My heart has been greatly cheered by the soul-winning reports coming in from all parts of the world. Our accessions by baptism and profession of faith increased from 125,000 in 1965 to 140,000 in 1967. Trans-Africa leads the world divisions with 31,057 additions in 1967. South America is in second place with 25,607. North America reported 23,000 in 1965, faltered a bit in 1966 with 21,000, but made a good comeback in 1967 with 23,476, which places it nearly even with Inter-America for third place among the world divisions. The other world divisions have also been blessed of God in their renewed evangelistic thrust. We appreciate what all our leaders have done to ignite the fires of evangelism around the world. During the months ahead we must undertake the greatest soul-winning advance this church has ever experienced. I have no doubt that our pastors, evangelists, teachers, medical workers, and, in fact, every category of worker in the church, will join in making this achievement possible under God's blessing.
Let us preach the truth, sing the truth, write the truth, and live the truth. Let our voices be heard over the radio, on the television, in the press, behind the public pulpit, and in the living rooms of America. Let us saturate the airwaves, fill the tabernacles, crowd the tents, overflow the churches, throughout all the great continents of earth.
I could scarcely believe my eyes, but as I looked again I was assured it was true-43,292 persons were dropped from the remnant church during 1967 either for apostasy or because they were missing. Think of it—this number is larger than the Central European, Southern Asia, China, Russia, or Middle East divisions. We lost more members in twelve months than we have members in 58 of our unions around the world. How sad—to lose a whole union or a whole division in just one short year!
Why did this large number leave us? Some became discouraged because no one in the church seemed to care for them. Some reported the pastor seldom, if ever, visited them. Some dropped out because they were never truly converted. Some followed Demas—love of the world prevailed over love for God. Some just didn't care any more—apathy, boredom, or whatever you wish to call it.
What are we as workers and leaders going to do about this appalling situation? Are we going to sit idly by while these souls go their heedless way without stretching forth a hand, exerting an effort to do something for them? Of course not. Soul conservation is as much a part of evangelism as soul conquest!
At the last Autumn Council a fine plan, presented by the Ministerial Association, was adopted. You will be hearing more and more about it—CONCERN. This is not a campaign, this is an earnest effort that should be supported by every worker and every member in the church. It envisions contacting every backslider in our area with prepared materials, with prepared hearts, seeking to warm them up and bring them back. If you don't receive your materials for this fine program soon, contact your conference ministerial secretary or your conference president. They will be able to help you. Brethren, we simply must do something for the backsliders about us. If we do our part, the Lord, by His good Spirit, will help us. This is truly evangelism.
But before the evangelistic outreach, whether it be for new interests or for backsliders, there must be the evangelists' in-reach. Before God can do great things for the public through us, He must do something real and wonderful for the evangelist in us! As workers and leaders in God's cause we can hope to lead this church into true revival, reformation, and evangelism only as you and I are in the vanguard of this mighty movement Godward! We can never expect our people to be what we have not yet become in Christ Jesus! The revival, the reformation, must begin in your heart and mine!
These are days that challenge, not our dynamic methods, but our godly example. People are longing for preachers who live their sermons as well as speak them. Those with whom we come in contact need to see our message as much as they need to hear it. You and I must be the third angel's message in verity, as well as proclaim it! There must be no credibility gap between us as ministers and those whom God has called us to serve.
Brethren, having made our own calling and election sure, let us move forward in confidence—forward in a mighty evangelistic advance, forward to the kingdom, leading a mighty host of -witnesses with us. Let us storm the bastions of the evil one. Let us sweep through the towns, let us invade the inner cities. Let us take our precious message of reconciliation into the homes and into the hearts of millions of men and women, young and old, around the world during the next two years. And, as I have said before, let us not forget those who once worshiped with us—they must play an important role in our evangelistic planning.
Fellow leaders, fifty-five of your brethren in the General Conference are with you in this great evangelism thrust. We lay no claim to the talents of the Detamores, the Colthearts, the Cooks, the Spanglers, the Clevelands, the Kents, the Montanas, the Sitompuls, the Wrights, and a host of others whom the Lord has endowed with special evangelistic talent, but we love the same Lord and the same message. We are all working toward the same goal—a finished work and a coming King—and we want to be in the thick of the battle with you. We will do our best—pray for us! Let us all move forward together!
You and I have God's last-day message. Preach it! Sing it! Write it! Live it!
God bless you!