The leading men of the world today in the fields of literature, science, politics and military are afraid of the future because of the spiritual perturbation of our time as witnessed in the ever-increasing crime waves, immorality, and divorces; the battle between capital and labor; the corruption that has crept even into high places; and lastly—the chief factor—the division of the world into two camps, with the threat of the terrible modern superweapons that can annihilate all life on the earth. For years we were called calamity howlers for depicting through the eyes of prophecy these very conditions that are sure signs of the imminent intervention of Christ in the destinies of the world. Our prophetic preaching, which was disbelieved by humanity years ago, is now in the realm of scientific possibility. Thank God that His word endures forever, and that we have an infallible message of hope to proclaim to this dying world. We are not waiting with fear for the annihilation of the world; we are happily waiting for the birth of a perfect world.
The Lord has made us, as a denomination, the depository of the last message of mercy for the world. He has chosen public and personal evangelism to fulfill His purpose. But what does evangelism mean? It means that the evangelizers must be the possessors of the eternal truth. It also implies that the people to whom they preach are living in error. Therefore, efficient evangelism requires that the soul winner have a knowledge of the truth, and his life must be actuated by that truth. The evangelist must, moreover, have a knowledge of the error in which the people live. It requires the study of apologetics in evangelism. Familiarity with the different religions is a necessity in order to expound the truth in such a way that the people will see it in all its beauty, without the error's being directly attacked. Today evangelism has degenerated. It is often considered that anything that is done for the Lord's work, even to the cleaning of the church building, is evangelism. It is considered that any type of church campaign, any kind of charitable work, is evangelism. These are means toward evangelism. But evangelism in the pure sense of the word means directly presenting the truth to a person who does not know it and entreating him to accept Jesus Christ. Evangelism is preaching the gospel in public. Direct evangelism is going from house to house with truth-filled literature, but selling other literature is only indirect evangelism. Evangelism is done effectively by preaching the word through television and radio. It would be well if the word evangelism was put again in its rightful place. It should be revitalized and recover its proper place among ministers and lay members.
Subtle Hindrances to Evangelism
Today we are surrounded by subtle dangers in regard to evangelism that might lead to a weakening in preaching the truth. As an example, in Time magazine, September 28, 1959, a Jewish rabbi resented the fact that Christians are trying to convert Jews to Christianity. He said it should not be tried because it transgresses the law of "theological coexistence."
Also, in order to be considered friendly, and to get along with the Ministerial Association of the city, it is so tempting to eliminate strong evangelism for fear of being considered the "black sheep." To do evangelism in an age when there is a strong movement to reconcile Protestants with Protestants, Catholicism with Protestantism, when the broad-minded are talking about making an end to the divisions that are the scandal of Christianity, preachers like Paul and Peter are needed.
In some countries of the Middle East, the Far East, and Africa, the indigenous population proclaim that Christianity is the religion of the West and primarily for white people; that it represents "colonialism." In some countries Mohammedanism and other national religions are being revitalized, and the pressure is on to eliminate Christianity. Some governments consider evangelism a foreign penetration into the national life, and politically directed at the destruction of the religious unity and peace that exist in their respective nations.
Pressures and Hindrances Must Be Overcome
All these great pressures and seemingly insurmountable hindrances with which Satan so subtly tries to stop the preaching of the message must be overcome. The Lord commanded us: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . . : and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:19, 20). Fearlessly and with faith in God we may overcome the seemingly invincible obstacles even as the apostles overcame during the first century under the Roman Empire when it was illicit to be a Christian. But the apostle declared: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). God is above the authority of men, and in these closing days of the world's history, may God give us that spirit of evangelism to go from city to city and from town to town, in spite of all the oppositions and threats that will be put in our way.
The Urgency of Evangelism
In Milan, Italy, with G. Cupertino, Ministerial Association secretary of the Southern European Division, I was holding an evangelistic campaign recently. A good woman accepted the truth, and as she definitely decided to join the church, she said, "Since the Adventist Church is the true church of God according to prophecy, we must let the world know about it. We must let the world know that Christ is coming soon, and I want to help."
I told her that as she became integrated as a member of the church she would be invited to participate in the different missionary activities. She asked me what we were doing, and as I explained to her the home missionary activities for lay members, she said: "That is too insignificant. Only very few people will know about it. We have to do greater things. We must get into the newspapers, put in a page or half a page about our message so that the people can read about it. We ought to get into the Scala Theater and invite the people to come to hear the message, not that small hall you have that very few people know about. We must get on television and radio programs. We have to evangelize in such an all-embracing way that everybody in Milan, everybody in Italy, everybody in the world, will know about it."
She was almost impatient because we did not have great plans for such a great message. She could not understand why the church did not venture greater soul-winning activities when we are living in such a solemn hour in the world's history.
As I returned to my room I felt humbled, I felt small, and I asked the Lord: "O Lord, help us to see the urgency of evangelism." I felt that every mission and every conference ought to revise the philosophy and orientation of its very existence. Because we are becoming respected, there is danger of settling down to administer what we have, and not giving proportionate time and means for the advancing of the cause of God through public and personal evangelism of all kinds.
The primary task of the church is to evangelize and to preach this last gospel of Christ. Giving an unbalanced emphasis in favor of the side lines of our work might be shutting the door to the salvation of many people.
And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. . . . And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues (Rev. 18:1-4).
In this time of persecution the faith of the Lord's servants will be tried. They have faithfully given the warning, looking to God and to His word alone. God's Spirit, moving upon their hearts, has constrained them to speak. Stimulated with holy zeal, and with the divine impulse strong upon them, they entered upon the performance of their duties without coldly calculating the consequences of speaking to the people the word which the Lord had given them. They have not consulted their temporal interests, nor sought to preserve their reputation or their lives.—The Great Controversy, pp. 608, 609.