WHILE visiting in the home of friends I happened to find a conference directory. This directory had the names of all the churches in the conference, the number of members in each church, and the district in which each was located.
With keen interest I looked through the directory to see whether I could find the names of some of my classmates; I found many. A number of them were listed as ministers; others as teachers or principals of academies; a few were shown as departmental leaders in the conference office; while still others were dentists or medical doctors.
In glancing over the statistics revealed in the directory, it was evident that the church membership varies consider ably from church to church. Some have hundreds of members, others fewer, and a small number appeared with only five or six members.
As Seventh-day Adventists we are commissioned to preach the gospel in all the corners of the earth; however, we recognize that as a people we do not have sufficient workers to comply with the demands of this gigantic task. Nevertheless, in many instances leaders are overheard to say, "We have to go for ward in faith! We have to evangelize the world! We have to establish our soul-winning work in new frontiers!" So we budget great sums of money for "new frontiers" and then send out lay members and lay activities leaders. In my opinion all too often the interest, energy, and financial strain of the mission or conference is focused on the "new frontiers."
All of this may be wonderful, but we must also consider how it will affect the over-all program. The words to the church of Sardis seem appropriate: "Awake, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for 1 have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. ... I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown" (Rev. 3:2, 11, R.S.V.).
What do these words mean? Although they do not apply directly to our subject, they do have a message that I believe is relevant. Many times we make the mistake of overlooking the fact that we ought to strengthen what we have. We cause hardships in the work already begun because of our eagerness to open new work.
Even though we realize that our man power is in distressing proportion to the task, we still continue to expand the work in all directions, forgetting that we ought to confirm, strengthen, and hold fast to what we have.
Cod has spoken to us through His servant, Ellen C. White:
Why is it that we have departed from the method of labor which was instituted by the Great Teacher? Why is it that the laborers in His cause today are not sent forth two and two? "Oh," you say, "we have not laborers enough to occupy the field." Then occupy less territory. --Evangelism, p. 74.
We are in danger of spreading over more territory and starting more enterprises than we can possibly attend to properly, and they will become a wearing burden in absorbing means. There is danger to be guarded against of overdoing some branches of the work and leaving some important parts of the Lord's vineyard to be neglected. To undertake and plan a large amount of work and do nothing perfectly, would be a bad plan. --Ibid., pp. 79, 80.
While we should ever be ready to follow the opening providence of God, we should lay no larger plans in places where our work is represented, nor occupy more ground than there is help and means to bind off the work well. Surface plowing means a limited, scattered harvest. Keep up and increase the interest already started, until the cloud moves, then follow it. --Ibid., p. 80.
How many memorials are raised in honor of a missionary fervor that has no firm foundation! In my experience as a minister of the gospel I recall seeing some of these memorials that have been raised in honor of the gods of enthusiasm, whim, and fancy but that have stagnated the progress of the cause of God. Oh, how much neglected work is done, how much leaving things at loose ends because there is a constant desire to take on greater work. --Ibid., p. 81.
We must not plan for large beginnings while we have so little power to complete that which is already begun. Let not new enterprises come in be fore their time, to absorb in other places the means that ought to be used to build up the work in ............. The' interests in that place must be firmly established before other territory is entered. --Ibid.
Because of our failure to heed such counsel, our work finds itself in a precarious and, many times, shameful position. When the work is not properly represented, we encounter great difficulties and prejudice.
These new enterprises often become ventures that the workers of God run from and fear. They are stumbling blocks for our cause and our workers, and in many instances they keep the mission or the conference in a tight financial bind.
As Seventh-day Adventists we have a great work to do--the privilege of presenting the gospel to the entire world. However, let us not be hasty in our preparation for and carrying out of this task, but let us give prayerful consideration to the following guidelines in accepting the responsibilities of this task:
1. Let us count the cost.
2. Let us obtain the wisdom of God's Word and of the Spirit of Prophecy.
3. Let us be watchful.
4. Let us hold fast, confirm, and strengthen what we have.
5. Let us occupy less territory and do a better work.
6. Let us consider our own strength.
7. Let us raise memorials to the honor of the living God.
8. Let us remember where faith begins, where it ends, and where presumption sets in.
As workers and leaders in the cause of God we should put away pride, selfishness, and those whims and fancies that are the cause of failure and that bring reproach to God's cause. Let us not ride on our pet projects but let us remember that the Lord, He is our God, and that He knows every intent of the heart. It is He who will demand an account of the work He has put into our hands.