Doubling our membership is an objective that will tax our resources and abilities. It will not be accomplished merely by talking about it. Nor will preaching, even on such vital subjects as the Holy Spirit, accomplish this great aim. Such an endeavor can only come to fruition by (1) a deepening spirituality and (2) a more thorough utilization of every soul- winning agency at our disposal.
Thoughtful men must feel in their inmost hearts that greater things than ever yet seen must soon come upon us if statements like the following are to be fulfilled:
"Before the final visitation of God's judgments upon the earth, there will be, among the people of the Lord, such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times." The Great Controversy, p. 464.
"The great work of the gospel is not to close with less manifestation of the power of God than marked its opening. . . .
"Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers." Ibid., pp. 611, 612.
Many Avenues Not Fully Used
It is easy to think of evangelism in the terms of our own predilections. The city evangelist thinks of it primarily in terms of big meetings and the public platform; another thinks it implies radio or television; whereas to others it spells pastoral activity, personal work, literature ministry, or medical work.
The truth is that the soul-saving work of the great last-day revival will include all these avenues every avenue, in fact, through which the power of God can come upon the world through a prepared and alert church.
There are avenues of potential soul winning that we are either neglecting or utilizing only in very limited measure. The minister owes it to himself and to his Master to see that every avenue through every department of his church contributes in the fullest degree to his soul-saving activities.
For the first time we now have over 1,005,000 members in our Sabbath schools. That is a figure we cannot ignore. Among its thousands of unbaptized members are a great host of prospective souls for baptismal classes. Probably more than 350,000 in this group are children up to junior level (counting one half of the juniors only) and the interested adults in adherents groups and baptismal classes.
Twelve is the age of maximum baptisms among our children. After that the percentage baptized in various age groups declines. A wise minister or elder will give every encouragement to his children and their teachers. He knows that children who have had good, spiritual upbringing in the church will mature early and be ready for baptism surprisingly soon. A church where there are many unbaptized youth above sixteen years of age should cause great concern to a discerning, alert minister. He should know that something is wrong somewhere along the line that leads to baptism.
The Church and the Word
When we think of over a million people gathered round the Word of God for thirty minutes each week, and most of them studying it individually each day, we cannot escape the fact that our seventy thousand teachers are a vital link in our evangelistic chain.
Sometimes the links are weak, and no doubt this retards growth in membership and additions by baptism. Untrained and poor teaching is perhaps our major problem, but this situation could be greatly improved in the hands of far- seeing, energetic ministers. A man would gain enormously if he found the time to conduct personally a twelve-week teachers' training course of one hour a week, enrolling more than merely the present teachers. This is rather slow work, and happily, these lessons are now available on twelve wire recordings. That should speed up the training of better teachers, who "will thus be better able to care for the new believers coming into the classes under our "Double Our Membership" endeavor. Laymen who have taken this course are much more efficient in every form of lay evangelism.
Poor teaching decreases attendance and loses members, but we can do something about it with a little energy and foresight. A progressive minister will see the soul-winning value of improved teaching through the teachers' training course.
The Church and the World
The Sabbath school is becoming increasingly conscious of the people on the outside of the church. The idea that small schools can be established around our isolated members has grown till today we have 2,368 such branch schools, with perhaps 25,000 non-Adventists in them.
These figures could be easily increased to include 250,000 non-Adventists, who would be a large potential source for baptisms. If each of our 17,300 parent schools established just one branch school, we should multiply almost by eight our present number of branch schools, and nearly 175,000 non-Adventists would come into the orbit of our study groups. A wise minister will encourage branch schools in his district, assisting capable laymen to run them. His baptisms would grow from these schools from year to year, and churches would be organized from them.
The Sabbath School Council in each parent school can be encouraged to take a larger interest in such ventures as community Bible schools, vacation Bible schools, children's story hours, et cetera. All these should grow into branch Sabbath schools, and they are yielding profitable returns in baptisms. Many eventually become organized churches, a result which should be the great objective in such work.
During the fourth quarter of 1950 the number reported baptized through evangelism in the Sabbath schools throughout the world was 14,342. If in every church we could diligently foster soulsaving through the many avenues here indicated, we could multiply by ten the number of baptisms at present reported.