A professional man in your church comes to you and says he has been attending meetings of a charismatic group. He likes the warmth of the fellowship and wonders why Adventists, who emphasize the gift of prophecy, are strangely silent on tongues. If we have been blessed by one gift would we not be doubly blessed by two?
A housewife starts Thursday night meetings in her home and invites several of your church members to attend. She tells one that she has been given several gifts of the Holy Spirit and has gained a new experience she wants to share. One of your members calls you for advice.
A Pentecostal who joined your church during a recent effort writes to ask that you drop her from the church. "I believe the Sabbath," she says, "but the church is just too cold. Doesn't God want His children to be happy?"
Three of your church youth say they have friends who have been speaking in tongues, but who are open to the truth. Do you have literature you can recommend, or are you planning any meetings that would be helpful to them?
How would you respond to these incidents? They are only a sampling of a number that have confronted Adventist pastors since the neo-pentecostal movement reached national prominence in the late 1960's. And contacts of charismatics with Adventist church members continue to multiply. A Bible instructor writes that she seldom holds a Bible study anymore at which some one does not ask for a lesson on tongues or healing. Faith for To day has found it desirable to in corporate such studies into their new Bible course. A member in North Carolina writes:
"This thing is raging in just about all the churches here in the South. My friends are being convinced that if they don't have the so-called gift they will not be saved." She asks for literature to give them.
A pastor asks for a course that will "educate our people to the truth on miracles and especially tongues and healing." He quotes Ellen White: "These works of apparent healing will bring Seventh-day Adventists to the test" (Selected Messages, book 2, p. 53). Shouldn't we help them prepare to pass it?
General Conference officers thought so. Soon after a charismatic group raised money to penetrate the Adventist ministry and predicted an explosion of spiritual dynamite in the Adventist Church, they asked the Ministerial Association to begin work on lessons that would cover last-day charismatic manifestations.
Says Ministerial Association secretary N. R. Dower: "We did not design the lessons simply to answer the challenge of the charismatic movement. We felt that we should take a positive approach, leading our people into a deeper experience with the Holy Spirit. And while we have come up with startling information on spiritism, exorcism, tongues, healings, and other spiritual gifts, we are most thrilled by the evidences that God is working to lead our people into the latter rain experience.
"It is important for us to do all we can to fortify our people against the many other deceptions and apostasies that will develop in the last days. This course will prove a valuable aid in meeting this purpose."
The ten lessons are called "Charismatic Countdown." "Charismatic" refers to gifts of extraordinary power given to an individual by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church. "Count down" implies that these phenomena—both in the genuine form, as bestowed by the Holy Spirit, and in their counterfeit form, as produced by the devil— fit into an eschatalogical frame work. That is, they are prophetically significant. They are part of the signs that Christ said must immediately precede His return. As bestowed by God they are part of the "weapons" with which God arms His followers to over come Satan and his armies; as bestowed by the devil, they are part of the arsenal with which he arms his followers, and by which he seeks to deceive all nations.
The Countdown Introduction lists four objectives: (1) to make you acutely aware of the nearness of Christ's return; (2) to prepare you for the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit; (3) to encourage you to appropriate the spiritual gifts given "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. . . ."; (4) to stimulate old-fashioned Bible study.
"Each lesson," says Leo R. Van Dolson of the Ministerial Association, who has been working with Liberty editor, Roland R. Hegstad, in putting this countdown program together, "consists of three things: (1) a leader's manual, which contains outlines of the evening meetings and background information for the pastor that is not included in other materials; (2) a study guide with assignment materials and questions that are given to each participant; (3) a textbook, Rattling the Gates, by R. R. Hegstad.
"Discussions will cover such subjects as the Biblical gift of tongues, feeling versus reason, miracles, miraculous healing, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and pentecostalism in prophetic perspective.
"Audio-visual materials include interviews with a boy who claims to see through a plastic eye; a man purportedly raised from the dead after an accident in the Reynolds Aluminum Company plant in Longview, Washington; an Adventist dentist who made charts of the mouths of a number of people whose cavities were 'miraculously' filled; a leading linguist who has analyzed scores of taped samples of modern tongues, and who tells why they cannot be the language of earth or of heaven.
"We're also including some miracles of divine healing that have taken place in our own church," says Dr. Van Dolson. "Heart-warming and faith-inspiring stories that speak of God's power and love. We have secured exclusive rights to twenty dramatic color slides showing a spirit operation—fantastic pictures that will not be available in the United States other than through our Countdown supplies. And, of course, we are preparing a script to go with it. These pictures alone will be worth the cost of the entire package to any pastor or evangelist who wants to build an audience for his meetings or who wishes to use them in more than one church. To keep the costs down, the audio visual materials will be offered as a supplement.
The basic package will include the textbook, Rattling the Gates, a study guide, and a leader's manual. Participants will pay for their copy of the textbook and study guide.
According to Dr. T. E. Wade of the Home Study Institute, there is further good news for the pas tor holding a series. "We're working on plans for the pastor to fulfill his requirements for the Academy of Adventist Ministers by holding a Charismatic Count down series," says Wade.