This issue emphasizes evangelism—total evangelism. It is not sufficient that we be evangelical; we must be evangelistic. Evangelicalism is a fine ideal for which to contend, but evangelism is the force by which we conquer. Familiarity with a word can blunt its cutting edge, and that is certainly true of "evangelism." When "evangelism" becomes a mere slogan, or is a synonym for a particular method, it loses its power. True, it is a method, but it is more; it is a method plus a message. Only when the method springs from a real message does it become dynamic.
When the first evangelists went forth to herald the good news, they were not just making records, they were making converts. As citizens of the kingdom of God, they beheld in every man and woman, boy and girl, a candidate for that kingdom. To them the news they carried was tremendous, startling, breath-taking, and we are told they proclaimed it with burning language. The message was as a fire in their bones. A big idea had gripped their souls, and they had to share it at any cost.
Ideas are the most explosive forces known in human history. Even wrong ideas possess tremendous powers of persuasion. Wrong ideas move men in wrong directions. But who can measure the power of a true idea! The evangelist who goes forth with the gospel of peace carries within himself the explosive force of the biggest idea ever thought or known. Be he preacher, teacher, colporteur, or radio or TV broadcaster, he has in his hands the power by which the kingdom of God is built. Even a layman bearing simple witness to the truth he knows and loves is a tremendous influence among his friends and fellow workmen. It was this kind of witness by faithful church members, bubbling over with the joy of salvation, that built the apostolic church. True, they caught their inspiration from the apostles who led the evangelistic teams of that day, but the work was done largely by humble men and women who, spiritually aflame for God, went forth to tell the story.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians he reminded them that while they lived in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, they were nevertheless to "shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life." To shine, they must be illumined by the message.
Those early evangelists lived under conditions different from ours. They knew nothing about a thousand things that today we take for granted. But they possessed a message—or rather were possessed by a message —and it became the power by which they broke through the darkness and superstition of that pagan age. Conditions may vary with the changing years, but the need of the human heart is just the same. Whether we think of a city of ten million or a village of ten families, the gospel is still the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes.
Recently we spent another short period of ministry in the New Gallery Centre in London. Again we were led to rejoice in the evident blessing of God through the ministry of faithful messengers in that great city. We had spent some time with groups of workers in such cities as Lisbon, Madrid, Rome, Athens, Istanbul, Beirut, and Jerusalem, and were thrilled to witness the conquests of these front-line heralds of the cross. What a challenge twentieth-century civilization presents to the city evangelist!Only those who have lived and labored in a giant metropolis can fully understand the awful weight of souls that rests on one who is called to minister to the millions. As sheep without a shepherd, these milling multitudes need nothing so much as the bread of life, and yet they know not where to find it. Spiritually impoverished and feeding on the husks of worldy pleasure, they must be awakened by the mighty Spirit of God.
How can these masses be reached? Such new centers of evangelism as we have at the crossroads of London and New York present marvelous opportunities. But our problems are not all solved when we have the buildings. How can we arrest the attention of the passing crowd? Attractive methods are important, but the greatest power of all is still the preaching of the cross. When a man sees Jesus as He really is, then he is led to exclaim with Peter of old: "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord."
The marvels of our Lord's all-sufficient sacrifice are emphasized in the Spirit of prophecy counsel section of this issue. IVe feel that this theme rightly belongs in this special issue, dedicated as it is to evangelism, for the very heart of the gospel is ever the great atoning work of Christ our Lord so gloriously accomplished on the cross. These quotations are not complete. In subsequent issues further statements on this subject will appear. Only as we fully understand the finished sacrifice of Christ can our ministry be filled with the spirit and power of God. These familiar words should challenge every one of us: "Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world."—Evangelisin, p. 188.
As a people we have dealt much with prophecy, especially as it relates to the unfolding of human history, and yet the highest point in all prophecy and the greatest event in all history was when our sinless Saviour died a Victor on the cross. When He cried in triumph, "It is finished!" we are told "the battle had been won. His right hand and His holy arm had gotten Him the victory. As a Conqueror He planted His banner on the eternal heights.- Moreover, "All heaven triumphed in the Saviour's victory."—The Desire of Ages (1940), p. 758 (Miss. ed., p. 748).
And His victory is our victory. In Him the vilest sinner can be made righteous—a citizen of the kingdom of God. It was that message that turned the world upside down nineteen centuries ago, and we can expect the same results whenever it is preached in all its fullness.
We live in a great hour. God is shaping events for the greatest ingathering of souls since Pentecost. While our evangelists today face greater challenges, they have greater opportunities than any preachers before them. The confusion in international affairs is surely significant, that is, provided we do not pose as prognosticators of immediate events. Some of us well remember a few of the wild speculations heralded by certain self-appointed prophets in 1914. With the serenity of saints they were declaring that Armageddon had already begun. Such vaporings were probably impressive for a few weeks, but who can measure the aftereffects of such paucity of perception! We must guard ourselves against wild assertions. Unfulfilled prophecy provides a wide field for speculation.
Rather than assuming the role of foretellers, let us aim to be true forth tellers of the glorious gospel of grace as we organize and inspire our churches for total evangelism. Let us lead our members into action, obeying the command of our Captain. The trumpet call of the King summons the whole army to mobilize and advance.
R. A. A.