Autumn Council Impressions

A look at our fall council meetings.

J.R. Spangler, Associate Secretary, Ministerial Association, General Conference


AS A BOY, not yet in my teens, I accompanied my parents on several occa­sions to the Fall Coun­cils held in Battle Creek, Michigan. My father at that time was a layman. It was not uncommon in those days for the lay­men to outnumber the official delegates. I can't remember too many details about these meetings, but an indelible impression was made on my young mind that connected a Fall Council with power­ful preaching and a revival. I knew noth­ing of the detailed business and policies of the church at that time, but I was made aware of the Advent Movement's spiritual program.

Memories Revived

At our last Fall Council held in October, strange feelings came over me as memories of my childhood attendance at the Battle Creek Fall Councils were revived. This Autumn Council was more than an enlarged committee, doing the Lord's business. The emphasis from beginning to end was placed on revival, reformation, and evangelism. This placing of spiritual themes above all else found a response in the hearts of all in attendance.

In the opening service on Wednesday evening, October 18, Pastor Neal Wilson, president of the North American Division, pleaded with God to pour out His Spirit upon this special Fall Council. In his prayer he mentioned the important points that we as workers need more than abilities, more than organization—we need to be men filled with the Spirit.

The meetings were held in the Takoma Park church, and the auditorium was well filled with both delegates and visitors. Our General Conference president opened his evening message with the thought that the church faces the most challenging prob­lems that it has ever faced. Then in a positive tone he claimed that we are glad to face these problems, knowing that our Lord is with us. His sermon, which has been reported in full in the Review and Herald of November 17, 1966, centered on the theme "Arise, Go Over This Jor­dan."

Three Texts

Our president applied to today's situa­tion three texts dealing with God's people during Joshua's time:

  1. Joshua 1:1, 2: "The Lord spake unto Joshua . . . saying, . . . Arise, go over this Jordan."
  2. Joshua 3:1: "And Joshua rose early in the morning."
  3. Joshua 3:5: "Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you."

From these three texts four important lessons were drawn:

1.   The assignment of a task. In spite of melting snows and swollen floods, the Lord commanded, "Arise, go over this Jordan."

2. The leader's reaction to the assign­ment. Joshua rose early. There was no hesitation, no procrastination, no indeci­sion. To put it plainly, "Joshua was the kind of leader who could not rest when God called him to action."

3.   Special preparation on the part of both leaders and people. Pastor Pierson stated, "Before they beheld the mighty power of God in their behalf, a work of sanctification must take place. It was a time of deep heart searching and repent­ance. A time of repentance over past fail­ures and unbelief." Carefully they searched for anything that would prevent them from playing their part in carrying out God's assignment. "Their deportment was to be in keeping with the solemnity of the hour!"

4.    The promise of God's divine interven­tion on behalf of His people. "The Lord will do wonders among you." In this hour of urgency and extremity God would do some­thing out of the ordinary. The word won­ders in the Hebrew means "to separate, to distinguish." God's "wonders" would sep­arate divine power from human power. He was going to "distinguish Himself as the leader of His people—the One upon whom they could depend on under all circum­stances."

The Lesson for Our Day

Pastor Pierson made application of these Old Testament lessons to our day. Mof­fatt's translation of 1 Cor. 10:11 * was used: "It was written down for the purpose of instructing us whose lot has been cast in the closing hours of the world." The mes­senger of the Lord said in 1879, "We are now upon the very borders of the eternal world." In 1885 she wrote, "Eternity stretches before us. The curtain is about to be lifted." The voice comes loud and clear to His leaders today, "Arise, go over this Jordan." The challenge was presented of the unentered areas facing us—Tibet, Congo, Zanzibar, Arabia, dark counties of the United States, and other sections of the world bid us to arise and go over Jordan.

The president challenged the leaders at this Fall Council by stating, "God expects us to respond and lead His people as Joshua responded." He said that we should move forward without hesitation, procras­tination, or indecision. This awesome hour demands a matching type of leadership. More is expected of us than of any other leaders in the history of this movement, for we are nearing the end of earth's his­tory.

"We Are Altogether Too Narrow in Our Plans"

He continued by reading from Evan­gelism, page 46: "We are altogether too nar­row in our plans. . . . His work is to go forward in cities and towns and villages. . . . We must get away from our smallness and make larger plans. There must be a wider reaching forth to work for those who are nigh and those who are afar off."

After reading this pointed statement he fervently appealed, "Let the word go round the world to every kindred, tongue, and people that Seventh-day Adventists have not lost their evangelistic fervor or sense of mission. We have not lost in the least our belief that the end is near. Let us electrify our people with a well-thought­out and well-planned program of soul win­ning, with every department of the church mobilized for a great forward thrust in soul conquest. One great obsession should take hold of us—soul winning and the finishing of the work of God."

Hundreds of Letters Coming In

Elder Pierson stated that hundreds of letters received by him expressed the as­surance that if we as leaders move for­ward our people will come with us. "We must not, dare not, fail Him or them in this great hour!" he said.

Appeal for Reformation

The climax of the president's sermon dealt with an appeal for reformation. The thought that this is no time for compro­mise, for holding onto the world with one hand and onto God with the other, was set forth clearly.

"There must be a reformation. The plowshare of truth must plow deep fur­rows in our proud hearts, and tear up the sod of our unsanctified natures, that the Spirit and love of Jesus may be planted in our hearts."—Sons and Daughters of God, p. 49.

The Holy Spirit sent His arrows of con­viction to every heart as Pastor Pierson stated: "We are to be examples. What a tragedy if we should fail our people and our God in this late hour."

Personal Preparation

The speaker climaxed his message with the thought that this was the time to make things right. He stressed that before our great evangelistic thrust takes place there must be personal preparation, and he declared, "To such a preparation I dedi­cate myself, and I appeal for a response to this challenge of God as we face the crossing of the Jordan—the entrance to the Promised Land."

Thrilling Response

If every worker and member of the Sev­enth-day Adventist Church could have been present to hear the testimonies of our world leaders, their hearts would have been thrilled. To include every response is impossible, but we will give a few excerpts from these testimonies, trusting that ___________  our world ministry will catch a portion of the spirit of dedication that was so evi­dent on this opening night.

Testimony Excerpts

One vice-president stated. "Tonight I believe with all my heart that the coming of Jesus is near. I want everyone I contact to know that He is coming soon. Every agency in the church is to be used to reach every soul on earth. Total evangelism means carrying the battle for Christ to every country and nation." A division president, with tears in his voice, said, "I want my life to be a channel, not a bar­rier." A delegate from the Middle East declared, "The former rain was poured out in this land of 123 million people, and now we are praying that the latter rain will begin here." Another division president eloquently acknowledged, "There can be no Christianity without evangelism. There is no Christian who is not an evangelist." A union president stated, "I have never been stirred more deeply than tonight." Another union president affirmed, "We want the miracle of God's transforming power to take place today so the miracle of finishing God's work will take place tomorrow." Every heart was touched with the testimony of a General Conference treasurer when he said, "We may be in­volved in financial plans as treasurers, but we want you to know that our only aim is to see the finish of God's work in the earth."

Revival, Reformation, and Evangelism Theme

This meeting, which set the tone for the entire council, was followed by several days of profitable discussions of various policies and recommendations. Each day the council began with stirring Bible-cen­tered messages. The speakers included Theodore Carcich, general vice-president; N. R. Dower, secretary of the Ministerial Association; W. W. Fordham, associate secretary of the North American Regional Department; and A. A. Esteb, associate secretary of Lay Activities.

The Ministerial Association believes that the greatest single action taken was one dealing with worldwide revival and evangelism. We urge every minister to read carefully this action, which appears on page 24 of this issue. 

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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J.R. Spangler, Associate Secretary, Ministerial Association, General Conference


January 1967

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