Ellen White and Public Evangelism in Australia

THE influence of the Spirit of Prophecy upon evangelism in Australia is as difficult to assess as the love of Cod. Who can measure it? On January 3, 1875, before a distinguished congregation of Adventists in the United States, Ellen White was given a vision that proved in later years to be of tremendous interest to our people in Australia. It was the vision of the lights. In this she beheld an ever-enlarging work of evangelism depicted by jets of light shining like stars in the darkness, ever increasing until the whole world was illumined with their glory. . .

-president of the Australasian Division at the time this article was written

THE influence of the Spirit of Prophecy upon evangelism in Australia is as difficult to assess as the love of Cod. Who can measure it? On January 3, 1875, before a distinguished congregation of Adventists in the United States, Ellen White was given a vision that proved in later years to be of tremendous interest to our people in Australia. It was the vision of the lights. In this she beheld an ever-enlarging work of evangelism depicted by jets of light shining like stars in the darkness, ever increasing until the whole world was illumined with their glory.

Why was this vision of such importance to us? In it only one country was mentioned, namely, Australia. It must have been with fascinated interest that Ellen White studied the reports of the pioneer evangelists to this country, following their arrival in 1885. It would appear that she had a real urge to come and see God at work among those early ministers, for within six years of their arrival she was here. We can imagine with what delight and anticipation she stepped onto the shores of this land that represented one of the outstanding lights of the vision of 1875.

Evangelize the Cities

As Mrs. White traveled in Australia and New Zealand she repeatedly gave counsel to the ministry and of the work that needed to be done. On evangelizing the cities she had this to say: "Repeatedly during the last five years it has been presented to me that a great work is to be done in the cities of Australasia, that the present is a favorable time to work, and that no time should be lost; and recently light has come to me, encouraging us to put forth greater efforts in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, and indicating that the time has come for us to enter New castle and its surrounding towns." --Review and Herald, April 11, 1899.

What do you find in these four cities today? Approximately 100 churches and many thousands of church members. The work of evangelism continues there. The acceptance of early counsel led to the establishment of the public preaching platform and to evangelistic outreach to those who needed to be led to Christ. The challenge remains, and in these days the voice of the preacher continues to ring loud and clear.

Hear from one of the evangelists who heralds the gospel in these cities. Pastor Raymond Stanley, what have the Spirit of Prophecy writings done for you in your public work?

"As a minister of the remnant church I am personally grateful for such Spirit-filled instruction. During the thirty years of my ministry, in which I have conducted more than 80 public crusades of short or long duration, I have sought to follow Sister White's Heaven-sent counsel for evangelists and ministers. The book Evangelism, a compilation of Spirit of Prophecy instruction, is to me the most important book outside the Bible.

"How appealing is the statement 'Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world' (Evangelism, p. 188). Also of great encouragement is the statement 'More people than we think are longing to find the way to Christ' (ibid., p. 185).

"In recent years I have read the section 'Christ the Center of the Message/ pages 184-199 of Evangelism, on those days when I have begun new public outreach programs. It always strengthens me for the encounter and thrills my own heart with the great centrality of truth, which must be the heart of every discourse. I commend this habit to every evangelist."

Basic Principles Outlined

While living in Australia Ellen White recorded many basic principles that are guidelines to the present-day Adventist preacher. Among them, note the following: "The messenger of God must present eternal truths plainly, and keep in distinct view before the people their peril in neglecting eternal interests. While self is kept out of sight, Jesus Christ must be ever lifted up and exalted." Review and Herald, June 13, 1893.

Again, "A minister's discourse should be short. If a discourse is long, it loses half its force." Ibid., April 20, 1897.

Athol Tolhurst is a leading evangelist at present serving in New castle. He writes: "After preparing my evangelistic sermons there is nothing I like to read more as background reading than the relevant portions of the writings of Mrs. E. G. White. For the prophecies of the Revelation I read The Great Controversy. For the New Testament church and the Holy Spirit I read The Acts of the Apostles. For faith, baptism, and Jesus Christ I read The Desire of Ages. Certainly there is nothing else, outside of the Bible, that in spires me so with the subject of my sermon.

"I think it is partly due to my reading of her books that I am so totally dedicated to evangelism. She says that 'the conversion of souls to God is the greatest, the noblest work in which human beings can have a part' (Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 52). No doubt this is true. But then I read further, and discovered that her writings vibrate with an urgency to evangelize mankind while we still have freedom to do so. She warns that soon such opportunities will be passed. And this impresses me. But as she brings love for our fellow man into the picture, and speaks of our responsibilities in these terms, the need to evangelize the world becomes a compelling commission."

In these days public evangelists search for diversity by way of presentation of the gospel. What better source than the Spirit of Prophecy for guidelines and inspiration? David Lawson preaches for God in Christchurch, New Zealand, and after reading in Gospel Workers, pp. 158, 159, "Ministers would reach more hearts if they would dwell upon practical godliness," he decided to change his approach. Let him speak for himself:

"With the assistance of an Adventist doctor I set to work on a health-oriented approach. The doctor and I both shared with our audience practical pointers to good health. The fact that we both showed interest in the well-being of all who attended helped also to maintain a more consistent audience throughout the series of meetings. And at the same time I was able to present very easily a strong practical spiritual message each night. This time I did not start with prophecy, but with things of a more personal, practical nature. And people responded well to the messages concerning: 'Who Am I?' 'Real Happiness Is?' 'Bridging the Greatest Generation Gap,' 'Power Mightier Than the Atom/ 'The Greatest Thing in the World.'

"By this method we endeavored to help people understand them selves; to give God His rightful place; to read the Bible and dis cover how to pray, to exercise faith, and to understand that love must be the basic motive of all our actions. Through this practical-godliness approach we have been able to reach hearts with the good news of the gospel who would not have been reached by other approaches we have been using in public evangelism."

Wonderful World of Nature

Lyndon Schick, of New South Wales, took to heart the statement on pages 9 and 10 of Steps to Christ by Ellen White. Here she writes: "Nature and revelation alike testify of God's love. Our Father in heaven is the source of life, of wisdom, and of joy. Look at the wonderful and beautiful things of nature. Think of their marvelous adaptation to the needs and happiness, not only of man, but of all living creatures. The sun shine and the rain, that gladden and refresh the earth, the hills and seas and plains, all speak to us of the Creator's love. ... In nature itself are messages of hope and comfort. . . . 'God is love' is written upon every opening bud, upon every spire of springing grass. The lovely birds making the air vocal with their happy songs, the delicately tinted flowers in their perfection perfuming the air, the lofty trees of the forest with their rich foliage of living green all testify to the tender, fatherly care of our God and to His desire to make His children happy."

This gave him an idea for a new approach. "Having made a lifetime study of the world of nature," he writes, "I was impressed several years ago to develop this theme for public presentation. Being a nature photographer, I have an extensive collection of color transparencies of many of the marvels and beauties of the world around us. These are put together with musical background in such a way as to present the story of God's love and the plan of salvation in a program entitled 'Wonderful World of Nature.'

"This program demonstrates not only that God is a God of order and beauty and harmony but that He is also a God who cares for even the tiniest creature of the wilds. Many have been turned to Christ as they have seen on the screen the handiwork of a loving Creator who cares for the children of men.

"The over-all effect of the writings of Ellen G. White upon my work as a public evangelist has been to give me a tremendous confidence in the message that I love and preach. Above all else, Mrs. White points to Christ, the Saviour of mankind, the Redeemer of |he world."

Ellen White by her preaching and her inspired writing has influenced the Adventist preacher since the day she set foot on Australian soil. The pioneers and the present worker force accepted the injunction found in 2 Chronicles 20:20, "Believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper." There is nothing more thrilling than the realization that one is engaged in a mission that is destined to triumph.

The fulfillment of all that was promised to us in Australia has spurred us on to attempt greater things for God and to expect greater things of Him. We repeat again, we cannot fully measure the influence of the Spirit of Prophecy on evangelism in Australia. God gave us a mission, we believed it, and, praise His name, we have prospered.


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-president of the Australasian Division at the time this article was written

August 1975

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Australasian Diary, 1891-1900

LATE IN September, 1900 seventy-five years ago Ellen White returned to the United States after a fruitful nine-year sojourn in Australia. Hers was a busy, itinerant ministry during that near-decade of her life full of preaching appointments, council sessions with the brethren, and endless writing assignments. . .

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