[EDITORIAL NOTE. Brother Osborn in a kindly way here brings to our attention a matter which, we are happy, is by no means the general rule of experience, but which is painful when it does occur. Another complaint that is often made by newcomers to some of our churches is the fact that they are not welcomed, and occasionally these disappointed souls report that "no one spoke to us." How good it is, on the other hand, to hear what one new believer recently reported: "One great factor that helped me to decide to join the Adventist Church was the warm, friendly spirit in the church at . They made us feel so welcome." Let us strive to have every Adventist church become known for its reverence and for the genuine spirit of fellowship that should mark the remnant people of God. EDITORS.]
Bible correspondence courses are bringing the teachings of Seventh-day Adventists to the attention of multitudes. These Bible students represent a wide variety of spiritual experience. Some have never given attention to religion or the doctrines of the Scriptures; others are deeply pious Christians in whose lives religious devotion and the work of grace are well established.
To all these students the Scriptures become a treasure house of "things new and old"; and their joyful response, upon discovering new truth, new hope, new duties, is one of the re wards of service in this important branch of our evangelism. Many of these students have never seen or heard of Seventh-day Adventists, and in their minds this church and its members become a very idealized group. So after finishing their course of Bible correspondence lessons, they approach their first service in one of our churches with deep respect and pleasant anticipations.
After directing these students through their Bible course to the point of complete surrender and obedience to God's will, we at the correspondence school have no small concern about their first impressions as they visit our church. Many are favorably impressed; some are not, and we are greatly embarrassed when we must answer their letters of disappointment.
Here is a portion of such a letter I received from one of my students a few days ago at the Voice of Prophecy. It came from a woman who had accepted the Sabbath truth, and had indicated her desire to unite with our church. With her mother she attended the service in one of our principal large city churches in America. She says:
"Last Saturday mother and I attended a Seventh- day Adventist church for the first time, and the procedure there amazed us. The congregation seemed most irreverent, many were talking to each other, children were chattering and crying, and there was general disorder. The minister, Mr.------- , reprimanded them for it at the beginning of the service, but they paid no heed."
She observed, among other things, that no use was made of the Lord's prayer in the service, hymnbooks were few and far between, a window was broken out, and the congregation "left the church row by row as in a fire drill." She then added a paragraph about the service in her own church.
"Now in the Presbyterian church there is almost complete quiet throughout the service. There is a dignity and peacefulness about our service that I have always liked. In the wintertime the steam radiators might crackle, but the people cause no disturbance."
Week by week scores of students from the Voice of Prophecy, Twentieth Century, and other denominational Bible correspondence schools are making their first appearance in our churches. These "graduates" have signified their intention of keeping the Sabbath and their de sire to unite with our church. They are in a critical period of transition. Lifelong and cherished religious associations are being surrendered, and they are reaching out into an un known and unfamiliar Christian group for new- experiences and associations to replace their former contacts. When they visit us and find irreverence, disorder, and confusion, we cannot blame them if they measure us by the only standard of worship that they know, nor can we censure some when they inform us that they are never returning because they failed to find the reverence and decorum they have always associated with worship in the house of God. It should require no great intuition to understand the blushing chagrin of their Bible course instructors who are obliged to reply to such letters.
Reverence cannot be commanded. The minister may admonish or even reprimand without avail, for reverence springs from a personal realization of the greatness of God and a sense of His presence about us. (Education, p. 242.) Young and old should be inspired to worship God on earth as He is in heaven. We should resolve that reverence will so mark our church services that precious souls who have reached the point of uniting with us will not be repelled, but instead will be attracted by the quiet dignity that distinguishes our worship of God.