Review of Basic Principles in Approaching Non-Adventists

Review of Basic Principles in Approaching Non-Adventists: Part III—The Rules of Correct Approach

Brethren, we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go in our ap­proach to non-Adventists.

Minister, East Oakland Church. Oakland. California

HERE are some rules for a proper approach. First, do not begin by announcing all your differences. Dale Car­negie teaches us that. "In talk­ing with people, don't begin by discussing all the things on which you differ. Begin by emphasizing—and keep on emphasizing, if possible—that you are both striving for the same end and your only difference is one of method and not of purpose." The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that Jesus disturbed the regular patterns of thought as little as possible. Jesus did not come in as an icon­oclast, charging into their temples of belief and hammering down all their idols. He did not do that. He disturbed their estab­lished ways of thinking as little as possi­ble—just moved them step by step.

Second, don't argue. A good text for people giving Bible studies is 2 Timothy 2:24 and 25: "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing." "The truth should be pre­sented with divine tact, gentleness, and tenderness. . . . Let our words be gentle as we seek to win souls."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 400. Don't be a debater. Some people are always ready for a fight when they give the doctrines.

Another rule: Make the Christian life and the service of Christ appear attrac­tive. "Make his praise glorious" (Ps. 66:2). "Make His service appear attractive, as it really is."—Steps to Christ, p. 116. We read also, "Satan ever seeks to make the religious life one of gloom. He desires it to appear toilsome and difficult; and when the Christian presents in his own life this view of religion, he is . . . seconding the falsehood of Satan."—Ibid. We must give people the impression that to be a Christian is the most wonderful thing in the world. Make the religion of Christ at tractive. We are to make our religious serv­ices attractive: "Our meetings should be made intensely interesting. They should be pervaded with the very atmosphere of heaven. Let there be no long, dry speeches and formal prayers merely for the sake of occupying the time."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 609. Preachers, make your sermons in­teresting. Teachers, make your Sabbath school lessons interesting. Parents, make worship interesting. Make religion attrac­tive. We need to make it attractive to our children, our teen-agers. We need to make the Sabbath interesting—Sabbath meals, Sabbath walks, Sabbath books, Sabbath sto­ries. There are so many wonderful things about the Sabbath that we should look forward to it each week.

Here is a beautiful definition of the reli­gion of Jesus. "The religion of Jesus is joy, peace, and happiness."—Ibid., p. 579. Now, that kind of religion appeals to me! I grew up with many fears. I would hear the coming of Jesus spoken of and all I could see was Armageddon and the great big guns, instead of a day to look forward to with joy. I dreaded the coming of Jesus. We should present these doctrines and our religion in a way that is attractive. Yes, "the religion of Jesus is joy, peace, and happiness."

That brings us to another rule—be posi­tive. This gives us an excellent opportu­nity to bring out the blighting influence of condemnation and criticism. The key state­ment for this study is found in Gospel Workers, page 373: "The Lord wants His people to follow other methods than that of condemning wrong, even though the condemnation is just." We are to follow other methods. I will mention four classes we are specifically warned not to condemn:

1. The fallen sinner. Have you ever worked with an alcoholic and felt like tell­ing him, "I am disappointed in you and ready to give up"? We are told in The Ministry of Healing, page 494: "Never cast them aside, never drive them to discourage­ment or despair by saying, 'You have disap­pointed me, and I will not try to help you.' A few words spoken hastily under provocation—just what we think they de­serve—may cut the cords of influence which should have bound their hearts to ours." Don't condemn the fallen sinner.

2. Anyone who preaches the Word of God. That includes preachers of other churches. I used to be able to preach ser­mons about them as well as anyone. I don't preach that way any more. I think I have found a better way. I pray for the other ministers. In one place where the ministers were particularly bitter when we began to hold meetings, we prayed for the other preachers at every meeting, that God would bless them as they stood up to preach. When one man went back to his home church the preacher cornered him and tried to discourage him. He told him, "Why do you preach against those boys down there at the tent? They are praying for you." I am glad he could say that.

3. Other churches or other denomina­tions. Soul winning is a love affair (it really is), and you know another technique would not have won your bride. What if I had said to my lady fair, "Your family is no good. Join mine"? But sometimes that is the way we do when trying to win a soul. "When some who lack the Spirit and power of God enter a new field, they commence denounc­ing other denominations, thinking that they can convince the people of the truth by presenting the inconsistencies of the popu­lar churches. . . . Some seem to have drawn from the armory of heaven only its thun­derbolts. How long must these defects ex­ist?" —Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 536.

4. Christians of our own group. What if in winning my wife I would have recom­mended my four brothers in this way: "The first one is a thief; the second one is a liar; the third is a crook; and the fourth is the worst of the four, so join my family"? You know that technique would not win. But sometimes our people do that. They con­demn one another and expect to win peo­ple to their church while fussing and fight­ing. One woman complained that I was not doing enough to help her husband into the church. But the truth was that she was undoing everything I tried to do because she talked of all the failures of the church members to her husband. We are not to condemn people of our own group. The Lord wants us to change our methods. Quit condemning! If we do, others may join with us!

Another rule is, be a witness. The key word in Bible evangelism is "witness." There is no real witness for Christ, how­ever, apart from personal testimony. We must teach our people to testify as to what Christ means to them. Remember, the wit­ness tells what he knows. I have two chairs here—the chair of the witness and the chair of the judge. Our people must re­member that their place is in the chair of the witness. They are not the prosecuting attorney, they are not to condemn people. They are not the jury; their work is simply to witness. Here I am in the witness chair, and someone asks me, "Why do you keep Saturday for Sunday?" I don't snap back, "I don't keep Saturday for Sunday." I know what they mean. I simply explain that I keep the seventh-day Sabbath, and I tell why—because I love Jesus and I want to follow Him. He tells me to do so. I wit­ness as to why I keep the Sabbath. Then he asks, "What is going to happen to me if I don't keep the Sabbath?" If I reply, "You will be lost," what has happened to me? I got out of the witness' chair and into the judge's chair—the judge decides where people go, not the witness.

In one Adventist community one of our older members said to me, "You know, one of my neighbors came to me and said the people in this community are tired of being told they are going to go to the hot place if they don't begin keeping the Sab­bath and join the Adventist Church." It is not our job to tell people where they are going. Our job is to tell, of course, what will happen if they refuse to walk in the light, but we don't know how much light they have. So we must help our people to stay out of the judge's chair. John 5:22 says, "The Father . . . hath committed all judg­ment unto the Son." Not 90 per cent, but all. He is the One who judges.

Now, the last rule I'd like to suggest is this: remember the trinity of faith, hope, and love—expressed faith, inspired hope, and the law of love. We win people by ex­pressing faith in them. My parents ex­pressed faith in me from the time I can re­member. "Son, you are going to be a worker for God. You are going to be a minister." They often expressed that faith in me, and it was hard for me to disap­point them. We express faith in people who are coming along nicely in the truth. "I know an honest man like you will never be satisfied until he walks in all the light. Isn't that right?" "You love the Lord, don't you?" And you move them right along by expressing faith.

Every Bible study, every sermon, every visit to the hospital, every visit to our neighbor, must inspire men with hope. We should "work in a way that will cause hope to spring up in the place of despair." —Gospel Workers, p. 37.

We are told, "The Lord is keeping alive the spark of hope in their hearts."— Testi­monies to Ministers, p. 354. What is the devil doing? "He [Satan] desires to take every glimmer of hope and every ray of light from the soul."—Steps to Christ, p. 53. Now I had better be careful as a min­ister as to where I enter the picture. "You have disgraced your family; you have dis­graced the church," I say, and I go home and smugly mark it down as a missionary visit. In whose book? If I want to be on the Lord's side and want to inspire hope, I'll say, "There is still hope. If you have failed, so have I. Look to Jesus; there's still hope." Brethren, we must inspire hope!

And, of course, the last and greatest of all—the never-failing law of love. Try to explain that love is the key to open the heart.

Of all the people in the world, Adventists should be experts in human relations, and we must place our emphasis there. The latest science is sociology. There are more tentative conclusions in sociology than in all the other branches of science, but we ought to be at the head in every field of knowledge.

Brethren, we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go in our ap­proach to non-Adventists.

 

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Minister, East Oakland Church. Oakland. California

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