It was a hot Sabbath morning in July in a small Eastern town back in the days when the Ingathering campaign wandered from month to month through the calendar year. Sabbath school attendants were singing the final stanza of the closing song. The missionary service was about to begin. A young, energetic pastor was in the process of carrying in a large display board on which were the church members' names beside blank spaces to be filled with the amount of In-gathering funds raised the previous week. A determined red-faced member met the pastor in the foyer and in angry tones demanded his name be removed from the board. Somehow the pastor didn't agree to this name-obliterating idea, and the discussion that ensued was a disgrace.
This was my third week as a new recruit in the ministerial forces of this church, and some rather strong convictions began to creep into my mind as I came to the aid of both the pastor and the offended member. Can you imagine what kind of worship service we had that day, in fact, for many Sabbaths following this tragic incident? The hearts of all who witnessed this ugly spectacle still shudder when memory recalls it.
Is there a pastor who has ever been involved in what developed into the greatest single concerted endeavor of the church, who has not given some serious reflection to some of the motives and methods used to achieve the Ingathering financial goal. There is nothing wrong with the raising of funds, the distribution of literature, or the winning of souls as long as the methods and motives are right. Ingathering can be a blessing when executed properly, but it can also be fostered in such a way as to put it in the class with bingo parties, raffles, and other diseased fund-raising methods that we strongly condemn. Throwing a religious garment over any church endeavor fostered purely from a statistical viewpoint will never pass the scrutinizing eyes of the Lord.
Action resulting from high-pressure methods is a disgrace to the Holy God whom we serve. Objectives reached by competition is degrading to both shepherd and sheep. Liberality of time and energy on the part of any member that stems from the hope of receiving pins, ribbons, or the lavish praise of the pastor is entirely out of the realm of Christian principle. For a spiritual leader to manipulate this or any other type of church campaign by use of competitive, embarrassing, coercive, or flattering methods is not only unscriptural but an outrage to the Lord God who has called us to worship Him in sincerity and truth. To gain some religious financial objective by appealing to a man's pride or sense of shame is a violation of true Christian ethics. To face the judgment with these and other related methods and motives standing against us on our records will surely earn the awful sentence "I never knew you: depart from me."
True, it is a deplorable fact that generally it is the "few" who carry the burden of any church program. But this fact can never be used as an excuse for obtaining our goals by questionable methods and motives. Our coffers may bulge and our budgets dilate by using wrong methods, but this is no sign of success. A quick look at the rich merchandising of the Revelation 18 ecclesiastical power is an indication of her wickedness, not her success. The raising of enormous sums of money for church purposes does not guarantee escape from hearing the Lord speak through Isaiah and Amos. "'What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts: I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats. . . . Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me" (Isa. 1:11, 13, R.S.V.). "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them" (Amos 5:21, 22, R.S.V.).
Money and Salvation
We cannot divorce church affairs from salvation. All church business must be done in relation to Calvary. The plan of salvation was not laid on a foundation of competition, transitory rewards, applause, or self-glorification. Its roots were sunk deep in the soil of sacrifice. Its depth is measureless. Only those whose hearts are touched by the principle of sacrificing love can properly enter into the true spirit of Ingathering. The beating of drums, banqueting, flashy publicity, cheap devices, and tawdry bulletins are not only unnecessary but debilitating to the spiritual power of the Church. Only as this gigantic effort magnifies the Lord Jesus Christ can it prove to be successful and of true value.
Pointers for Success
First, the shepherd should examine his own motives. The one who merely organizes and plans for a successful campaign in hopes of securing a presidential blessing or an extra week of vacation can hardly be in a position to give the spiritual leadership that is necessary. Nor can the pastor whose fears of his superiors relentlessly drive him into conducting frenzied Sabbath morning worship services ever expect to put this program on the high spiritual basis where it belongs. It is imperative to take time for study, prayer, and even fasting, if necessary, until love for the Lord of glory becomes the compelling drive of our lives. Let all other motives disappear. Let us determine that Ingathering will be done on a spiritual basis or it will not be done at all.
Spiritualize the Church Board
Approach the church board after your own soul has become saturated with right principled motives. Instead of discussing the details of paraphernalia, plans and programs, lay before your church leaders your own conviction as to the necessity of God's Spirit controlling every move of this missionary adventure. Lift the minds of your church officers above the dollar sign. It would be well to read pages 195-197 in Counsels on Stewardship entitled "The True Motive in All Service." These heart-searching paragraphs effectively point out the right and only way to carry on Ingathering and all other missionary activities.
Inspiration Not Competition
After emphasizing the true motive aspect, let there be an earnest season of prayer in which we ask God through the power of His Spirit to impart the inspiration necessary for a successful campaign. Pray that this campaign will first and foremost result in the bringing of the church membership into a closer fellowship with God. Pray that as members visit people a greater burden will be felt for their souls than for their open pocketbook. Pray that questions such as "How much did we make tonight?" will be replaced by "Who did we help tonight?" Pray that desires for stars glued on a chart after a member's name will be overwhelmed by a desire to have stars placed in an eternal crown. Pray that self-seeking will be forgotten and that Christ alone will be elevated before the community. Let every worker and layman be drenched with the love of God as we move forward in this most important church endeavor. "Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good."—The Desire of Ages, p. 362.
I personally feel that only those funds gathered in the right spirit will be used by God to further His cause. Finally, pray when the task is finished that the glee and jubilation over the amount of money raised will be superseded by joyful testimonies expressing appreciation for the opportunity of serving God and man.
Where Does the Goal Come In?
Goals are essential—time goals, money goals, sales goals, geographical goals, work goals, et cetera. Man's life is made up of goals, from a set goal of rising in the morning to retiring at night, man is constantly seeking to reach certain objectives. Failure is ours when there is no goal. Let there be no animosity against a goal. The finest goal a church can set in an Ingathering campaign is seeking for lost souls and the placing of a piece of literature in every home. In fact, this has been emphatically stated in Counsels on Stewardship, pages 189, 190.
To all who are about to take up special missionary work with the paper prepared for use in the Harvest Ingathering campaign, I would say: Be diligent in your efforts; live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Add daily to your Christian experience. Let those who have special aptitude, work for unbelievers in the high places as well as in the low places of life. Search diligently for perishing souls. Oh, think of the yearning desire Christ has to bring to His fold again those who have gone astray.
Watch for souls as they that must give an account. In your church and neighborhood missionary work, let your light shine forth in such clear, steady rays that no man can stand up in the judgment, and say, "Why did you not tell me about this truth? Why did you not care for my soul?" Then let us be diligent in the distribution of literature that has been carefully prepared for use among those not of our faith. Let us make the most of every opportunity to arrest the attention of unbelievers. Let us put literature into every hand that will receive it. Let us consecrate ourselves to the proclamation of the message, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God!"
Then organize, organize, organize! Fine material is available on this subject from the Home Missionary Department. The point is that God's Spirit is enabled to do much more with a consecrated, organized group of people than a consecrated, disorganized group. Let all plans and organization be carefully worked out before presenting them to the church.
Will a Man Rob God?
I have always felt that the robbing of God spoken of by the prophet Malachi involves much more than the transaction of giving tithes and offerings to God. We speak of a person paying an honest tithe. Honesty goes far deeper than a mere 10 percent of our income. It involves our motives. We can rob God of the privilege of motivating our members to action through His Spirit. This type of robbing may not appear on earthly ledger sheets, yet it is a most serious form of robbery. It may well lure many an unwary soul into the trap of false security when in reality his efforts are not only in vain but condemned by God.
Let this Ingathering campaign be registered in the books of heaven as the most successful one in our history, because we have permitted God to motivate the actions of ministers and laity alike. Let the spirit of rivalry be eliminated. Let us guard against sowing seeds of future heartaches and even divorce in the minds of our youth by setting the boys against the girls in this or any other campaign. These competitive actions give birth to antagonistic feelings when the honor of one's sex is at stake.
In place of these soul-devastating ideas and practices let our intensity of love for God and His work lead us all into dynamic action that will ultimately result in leading souls to a deeper knowledge of Him whose love led Him to make Himself "of no reputation."
J. R. S.