A leading radio network has a feature program called Emphasis. Interspersed throughout the day, the program is a report on varied subjects and situations. As I heard this program introduced recently on my auto radio and heard a topic of general interest presented, I began to do a little checking up on my own program as a minister, to see if I was really giving emphasis to the right things.
Our denomination was raised up in response to prophecy and hence has a specific work to accomplish. Therefore the Seventh-day Adventist Church is unlike any other church by virtue of its mission. Because of this fact we view ourselves not as just another denomination but as a worldwide movement endeavoring to prepare the world for the advent of our Lord.
Sabbath, Nonimmortality, Sanctuary
Doctrinally there are three distinct truths that, perhaps more than any other, set us apart from Protestantism at large, namely, the Sabbath, the doctrine of the noninarnortality of the soul, and the doctrine of the sanctuary with all its rarnifications. But it is our mission that really makes us unique. Because of the nature of this mission and its urgency, the work of the Adventist ministry is to be far different from that of other Protestant ministers. Ours must ever be an aggressive evangelistic program. We should never be content to maintain the status quo, as the servant of the Lord will bear out:
All are now deciding their eternal destiny. Men need to be aroused to realize the solemnity of the time, the nearness of the day when human probation shall be ended. Decided efforts should be made to bring the message for this time prominently before the people. The third angel is to go forth with great power.—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 16.
Today the trend in the Protestant ministry is basically to oversee their congregations and administer the work of the church. But our time should not be taken up with the minutiae of church work; we should not be bogged down with "administrivia."
They [our ministers] should feel that it is not their duty to hover over the churches already raised up, but that they should be doing aggressive evangelistic work, preaching the Word and doing houseto-house work in places that have not yet heard the truth.—Evangelism, p. 382.
The average clergyman today feels that it is part and parcel of his work to be an understudy for the psychologist, spending much of his time in the work of counseling. Our work as undershepherds will require that we give guidance to our people in their problems, but we should not put the emphasis here. This phase of activity will consume a lot of time if we permit it, and will put a crimp in our direct soul-winning endeavors which "is to occupy more and still more of the time of God's servants."—Ibid., p. 17.
There is a danger that in this day when our church has, to a large degree, become departmentalized we will lose the emphasis of soul winning and be caught up in the trend of the ministers of other faiths and find a "high church" attitude creeping up on us with regard to our position as pastors. When this happens our ministry loses its evangelical flavor.
With the many activities that Adventist workers become involved in, whether they be the Five-Day Plan, welfare activities, public-relation enterprises, or the various promotional campaigns we have as a church, each in himself must have strong evangelistic overtones, or we as workers will have little by way of real fruitage in souls to show for the effort expended.
We have all been given differing talents. The Scriptures bear this out. God has placed in our church, as in the early church, those who are to be evangelists (Eph. 4:11). These may be people who have a strong talent for either personal or public evangelism, but the fact that God has given some this gift does not excuse those with the gifts of being pastors and teachers from doing the work of evangelism. Because other ministers can preach better than I does not mean that I should cease from preaching. God accepts and blesses the talent we use for Him, even those that are somewhat feeble. Because we may feel that we are not "cut out" to be public evangelists does not mean that we should cease from conducting any public evangelistic meetings. God will honor our courage and the abundance of our faith even if the talent is lacking.
Two teen-age boys in a nearby church recently conducted a one-week series of meetings in an average-size church. They had been baptized themselves only a few months before and had never done anything by way of public speaking or soul-winning work before. God honored them with ten decisions for Christ that will certainly result in at least six baptisms. One of those indicating his desire for baptism was none other than the father of one of the boys.
Aside from public evangelism, the evangelistic emphasis can still be given by pastors on a personal basis by conducting Bible studies in the homes where they may gain access by following up leads of interested people entrusted to them.
In Christianity Today we find this pungent statement:
There is at least one other requirement for effective evangelism. It is a burdened, concerned heart. It is possible to become so involved in the administration of a church—promoting a program, raising a budget, organizing committees—that we forget the purpose of the church. Regardless of what else a church may be doing, if it is not winning souls to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, it has failed.
The present appeal is that no matter what specific area of denominational employ we may be engaged in, or what our own particular talents may be, we can carry out our mission as a church only as we as individual workers put first things first in our ministry, and that means putting the emphasis on evangelism in everything we do in the cause of God.