Evangelism—A Principle, Not an Expedient

Evangelism is to the church what wings are to a bird! Clip the wings and the bird falters in its flight and finally ends up creeping! An odd position for a bird—creeping!

J. R. SPANGLER, Ministerial Association Secretary, Far Eastern Division

Small minds talk about each other; average minds talk about events; great minds dream of ideas for the future accom­plishing of good. Within the framework of men's bodies is generated the most tremen­dous explosive force known in history—the explosive force of ideas. Through the minds of men, ideas have been conceived and born which have either torn and muti­lated the minds and bodies of millions or remade and healed the wounds and hurts of humanity.

Christ had the type of mind that dreamed of ideas that transformed history and made a bold bid for the hearts of all humanity. Christ arrived in human form in a world that dreamed of death. He dreamed of life eternal! He came when multitudes sat in darkness and saw no light. He dreamed of light that blazed forever! Then the mind of Christ reached out and grasped an idea which became the giant passion of His heart and resulted in shaping the des­tiny of many! You see, His dreams of life and light had to be shared with others if the gloom of night and the horror of death were to be shattered. This idea reached maturity on that day of decision when Christ packed away His carpenter tools, headed straight for John the Baptist, and was ordained of God by water and the Spirit—the supreme Evangelist of the uni­verse. From His childhood to the cross, Christ was an evangelist! My brethren, let this mind be in us today!

Evangelism is to the church what wings are to a bird! Clip the wings and the bird falters in its flight and finally ends up creeping! An odd position for a bird—creeping! To observe the ugly and feather­less wings of a newly hatched bird in no way causes a thinking person to ridicule the future benefits and usefulness of these in­struments of flight which someday will hurl that bird through the space and heights of heaven. Every attempt to give this truth in a public way is adding another pair of wings to the church. True, many of these wings may seem awkward and featherless at the moment, but the judgment day will prove their value.

Noah, the Classic Example of Scant Results

Remember that evangelism is a prin­ciple, not an expedient. Expedients are for the moment, but principles are for eternity. The principle in evangelism includes both a sowing and a reaping program. No farmer ever reaped wheat from a field he had never planted with wheat. Furthermore, a public meeting of minimum attendance may have maximum attention from non­attenders. It also may have an apparent minimum of immediate results but a maxi­mum of results in a future harvest.

Noah's experience is the classic example of the ages of one who performed a work through public evangelism with scant re­sults on the reaping score. He may have conducted 43,800 consecutive nightly serv­ices, plus a number of morning and after­noon Bible classes. Quite true, Noah ad­mitted into church membership many thousands of souls (read carefully Patri­archs and Prophets, p. 95), but as time marched on, these thousands marched out of Noah's ranks until there were only eight souls left, himself included. Unfortunately, archeologists have not discovered the ante­diluvian General Conference minutes, and all the treasurer's reports floated away, but apparently all church monies received during the 120 years were spent on Noah's evangelistic campaign. Much of the money went for a large visual aid better known as an ark. I am certain that if any of the budget committee members had survived the ordeal of the Flood, Noah would have lost his credentials and probably even his church membership for the large ex­penditure of funds with such paucity of results. There is one thing certain about Noah's program which I believe justified the whole affair. The world refused to heed this last altar call, but everyone had a knowledge of his evangelistic campaign even though they never attended a service. Therefore they will someday stand before God without excuse!

Men of the Moment Versus Men of the Future

We today must fight against man's infi­nite capacity for self-deception in judging public evangelism in the light of immedi­ate or even future results in terms of per­sons baptized or saved in the kingdom. It is ridiculously easy for those of us who are plagued with pessimism to lament money spent for public evangelism on the premise that the results are so meager. It is also sub­limely simple to be what might be known as men of the moment, to symbolize our reign with gleaming institutions, new office build­ings, and equipment—in other words, a materialistic denomination. Then if any funds are left, evangelism becomes the re­cipient to perform that work which can­not be bottled, labeled, and shelved as an addition to our materialistic inventory. Of course men of the moment feel that evangelism is poor business. And in terms of what we can see and count, it often seems so logically true.

But there is another side to this story that presents the more difficult alternative of being men of the future, men who believe the servant of God, who wrote: "The good seed sown may lie some time in a cold, worldly, selfish heart without evidencing that it has taken root; but frequently the Spirit of God operates upon that heart, and waters it with the dew of heaven, and the long-hidden seed springs up and finally bears fruit to the glory of God. We know not in our lifework which shall prosper, this or that. These are not questions for us poor mortals to settle."—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 248. (Italics supplied.)

 

Caesar and Napoleon were men of the moment. They established materialistic em­pires. The apostle Paul was a man of the future. He, like Caesar, built an empire—but it was quite different in many respects. Paul's empire was not of wood, stone, and marble, but an empire built of vibrant hearts that were touched by the Holy Spirit as a result of his evangelistic labors.

James White and William Miller and others marched from city to city holding high the flaming sword of the Advent truth. These were men of the future—men of vision and dreams, with enough grit and determination mixed with these dreams to make them come true!

I firmly believe that in our division we have men of the future! Space will not per­mit me to give thrilling illustrations from every union which prove this fact. My great desire is to see more and more done in a public way to call attention to our message. We must have equipment to operate our program efficiently, but we also must in­clude in our thinking more and more the importance of setting up a definite pro­gram of public evangelism. With this done, plus renewed emphasis on making every school, sanitarium, clinic, printing plant, and conference office a soul-winning agency, we can't help seeing the latter rain poured out in abundance on our labors.

Let me close with this earnest call of the Lord's messenger: "Evangelistic work . . . is to occupy more and still more of the time of God's servants."—Evangelism, p. 17.


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J. R. SPANGLER, Ministerial Association Secretary, Far Eastern Division

June 1956

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