I write this from my heart—a reflection from within. Look around. Astonishing prophecies are being fulfilled and spectacular "signs" are seen and heard everywhere. Ours is the age of "apocalyptic politics." In the midst of all this, heaven wills a finished work and the King's business, haste.
Thank God for a new, bold emphasis in our church on evangelism and the work of alerting our fellow human beings that Jesus is coming soon. We are praying that the power promised us will accompany what we do for Christ so that a judgment-bound world, with all its searching souls will be arrested and won before it is too late.
Religious confusion is everywhere, and the enemy is compounding it. The popular media are bringing fallacy and error into homes through bewitching presentations that fascinate the imagination and stir the emotions. Unbiblical propositions are convincingly portrayed so that minds and hearts move progressively further from the pure, sanctifying truth designed to prepare us for the fury, potency, and wrath of final events. These dazzling things precede the actual appearance of the Lord—coming in matchless glory!
Jesus is coming soon! He wills His church to gather everyone who is open to hearing His word, to loving and obeying Him, and that voice will be heard above the din of fallacy and foolishness. But the church cannot accomplish the will of her Lord at this critical time without the special "outpouring" of the promised power that comes in the downpour of the latter rain.
The enemy seems to have stolen a march on us by demonic delusions and counterfeits. Men and women now pretend to talk directly to the dead on national television. World leaders emphasize religious dogmas as solutions to our political, social, and moral ills! This is the time for us to move forward with faith and courage. We are divinely called to win for Christ all who will respond to His last appeal. Truth will prevail! God's Word and wisdom will succeed in glory.
Empowerment and revival
We are in urgent need of empowerment and revival! "It is the absence of the Spirit that makes the gospel ministry so powerless.
Learning, talent, eloquence, every natural or acquired endowment, may be possessed; but, without the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched, no sinner won to Christ. On the other hand, if they are connected to Christ . . . the poorest and most ignorant of His disciples will have a power that will tell upon hearts. ... Is not the Spirit of God to come today, in answer to earnest, per severing prayer, and fill men with power for service? Why then is the church so weak and spiritless?"1
As truth begins to triumph, many among us will be shaken out, but the ranks of God's army will not be diminished. Thousands will pour into God's family just as the disaffected are abandoning it. We must understand that souls are won by the Holy Spirit. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6). Not by logic or human charisma or philosophy or erudition or any other purely natural entity.
Once, I was lecturing to a group of young ministers gathered at a convention. We had just left a general session where a fine and cerebral gentleman had countered one of the propositions we had tried to establish.
He was discussing "communication," using the thesis of an ancient sage. He spoke of "ethos" as a necessity to establish rapport.
Suddenly, he said that we might as well forget the notion that we could do effective evangelism in five or six weeks. Why, he asserted, it would take that long to develop ethos!
Following his presentation, I was waiting at the door for my group. As they approached me, they asked, "Pastor, did you hear what he said? We can't win souls in a single campaign!"
I asked them to come in and be seated. Wishing fervently to be fair I said, "Let's suppose we misunderstood our speaker. What I do want you to understand is that soul winning is not just a human to human encounter. There is another Person involved! His name is the Holy Spirit."
I then referred to the Ethiopian eunuch. A single Bible study with Phillip convinced, convicted, convert ed, and baptized the man—all in one encounter. The Holy Spirit took care of the "ethos," "pathos," and "logos"! Soul winning involves a supernatural conjunction of the divine and human elements. God makes Himself responsible for our success.
How long to win a soul?
One night, in a great city, as we announced the final baptism of the campaign, a young lady came for ward. She was elegant—impeccably dressed. She was bright and intellectually aware. She could not stop the flow of her tears . . . insisting that she had to be in the next baptism.
Since I hadn't seen her in the audience before, I asked if she had been exposed to the truths of Adventism in the past—any Adventist relatives or friends, or anyone who had studied with her? Did she fully understand the commitment she was making? To all my queries she answered, "No."
Finally, I took her aside and began teaching her the "27 Fundamental Beliefs" of Adventism—all in one meeting. She listened carefully, fol lowed my finger as I traced the Word in my Bible and called on her to witness it. At the conclusion of this, long after the huge crowd had dwindled and while my staff waited patiently for final instructions and prayer, she said softly, "I see the Word of God. I believe what I have seen. I must be baptized on Sabbath." Well, she was.
Decades later, this former model was settled and active in her church,transformed by the Spirit of God. Human instruments cannot do this alone, but they can be used in the transaction.
As I've taught the "art and science" of evangelism to pastors and evangelists through the years, I haven't recommended that we consistently practice rapid baptizing, as with this young woman. We believe in laying groundwork and building truth upon truth, on the foundation of Jesus Christ until the full message is covered. Yet in my ministry I have seen on several occasions the kind of miracle mentioned above. Is it safe to do this?
It is, if the Holy Spirit is leading. How can one know? Surely, the soul winner involved in this "close" work will know whether or not a person is being led by the Spirit of God. When whole nights are spent in prayer, when one is sure they are humbly depending on God and seeking only His glory, when the church has been responsibly prepared, when the heart pleads in prayer even as the Word is being explained—one will know that one is being empowered by the Holy Spirit. It will always be remembered as one of those sacred experiences in the presence of the Lord. It cannot really be explained! It defies logic! It just happens by His grace!!
What's our work?
Our work is to define righteousness, lift up Christ, point out sin, and let the inquirer know what God's will is. We must encourage them by pointing to the cross and the possibilities that Christ's ministry has provided. We must proclaim the year of God's favor and the forgiveness there is in Christ.
We are to speak of faith, which appropriates all righteousness. We must teach about victory and sanctification, about the sure word of prophecy and the "Rock-based" promises of God which are as certain as His throne! Then, we must "leave the results with God."
In my evangelism, I approach the task with great faith in the Lord, and none in the flesh. I believe the truth with all my heart. One cannot preach with power what one does not believe. I expect that souls will come to Jesus as God, through His love, works through us.
We must be deeply aware of what God has promised us in the work of evangelism. It is thrilling to know and believe what God has promised, and then to see Him do it! He delights in mercy and in saving searching human beings!
It is risky—even dangerous—to attempt to do His work without sincere, personal preparation. He is loving and kind. He will forgive and He will empower. He wants to use us! He is waiting to do so, but there is this "prework" of personal preparation before we lead the church that is participating into revival and preparation.
"The refreshing or power of God comes only on those who have prepared themselves for it by doing the work which God bids them, namely, cleansing themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."2 "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."3
We cannot overstress the importance of revival and preparation. "The sermon that saves the sinner must first have saved the preacher." We have so much encouragement to participate with the Godhead in the greatest work on earth.
God can use anyone
God can use a "denying Peter" or a "persecuting Paul." He can use each of you if you surrender to be used. He will use preachers and lay persons.
I once sat with a notable preacher in a college classroom when we were both quite a bit younger. I discovered that he had a serious speech impediment. In my naivete, I wondered, Why does he feel he is called to preach? He can't even talk. I am so glad I never discussed this with anyone else.
This young man graduated ahead of me and while I was struggling with tuition and classes and other problems, he went out and in his first campaign baptized well over 100 souls! That cured me and taught me a very wonderful lesson; God chooses whom He will and if the chosen chooses, He will empower him for the special work He wants him to do!
If the church wills, God will revive her for evangelism (or through evangelism). His army of true believers is moving forward to victory. God will "shake" and "refine" and "purify" His people . . . and He will pour out His Spirit in copious showers upon those who seek Him and are willing to be totally His.
The work will be finished with more spectacular manifestations of divine power than it began at Pentecost. Let us pray for this, work for this . . . and let us expect this! Then let us triumph with God's mighty army of saints through Jesus Christ our Lord!
1 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), 8:21,22.
2 Ibid., 1:619
3 ____, Evangelism (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1970), 701.