The Church and Its Leadership WE TURN our attention now to a study of an aspect of this loud-cry experience that concerns all of us deeply. The general pattern of the chronology we know, the details of time are hid from us. We know from the prophetic outline that we should be prepared in mind for two developments: (1) an apparent delay in Christ's coming; (2) a startling surprise when He does come. For our own spiritual benefit, for the benefit of the waiting population, we need to study the meaning of these tremendous events and our relationship to them. To do so will have a cleansing effect upon us. It will purify our lives, it will strengthen our wills, it will unify our plans for action.
Let us now ask the question, Does God have something to say to us as leaders of the church, presidents, pastors, evangelists, educators, and leaders of departments? We can be assured that He has not overlooked us. Let us review briefly some of the counsels directed to the ministry, especially in reference to the latter rain and the loud cry.
Above all other qualifications the spiritual preparation of the minister is of first importance.
Many present the doctrines and theories of our faith; but their presentation is as salt without savor; for the Holy Spirit is not working through their faithless ministry. They have not opened the heart to receive the grace of Christ; they know not the operation of the Spirit; they are as meal with out leaven; for there is no working principle in all their labor, and they fail to win souls to Christ. They do not appropriate the righteousness of Christ; it is a robe unworn by them, a fullness unknown, a fountain untouched. --Evangelism, p. 697.
Ministers, presidents of conferences no matter who you are or what you are you are under the eye of Jehovah, and it becomes you to find out whether your ways please the Lord. Are you getting ready, preparing for the last change? --Manuscript 21, 1903.
1. The ministry must be responsive to light and remove the stumbling blocks from their lives.
A reformation is needed among the people, but it should first begin its purifying work with the ministers. --Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 469.
As ministers, as Christians, we must work to take the stumbling blocks out of the way. We must re move every obstacle. Let us confess and forsake every sin, that the way of the Lord may be prepared, that He may come into our assemblies and impart His rich grace. The world, the flesh, and the devil must be overcome. --Review and Herald, March 22, 1887.
The health reform, I was shown, is a part of the third angel's message and is just as closely connected with it as are the arm and hand with the human body. I saw that we as a people must make an advance move in this great work. Ministers and people must act in concert. God's people are not prepared for the loud cry of the third angel. They have a work to do for themselves which they should not leave for God to do for them. He has left this work for them to do. It is an individual work; one cannot do it for another. --Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 486.
God demands that the appetites be cleansed, and that self-denial be practiced in regard to those things which are not good. This is a work that will have to be done before His people can stand before Him a perfected people. Ibid., vol. 9, pp. 153, 154. We need to learn that indulged appetite is the greatest hindrance to mental improvement and soul sanctification. --Ibid., p. 156.
2. The minister must avoid self-exaltation and exalt God only.
The Lord alone is to be exalted. Let every human agent keep in his place, and not seek to get into the place where God should be. There has been altogether too much trusting in men. --Testimonies to Ministers, p. 319.
There is altogether too much lofty sufficiency in the human agent. God cannot work with such an element of pride. If this is not laid down, if self is not humbled, God cannot work. --Ibid., p. 326.
3. The minister's witness must have greater point and power.
Let the church arise, and repent o£ her backslidings before God. Let the watchmen awake, and give the trumpet a certain sound. It is a definite warning that we have to proclaim. --Selected Messages, book 1, p. 126.
Many who profess to have great light are walking in sparks of their own kindling. They need to have their lips touched with a live coal from off the altar, that they may pour forth the truth like men who are inspired. Too many go into the desk with mechanical discourses that have no light from heaven in them. --Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 252.
Ellen White describes how some listeners have reacted to the tame preaching of the Advent message:
Some [who have been hearing the truth] speak in commendation, as though it was a horse or cow they were inspecting with a view to purchasing if the terms suited them. --Letter 22, 1892.
4. Methodology: United in teams; cooperate; enlist, train, and help to prepare members.
It is a selfish thing for men who feel that they have some service to do for the Master, to wish to be alone in their work, and to refuse to connect with those who would be a help to them, because they fear that they will not obtain all the credit for doing the good work which they flatter themselves they will do. This has greatly hindered the work of God. Let brother lay hold of brother. Link up a Peter and a John. Let each encourage his brother to stand by his side, doing zealous, interested service, as partners in the great work. Two or three can pray together, sing the praises of God together, and grow up into the full stature of workers together with God. Perfect harmony must be cherished.--Testimonies to Ministers, p. 329.
Sometimes ministers do too much; they seek to embrace the whole work in their arms. It absorbs and dwarfs them; yet they continue to grasp it all. They seem to think that they alone are to work in the cause of God, while the members of the church stand idle. This is not God's order at all. --Evangelism, p. 113.
In laboring where there are already some in the faith, the minister should at first seek not so much to convert unbelievers, as to train the church members for acceptable co-operation. Let him labor for them individually, endeavoring to arouse them to seek for a deeper experience themselves, and to work for others. When they are prepared to sustain the minister by their prayers and labors, greater success will attend his efforts. --Gospel Workers, p. 196.
5. The minister can never be free from a realization of the issues at stake.
If our ministers realized how soon the inhabitants of the world are to be arraigned before the judgment seat of God, to answer for the deeds done in the body, how earnestly they would work together with God to present the truth! How earnestly they would strive to lead men to accept the truth. How untiringly they would labor to advance God's cause in the world, proclaiming in word and deed, "The end of all things is at hand." --Evangelism, pp. 17, 18.
6. More is to be accomplished than the minister deemed possible.
All too slight is the hold that Christ's ambassadors often have upon eternal realities. If men will walk with God, He will hide them in the cleft of the Rock. Thus hidden, they can see God, even as Moses saw Him. By the power and light that He imparts they can comprehend more and accomplish more than their finite judgment had deemed possible. -The Acts of the Apostles, p. 363.
Role of Organization
How much will the organization count in the church's experience of the latter rain and the loud cry? Will organization fade away, and will the individual be the only effective unit? What of the role of promoters, of departmental leaders; what of planned evangelistic campaigns; what of Bible correspondence schools, newspaper advertising, Ingathering contacts? There seems to be no indication in the instruction from the testimonies of Ellen G. White that any of the church's agencies will be ineffective or useless. Throughout the instruction the emphasis is on spiritual fitness and energetic action.
I know that the Lord loves His church. It is not to be disorganized or broken up into independent atoms. There is not the least consistency in this; there is not the least evidence that such a thing will be. --Selected Messages, book 2, pp. 68, 69.
He [Garmire] said the leaders in the church would all fall through self-exaltation, and another class of humble men would come to the front, who would do wonderful things. . . . This delusion was opened to me. . . . But the word of God came from God to me, "Believe them not, I have not sent them!" --Ibid., p. 64.
Message Sent in 1913 to Be Read to the General Conference in Session
When in the night season I am unable to sleep, I lift my heart in prayer to God, and He strengthens me and gives me the assurance that He is with His ministering servants in the home field and in distant lands. I am encouraged and blessed as I realize that the God of Israel is still guiding His people, and that He will continue to be with them, even to the end. --Ibid., p. 406.
(To be continued)