More Chasm Crossing
HIS concluding article of the series presents a few more methods whereby the Seventh-day Adventist evangelist might span the gulf that exists between Islam and Adventism, and might more effectually witness among Muslims. A very effective and meaningful method, and one recommended by special revelation, is the personal testimony. In my own ministry I have used it with telling results. What I refer to is the evangelist's own witness to the meaningfulness of a personal, firsthand experience in a continuing relationship with Cod. Usually limited to two or three meetings, it is seldom amenable to doctrinal presentation, but lends itself well to rallies and spearhead meetings.
This witness is highly subjective. Therefore it is not open to argument. (It is open to question, but not to argument. Because many Muslims like to argue, this is a control.) Although mystical, personal, subjective experience is popular in Islam, no subjectivity is a criterion for truth. The genuineness of one's emotional response to religion is proved by its truthworthiness. Mere mysticism for the sake of mysticism is meaningless. Pietistic living must be validated by revelation's logic.
An accepted method of religious dissemination in much of the East, but one which Seventh-day Adventists have not employed, is peripatetic evangelism. It was the method of Jesus and the apostles. Using this method Jesus traveled to every village. 1 He could not have done so and preached a whole campaign in every village; so His witnessing to them was of a brief nature. 2 Islam itself spread with the aid of this method. The heralds of the Second Advent in the early nineteenth century used it, notably Joseph Wolff. 3
Our present lack of use of this method stems from various causes, four of which are here suggested: The disrepute of some Christians doing this work, the deficiency of control of an evangelistic team, the poor measurement of results, and the lack of continuity.
Some Christian peripatetics have shamed their cause. Begging, unkempt and slovenly, dirty, and often odiferous, they have misrepresented Jesus. Adventists have not wanted to be identified with them.
Administrations naturally want to get the utmost results from a team of evangelists. They fear that a poor leader may set his teammates a bad example. This could happen. But committees have as much control over a leader as over any other worker. Under good leadership, this method could be an excellent teaching experience, result in considerable profit, and at the same time withstand the threats of nationalization of schools. (Nationalized schools, hospitals, and other institutions that have required heavy capital and operating outlays, in the long run may be more costly to the church in terms of souls/dollars than heavier appropriations to other forms of evangelism.)
Measurement of one's efforts among Muslims is always incomplete, regard less of the method used.4 Eternity alone will be accurate. The evangelist's concern must not be merely with statistics, but with people. With planning, the work of a peripatetic Adventist evangelistic team could be systematized and measured from time to time.
The problem of continuity is, to my mind, the most real. It may remain unanswered. Dedicated laymen may provide the answer. Or it may be best carried on by other methods, such as correspondence schools. Still again, weighing Matthew 24:14 against the shortness of time, it may only be valid as wider, quicker witness to the masses out in the countryside. I believe that this alone justified its consideration and use.
Several organizations have used a social contact not widely considered by Seventh-day Adventists, yet worth serious attention and even investment. Evangelistic centers may receive a treasurer's enthusiastic support, but who wants to pay for a social center? How can any one justify the use of evangelistic funds for such a project?
Hundreds, possibly even thousands, of fine Muslims have responded or will respond in the future to the intellectual content of the message Adventists preach. But to burn their social bridges behind them before they have been accepted into the new community as social equals is difficult. Islam is a way of life and not just a system of doctrines. It also has a community, the umma, which ties it together. Adventists also should represent a way of life rather than merely teaching doctrines. And the remnant church should also be a community of believers for whom subjugation of sin and submission to the revealed will of God is paramount. The Muslim umma gives one a sense of belonging. The Adventist remnant could do the same thing. But it hasn't. (So far it has been a doctrinal theory rather than a force for social cohesion.)
Apostasies even in the homelands result more from loneliness and freezing out than from doctrinal disbelief. Evangelistic funds per convert are lavishly spent. Everything possible is often done to make a candidate feel welcome. But soon after his baptism he feels a social letdown. No longer finding pleasure in former companions and activities, and not yet familiar with new ways, or part of the crowd, the convert is more out than in, though technically he is said to be long. If it is hard in the homelands, it is much harder for the former Muslim.
Here lies another trouble in much of the Muslim world that only those familiar with it can understand. The former Muslim is not thought of as former. He is still a Muslim a Muslim Adventist, if you please. Years fail to erase this stigma completely. Education won't touch it. Loyal, dedicated service to the church hardly phases it. Before it human love and marriage seem powerless. The consecrated evangelist must do what he can to get the remnant to accept these candidates for God's kingdom as social equals on earth to see that though their religion may have been Islam, they are just human beings with needs and feelings. I believe a social center could help.
A social center might help both men and women. It would be a healthy catalyst in the solution of many problems over the years. Meanwhile, a game room indoors (for table tennis and parlor games) and an outdoor game area, wherever possible (for badminton, volleyball, croquet, a horseshoe pitch, and like recreation for groups or twosomes) would help. A small library and reading room (for less active people); and an auditorium-classroom (with a blackboard and screen, as well as other projection equipment and demonstration materials) where health lectures, cooking demonstrations and sewing and nutrition classes could be taught to segregated young Muslim women two or three times a week might meet a need.
Also, educational and religious films and slides could be shown to mixed audiences from time to time. Such a center could become a valuable evangelistic tool, amply justifying the use of evangelistic funds for its erection and maintenance. If it did nothing more, it would at least make Adventists better known and understood in the area, thereby breaking down prejudice. But it would also help to hold the members, particularly the young people, and thus lessen apostasies.
The Need for Literature
The need for suitable evangelistic literature for Muslims is so vital that I must return to the subject. The production of literature and materials of Adventist evangelism requires the concentrated and coordinated work of men familiar by training and experience with Islam and the task to be done. 5 It would be helpful if such a group could meet at some neutral location outside the Islamic world, where library facilities and advice on printing and publishing were readily avail able. Such a group need not be large, but its sympathy to and knowledge of Islam and Adventist evangelistic problems would be vital.
Such a group should meet for several days with no other responsibilities during that time. The members would be given specific individual assignments. If their task is to write literature, then they should give themselves wholly to it. If the assignment is to make an outline for coordinated visual aids, let them give themselves completely to that task. They may be assigned to check on the availability or suitability of certain equipment. All this will take time.
At the end of several days all would meet together again to hear the first draft of literature and to offer constructive criticisms and listen to other re ports. In this new area of tracts for Islam, the criticisms and evaluations of the entire group would prove of great value. The final recommendations would then be passed on to the appropriate administrative committees.
Evangelistic methods will change with time. But the foregoing are a few suggestions for consideration now. With the growth of the student-missionary movement and the healthy emphasis upon the encouragement of more qualified laymen in world missions there will be more change. But it is doubtful that any of these will ever completely replace the professional Adventist evangelist.
Public evangelism without much personal work will always remain unfruitful. For greatest results the two must be combined. This was the way Jesus worked. The larger public meeting is valuable for the witness and dissemination of truth, and should be used wherever and when ever possible. But the most and best decisions will be those gained in private. If more of the millions of Islam are to be influenced by the Advent message, public preaching must be united with personal work and much prayer, for without the union of the Holy Spirit, the Adventist evangelist will fail to achieve true success.
1 Matt. 9:35; Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 52.
2 Jesus knew the tendencies of men to bog down under the weight of evangelistic mechanics. Perhaps that is why He told the disciples that they would "not have covered towns of Israel before the Son of Man arrives" (Matt. 10:23, Phillips).
3 Cf. Arthur Whitefield Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, vol. 1, p. 19.
4 Someone has said that success, instead of being measured by relative numbers and quantities is truly evaluated by intensity of commitment.
5 The names of men such as C. A. Keough, Neal C. Wilson, R. C. Darnell, and K. L. Vine come to mind as men who know the language and people of Islam through years of contact with them. Cottfried Oosterwal, who leads out in the study of Adventist missionology at Andrews University, and is himself acquainted with Islam, is another.