Adventism in perspective

A recent mass prayer meeting held in Takoma Park suggests possibilities for your church.

Before his retirement, D. A. Delafield served for many years as an associate secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate.

Michael Faraday, the renowned English chemist and physicist (1791-1867), once occupied a full hour in fascinating demonstrations of electromagnetic force before a learned society of London. There was thunderous applause at the conclusion of his lecture, and the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, arose. He made a motion expressing the society's deep appreciation for Faraday's genius. Once again there was a spirited ovation, but when the time came for the scientist to respond, he was gone. The conscientious Faraday had checked his watch and discovered that it was time for his weekly appointment with his Lord at the prayer meeting. He willingly exchanged the applause of London for the approval of God and chose to worship with the few saints in the nearby church rather than remaining with the large company of scientists.

Attendance at prayer meeting in Adventist circles may not represent a substantial improvement over the Anglican and Methodist churches of Faraday's time, and few demonstrate Faraday's faithfulness to the midweek meeting. Today within the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, at least in North America, prayer meeting attendance runs between 10 and 15 percent of the church membership smaller percentages in large churches, larger percentages in small churches. In some small churches, prayer meeting attendance may go as high as 80 to 90 percent. The church that I attend (with a membership of about 350) has what is considered to be probably the best percent age of prayer meeting attendance in the conference—about 20 to 25 percent of the local membership. What can be done to increase prayer meeting attendance in your church? One option for some pastors is the mass prayer meeting.

In 1969-70 the mass prayer meeting idea was originated and implemented by the staff of the Ellen G. White Estate under the title Testimony Countdown. The subject for study and reflection: the nine volumes of the Testimonies for the Church, by Ellen G. White. The churches of the greater Washington D.C. area joined together for the trial run. Attendance for the ten nights averaged 1200 people. If the usual prayer meeting attendance of the separate churches involved in Testimony Countdown were added together, it would have equaled only about twenty-five to thirty percent of the average mass prayer meeting attendance. So the group prayer meeting idea in the pilot program enlarged attendance from seventy to seventy-five percent.

In 1975 and 1976 the Testimony Countdown program was revived in the Sligo Church, with approximately 800- 900 persons present each Wednesday night. The mass prayer meeting idea had not lost its appeal.

In February, 1982, Fenton Froom, pas tor of the Takoma Park Church, and I decided once again to revive the mass prayer meeting. For our study theme, we came up with the idea of a review of the great foundational truths held by Seventh-day Adventists since the beginning of this movement. The general theme would be "Adventism in Perspective." The program would consist of ten 90-minute sessions. All the churches in the greater Washington area would be invited to move their prayer meeting to the one central place. General Conference leaders would present doctrines such as salvation through Jesus Christ, the sanctuary, the Spirit of Prophecy, the Second Advent, the Sabbath, et cetera. A short segment would be set apart for the presentation of last-day events. Another parcel of ten minutes would be allowed for local pastors to speak to issues close to their hearts that represented problem areas in their local churches. There would be time for questions and answers. It would be a Bible seminar with emphasis upon Christ, the gospel, and the remnant church its people, its message and beliefs, its mission, its controversies, its hope for the future, and its Divine Leader.

At the time of this writing, eight of the ten midweek Bible seminars have passed. Attendance has averaged 700, and the keenest enthusiasm prevails.

The meetings have not been arranged around controversial issues. There has been no debate, no defensive posture. The reassertion of denominational beliefs has been positive and constructive. Truth always conquers error without worrying about erroneous concepts even those currently making the rounds in Adventist circles.

The full 90-minute session for each meeting has been recorded on quality equipment and is available through Adventist Media Center, 1100 Rancho Conejo Boulevard, Newbury Park, CA 91320. The ten tapes cost only $22.50 and are packaged in a vinyl box embossed with the words "Adventism in Perspective."

You may purchase this series of cassette tapes simply to listen for ideas and material for your own series of Wednesday night meetings. Pastors in large city areas may wish to gather the members from the different churches together and run a Wednesday night series of mass prayer meetings with the local pastors themselves filling the different parts and presenting the material in their own way. Local elders may want to play the tapes in part or in whole at a prominently advertised prayer meeting series. Many churches would find it wholesome and profitable to listen to the leaders once again restate the Adventist position on Christ and His precious doctrines. The time has come for the church to move from a defensive to a positive position. Time enough has been spent defending the faith. It is time now for the church to stand up vigorously for the truth, to listen again to the voices of the three angels, and to gain a new appreciation for the precious light God has given to this people.

In large city areas where there are many Adventist churches pastors might plan a mass prayer meeting once a year designed as a Bible seminar that would provide real spiritual guidance for their people. Start with "Adventism in Perspective." The following year meet together and look at such subjects as stewardship; demon possession and exorcism; marriage, divorce, and remarriage; Adventists' dress and social standards; et cetera. These matters may represent controversial areas, but they ought to be aired, looked at, and discussed in the light of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. Our people want information; they want guidance from their leaders. We ought to deal frankly with such matters.

God help all of us in times like these to feed the flock of God, to deal with issues and not circumvent or circle around them. "Adventism in Perspective" and the mass prayer meeting can be a means of feeding your people.

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Before his retirement, D. A. Delafield served for many years as an associate secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate.

October 1982

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