THOMAS CARLYLE, the English essayist and historian, once attended a New Year's Eve party at a home in Northern England. Late in the evening he became bored with the trite, idle talk and quietly slipped out into the dark night and walked to the seashore.
According to the story he was amazed at a sudden change in the atmosphere. Heaviness settled around him. It was dark and dismal, and soon a storm began to rage. The sea was rough and the waves were high, the breakers crashed and the thunder roared.
He stood bewildered, confused, and frightened. The change in weather had come unexpectedly. His thoughts were turned inward. And as the old year merged into the new the soul of that philosopher was caught up in the bigness of it all, and he cried out, "I stand at the center of immensities, at the conflux of eternities."
That is where the remnant church stands today. The climate of our society and the whole international scene has changed. Let us arise and finish the task. Man is plunging uncontrollably into abysmal depths depths of moral chaos, political dilemma, atheistic Christianity, and uncontrolled science. Science has reduced time and space almost to the vanishing point. By radio the world is one seventh of a second wide. Man has circled the earth by jet plane in fewer than 40 hours. He has landed on the moon. He has walked on it. He has ridden a vehicle on it. Man has penetrated outer space. But he has never been so far from heaven.
Humanity has gone into waters far beyond its depth. The psalmist exclaims under a similar situation in his day: "All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me" (Ps. 42:7). Man is afraid of what he knows. These twentieth-century immensities stagger the imagination. We are indeed at the conflux, or crossroad, of eternities. We may well ask ourselves, What is the message in all this immensity for the church?
The prophet Isaiah sensed the terrible condition of his day. Amid it all he was weighed down with a burden for lost souls. Impelled to step out and give a message of hope and salvation, he exclaimed:
For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth (Isa. 62:1).
This is the time for the remnant church to preach as never before. It is the challenge of the century.
The message to every leader, minister, worker, and church member is found in the commission, "Go . . . and teach all nations" (Matt. 28:19). "Go . . . preach" (Mark 16:15). This commission was given to the ministers, leaders, and people. It is the charter of foreign missions, the international charter for the church. With this charter Jesus tears away the wall of partition. He abolishes prejudice and national ism. He causes to cease all territorial lines and artificial distinctions of society. He makes no difference between neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies. Out of our vocabulary will go the words those foreigners.
Christ teaches us to look around, to look across the seas, and see every needy soul as our brother and the world as our field. Plans should be laid now that will bring the greatest evangelistic thrust in the history of the world church.
Someone remarked, "Today theology is in shambles." I read recently in a religious magazine that most churches are hollow religious shells with no power. They are not reaching the people. Members are dying spiritually. People are leaving the popular churches. They say their ministers are watering down the message they have been preaching for years. There is a slump in Christianity. People are tired of sentimental platitudes. They are not getting spiritual direction, so they are leaving their churches in search of truth. Note these facts: In one year 5,000 Baptist ministers resigned from the ministry in frustration. Time magazine reported that 25,000 Catholic priests have left the priesthood in the past eight years. In a certain section of Europe a church of 10,000 members has an attendance on Sunday morning of 35.
What a day for the Adventist preacher! How can we hold our peace? People need to know today as never before that there is a great controversy going on be tween Christ and Satan. They must be told that the world is reaching its end, that the judgment is upon us, that God has for the world the last warning message of Revelation 14. We as Seventh-day Adventist preachers and leaders need not stand bewildered and confused as do leaders in a political convention. We are compelled with a message of urgency. We have our marching orders. We are not just another church, because we stand in the line of historic revelation.
Watchmen of Inter-America
The prophet Isaiah tells us of the watchmen: "I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night" (Isa. 62:6).
Twelve months ago at our Inter- American Division annual meeting we lighted a fire. We launched EVANGELISM '72 to celebrate our Golden Anniversary. We set a goal of 39,600 baptisms, and a super goal of at least 40,000. We decided to test God and the dedication of Inter-America personnel. Some said, "Ridiculous." But the division caught fire. There was searching of hearts and revival. Prayer meetings continued all night. There was door knocking. Every division officer and departmental secretary left his office, went out into the field, got behind the pulpit, and conducted at least one crusade. Union presidents, local presidents, and departmental secretaries caught fire and became involved in public and personal evangelism. College personnel and students divided into fifteen evangelistic teams and held evangelistic campaigns. Young people have not only held Youth for Christ crusades but have spent all night in prayer for souls. Colporteurs have combined personal and public evangelism with their sales.
What were the results? The message became attractive to the people because of the burning hearts of the leaders, A whole village in Guatemala turned to God. Sabbath school classes turned into evangelistic units. Soul winning prospered everywhere as men and women of God allowed the Spirit to work.
Pastor-evangelists have had a new dedication. Consecrated lay men joined the evangelistic thrust, and more than 50 percent of our church members have become involved. In Bay Islands, Honduras, one family financed an evangelistic team from the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.
The first quarter of 1972 baptisms were doubled over the first quarter of 1971. During the first six months we almost doubled the baptisms of 1971. We reached and passed our six-month goal of 20,000 by 1,563. On Anniversary Baptismal Day we baptized 7,484 115 more than the membership 50 years ago when the division was organized. In the North Haiti Mission on one day in one place 21 ministers before an audience of 10,000 led 1,043 precious souls into a commitment by baptism. On September 13 we received the following cable from the secretary of the Mexican Union: "Mexico reached its goal. We have 6,223 baptized."
After the first quarter the South Mexican Mission put aside its goal of 1,775 for the year and decided that with the latter-rain power being experienced, they would win 1,000 per quarter. They hoped for 3,223 by the end of September and 4,000 by the end of December. At the end of the third quarter they had baptized 3,223. The mission president set the example of evangelism in a new region when he stood in chilly mountain water at more than 6,000 feet elevation in the eastern Sierra Madres in Northeastern Oaxaca and alone baptized 173.
The 19 ministerial workers of the Dominican conference and mission combined pledged that each one would be a centurion during EVANGELISM '72 each would baptize at least 100 people in 1972. At the time of this writing 13 have reached this goal and two are close to 200. The East Caribbean Conference set a goal of 1,700. At the end of July they had baptized 1,524. The president said, "We plan to reach our goal of 1,700 and move up toward our super goal of 3,260 by December 31."
We are seeing the climax of the ages. We are seeing the day of power. In one of Pastor K. S. Wiggins' crusades in Guyana a preacher of another faith accepted the message and was baptized. He was so happy with his new-found faith that he decided to attend the SDA college in Trinidad and prepare to preach the Adventist message. A few months after his arrival at the college he had a burden to share his faith. So taken up was he with the spirit of evangelism that he went to the conference president and told him of his burden. He was given permission to hold meetings, and 66 people were baptized. He went over to a nearby island in another series, and 80 were baptized. How can we hold our peace?
Just the Beginning
This is only the beginning. Wait until we see total evangelism under latter-rain power! Wait until we see the revival and reformation that Ellen White saw with unity of the brethren every color, every nationality, in a brotherhood experience. She saw them in love, making things right, giving up their sins. She saw the meeting of groups pleading for Pentecostal power. She saw leaders, ministers, and church members moving into line. She saw them with Bibles under their arms going from house to house opening the Scriptures to the people.
Do you know what else she saw? She saw closed doors open, miracles performed, "souls that were scattered all through the religious bodies answered to the call, and the precious were hurried out of the doomed churches" (Early Writings, p. 279). She saw thousands accept the message of salvation in one day.
Wait until we as leaders cease to be spectators in real evangelism activities and engage in practice and participation. Wait until presidents, treasurers, departmental secretaries, light the fire of evangelism.
Wait until we begin to scatter our truth-filled literature like leaves of autumn.
Wait until the church members, those sleeping giants, are awakened from their spiritual slumber. Wait until we all get out of our spiritual hammocks of materialism and ease and give the message in our way.
Wait until we break out of the strait jacket we are in.
Wait until that other angel descends to earth to unite his voice with the third angel's to give power and force to this judgment-hour message.
Wait until this great third angel's message swells into the loud cry, when influential men will forsake Babylon and take their stand with God's people.
Wait until the world church is lightened with His glory!
What an Hour!
What a dramatic experience awaits us. What an hour to be living. What a glorious day for the church. What a day to be a leader in God's church. What an hour of glory, of wonder, and of power lies before us! God's call in this hour of immensities, at this cross roads of eternities, is to receive the promised fire of the Holy Spirit.
Every leader, every pastor, every worker, must realize that we are in total war against the devil. Total war calls for total evangelism. It is time to light the fire of total evangelism round the world. Have you heard about the curious piles of wood seen by tourists in Africa? The guide explains:
"These piles of wood, ready for campfire, are built by chimpanzees. As they sit up in the trees they see the tourists and others from time to time come by, gather wood and build campfires. When they leave, the chimps come down from the trees and do what they saw. They gather wood and sticks, building their little piles of wood, perfect, ready. But there is no fire. They cannot put fire to their wood."
This church around the world has built her piles of wood too long. Committees, congresses, councils, rallies, conventions, retreats, schools, hospitals but where is the fire? The fire we are to light is a call for total involvement in evangelism. Let us engage in heart preparation and plead with God for the outpouring of His Holy Spirit for a finished work. Let us all join hands for the greatest evangelistic and soul-winning thrust in the history of our church. It is time to finish the work and go home.