Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14). This beautiful song was sung by the angels as they joyfully announced to the shepherds that the Saviour was born. This incarnation is a thrilling story as we read it today about two thousand years later.
It is usually in the month of December that the world turns to the story of the Christ child. About this time of year the Seventh-day Adventist Church launches what is said to be "the greatest single missionary activity of the church." But, sad to say, some of the methods used to promote this religious activity too often have brought no glory to God and in the church no peace to the saints, but the loss of much good will toward the pastor and the work of God.
My conscience has been smiting me for some time as each year I used the usual unholy methods of Ingathering promotion. When my deacons paraded across the front of the sanctuary with large boards with the name of every member of the church upon them, I could see in the faces of the people mixed emotions. Those who had a large amount to report would glow with pride, and those who had nothing to report would turn red with embarrassment. There would be rivalry between the bands and pressure put on each person. Those who brought in the most were commended the loudest, given ribbons, and praised. Others who had worked as long and as hard received only token consideration. It seemed that everything appealed to the motives of pride and self-exaltation. What a terrible procedure! We embarrassed people into either giving or getting.
My heart ached every year. I rebelled inside as I used the popular gimmicks of the outside business world to promote the work of God. How did this unholy traffic ever get into the church? Wasn't there some better way to do Ingathering? Fear would well up in my heart as I even contemplated changing to more spiritual methods of promotion. What if I failed to reach my district goal? How embarrassing it would be to go to the Ingathering victory workers' meeting with failure to report.
Then my hope was stimulated. Elder J. R. Spangler wrote an editorial in the November, 1963, issue of this journal, shaming us for using such methods. He told of a better way. "Yes," I said as I read along. "Yes, it should be changed, but how dare we try?" Then he told of Pastor W. J. Keith who had used a spiritual approach for years and always got his goal. I wrote to Pastor Keith, and he sent me his plan of organization immediately. We adapted this plan to our church and launched out.
Now I will try to relate the thrilling results of what happened in the Cocoa, Florida, Seventh-day Adventist church. We presented the plan at the close of the worship hour. The sermon was spiritual and an appeal was made for consecration to the Lord for greater service. We appealed for a loyal, full cooperation and then announced who the band leaders were. BY secret ballot each person chose the band he preferred, and those who were not present were chosen by the leaders. We did not mention money, band goals, district goals, or personal goals. We did not show the church totals, or individual totals, or band totals. We did not use a single goal device. Money wasn't mentioned. We did stress souls. We stressed the spiritual blessings received by any who went out, and the spiritual blessings we could bring to those we reached. Everyone was told to keep a sharp eye for any interested persons. Names and addresses began to come in. Nonmembers participated. Missionary periods were filled with actual experiences. Our goal was to approach every home in our territory and tell of the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the world. There was great excitement as victory day came. Had we reached our goal? For the first time we totaled up the cash. We were $300 short. This was soon raised by some who had reserved special territory for the days just before Christmas and by others who decided to give their goal.
One woman who never goes out and just gives her goal said, "If Ingathering is going to be carried on in this way, then I will go out too." She did—and enjoyed it. To this day the people of this church are still amazed that the goal was reached so easily and so fast. Personally, I give the Lord all the praise. I spent many hours in prayer, asking for faith to believe in His power. The Lord helped me not to become anxious and begin to pressure everybody. He was wonderful! He even helped me not to pressure my wife, and believe me, that was a victory!
"To God be the glory; great things He hath done!" Let us dispense with worldly methods and use only the sweet methods of love, and surely the Lord will bless our efforts.