[EDITORIAL NOTE. The writer of this article, Robert H. Pierson, began his work in the North American Division and was called to India as a missionary. During World War II he returned to the homeland, pastored the Takoma Park church for a time, was called to assume the responsibilities of an enlarging radio work in New York, and from there proceeded to Inter-America as a union president. Here he served with distinction until he was called at the time of the last General Conference session to the presidency of the Southern Asia Division. He therefore speaks out of a wide and varied experience. R. A. A.]
Recently I sat with a committee in Washing ton, B.C. We were considering greater world evangelism. During the course of our deliberations questions were raised as to how we might more fully promote the spirit of evangelism and how we could keep our talented and successful evangelists happily engaged in the great work of soul winning. It was suggested that on occasions some such workers aspire to administrative or departmental service, and look upon such a change as an advancement or promotion.
I sat quietly and listened to the various suggestions brought forth as possible remedies for the situation. It was suggested that larger appropriations should be set aside for public evangelistic efforts. Someone else presented the idea that our evangelists were not given enough recognition for their services that even though some were bringing scores of people into the truth each year, their deeds were being kept in a corner. Perhaps a little more publicity would help.
Others felt that an over-all planning committee should be set up to coordinate the efforts of conference evangelistic companies, so that their services might be union wide. Thus they would be assured of being engaged in strong, fruitful efforts at all times. Among other thoughtful and helpful suggestions that were put forth were these: that conference committees should be more liberal with their allowances to evangelists, who are put to added expense because of frequent moves, and that more equipment ought to be supplied these workers. Finally someone suggested that a new category in the wage scale be adopted that would recognize the evangelists' worth on a par with that of administrators.
All the suggestions were no doubt good, practical, timely, and helpful. However, I could not help thinking back over my own twenty years as an evangelist, departmental secretary, and administrator. Here are some of my own deep-seated convictions in the matter.
Let Us Practice What We Preach
I firmly believe the greatest impetus that any of us as administrators can give to the program and the morale of our evangelists is for us simply to practice what we preach. Putting it into the North American vernacular, I believe that if you and I as conference, union, or division presidents were "in there pitching" with our evangelists, doing a little soul winning ourselves, it would do more than all the extra allowances, special wage scales, increased publicity, and larger appropriations combined, to impress our evangelists that we sincerely believe what we say when we tell them that evangelism is the greatest work and the highest calling on earth.
It is proper for us as leaders to extol the glories of evangelism and to punctuate our talks at workers' meetings with suitable statements from the Spirit of prophecy. It is our duty to keep this great work constantly before those whom we lead. But if our own actions fail to say Amen to the program we preach, we should not be surprised if our eloquent appeals leave our workers a bit cold. Our workers would rather see a sermon on soul winning than hear one any day.
"Swivel-chair evangelism" directing the soul-winning activities only from the easy chair of the executive office, without ever venturing out into the heat of the battle for souls and wrestling with the lost our selves will leave us barren despite our oft-repeated appeals. If sometime we would only speak from behind a pulpit as well as from behind a desk, we would speak with conviction to those we seek to lead into greater things for God. Not in the committee room or in the office, but only in the tent, the hall, or the home, actually evangelizing, will we as leaders find the key that will open the treasure chest of truly greater evangelism.
A Leader Ought to Lead
I am just simple and naive enough to believe that a leader ought to lead. We ought to set the pace for the forces the Lord has appointed us to direct. If the program is Ingathering, why should we not be among the first to reach our goals? If we are promoting the MV classwork, why should we not ourselves be Master Guides? If the appeal is for the Week of Sacrifice, can we speak with sincerity if our own names are not on the dotted line? If this is essential in the raising of funds or other promotional projects, it is doubly necessary in promoting the greatest of all work evangelism!
As leaders of evangelistic forces let us lead! Instead of saying, "Now go," and pat ting our workers on the back and wishing them God's blessing while we relax in our executive office, ought we not to challenge them with a "Let's go," and ourselves lead our evangelists into an aggressive program of soul winning that will fire their zeal, increase their confidence, and convince them that we really mean what we say when we declare evangelism to be the greatest and most important work on earth?
When the hands of ordination were laid upon our heads, the minister who stood before us charged us: "Go preach the Word!" By accepting the hands of ordination we on our part covenanted with our God and with the church that we were giving our lives to the preaching of this message. Preaching is our first work; we gave it that place when we took our vows of ordination. We were not charged, "Go administer a conference," or, "Go operate a hospital," or, "Go as chairman of a college board." No! The charge was "Preach the Word!"
It is farthest from my mind to suggest that we should dispense with administration, discontinue our departmental activities, close up our offices, and all go out preaching the gospel. That would be going to the other extreme and would prove disastrous to our worldwide program of soul winning. I believe in our program of administration. I also believe that some of our ordained men have to be called away from full-time preaching work to administer conferences, operate hospitals, and be chair men of college boards. Again I believe that in accepting these added responsibilities we are not being untrue to our ordination vows. But somehow I feel that if Jesus were here on earth today, and could see some who have been strong evangelists now fully occupied with merely the mechanics of administration, He might say, "These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
My appeal is that we as leaders buckle on our evangelistic armor and not merely salve our conscience with a week-end spear head effort once in a while, but get into a full-scale evangelistic effort at least once every two, three, or four years. With our heavy administrative burdens it may not be possible for us to do this more frequently, but for our own souls' sake and for the encouragement and inspiration of the workers we lead, we ought to keep fresh in their minds the fact that we can do and are doing what we are urging them to do!
The Mastery of Our Time
Sometimes we excuse ourselves by saying that we would like to follow such a program but we simply don't have the time. I know well the constant pressure under which our Adventist administrators (and other workers as well) labor. There are goals to reach, funds to raise, problems to solve, budgets to balance, committees for which to arrange and hold meetings, worker differences to adjust, and countless other duties pressing in to demand the attention of the busy executive. I know I have been through it myself for a few years.
But, brethren, we all have twenty-four hours each day and three hundred and sixty-five days each year. There is probably no other group of men who are more their own masters than we administrators. We are the ones who pretty well arrange our own programs. We decide what is most important and just how we shall spend our time. If we are good enough organizers to administer successfully the affairs of our conferences and institutions, we ought to be able to organize our own program so that for three months every three or four years we could find some time to conduct an evangelistic campaign.
We do not need to lay down our administrative responsibilities completely during those three months. If we make preparation for our meetings well enough in advance, and the workers in our field know our plans, we can work matters out so that our administrative program can be kept in the background and we can rejoice in the thrill of preaching the message again. I urgently repeat that as individuals who are constantly dealing with problems we need to do this for our own souls' sake! If we do not evangelize, we will fossilize! If we are too busy to take time out for soul winning, we are too busy for our own good and probably too busy to give strong- spiritual leadership in the field where the Lord has made us overseers.
Frankly, some of us who have been out of direct evangelism for several years are a bit fearful to buckle on the armor and try again! What if we should hold an effort and there were no baptisms? That really would be embarrassing! What would the other workers say? In the first place, the Lord will honor our faith and we will have souls for our hire if not a large number, at least a few who will shine as the firmament forever. In the second place, the workers will be so thrilled to see us out in front really leading that they will rejoice with us, whatever the results of our labors may be.
Of course, we may not all be first-class evangelists. I know that when it comes to evangelistic preaching I am a real amateur one who has never had the privilege of being associated with a fellow evangelist from whom I could learn the best methods in all the different phases of modern evangelism. But the Lord has laid upon my poor heart a burden for souls and kindled in my bones a fire that my administrative burdens have never quenched.
Perhaps I have just been foolish enough not to know that it can't be done, or that I might make a spectacle of myself for trying, but I promised the Lord many years ago that whatever else He might give me to do, I would make soul winning my first work. I am quite conscious of the fact that most of the men in my fields have been and are much better preachers than I. Still I want to share in the joy of preparing at least a few souls for eternity. The good Lord in His love and mercy has never failed me. In the many efforts I have held along with my regular administrative and depart mental work, He has always given me a few souls. In some cases, in spite of me, not because of me, He has raised up several new churches. There is not a single one of you conference presidents reading this article who cannot do as well as I and even much better.
You know, most of us administrators are really only "apostate evangelists." We started out as evangelists or pastor-evangelists, and then somehow through the years we have come down through the ranks, until today we are executives. We could preach the message then, and the Lord will still greatly bless us today if we will get down our Bibles and our charts, lock up our presidential office from noon until the next morning several days a week for about three months, and preach this Advent message in a full-fledged effort. And as leaders we would really lead our workers into a program of greater evangelism. It would water our own souls, tender our hearts toward our workers in the field, inspire them with new zeal, and convince them that we are really speaking from our hearts when we speak glowingly about the place evangelism should hold in every worker's program.
God forbid that we as leaders should ever degenerate into mere pacifiers of personnel, balancers of budgets, builders of buildings, and movers of resolutions, when there is a world dying at our doorstep. Our workers are looking to us to lead them militantly into the last great conflict. May God give us the grace and courage to say always, "Let's go!" instead of "You go!" Let us now glorify evangelism by evangelizing!