I have just returned from Portland, Oregon, where we had a part in the inauguration of a strong program of continuous evangelism. Our reason for accepting the invitation to go to Portland was not that we felt this city was the most wicked or the most needy of American cities, but that we thought the fine new evangelistic center just completed by the conference would provide excellent opportunity for the study of particular needs and methods. Since our denominational work began the Lord has greatly blessed the proclamation of His Word in Portland.
Now just what is an evangelistic center? Is it a church? Is it a tabernacle? Well, not exactly. Although every church, sanitarium, school, or other institution should be a place where souls are being won to Christ, yet in the strictest sense of the term not any of these can truly be called an evangelistic center. Everything associated with this movement is geared to evangelism, yet when we speak of an "evangelistic center" we are talking about something different from just a church building or an institution. It seems to us that there is need of clarification in our terminology. We recently read a report about a summer camp for juniors in which the writer emphasized the idea that it was an "evangelistic center"! But was it? Of course, a summer camp should always be a place where the souls of boys and girls are turned to God. And unless the camp has just such a distinctly evangelistic objective, it has failed. But a junior camp, or any other camp, is hardly an "evangelistic center" as we have come to understand the term. The purchase of our fine evangelistic center in London has thrilled us all, but that place is not just a welfare center or a church, much less a junior camp. True, the Central London church meets in one of the sections of this large center, but the main auditorium and other parts of the building provide opportunity for continuous public evangelism. The building in London was purchased and then converted into an evangelistic center. But other such centers in the States and overseas have either been purchased or built. An evangelistic center becomes such for very definite reasons. We might here suggest a few:
1. It is centrally located.
2. It is recognized as a rallying point of evangelism for all the Seventh-day Adventist churches of the area.
3. It is built and equipped and should be operated in such a way that a continuous program of evangelism can be conducted year in and year out.
Such concepts of evangelism may be somewhat new to our workers. Our traditional pattern has been for an evangelist to hold evangelistic campaigns for three, six, or perhaps twelve months, with all the enthusiasm of a crusader going out to wrest the Holy Grail from the infidel Turk, and then return home with a few scars and a lot of glory, but leaving the city still in the hands of the infidel. Even though some Richard the Lion-hearted comes swinging a great sword, the city remains largely in "the arms of the wicked one."
Some evangelistic programs have begun with great enthusiasm. There have been zeal, noise, and smoke, and sometimes much debris to clean up afterward, particularly when a "scorched earth" policy has added to the problem. Our workers know what we mean. When retreating from the enemy, with no future responsibility, it is easy to say everything that can be said, and to say it in such a way that animosity and ill will are so stirred in the community that it seems necessary to wait for another generation to grow up before anyone else can return to evangelize that city..
But an evangelistic center, on the contrary, has to be a place of continual evangelism, with the very best of public relations, where the sowing and reaping goes on month after month and year after year, the influence constantly expanding. For such a program as that we have to develop new concepts and devise new methods.
Java is one of the greatest rice-growing countries in the world. The climate there is such that one can find sowers and reapers at work side by side any day of the year. An evangelistic center should be just like that. Every sermon or Bible class is the sowing of the seed, but that same sermon must also be the harvesting of either that evangelist's sowing or the sowing of some predecessor.
Jesus said, "I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours" (John 4-J58). And is not all evangelism like that? Almost everyone we baptize has had some other contact some earlier evangelist, some colporteur, a godly doctor or nurse, or more than likely some earnest church member has made the initial con tact. And as evangelists we then have the joy of bringing to fruition that which has been planted by others. In view of these various agencies that lead up to conversion, how inappropriate it is for any one of us to become puffed up by some measure of success the Lord may be pleased to give us! "Thine Be the Glory" The motto chosen for the presession ministerial council is surely timely
"Thine Be the Glory."
Our motto four years ago was "Aflame for God," the emphasis being on burning out for God. This time the em phasis is on God and His glory. It is so easy for success to make us proud, self-sufficient, and self-satisfied. As soon as we glory in ourselves or in our figures, our finance, our organization, our ability, or our methods, then we fail to give God the glory.
The greatest problem that Jesus faced was not the multitude, but the selfish ambitions of the very men He had called to be His associates. Not until the cross did those first evangelists see themselves as they really were. "Why could not we cast him failure to cure the epileptic boy. Our Lord's answer was significant.
Later He asked them, "What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest" (Mark 9:33, 34). How often the ministry through the centuries has proved impotent because of this age-old controversy! How easy it is for self to get on parade! And what strange things come trooping to light at the least provocation or disappointment! Are we wondering why the abundant showers of the latter rain are being with held? Perhaps if we really began to examine ourselves, we would readily find the answer. There is a divine principle in that very delay. God will not share with men of pride the glory due to Christ His Son. Great re vivals have come and gone during the Christian centuries, but why does a revival cease? There may be many reasons. T
he one great reason, however, is that men soon begin to take the glory to themselves. In Isaiah 41:6, 7, we have a wonderful illustration of true cooperation in the service of God. The builders represented a variety of men carpenters, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, plumbers but they were all working together, and the carpenters encouraged the goldsmiths, and every man said to his brother, "Be of good courage." When the goldsmith forgets he is a gold smith and rejoices in the fellowship of his rough-handed brethren, then miracles begin to happen. It has been well said that God can do a lot with men if nobody cares who gets the credit. Our pre-Pentecostal thinking has robbed us all too often of the power of His Spirit. To conceive or to con duct an evangelistic campaign, or a churchbuilding program, or any departmental promotion, and to do it in the spirit of com petition, is to court spiritual disaster. We are all workers together with one another and with God. To this we all happily agree, and rejoice in the privilege of such fellow ship.
An evangelistic center provides an environment for just such wholesome fellow ship. The association and spiritual contacts of a soul-winning team are thrilling, as pas tors, evangelists, Bible instructors, conference officials, and laymen alike all work together, not for just one church or one special area, but for the upbuilding of all the churches throughout the entire area. The most rewarding memory that we carry of our work in Portland is not the number of souls who were led forward into baptism although we do thank God that about 250 have thus far joined the Advent Movement. Nor is it the joy that five min isters of other faiths have accepted the mes sage and are keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Nor is it the fact that some who have been out of the message for many, many years have been brought back into the warmth of the fold again.
This was all wonderful and indeed thrilling. But the tenderest memory of all that we recall is that of consecrated workers pastors, evangelists, Bible instructors, ministerial interns, and conference officials, regardless of their particular congregations or departments, joining hands in a marvelous fellowship and hurrying out to bring the lost ones into the fold, irrespective of what particular congregation these new ones were about to join. Yes, our spiritual goldsmiths and carpenters, and all who struck heavy blows for God with the hammer of truth, had one slogan it was "Be of good courage." And it made no difference where these new converts attended, just so they were rescued from the perils of sin and made members of the family of God. An evangelistic center can and must unite the various workers in one grand, self-effacing, soul-winning enterprise.
And when that spirit is moving as leaven in the whole lump, then, and then only, can God pour out His Spirit in mighty showers of blessings. While all human efforts have their limitations, and we were conscious of them, yet we thank God that we felt at least a few drops of the latter rain, and it made us thirsty for the abundance of the heavenly showers. As we continue to develop evangelistic centers in the great metropolitan areas of the world, let us keep clearly in our minds the over-all objectives and possibilities of this heaven-born plan.