WHILE MANY of us see the Ingathering program as a crushing burden, designed primarily to help bolster the monetary resources available to the church, it is actually much more than that. Ingathering is involved with people. Not only people in the church but people whom we want to invite to the church. The financial part of Ingathering, in fact, has one basic purpose to help us reach more of these people. The real goal of every Ingathering campaign should be to communicate the message of Christ's saving grace and the demonstration of His love in the various services of the church.
If we are honest enough to admit it, there is at least a slight reservation on our part as we address ourselves to the annual Ingathering program. I don't believe this is because of the Ingathering purpose or objective. It relates to the fact that a successful program re quires participation from a greater number in the church than any other undertaking. We dread the thought that a faithful few will be burdened with the task that should be shared by everyone. And it is true, in spite of the fact that we have worked at it for years, that in the main, 20 to 30 per cent of the members still do their own work plus that of the remaining 70 to 80 per cent. This makes us tired, negative, and reserved.
Is there a solution? I think there may be. And it is related to attitude, innovation, and spirituality.
Each pastor should re-evaluate his own relationship to the Ingathering program. If we are negative, we should refocus from the short-range challenge to the long-range blessing. There are souls in your community with whom the Holy Spirit will work through the In gathering program if you unselfishly let the Holy Spirit use you. One baptism from an Ingathering visit makes every other contact worthwhile. And the dollars received will help amplify the message of God's love throughout the whole world. As we think, speak, and act positively we will discover that our members begin doing the same.
If it is difficult to do Ingathering in the same old way, why not try some thing new? No one says the traditional approach is sacred. One year in one of our churches during the month of December we prepared sleighs on wheels (there was no snow) and crowded them with happy singers. The folk enjoyed building the sleighs and getting together to sing throughout the community. There were four solicitors with each sleigh and a spotter to guide them so that there was no embarrassing duplication of contacts. But that was really not a problem, because the people came out on their porches to see and hear, and some even joined us on foot.
In January, how about trying friend ship contacts in a given territory? Such visits may be carried on throughout the year until the Ingathering season. Then the people whom you have visited already know you and accept your Ingathering appeal because they have learned to respect and trust you. In this method the real goal is territory and people; the money becomes a natural by-product. And try going several weeks during the Ingathering campaign without anyone but the treasurer knowing how much money you have. Again the real object is people, and if we reach them for Christ, He will bless our solicitation for funds with results.
Don't forget spirituality. Ingathering is a divinely inspired program. It is an appropriate, accepted program of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
We are all Seventh-day Adventists. Therefore, it is up to us to Ingather, to encourage our members to participate, and to make the program spiritual. If we "bad mouth" Ingathering, we are really challenging a divinely ordained means of reaching many people for Christ. We must be positive, optimistic, innovative, and spiritual, so that In gathering 1976 may result in the great est ingathering of souls ever.