IT IS not so strange that Satan throws a II tantrum when souls are wrested from his grasp and placed on the side of Christ. The devil doesn't try too hard to stop any church program as long as it doesn't involve the saving of a soul. In fact, he is quite pleased when the church bogs down with expenditure of money, time, and energy that results in little or no souls brought to Christ.
There is a need of constantly sensing that the storm center of conflict between Christ and Satan is over the salvation of souls. This is the issue! Everything else is incidental to that issue!
The minister who is on the side of Christ faces the never-ending job of reminding himself, and acting accordingly, that "in order to be a truly successful minister, one must wholly consecrate himself to the work of saving souls" (Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 261).
To confront the world with our message is a difficult task. The temptation to take the easy way out has trapped no small number of preachers. Could it be possible that part of our church program today, involving the time and talents of our ordained and licensed ministers, is the result of yielding to this temptation to escape from the hard, difficult, emotion-draining work of persuading people to accept Christ? There simply is nothing harder and more heart breaking than direct soul winning. Of course, nothing is more glorious and rewarding than when a person surrenders all to Christ as the result of Holy Spirit-blessed labors.
Forced Into It
I am most thankful for a conference president who virtually forced me into a public effort. I don't say that a public meeting is the only way to win souls, but one thing sure, a public meeting has something about it that never lets a preacher forget what his main task is in life.
"Let not the men that God has called to do gospel work become entangled with business perplexities. Let them keep their souls in the atmosphere most favorable to spirituality."—Colporteur Ministry, p. 23. I can personally testify that the most favorable spiritual atmosphere for me is to be in a spiritual battle—that of waging war against the stronghold of Satan. During a campaign of soul winning, my spiritual temperature is always at its height. My dependence upon God is stronger then than at any other time. When not struggling for the salvation of souls, I slip so easily into an independent state. That old Laodicean feeling of having "need of nothing" paralyzes me. While I am engaged in soul winning, the magnetic pull of the world is greatly reduced. My spiritual, physical, and mental capacities are completely occupied with the highest, holiest work ever committed to man.
Back in my younger days, only long-term campaigns were in vogue. When I say long, I mean long. A five- or six-month campaign averaging four nights a week was not uncommon. From the moment we started to prepare for the meeting until the Amen of the last benediction, every hour of consciousness carried with it an inescapable burden for souls. It is not only a burden to see souls won, but a constant burden to subject your entire being to God. You realize your total inability to change a heart. You know that all your sermons, all your prayers, all your advertising, mean nothing unless God, through His Holy Spirit, works in your behalf. A well-oiled mechanical religious program can be operated quite apart from God's power. But the actual conversion, not convincing, of a soul, is God's work. If we think that by our own efforts we can change a sinner's heart, then we are attempting to ride a dead horse into battle.
If a man has never had the experience of being totally involved in a soul-winning program, he will never appreciate why most active pastor-evangelists and full-time evangelists take a rather dim view of many of our church programs that are not directly related to winning men for heaven.
When my president set the time, budget, and place for my first solo flight into public soul winning, I tried everything possible to change his mind. Like poor Adam and Eve, I grabbed for every fig-leaf excuse to justify my attitude. Oh, how busy I was with church programs. I was in the process of developing a correspondence school that would sweep hundreds into the baptismal tank—so I thought! But nothing could budge that obstinate executive. The die was cast. The public meetings were a success, thanks to the Lord's help. J. L. Shuler doesn't know it, but his mimeographed evangelistic sermons were as "apples of gold in pictures of silver." I have often wondered how many other men could make the same or similar confession.
How we need soul winners today! If Ellen G. White were alive today, what would she say if she saw the world filled with huge fortresslike cities and so little being done to reach the masses within their sprawling borders? Could it be possible that if we dispensed with a number of good, but less important, church activities and then simply began to carry the message from door to door, day in and day out, week after week, month after month, we would see an influx of new people into this movement that would amaze even the most optimistic? No one would have to justify his existence or position by grinding out some new idea that is supposed to finish the work. We would simply approach people with the Word of God, begin Bible studies, hold meetings, seek every opportunity to preach, not to the Adventists, but to the world — in short, "Do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:5). If we could and would cut loose from our private studies, our offices, our church pulpits, our mimeograph machines, our endless committees, and begin talking, preaching, praying, and singing with non-Adventists, we would break every statistical record to date in short order. The idea would be to get all of our ordained and licensed ministers on the firing line. This would mean following the blueprint. "Often the laborers who might be a power for good in public meetings, are engaged in other work that allows them no time for active ministry among the people. For the conduct of affairs at the various centers of our work, those in responsibility must endeavor, as far as possible, to find consecrated men who have been trained in business lines. There is constant necessity for guarding against the tendency to tie up at these centers of influence men who could do a larger and more important work on the public platform, in presenting before unbelievers the truths of God's Word."—Evangelism, pp. 22, 23.
Signs Screaming at Us
The signs of Christ's soon coming are screaming at us! It is no longer a question of faith to believe the end is near. Yet, in the midst of this awful crisis, is the church awake to her twofold responsibility: first, to get ready to meet the Lord; second, to share with the world the good news of His coming. The world is collapsing about us. How can we hold our peace? How can we relax and let months and even years go by without any effort to warn the towns and cities where we are? Emergency measures need to be taken to shout our message from the housetops. Unprecedented expenditures ought to be made in the area of spreading the message directly! Never has the world needed more what this church has to offer. We have been told repeatedly, "Human plans for the purification and uplifting of individuals or of society will fail of producing peace, because they do not reach the heart."—The Desire of Ages, p. 305.
There is only one way to reach the heart permanently, and that way is through the One who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). The church is in desperate need of people—young people, old people—who will carry this message to the masses. As I witness youth in all countries who are promoting their philosophies, their ideologies, it makes me covet an exhibition of the same kind of zeal and enthusiasm in our church.
Watch youth witness for their beliefs in frantic rallies against this or that. Watch them burn their draft cards. Watch them taunt government authority. Watch them wear long hair, odd-looking clothes, and go barefooted. They are not ashamed. They have no fear of what people may say or think about them. How I covet their zeal, their forthrightness, even though I cannot agree with their philosophies.
Must Stones Cry Out?
Must tongues of us ordained and licensed ministers incessantly spew out mere chitchat of cars and cameras, gossip and golf, politics and play, criticism and clothes, bargains and bills, finances and funds?
The world's greatest triumphal entry was the Saviour's ride into Jerusalem. The inspiration of the hour was dramatic. Few refused to join the glad procession. Cleansed lepers, healed invalids, forgiven sinners, were foremost in announcing Christ as king. The parade and adulation was so great, the jealous priests cried out, "Behold, the world is gone after him" (John 12:19). They were so upset over the success of Christ's short evangelistic campaign that they urged Him to rebuke and shut the mouths of His disciples. The Lord replied, "If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out" (Luke 19:40).
Today the command of the church is, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee" (Zech. 9:9).
Must our Lord use stones intead of men to declare this glorious theme?