THE privilege of witnessing before ministers of other denominations is not always appreciated by Adventist ministers as it should be. We develop within our own attitudes several barriers that must be surmounted in approaching these men. One of the greatest is our tendency to regard them as "substandard" Christians and thus block the channel of communication with them.
While there should be no doubt that we have a special message for the world, it should be noted that some of these men might teach Seventh-day Adventist workers basic principles in the field of service. When we arrived in this district to begin our pastorate, the local Methodist minister immediately called to offer the use of his personal auto and any other items that might be required in our becoming established. Although we did not require his assistance, a friendship developed through his contact that has had encouraging results.
This is a country district, and the local ministerial association consists of informal fellowship with two Methodists, two Congregationalists, a Nazarene, and an Episcopal minister. The Salvation Army captain also attends. Meeting for breakfast once each month, the group plans community services and discusses mutual pastoral problems. We were invited to join and began to attend soon after our arrival.
Friendship, in Spite of Refusals
When Billy Graham conducted his campaign in our area, we did not choose to participate and expected a crisis might develop in our relationship with the local ministry. These men, however, maintained a friendly and Christianlike attitude. As plans were laid for United Lenten services, we were asked to participate, but refused on the grounds that we do not follow the non-Biblical Lenten tradition. Again we wondered what the attitude of the "brethren" might be, but they continued friendly.
Toward the close of the Lenten services the breakfast meetings were devoted to constructive criticism of the speakers, and after one such session someone observed that they had not had opportunity to criticize the sermons of their Adventist colleague. We extended an invitation to visit our Sabbath-morning service and a date was set for the group to attend.
Our congregation was informed of the intentions of the ministers and kept aware of the date. Our people warmly welcomed the visitors and provided an excellent vegetarian potluck dinner in their honor following the worship hour.
Uneasy for Sunday Sermon
While visiting with these brethren in the pastor's study, we were able to point out the volumes of the Spirit of Prophecy on the shelves and briefly describe the work of Ellen G. White. At the Parish Hall before the potluck supper we explained the reason that they would find no flesh foods on the table and found these men more receptive than we had dared to expect.
The reactions of these ministers was gratifying, and we include some of their statements in this article.
The Episcopalian rector remarked: "I expected a somewhat informal service as you had forewarned us, but there was a ' warmth about it all that left me deeply impressed. I felt that I had truly worshiped!"
Another commented: "I had been fed spiritually on Saturday, and was left feeling somewhat uneasy for my Sunday sermon. It just didn't seem right to be in the pulpit on Sunday after having already worshiped on Saturday."
Others were impressed by the lay par-, ticipation in our service, especially by the congregational singing. All agreed that they had gained a completely new concept of Seventh-day Adventists.
Mingling with the Protestant ministry on this island has led to several opportunities. One of these men telephoned to ask whether I knew that a certain one of his neighbors was a Seventh-day Adventist. On another occasion this same clergyman's wife asked me to visit and pray for one of their parishioners who was dangerously ill and the pastor was not available. This degree of cooperation and mutual respect has given several openings for discussion of cardinal doctrines with this man.
This area of Christian witness provides fruitful contacts, but not all Protestant ministers respond to the same approach. Shortly after our arrival we went from parsonage to parsonage becoming acquainted with these pastors and found that in some instances we were not cordially welcomed. The majority, however, were friendly and willing to exchange views on techniques and doctrine.
Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ's messengers we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock.—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 78.
Every Seventh-day Adventist pastor may come near to his neighboring clergymen, praying for and with them. However, we will never successfully approach these men without regarding them as sincere men who desire to serve God. This recognition makes it possible for our workers to deal with the clergy according to the counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy. In this way we are able to turn barriers into bridges.