A Message to the Adventist Ministry
W. H. BRANSON, General Conference President
If it were only possible, I would like to have a personal visit with each one of you in the Adventist ministry. I would like to talk to you about the importance of proclaiming the great Advent message of salvation to all the world in this challenging hour.
The Lord has raised up this church for a special purpose. He has called each of you into His service to proclaim the last warning message of salvation to the world. I believe the Lord expects that the hearts of those who labor in His cause today will be aflame with a holy zeal to give that message with such power and earnestness that the entire world will be stirred.
John the revelator saw an angel "having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, . . . saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come." In Zephaniah 1:14 those who go out to proclaim the nearness of the coming of Christ are spoken of as "the voice of the day o/ the Lord." In all the history of the world there has never been a message like the one we bear. It is the last appeal that the people of this world will ever hear from God. It is a solemn thought that as we stand before our churches and before those who assemble to hear us preach from the evangelistic plat form, we are presenting God's last appeal to mankind.
Three and a half years ago in San Francisco I appealed to our people to lay hold of God's promised blessings through the Holy Spirit and proclaim the truth with such power and vigor that our membership would be doubled before the next General Conference session. Many of you who are serving as leaders and administrators are now ready to report that through God's providence this goal has been reached for your field. I know that this increased membership has been made possible by the assistance of your associates and the devotion of the laity, and I rejoice with all of you over what the Lord has enabled you to do. But there is so much more yet to be done in fulfilling our Lord's commission! The thousands upon thousands whom God expects to gather from all the tribes and nations of earth, and the tremendous power with which He says His message is going forth to all the nations, indicate a work that is far beyond what we have yet accomplished. We are told in Testimonies, volume 5, page 187, "A great work is to be accomplished; broader plans must be laid; a voice must go forth to arouse the nations." It will not be just a few people here and there, not a few hundred attending our meetings in tents or halls, with a baptismal list of from twenty to one hundred. Before our task is completed we are to see the nations aroused by the preaching of the Ad vent message. It will be the greatest religious awakening this old world has ever experienced from the fall of man until now.
In solemn words we have been told:
"During the loud cry, the church, aided by the providential interpositions of her exalted Lord, will diffuse the knowledge of salvation so abundantly that light will be communicated to every city and town. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of salvation. So abundantly will the renewing Spirit of God have crowned with success the intensely active agencies, that the light of present truth will be seen flashing everywhere." Evangelism, p. 694. "We need greater earnestness in the cause of Christ. The solemn message of truth should be given with an intensity that would impress unbelievers that God is working with our efforts, that the Most High is our living source of strength. When we bring our hearts into unity with Christ, and our lives into harmony with His work, the Spirit that fell on the disciples on the day of Pentecost will fall on us. Zeal for the glory of God moved the disciples to bear witness to the truth with mighty power. Should not this zeal fire our hearts with a longing to tell the story of redeeming love, of Christ and Him crucified? Should not the power of God be even more mightily revealed today than in the time of the apostles?" Ibid., pp. 697, 698.
With firm confidence in the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I am appealing to you at this time, my brethren, to join our General Conference leaders in making the following months our best experience in bringing new believers into this message. God has promised us a rich harvest if we as His ministers will lead out in fulfilling the conditions. I feel sure that our united action, when we learn what divine power can do, will bring us together at the time of the General Conference session in 1954 with a new song of victory. Let every worker around the world join in a great soul-winning effort, not merely for a few short weeks or months, but until the task is finally accomplished and the whole earth lightened with the glory of the Lord.
"What Is Your Business?
TAYLOR G. BUNCH, Pastor, Sligo Church, Potomac Conference
Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" With these words Jesus answered the gentle reproof of His mother, who, after a diligent search, had found Him in the Temple discussing theological questions with the leading scholars of the Jews, with an ability and intelligence that amazed them.
At the early age of twelve Jesus recognized the fact that He had come into this world on business, the accomplishment of which was the object of His mission and the dominant purpose of His life. He came to earth "to seek and to save that which was lost." In regard to this work the prophet said, "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth," and then quoted Him as saying, "For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed" (Isa. 42:4; 50:7). This is the kind of determined purpose that brings success.
The apostle Paul gives us a picture of the final accomplishment of this mission: "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
As Jesus approached the final crisis of His mission, He "set his face to go to Jerusalem" and Calvary with a determination that knew no defeat and that reached its culmination in the triumphant cry, "It is finished." In a previous prayer to His Father He had said, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." His business venture was a complete success. As the Ambassador Extraordinary to this rebel world, Jesus has given His followers "the word of reconciliation" with the commission and authority to say to all men, "Be ye reconciled to God."
Since we too are here on business, it is high time that all believers are whole heartedly about their Father's business. Like John Vassar, we should be on the lookout for souls "in season, out of season." One day in a large hotel that man of God approached a woman dressed for the ball room, and said, "Do you love the Lord Jesus?" She went to her husband in deep concern and told him what had happened. He asked, "Why didn't you tell him it was none of his business?" To which she re- (lied, "If you had seen the expression of is face and heard the earnestness with which he spoke, you would have thought that it was his business."
William Carey was asked the question, "Mr. Carey, what is your business?" With out a moment's hesitation he answered, "My business is to serve God." The man replied, "You do not understand; I mean, what do you do for a living?" Carey's answer was, "My business is to serve God, but I cobble shoes to pay expenses." What would it mean to the Seventh-day Adventist denomination if every member would think and talk like that? The secular pursuits of life are side issues for the purpose of a livelihood and to support the church in its world-embracing mission enterprise, but our business is to serve God as ambassadors who act in Christ's stead.
We especially need a ministry so wholly devoted to their divinely appointed task that it becomes the all-absorbing passion of life. The instruction for ministers not to be engaged in business enterprises on the side would then be obeyed, and their whole time and attention would be de voted to the business in hand. "This one thing I do" was the principle that con trolled the apostles, and under their leader ship the gospel was proclaimed in a single generation to "every creature . . . under heaven" and the church went forth "conquering, and to conquer." In their zeal they "filled Jerusalem" with their doctrine and "turned the world upside down," and it has never been the same since.
No Place for Sit-down Strikes
There are altogether too many sit-down strikes in the modern church, where so many members are "at ease in Zion" and are "settled on their lees." Simeon Stylites, the satirist of The Christian Century, once commented on the ecclesiastical vocabulary, which indicates a church taking things easy. He spoke of the episcopal "see," which is the "seat" of a bishop, and of the high officials of the Roman Catholic Church being "enthroned." He said that every committee and conference in the church is presided over by a "chairman," and that colleges are decorated by "chairs" of this or that; that men and women boast of having "sat at the feet" of some great teacher or preacher. He then said: "Sometimes one cannot escape the feeling that if some of the saints are ever to get into heaven they will have to be carried there in a sedan chair or pulled in a rickshaw. Thus they can continue their chief occupation of earth sitting." And he added, "Battles are never won from a sitting position."
Speaking in Silver Bay, New York, a few years ago on the world mission of the church, Dr. Merlyn A. Chappel, of the Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church, said to three hundred mission officials and ministers: "Until such time as missionary activity becomes the major business of the church, Protestantism will continue to lose ground in its fight against materialism and secularism." "Nominal Christianity has been worn threadbare in its feeble efforts to bring in the kingdom of God." This is because "it is too anemic today to stand up before a lusty, new materialistic paganism. The only force in the world today that can outwit, outfeel and outlive this paganism is a missionary or discipleship Christianity."
This rebirth of the zeal and missionary spirit of the early church must begin with the ministry. In fact, the challenge of this hour is, if possible, even greater than that of the apostolic church.
"On the Day of Pentecost the Infinite One revealed Himself in power to the church. . . . Thousands were converted in a day. The sword of the Spirit, newly edged with power and bathed in the lightnings of heaven, cut its way through unbelief. . . . Why has the history of the work of the disciples, as they labored with holy zeal, animated and vitalized by the Holy Spirit, been recorded, if it is not that from this record the Lord's people today are to gain an inspiration to work earnestly for Him? What the Lord did for His people in that time, it is just as essential, and more so, that He do for His people today. All that the apostles did, every church member today is to do. And we are to work with as much more fervor, to be accompanied by the Holy Spirit in as much greater measure, as the increase of wickedness demands a more decided call to repentance." Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 31-33. Meeting the Challenge The Advent ministry must prepare to meet the challenge. This calls for preaching out of the usual order. It demands that we eliminate from our program all nonessentials and, like the apostles, "give our selves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." This of course implies diligent study, for no man is qualified to obey the commission to "speak unto the house of Israel" till he first "eat" or digest the contents of God's Book and find it to be "as honey for sweetness" (see Eze. 2:8 to 3:11). Another prophet said, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart" (Jer. 15:16). Lewis Emerson Mapes said in The Watchman-Examiner:
"If five hundred people drive one mile each in coming to the sanctuary on Sunday, that is five hundred miles. If they spend an hour in worship, that is five hundred hours. Therefore, if five hundred people spend five hundred hours and have driven five hundred miles to hear what the preacher has to say, then surely the pastor cannot afford to give less than his best in this phase of his work."
Here is something every minister should contemplate seriously. What a waste of time if he fails to feed them or give them the best he can possibly produce! Have we any right to go before a congregation without a definite conviction that we have for them a Heaven-sent message fresh from the throne of grace, a message that will cause them to say as they leave the sanctuary, "It has been good to be here, for God has spoken to us today"?
The major opportunity of the week is the Sabbath service. It should be made so worshipful, instructional, and inspirational that all will worship the Lord "in the beauty of holiness" and look forward with joyful anticipation to the next service. But personal evangelism and pastoral visitation must not be neglected. Like the physician, the pastor is "on call" night and day. The sick should always be given priority, and next come the shut-ins who are lonely and tempted to discouragement.
The pastor must be a good administrator. If he is to keep the organizational wheels running smoothly, this phase of his work will consume much time and effort. It is expensive to operate a large church and at the same time support the worldwide missions program. He should therefore be a good financier, having demonstrated his ability in his personal affairs. There are a multitude of committees and programs and services to attend where his presence and counsel are needed. If he succeeds in his task, he must be continually about his Father's business, with a zeal and energy and enthusiasm worthy of the greatest enter praise on earth. Must it necessarily be true always that in the matter of vision, planning, prudence, skill, and success "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light"? Do we not have reason to believe that this order will be reversed during the latter rain, when the work will be quickly finished and cut "short in righteousness"?
"Make Full Proof of Thy Ministry"
ALBERT MEYER, Ministerial Association Secretary, Southern European Division
Paul in his Roman prison gave scarcely a thought to himself; his approaching death could not divert his mind from the vast mission field through which he had traveled and the many churches that had been raised up by the grace of God. He well knew that this great work, the fruitage of innumerable struggles, much suffering, and tremendous sacrifices, would be exposed to the attacks of the enemy. Therefore, in his last recommendations to Timothy, his "own son in the faith," he charges him to "make full proof" of his ministry; or, according to Moffatt's translation, "discharge all your duties as a minister." Thus Paul confides to Timothy, so to speak, the responsibility of the churches.
The minister of that generation did not possess the many devices and techniques that so facilitate our work today. Personality played the most important part. Perhaps methods and specialization tend more and more to replace personal work; there fore it is well for us all to give careful thought and meditation to the apostle's ex
Treasure in Earthen Vessels
The ministry of the Word is unquestionably the most noble work committed to men by God. This treasure is placed in earthen vessels, but they should be vessels of honor. There can be no doubt that no other activity holds so much real joy and spiritual blessing as the pastorate. But be cause of its sacred and unique character, there is no more difficult, not to say fearful, task than the ministry. It requires complete and constant submission to God, a spirit of self-denial and sacrifice, an immense love for souls, and this without distinction. To forget oneself and think only of others is not this contrary to human nature? The ministry is primarily a vocation: a man has heard the call of God and has responded. Next, like the medical profession but in a different sense, it is a science and an art that must be acquired and developed.
Showing Interest in All
Preaching, exhortation, instruction, some times reproof all are only a part of the ministry, often the easiest and most pleas ant part; the rest is so vast and complex!
As the shepherd of the flock, the minister must also be its example. To certain ministers have been entrusted varied responsibilities in God's work, from the local conferences on through the unions and divisions up to the General Conference. Nevertheless, nothing can discharge them from the ministry to which they have been ordained by the laying on of hands. It is their privilege to bring a spirit of brotherly cooperation into the churches of which they are members or which they visit. The functions they have assumed, no matter how important, should not prevent them from approaching the humblest believer and taking an interest in him. How much helpful sympathy there can be in a friendly word and a cordial handclasp! Certain church members may seem reserved and distant; yet the minister's art lies in knowing how to overcome all resistance. Thus he will discover how much real worth is hid den beneath apparent coldness. And, after all, is it not the responsibility of the minister to adapt himself to the group in which he is placed? Like the apostle Paul, he must become "all things to all men." Countries and customs are so different that the minister has ample opportunity to learn the difficult but necessary art of adaptation.
A minister's good points are revealed in his enthusiasm and in the way he directs his church tactfully, kindly, prudently, firmly, without tyranny, striving to foster missionary activity, unity, and harmony. Difficulties are smoothed out by the whole some and impartial application of the principles of God's Word. The minister must love and understand the young people if he would have their cooperation. He has the care of souls, the saved as well as those who are lost outside the church; all have been committed to him by God, by virtue of his calling as a minister of the gospel of Christ.
The rabbis showed little sympathy for the physicians of their time: "They are all worthy" of hell-fire, for their mistaken care of some and for their negligence of the others." The Scriptures are no less severe in regard to pastors, who are sharply reminded of their duties and responsibilities (Eze. 34:1-10). It must not be forgotten that souls are won to Christ one by one, under the influence of the Holy Spirit in cooperation with the humble, persevering, faithful, and courageous minister.
To the youth who are entering the ministry, let me say: The vocation to which you are called is the finest and noblest but also the most delicate and the most difficult of all callings. Go forward confidently and courageously, placing your trust each day in God, who gives wisdom and the Holy Spirit to all who ask. Strive to be worthy at all times of your divine commission, bearing much fruit that will endure the test of time.
For those and they are many who are bearing the heat and burden of the day, as well as for the few who have already finished their term of labor, a glorious prospect illumines the path of duty: "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 5:4).