The Seventh-day Adventist minister is no ordinary preacher. Adventist preachers never have conformed to a regular pattern. They do not follow preaching as a profession. This is not the Adventist concept of its ministers. The idea of a man's preaching as a profession may do for some, but it will never do for Seventh-day Adventists. Their idea of ministers goes back as far as Enoch who, with fervor, proclaimed the second advent of Christ. It takes in Noah, a preacher of righteousness and of impending destruction, who did so much with so little. Their concept includes John the Baptist, who called upon everyone to prepare for the first advent of our Lord while he himself lived a simple and unpretentious life. He did not conform to the general pattern.
Paul, the tireless laborer, is included, who so often was found in journeyings while bearing on his heart the care of all the churches. While meditating upon our calling we must never lose sight of our own rugged pioneer ministers who centered their preaching so directly in the glorious soon coming of Christ, the Saviour, as the only hope of the world. We follow in the train of a great and noble army of God's anointed as we pursue our calling in the Adventist ministry.
In each of the men just mentioned, certain great characteristics stand out. We are made very much aware that they were human beings in their generation, even as you and I today are in ours. They met their personal problems as we meet ours. But they were not bound or limited by these, nor so circumscribed that they could not fulfill their missions. They were special men, not because they were preachers, but because of a deep conviction of God's everlasting truth.
A doctor may pretend to be more than he is and succeed pretty well in his profession. A lawyer may be accounted great in his profession, but not so great perhaps as a father, or as a husband, or even as a man. A merchant may point to his prosperous and lucrative business as the measure of his attainment, quite apart from his personal, private life. But a minister, and particularly an Adventist one, is an utter failure unless his life, private and public, stands for what he preaches. In its fullest meaning, we can never learn how to preach. Preachers are divinely made. "I Paul am made a minister" (Col. 1:23).
One cannot but be deeply impressed by the apostle Paul's unshakable convictions that he was a minister by divine appointment. "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood" (Gal. 1:15, 16, R.S.V.). With this conviction deeply within his soul, no wonder he said, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!"
The apostle Paul reminds us that God endowed His church with certain gifts. Among them is evangelism. There are others, such as pastors, teachers, and even helps. While all are important, it seems that in these last days evangelism stands out above all others. The reason is evident. We have a momentous message to give to the world in this generation and it must be given speedily. The gift of evangelism must therefore occupy a prominent place among us. Our best and strongest efforts must be turned in the direction of evangelism.
No one can today shut himself up to a pastorate. Nor can teachers confine themselves solely to teaching, nor doctors to their healing art. Every worker in this cause has a wider calling. It is true that some individuals possess more than the average talent for public evangelism, but not one must neglect this gift that is in him. Each must raise his voice in proclaiming God's message to the world.
The Dominant Note
We are met in this ministerial gathering to emphasize strongly our responsibility and privilege as evangelists. We hope that as we leave this meeting and this General Conference session to return to our countries and places of labor, it will be with the admonition of the apostle Paul ringing in our ears, "Do the work of an evangelist."
I hope that during this week we shall not hear a word of complaint that we, as evangelists, are not appreciated and recognized as we should be; that our budgets are not sufficient; that we are deprived of needed helpers. Circumstances cannot circumscribe the fervent worker for God.
"Oh, I'm getting along as well as can be expected under the circumstances," a young worker replied to an older one. "Young man," the veteran said, "let me give you a bit of advice that can help you all through life. There is never an excuse for being under circumstances."
"Those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme will find perplexities vanish, and a plain path before their feet."—The Desire of Ages, p. 330.
A worker's report who would not remain under circumstances:
Number of tent efforts 2
Stones thrown at us, about 200
Persons struck 4
Number of times acid thrown on tent 1
Number of gangsters attempting to harm us 4
Number of men striking us with their fists 2
Additional candidates preparing 31
Not everyone can go into great centers of population and attract large audiences in these times when so many things bid for the interest of people. Those who can do so should. But all can do something where they are and with facilities at hand. These may be meager and we may be tempted to feel that what we accomplish will be but little. As each faithfully does what he can where he is with what he has, the grand total will be far beyond our imagination.
It is well to remember that we have never had it so good. Our people are generous with their means and willing in their service to support us as we launch out into evangelistic activity. We are more widely and favorably known today than ever before in our history. Seventh-day Adventism stands for a people dedicated to a great and noble task. They are pictured as extending a helping hand to the needy and to the neglected. People still recognize that we have a rather peculiar religion, different from others. But they are beginning to awaken to the fact that it is a great religion and that it means something to be an Adventist. They are even beginning to acknowledge that there is some basis for our peculiar teachings about some things.
This is not saying that prejudice is entirely disappearing and that it is going to be easy now to win people to the truth. The price of following the Lord remains high. Self-denial and sacrifice are still the marks of true discipleship. The narrow way, though admired by many, is still followed by the few. Yet the heartening fact is that people, with encouragement and earnest persuasion, will leave the broad way to walk the straight and narrow one. We are dedicated to the task of leading people into God's way.
To one of his fellow workers Paul wrote, "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee" (Titus 1:5). Paul was deeply interested as to what would follow after he left new believers. His interest in the new believers did not end with the effort. He wanted a well-organized, properly functioning church established. That meant permanency to the evangelism he was doing. We too must be interested in lasting results—solidly established and well-functioning churches.
There is a significant chapter in Testimonies to Ministers (pp. 230-238), that I am sure we all have read. It is entitled "Hovering Over the Churches." The servant of the Lord points out a tendency that can easily grow to the extent of seriously impeding evangelism. It is precisely what has happened to most Protestant churches who in their earlier years were strongly evangelistic.
We are not to hover over the ninety and nine, but to go forth to save the lost, hunting them up in the wilderness of the large cities and towns. In this work the laborers will be led to feel their weakness, and they will flee to the stronghold.—Page 232.
While the ninety-nine within the fold need a certain amount of attention, we must remember the lost one out in the mountains and go out to seek it. Upon our pastor-evangelists there rests a multitude of responsibilities. The only way we can suggest some relief is through training and placing burdens upon church officers. We can do much more along this line. We must not follow in the way of other church bodies whose ministers now expend their time and energies upon their pastorates.
People whom we bring into the church must be so firmly established in its principles that they will ever remain loyal to it. "Christ. . . loved the church, and gave himself for it." That is the spirit of the true disciple of the Master. He loves his church and is dedicated to its program. "When I go to church on Sabbath and hear about the needs of the cause, it is hard for me to leave with any money in my pocket," a young, earnest church elder casually remarked in a conversation—and let me say that he is a man of some means. He loves the church and is loyal to its program. He empties his pockets for it. Much credit must be given to the worker who brought this man into the church and prepared him for the responsibilities of church membership. Such a man will not be moved by every queer idea or by every so-called reformer who comes along.
We live in an age when some—fortunately the class is still not too large—love to hear the organization and its leaders attacked. There obtains the fancied idea that to stand up and defy the denomination is heroic and demands outstanding courage. A few follow such self-appointed champions. They even give to support such activity, and with little investigation, follow anarchists. This seems to be symptomatic of the age, though to a certain degree it has always existed. This tendency will increase. There is therefore an increasing demand for loyalty to the cause of God. The spirit of loyalty in workers is transmitted to church members.
Loyalty begets unity. A loyal people is a united people. Nationalism, racialism, or any other dividing issue, must never be permitted to enter our ranks. There is no place for any of this among Adventists. The enemy would use such divisive forces to weaken the work and influence of this movement, but he must find our ranks closed and all solidly standing together in perfect unity and loyalty.