Facing the Task of Doubling Our Church Membership

FEATURES: Facing the Task of Doubling Our Church Membership

A talk given at workers' meeting, New York Conference camp meeting,July, 1951.

Assistant Editor, "Review and Herald"

PART I

The commendable goal of a doubled church membership is being held before us. We have been asked to double our membership during the present quadrennium. We ought individually to take seriously this objective and work as never before to win souls for Christ.

How happy Heaven would be if every being on earth would accept the gospel! God's plan is that all are to hear the story of salvation. All will have the opportunity either to accept or to reject the message. It is the church's business to bring the message of salvation to every man, woman, and child quickly, and to save all we can while time remains.

We do not know how it will be possible for us to add a million names to our church books by General Conference time, 1954 (and that is what a doubled church membership means in round numbers, allowing for deductions for apostasies and deaths), unless each employed worker in our organization, together with every layman, catches a vision of his place in this program of soul winning. Every administrator, departmental worker, pastor, evangelist, teacher, colporteur, stenographer; every doctor, nurse, medical technician; every layman who claims the name Seventh-day Adventist, ought now to take seriously upon his heart the challenge of the word evangelize.

The Great Essential

A passion for souls is as essential to evangelism as steam is to a boiler, as electricity is to an electric motor, and as gasoline vapor is to a combustion engine. It is the spirit of manmade vibrant and holy by the Spirit of God, as the wise man said, "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord." Prov. 20:27. All the native talents and abilities of the converted life vitalized by the Spirit of God for service this is what we call the passion for souls.

George Whitefield was one of the most vital soul winners the world has ever known. This was true not only of his pulpit work but also of his private work with the individual man. His passion for souls manifested itself with equal fervor in the desk, in the field, on the highway, in the home, and in the school. Whitefield traveled a great deal in this country and abroad. He styled himself a "gospel rover," and in a letter to John Wesley he said, "Do you ask what I am doing? I answer, 'Ranging and hunting the American woods after poor sinners.' "So intensely did he feel the urgency of his soul-winning mission that he said, "God forbid that I should travel with anyone a quarter of an hour without speaking to him. about Christ."

Whitefield was alert, in season and out of season, looking for an opportunity to preach Christ to people. We can learn from him what the passion for souls will do when it takes possession of a man.

The zeal for souls literally consumed all the energies of Jesus, our Example. One day with His disciples He stopped at Jacob's well near Sychar, a city of Samaria. The disciples were hungry and went to the city for food. Jesus sat by the well and talked to a woman about her soul. He was just as hungry and tired and thirsty as the disciples, but His passion for souls was stronger than hunger, thirst, and fatigue. The language of His heart was, "How can I drink from this well till I have offered this woman the water of life?"

When the woman found Christ she also felt His zeal for lost men. She went back to the city and told everyone she met about the precious friend she had found in Jesus. Startled by her enthusiasm and faith, many of the citizens came to Christ and demanded of Him an explanation of the cause for this woman's transformation of life. Jesus taught them the way of salvation, and after they had listened to Him they believed and surrendered their lives to the Saviour. Their words of faith expressed their heart experience. "Now we believe," they said, "for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." John 4:42.

Doubtless these men were just as zealous In proclaiming Christ as was the woman who met the Saviour at Jacob's well. After the ascension of Jesus and the experience at Pentecost, Philip, Peter, and John "preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans." Acts 8:25. A great harvest of souls was reaped in Samaria. The men of Sychar who had accepted Christ as their personal Saviour were doubtless instrumental in preparing the field for the work of the three apostles who came in to reap the harvest.

Notice now how the work began in Samaria: Jesus longed for the soul of the woman at the well. The woman at the well gave her heart to Christ and acquired a passion for the souls of the people in her village. These men gave their hearts to Christ and acquired a passion for other souls. Thus the work spread. Philip, Peter, and John, burdened for lost sinners, came to Samaria and reaped the harvest. Many were baptized.

You will remember that when the disciples returned from the city of Sychar to Jesus with food to eat, they requested Him in these words to partake of their pro visions:

"Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." John 4:31-34.

When we can bring the candle of our spirit to Christ and let it touch the light of His life, we will burn with a bright blaze and ignite the world with our evangelistic fire. We can then say with Christ, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." Someday we are going to set the world on fire with the Advent message. Why can't we do it now? What are we waiting for? "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord." If we will bring our talents to Christ, He will energize and activate every natural resource that we possess and make it effective in soul-winning work.

God Uses Simple Men

Many of us feel inadequate for the work. We are all more or less average men and women. None of us is a genius. Left to ourselves, we probably would not attain the level of the great historical characters of the past. But God does not need geniuses; He does not need men of extraordinary intellect and talent. He would use these, to be sure, if He had them available; but generally speaking, God must do a great work with average men like you and me. The simple hearted but earnest Moravians whom God used to teach John Wesley the precious truth of salvation by grace through faith were not aware of the fact, but the man who learned the way of life by observing their joyful experience in the things of God was destined in God's providence to win more than one-half million souls to Christ before he died, after a half century of itinerant ministry.

You have heard of Staupitz, who was an obscure monk in a German university. God used him to teach Luther the way of faith. He turned Luther's mind to Christ and away from himself, instructing the youth ful Martin to look to the Redeemer for life, forgiveness, and salvation. Luther looked, and reached out and took Christ as his personal Saviour. The mighty Re former was won to Christ by a simple monk who had a passion for his soul.

Some of us have read about Wishart, the martyr. It was his dying testimony that turned the tables for John Calvin and won him to Christ. Calvin's cousin Olivetan, a humble but zealous Protestant, was also used in leading the mind of the intelligent Calvin to the faith of Christ.

Simple, earnest men have always been used to accomplish wonderful things for God.

"Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence." 1 Cor. 1:26-29.

Whitefield, Wesley, Calvin, and Luther were indeed great men of God, but they were all won to the gospel by humble men of God. Most of the work of the church through the ages has been wrought by humble men, not by those who were considered great and mighty.

In a certain sense, fellow laborers, we are all humble, average men of God. The Lord intends to finish His work through us. Not many of the world's great will be called to this ministry. Naturally we want to see the world's great men come to Christ, but remember, it will be such workers as you and I, transformed and set on fire by the Holy Spirit, whom God will use to sound the last warning message and to finish His work in the earth, "that no flesh should glory in his presence."

(To be continued)

 

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Assistant Editor, "Review and Herald"

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