An open letter to our world church

Is the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit's power in the latter rain for sometime in the future or is it meant for us today?

Neal Wilson, former president of the General Conference, and currently serving as special assistant to the General Conference president.

Dear Fellow Believer:

We are living in momentous times. Marvelous changes in political climate in a number of countries are providing opportunities for advancing the gospel on an unprecedented scale. We see everywhere God’s providence opening the way for the finishing of the work. In addition to the evidence of the moving of God’s hand in the affairs of the nations, the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in the natural, religious, social, and economic worlds reminds us that Jesus’ coming is near.

As a church, we must be awake to the breakthroughs that God is granting us; we must carry the message of salvation through the doors that are opening. But unless we are directed by the Spirit of God, we won’t see that the doors are opening—and they will surely close again if we do not respond. And unless we as a church are empowered by the Spirit of God, our witness to the world will be weak and ineffective. In either case, the loss to both the church and the world would be inestimable.

I must confess that in spite of progress and victories in so many areas, I have become increasingly persuaded that something is lacking. We are not fully measuring up to God's glorious expectations for each of us and for His church.

Scripture contains precious promises regarding the Holy Spirit. Zechariah said, "Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field" (Zech. 10:1). And Jesus promised His followers, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24).

It is time for God's people to press together and earnestly seek the power of God's Spirit in the latter rain. It is this experience that will bring about the long-looked-for revival of apostolic, primitive godliness Ellen White wrote of.1

Revivals of the past

Church leaders have called for revivals before, but their pleas have largely gone unheeded. There are several reasons for this. First, from the local church to the General Conference, church leaders have not focused seriously upon the need for a revival and the power of God in our midst. In the past the one or two who called for revival were as voices in the wilderness—heard by a few, but receiving no response.

Second, reformation must accompany revival. Although they are separate experiences, revival and reformation complement each other and must blend together.2 Calls for revival will be meaningless unless the whole church is willing to admit the presence of sin among us, confess that sin before God, and turn from it.

Third, if our people do not know how to respond to the calls of revival that they hear, there will be no revival. While noting God's willingness to give the power of His Spirit, Ellen White advised, "But it is our work, by confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us His blessing."3

Fourth, when past calls for revival did elicit responses, there was no support system to nurture and strengthen those responses. In part, the great revivals of Old Testament times succeeded because the leaders of God's people put into place support systems to sustain the revival experience. Likewise, the apostolic church had a support system to maintain the experience of the day of Pentecost: "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).

Need of the church

God is blessing the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But the results are minuscule compared to what He longs to enable us to do. We have yet to see the fulfillment of Revelation 18:1: "And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory."

Although we are adding nearly 1,500 new members per day to our spiritual family, God has greater things in store. Unentered countries beckon. And it is our fervent hope that the growth that marks the experience of the church in some areas of the world will inspire those divisions that have seen little growth.

Ellen White reminded us that God is more willing to give His Spirit to His people than parents are to give good gifts to their children. If this is so, why do we not see more of the power of the Spirit in the church? She observed, "If all were willing, all would be filled with the Spirit. Wherever the need of the Holy Spirit is a matter little thought of, there is seen spiritual drought, spiritual darkness, spiritual declension and death. When ever minor matters occupy the attention, the divine power that is necessary for the growth and prosperity of the church, and that would bring all other blessings in its train, is lacking, though offered in infinite plenitude.

"Since this is the means by which we are to receive power, why do we not hunger and thirst for the gift of the Spirit? Why do we not talk of it, pray for it, and preach concerning it?"4

Although the power of the latter rain will produce miracles, I do not envision an outpouring of emotional excitement accompanying it. Rather, there will be a final settling into the truth by those who receive this gift, a conviction that will lead to repentance and confession, a pressing together in Christian love, and, of course, a surge into the church of those who respond to the final warning of the third angel before the close of probation.

Have the Spirit now

We raise one of the greatest hindrances to receiving the latter rain when we believe that God has reserved its out pouring for some time in the future. This expectation results in a lack of interest in receiving this power now. We feel no urgency to prepare our hearts for the in filling of the Spirit. But, fellow believers, we can and must have this blessing now.

"The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the church is looked forward to as in the future; but it is the privilege of the church to have it now. Seek for it, pray for it, believe for it. We must have it, and Heaven is waiting to bestow it."5

If the power that will enable us to complete our commission of preaching the gospel to the world, the power that will prepare the bride to welcome the Bride groom, the power that will hasten the coming of our Lord if that power is available to us now, what prevents us from seeking it? Could it be that we still love sin in its many forms and therefore have no interest in receiving this power?

We are admonished to act on the be lief that we can have the Spirit now. To seek the gift actively and to pray for it. It is to this experience that I call the world church.

A call to revival

We must turn away from the sin that dwells among us, from rebellion against God's clearly revealed will. The world with all its greed, lust, pride, and hatred is too much with us. We must not, we cannot, condone its lifestyle. We are God's remnant, covenant people; we must reflect in our lives the beauty of His character and the principles of His holy law.

I exhort my fellow leaders those who serve at the General Conference head quarters, at the divisions, the unions, the conferences, and at the local churches to seek the outpouring of the Spirit upon your own lives and upon the world church. Keep the refreshing of the latter rain ever in your prayers in your family devotions, in your private devotions, in your spur-of-the-moment prayers, in group prayers with fellow believers, and in prayers during the worship service.

Leaders, make the subject of preparation for the latter rain a priority item in your fields of labor. Heed the counsel given to us: "A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work."6 Study ways in which you can encourage pastors and their congregations to seek the Spirit. The other General Conference officers and I long to receive this outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

And we realize that we cannot expect you to make the seeking of the Holy Spirit a priority if we fail to do the same. So we have decided that we will devote time at the beginning of our weekly officers' meeting to "confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us His blessing."

Pastors, foster prayer groups in your churches. Encourage your members to meet for prayer on a regular basis regard less of the time or the day whether in Sabbath school, at prayer meeting, in home fellowship groups, or at other times and places. As a church and as individuals, we do not pray enough for the power that God has promised. "We are not willing enough to trouble the Lord, and to ask Him for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And the Lord wants us to trouble Him in this matter. He wants us to press our petitions to the throne."7

Fellow believers the world over, pray for the latter rain, seek its power in your lives, act upon your belief. And encourage your fellow members to seek a revival of spiritual power in your church. Rather than criticizing, press together, support one another. Find a colleague you can regularly pray with.

As an elected leader of God's covenant people, I want you all to know that I commit my life to seeking the outpouring of the latter rain upon myself and upon the world church. By God's grace I will fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to give the Holy Spirit. (I will have more to say about these conditions during the months to come.) I commit myself to being a spiritual leader among God's people, nurturing, guiding, praying for the spiritual revival that will energize the church and prepare it for the coming of Jesus.

I invite all to join me in preparing for this experience.

1. The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 464.

2. Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958), book 1, p. 128.

3. Ibid., p. 121. (Italics supplied.)

4. ______, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 50.

5. ______, Evangelism (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1946), p. 701.

6. ______, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 121.

7. ______, Loma Linda Messages (Loma Linda, Calif.: 1935), p. 408.

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Neal Wilson, former president of the General Conference, and currently serving as special assistant to the General Conference president.

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