FOR years a deep conviction has pressed on me that there are possibilities, as well as responsibilities, in our use of the Sabbath preaching service toward which we preachers might well aspire.
After fifty-four years in the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I consider that the Sabbath morning preaching appointment is the most important responsibility of the pastor, or is at least high on the list. Our dear people gather on Sabbath hungry for a vital message of encouragement, instruction, correction, and inspiration. They come to be fed. They come to be taught. They come to be lifted and directed. How do we, their pastors, upon whom rests the responsibility of supplying their need and discharging our responsibility to God, meet that challenge? What is the real spiritual, instructional, and heart quality of our sermon for the day?
The speaker's first responsibility is to God, for whom he speaks. If he really meets this responsibility he will meet his responsibility to his congregation. His office is akin to that of the prophet of old. He does not, like the prophet, speak by divine, supernatural, direct revelation from heaven, but he can and should speak by a divine illumination and compulsion. It is presumed that he has spent time in fellowship with God and His Word in the study, and that he has spent time in the homes of his congregation. He knows the needs of God's people, and he knows God's response to that need. He should know what God's message is for that Sabbath, and he should be fired by it.
On Sabbath he stands behind the desk as God's spokesman to express the counsel of God. His message will be saturated with the Word of God, and not with his own pet theories and ideas. He will teach truth, and the congregation will listen and learn. If they do not learn they will not be interested. Someone has said very truly, "Where there is no information there is no inspiration." Why waste time in the sermon by preaching sweet nothings lollipop sermons when we could and should be preaching the vital, life-giving message from heaven?
Light the Flame
If the message is to burn in the pulpit and into hearts of the congregation, the preacher must first light the flame in the study. Further, if it is to continue to burn, the preacher must provide abundant fuel to keep it burning vigorously.
Heresies never thrive or gain a serious foothold in congregations that are fortunate enough to have a pastor who, week by week, really preaches the Word, and thus gives "meat in due season." His sermons show the fruitage of his faithful Bible study, as well as his study of the Spirit of Prophecy writings. His congregation knows he is speaking the truth with certainty and deep conviction. He speaks with authority. His sermon is not filled with "I think so" and "It seems to me." The sermon will be scholarly, but it is also ablaze with heavenly fire. Too many times, I fear, the Sabbath sermon is so weak in its Biblical background and evidence of real study of the Scripture, that when some false teacher comes along with extensive quotations from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy writings many are deceived.
A good mixture of doctrinal, expository, and practical sermons provides a balanced program. Certainly our people need help in meeting the problems of victorious Christian living, but all of our Sabbath sermons should be strongly Adventist-inspired and oriented. They should have a strong Adventist content. We have more non-Adventist visitors in our congregations on Sabbath than we may realize. And we would have still more visitors brought by our members if they could be assured that their friends would hear some phase of our distinctive message from the pulpit.
The Sabbath sermon should be strongly informative, inspirational, and above all, evangelistic. This will do much to help our boys and girls and youth. One reason why we lose so many of them is the weak character of altogether too many of our sermons! Let us, then, put some meat into these sermons so that everyone will be fed. We must give our people some real motivation to desire salvation and goodness. When a visitor hears a sermon in an Adventist church on Sabbath, he should be able at once to sense that this is a message from Heaven, and experience the deep conviction "This is God's message for today."
This has been my burden, and now my vision. If our Sabbath message is of such a vital nature our people will be under a deep compulsion to carry the message to their neighbors. They will urge them to attend church with them and hear for them selves. They themselves will be so fired by the pastor's message, they will tell others about it. Perhaps one reason why we have difficulty in enlisting our people in missionary service is that we have not been furnishing them with the thrilling truth to pass on. They have nothing to tell.
As we vitalize (and revolutionize) our Sabbath services we shall see a new life and vitality come into our churches. There will be far less danger from subversive movements, and we will hasten the glorious climax of earth's history. Not only will we hold what we have in our church member ships but our churches will live and grow both in grace and in numbers.