A great company of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7) is a partial record of the results of the Spirit-filled apostolic ministry. In the remnant church we expect even greater results under the latter rain. Therefore the quarter of a million Protestant ministers in the United States, as well as the Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis, present a tremendous challenge to the ministry of the Adventist Church. Our relationship to them now determines to a great extent their reaction to this truth when the final test comes. These men are an important part of the "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" who must learn of the revival of truth and the approaching end. They mold public opinion and influence spiritual life far out of proportion to their numbers. They of all people deserve a true understanding of the great issues at stake in the crisis just before us. How unfortunate that in the past many of them have known only what others have written against us, and in turn have passed on to their flocks a distorted picture of the grandest work of all time.
There are many sincere Christians in Babylon. To care for these sheep who are not yet of this fold, God must have consecrated shepherds who are doing the best they know. There are many honest men among the clergy. Our duty is to "pray and work for honest ministers who have been educated to misinterpret the Word of Life." Evangelism, p. 562.
In the past our work for them has been hindered in some places by the belligerent attitude of a few pastors and evangelists. There are cities where soul winning is almost impossible be cause of the opposition created by preachers who felt it their work to denounce wholesale all other religious teachers. Years will be required to overcome the work that such zealots have done in just a few weeks. Often the "honest" souls who respond to these methods continue the same type of warfare within the church. Thus strife is engendered within the church and antagonism without.
Years ago much counsel was given the church on this point, and this is now available to every Adventist minister in the book Evangelism. Note these brief statements:
"How careful we should be not to present the truth in a way that will drive men and women from it. Religious teachers stand where they can do great good or great evil." Page 143. "We are in danger of closing up our own path by arousing the determined spirit of opposition in men in authority." Page 304. "Do not arouse the malignity of the enemy by making denunciatory speeches. Thus you will close doors against the entrance of truth. Clear-cut mes sages are to be borne. But guard against arousing antagonism." Page 564. "Though you should meet the bitterest opposition, do not denounce your opponents. They may think, as did Paul, that they are doing God service; and to such we must manifest patience, meekness, and long-suffering." Page 305. "In the advocacy of truth the bitterest opponents should be treated with respect and deference." Page 306.
In view of this instruction how careful we must be in the use of such texts as Isaiah 56:10, 11, lest in condemning the guilty we arouse a determined spirit of opposition that kills all latent interest and closes up our way. "Anger is a wind that blows out the lamp of the mind."
The Scriptures record a worthy example of our relationship to ministers of other faiths, in the way Daniel related himself to the other wise men of Babylon. He did not consider himself better than they. As one of them he sought to save them. This relationship is commented upon in the writings of the Spirit of prophecy:
"Had Daniel possessed the same quality of religious zeal which is so quickly enflamed today in the churches, and men are led to afflict and oppress and destroy those who do not serve God after their plan, he would have said to Arioch, 'These men who claim to be wise men, are deceiving the king. They have not the knowledge they claim to have, and should be destroyed. They dishonor the God of heaven, they serve idols, and their lives in no way do honor to God; let them die; but bring me in before the king and I will show unto the king the interpretation.' The transforming grace of God was made manifest in His servant, and he pleaded most earnestly for the lives of the very men who afterward in a secret, underhanded manner made plans by which they thought to put an end to the life of Daniel." E. G. White manuscript W-90, 1884.
Daniel must have understood and practiced real religious liberty. We can profitably cultivate the same wholesome spirit. Sometimes other ministers get the impression that we are an exclusive people and do not desire to associate or be friendly with them. One minister made this remark: "I have admired how ambitious your church is, but I have never met the minister." This was more than just a remark; it was an opportunity to be developed. Most of these men are glad to become acquainted with Adventist ministers if they have a chance.
"When our laborers enter a new field, they should seek to become acquainted with the pastors of the several churches in the place. Much has been lost by neglecting to do this. If our ministers show themselves friendly and sociable, and do not act as if they were ashamed of the message they bear, it will have an excellent effect, and may give these pastors and their congregations favorable impressions of the truth." Evangelism, p. 143.
Opportunities for Cooperation
Great strides have been made recently in publicizing our work, but there is much more that can be done in breaking down prejudice and building good will among other ministers. Just as the three Hebrews went as far as they could with the false worshipers of their day even to the point of attending the dedication of an idol so we should associate and cooper ate with the ministers of other faiths wherever we can do so without compromising principle. When principle is involved, we too must refuse to bow down, but there are vast fields in which we can cooperate. In the temperance field we can enthusiastically join with those of other denominations who dare raise their voices against the popular evil of alcohol. Much more could be done in connection with other temperance organizations that would win friends among honest ministers of other faiths. Reformation Day services afford wonderful opportunities to cooperate. A sermon on the development and importance of the Reformation could be preached on Sabbath and reported in the newspaper to break down prejudice.
Religious liberty issues on the local or national level will provide the opportunity to ally ourselves with other ministers and churches that are defending the same principles. A letter to the editor, a sermon report in the newspaper, or just a conversation may be the take-off point in this field.
Other opportunities that have come to me in recent months are listed here simply as examples of the openings potential in most cities: reading Scripture and offering prayer at special day of prayer or week of prayer services, assisting in union worship services in the city park on summer evenings, conducting morning devotional services on the radio, broadcasting church services, cooperating with other churches in presenting free religious telecasts, free time for weekly radio program, giving devotional talks at meetings of the local ministerial association.
These represent a few of the possibilities that may be exploited through friendly association with ministers and other men of influence. Be sides resulting in advantage to the church this association affords opportunity to work and pray for these men.
"Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ's messengers we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock." Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 78.
The Master Minister was not a spiritual isolationist. He mingled freely with rich as well as poor. He addressed scribes and Pharisees as well as publicans and sinners. He attended banquets and feasts. He used every opportunity available to give His influence the widest possible scope.
"We might have had today thousands more rejoicing in the truth if the work had been carried forward as the situation demands, in many aggressive lines." Evangelism, p. 21. (Italics supplied.)
It is true that results from this type of work are not seen immediately on the baptismal re port, but they are nonetheless certain. Remember the result of Christ's conversation with Nicodemus. We must do our part and leave results with God. Time is required for good results. "Never try to pry a rosebud open with a hand spike," said Bismarck. Favorable impressions pave the way for a favorable decision when the final test comes. One minister who had visited our church on a number of occasions said, "I always feel an uplift every time I visit your church." Such little impressions are building up to the time "when there will be as many converted in a day as there were on the day of Pentecost." Ibid., p. 692.
In those days many among the chief rulers believed on Christ but did not at that time confess Him (John 12:42). Later Joseph, Nicodemus, and others, and "a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." We can expect similar results in these last days.
"The rays of light penetrate everywhere, the truth is seen in its clearness, and the honest children o£ God sever the bands which have held them. Family connections, church relations, are powerless to stay them now. Truth is more precious than all besides. Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord's side."—The Great Controversy, p. 612. Many of these will be ministers coming out of other churches—if we do our part.
"Our ministers are to make it their special work to labor for ministers. ... If this is done, there are many ministers now preaching error, who will preach the truth for this time."—Evangelism, p. 562. (Italics supplied.) What a solemn responsibility God places upon the Adventist ministry! He holds us responsible for presenting His truth to ministers of other faiths. Let us approach the task courageously. Many will respond.
In the time of the disciples there were twenty- four courses of priests with one thousand in each course. Today there are more than ten times that many Protestant ministers in the United States. Perhaps in our day when the truth triumphs gloriously there will be more than ten great companies of ministers who will render obedience to the faith. Let us work and pray to this end. "Others—even
those whom we suppose to have passed the boundary of God's mercy—will be won to Christ. The very last work in the controversy may be the enlightenment of those who have not rejected light and evidence, but who have been in midnight darkness and have in ignorance worked against the truth. Therefore treat every man as honest. Speak no word, do no deed, that will con firm any in unbelief."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 122