more impressive. "They did not for a single day stop teaching and preaching in the Temple and in private houses." Not just houses in general, or a few special houses, but in every private house. Every individual home became a scene of evangelism.
Surely we need more of the apostolic pattern of evangelism, when the whole church engages in this program of ministry. It is not merely to sell a paper or to solicit a donation for missions, but to train members to go out and meet the needs of their neighbors.
Other religious groups have caught this vision. Recently the Church of England set in motion a plan to visit every home throughout the British Isles. This was an effort to spread the good news of grace, but it was also an effort to find the missing members of their flock. Even the Roman Catholic Church is seeking to stir her members to action. John O'Brien says:
"The obligation of winning souls for Christ rests upon the conscience of every Catholic lay man and woman. . . . Convert work will then be not an occasional spasmodic affair, but the steady persistent, un remitting work of priest and people."
Until that is accomplished we shall limp along with the pathetic average of 2.7 converts per priest per year, while the mountain of churchless people grows ever larger. . . . Until the search for the sheep that are lost, strayed, or stolen becomes the daily concern of pastor, nuns, adults, and youth, we shall continue to average but one lone convert a year for 250 Catholics." JOHN A. O. Briex, Why Not Share the Faith? pp. 1, 2.
Then this same author cites the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses. He states that this sect "had a membership in 1940 of less than 44,000 in America. By the end of 1946 its membership had skyrocketed to 500,000 an increase of more than 1,000%!" Then he asks, "How was it achieved? By the flaming, crusading zeal of its members who go from house to house to peddle their wares and stand on the street corners in rain or snow to sell their Watchtowers."—Ibid., pp. 14, 15.
"The leaders of various Protestant denominations are seeking to combat the decline in church attendance through the more generous use of their laymen and women in a movement known as Visitation Evangelism: this means the use of lay people to visit homes to reclaim backsliders and to win new members. Through its use the Methodists claim to have added last year nearly 600,000 new members." Ibid., pp. 23, 24.
If other religious bodies are concerned over the unchurched in our cities and towns, we know that our own dear members are even more concerned. Ministers of God's last message, let us organize and inspire our flocks to gather the last harvest from a doomed world. Our members are waiting only for truly spiritual and dynamic leaders. The different departments of the church are to provide a channel of service for every member. Remember that a clergy-centered church soon loses its evangelistic fervor. The organization, however, is not enough. But with the departments intensely evangelistic, working in cooperation and not in competition, we can see the world being lightened with the glory of God. Not all can work in the same way, but all can work in some way.
This journal by its very name speaks to and for the ministry. Through all its history it has been the voice of the worker force of the movement. It has provided a medium of exchange in techniques that has brought strength to our service. Now, as ever, we desire that it shall guide and inspire the worker force throughout the world into such a relationship to God and to each other that, being led by the Spirit, we may together be used of Him to lead every member of the church to find his place in the service of evangelism and march with the hosts of God to victory.