On January 30, 1984, the One Thousand Days of Reaping program of the world church reached its midpoint and looked ahead to the final 500 days! Assuming that you are reading this April issue on April 15, 576 of the one thousand days will have passed, and 424 will remain. What has happened in the world field since the One Thousand Days of Reaping began September 18, 1982?
First, let's review the decision to launch this program. At the 1981 Annual Council, Elder Neal C. Wilson presented to the delegates a document titled "Prioritizing Evangelism One Thousand Days of Reaping." It expressed a renewal of leadership's earnest desire to see spiritual revival and a speedy finishing of God's work on earth. It emphasized the church's great need to give priority to evangelism in all that it does. The Council accepted the plan outlined in that document, and the delegates committed themselves anew to these priorities. As a result, the Council voted to do the following specific things:
1. To launch out in an unprecedented worldwide soul-winning thrust, placing unquestioned priority on evangelism in all forms and at all levels. The prophetic utterance that "more than one thousand will soon be converted in one day" (Review and Herald Nov. 10, 1885) was accepted as a challenge, and the one thousand days preceding the June, 1985, General Conference session was dedicated to winning one million new members. The church was then realizing accessions at the rate of more than eight hundred per day, so a thousand per day seemed to be an acceptable goal.
2. To conduct an evangelism program on the first Sabbath of the 1985 General Conference session in New Orleans with reports of soul-winning victories from all divisions.
3. To call for intensified prayer, Bible study, and witness that would unite all workers and lay leaders in seeking and receiving the outpouring of the Spirit of God.
4. To emphasize the need for all soul winners to increase the thoroughness of their work in preparing people to be members of God's remnant church. It is futile to win souls to the church in a shallow, superficial way, without deep conversion and commitment, only to have them go out the back door.
5. To encourage all ministers not only to be personally engaged in soul winning but to train lay persons and lead all employees of the church into such service. The departments should provide soul-winning materials and expertise in their various specialties.
6. To revitalize the Prayer Offensive voted at the 1980 Annual Council, and to give emphasis to entering all unentered territories.
7. To appoint a director in each division to give leadership to all the goals of the document.
8. To designate the year October, 1981, to September, 1982, as a preparation period leading up to the opening date for the One Thousand Days of Reaping.
9. To provide adequate funding in each division.
Second, let's notice the resulting activity. Shortly after this document was accepted each division appointed directors and set their goals at the year-end meetings in 1981. As these figures came in, they totaled a grand world objective of 1,228,249 baptisms for the thousand days! Evangelism councils laid plans to give priority to the mission of the church. By the end of 1982 evangelistic results were accelerating strongly, and this has continued through the first four quarters of the program ending September 30, 1983.
Dr. Donald Yost, General Conference archivist, created a graph illustrating the expected acceleration of accessions worldwide. His projections indicated that the first quarter of 1984 should be the point at which evangelism would break the thousand-per-day barrier and continue to the completion of the thousand-day period. Much to the surprise of us all, an average of 1,032 persons per day have been taken into the church ever since the thousand days began! (See Figure 1.) Figure 2 lists the average baptisms per day by divisions for the four quarters ending September 30, 1983. All figures are from the official division reports to the General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics. Far-reaching evangelistic plans now being formulated in the divisions indicate an increasing acceleration in world accessions.
Some have asked as they have seen the members of God's church respond to the challenge of a finished work, "Have we set the goal high enough for these thousand days?" Our answer has been, "Possibly not, but when any program meets with success in reaching its goals, some feel more could have been done." We are experiencing but the very first droplets of an evangelistic surge that must occur for God's work to be finished. Evangelism is the result of God's Spirit moving on concerned members and leaders; it is the very element of church life that will revitalize God's people and hasten the coming of Jesus.
As the church now moves through the final 424 days of the One Thousand Days of Reaping, we have every confidence that the goal of one million souls will be realized. Some are asking, "What then?" As we assemble at New Orleans in 1985 will we rejoice that one million souls have been won, and then go back to business as usual? A partial answer is provided by the action taken at the 1983 Annual Council. (See box, p. 6.) In this document, the General Conference officers have appointed a special study commission with the responsibility to formulate a plan for worldwide evangelism during the quinquennium 1985 to 1990. (See recommendation 6.) The One Thousand Days of Reaping is to be but the initial training discipline for the church to march on to the finishing of the work of God on earth. Surely none of us believes that we should still be here on earth for the twenty-first century! The finishing of the work and the coming of Jesus are long, long overdue! Now is the time to let the church fully gird on its armor and go forward to enlighten the ever-expanding population of this world! Perhaps the commission will envision an objective for God's last-day church that will be possible only under the unction of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in latter-rain power!
The document emphasizes intercessory prayer as the key to success in both spiritual renewal and soul winning. There is no evangelistic method that can exceed the power of prayer. The reason is that the very thing we would pray for, the conversion of a soul to Christ, is a miracle! It is an event that only Heaven can arrange, a birth that only God can deliver. Evangelism, therefore, is wholly dependent upon divine agencies, and these cooperate with us when we pray. The evangelist, no matter how eloquent, skilled, or well-endowed with money and equipment, can only speak the words that make people think and reason. They can be words of truth, even words directly from Scripture and the sayings of Jesus, but for them to bring conviction and reach the conscience, the Holy Spirit must silently influence those to whom he speaks and for whom we pray. Jesus "saw the multitudes" (Matt. 9:36), and His heart of love was stirred because they had no spiritual leadership. In the midst of a bountiful harvest waiting to be reaped, laborers were scarce. His counsel was to pray that more harvesters might be sent. Today we must receive that spiritual renewal to sense our duty to the world, that unction to lay aside the chains that bind us, and finally, that power of the Holy Spirit to bring men and women to the foot of the cross.
Another emphasis of the document is "example leadership." This calls for every leader of the church--in spite of the fact that he or she may have been assigned an office job or an administrative post--to go forth and do the work of ministry. If leaders throughout the length and breadth of the church would give their highest talents to evangelism--the church's first work and the only reason for which it exists--Heaven would hesitate no longer to empower these sincere workers with the outpouring of the Spirit in limitless measure! This is the basic mission of the church--evangelism "in all forms and at all levels." It must be item number one on the church's agenda.
The One Thousand Days of Reaping challenges the church to give "unquestioned priority to evangelism." The church's world president, Elder Neal C. Wilson, has said in his challenge to God's leaders (MINISTRY, April, 1982): "We are often guilty of caring for the urgent, but we fail to give emphasis to the important! The winning of souls in these last days is a challenge that has both qualities. It is the most important function of the church, and the most urgent. . . .
"And so, fellow evangelist, pastor, administrator, the challenge is for us to put first things first. . . . Perhaps this will require much faith and even tortuous struggle in some cases. Let us emancipate ourselves, even if it means entrusting to God and others some of those things that formerly consumed so much of our time and effort! And let us go forth with sanctified resolve to give priority to the work of soul winning. As God's workers 'at all levels' respond to and do this, God's church will prosper, His unimpeachable purpose for us will be fulfilled, we will experience revival, God's work will be finished, and we will know, as we have never known before, the fulness of His blessing!"
One Thousand Days of Reaping
As we have gathered for this 1983 Annual Council, 383 days of the 1000 Days of Reaping have passed; 617 remain. And, praise to God, He has not failed His people! As workers and members in many lands of earth have claimed Christ's promise, "Ye shall receive power . . . and ye shall be witnesses" (Acts 1:8), they have felt His enabling power and have already experienced great success.
As this Council convenes, four quarters, or one full year, of the 1000 Days of Reaping have been concluded. Tonight we can rejoice that as of September 30, an estimated 370,000 precious souls have joined God's prophetic movement. This represents the largest number of souls ever gathered into the church in any four quarters. As our Intercessory Prayer Objective becomes a part of our lives, and as the Holy Spirit moves upon every entity in the church, it appears we will, by His grace, exceed the projected goal of one million new members!
As delegates to this Annual Council, we praise God for His blessings received, and we renew our commitment and determination to pursue the twofold objective of spiritual renewal and unprecedented priority for evangelism.
We beseech our heavenly Father for the power and inspiration to lead our people and our workers into the achievement of these goals. We, therefore, hold before the world church the following recommendations to assist in the remaining 617 of the 1000 days:
1. Prayer. Intercessory prayer is the key to success in both spiritual renewal and soul winning. We recommend that in all our homes churches, institutions, and headquarters offices there be daily intercessory prayer by our believers and leaders on behalf of the salvation of people in the cities and villages of every country. As this program takes effect, it is our hope that the whole church will be led to join in this great surge of earnest prayer. First among prayer concerns should be to claim the infilling of the Holy Spirit and His gifts for the finishing of the gospel commission.
2. Two days of fasting and prayer, (a) That every division establish a special day of thanksgiving, fasting, and prayer during 1984, emphasizing the 1000 Days of Reaping goals, (b) That we here proclaim Sabbath, January 5, 1985, a united worldwide day of thanksgiving, fasting, and prayer for the remaining six months of reaping in preparation for the fifty-fourth session of the General Conference to be held June 27 to July 6,
3. Example leadership. That "example leadership" be more fully implemented by the administrative teams in each division. This can be realized only as leadership at all levels sets forth the urgency and priority of both intercessory prayer and soul-winning programs.
Every member of the team should engage in some avenue of evangelism according to his or her talents, uniting with pastors and laymen in soul winning, and continue this exemplary leadership throughout the remainder of the 1000 Days.
4. Departmental activities. That in each division, administration and departmental leaders give renewed study to the redemptive outreach of each department, emphasizing the unique ability of each department to contribute to the 1000 Days of Reaping objectives.
5. Funding. That we affirm the "funding for evangelism" recommendation which was voted at the 1976 Annual Council calling for a definite percentage of retained tithe to be set aside for evangelism.
6. Evaluation and planning for next quinquennium. That we request the General Conference officers to immediately appoint a commission, responsible to the president, to evaluate and assess the effect of the 1000 Days of Reaping program upon the world church in the present quinquennium. This commission shall make recommendations for a worldwide evangelism program that will lead "the Caring Church" to ever greater heights of success during the quinquennium 1985-1990, in the hope that God's plan for His remnant people may be so
fully realized that His work of preparing the world for the long-awaited coming of Jesus will be completed.