It has cost self-denial, self-sacrifice, indomitable energy, and much prayer, to bring up the various missionary enterprises where they now stand. There is danger that some of those now coming upon the stage of action will rest content to be inefficient, feeling that there is now no need of so great self-denial and diligence, such hard and disagreeable labor, as the leaders in this message experienced; that times have changed; and that since there is now more means in the cause of God, it is not necessary for them to place themselves in such trying circumstances as many were called to meet in the rise of the message.
But were there the same diligence and self-sacrifice manifest at the present stage of the work as at its beginning, we should see a hundred times more than is now accomplished.
If the work is to go forward on the high plane of action upon which it started, there must be no falling off in moral resources. New accessions of moral power must continually be made. If those now entering the field as laborers feel that they may relax their efforts, that self-denial and strict economy not only of means but of time are not now essential, the work will retrograde. The workers at the present time should have the same degree of piety, energy, and perseverance that the leaders had.
The work has been extended so that it now covers a large territory, and the number of believers has increased. Still there is a great deficiency, for a larger work might have been accomplished had the same missionary spirit been manifested as in earlier days. Without this spirit the laborer will only mar and deface the cause of God. The work is really retrograding instead of advancing as God designs it should. Our present numbers and the extent of our work are not to be compared with what they were in the beginning. We should consider what might have been done had every worker consecrated himself, in soul, body, and spirit, to God as he should have done.
Our churches are to co-operate in the work of spiritual tilling, with the hope of reaping by and by. There is much perversity to be met, much thwarting of holy plans and consecrated effort, because of the evil heart of unbelief. But the work must be done. The soil is stubborn, but the fallow ground must be broken up, the seeds of righteousness must be sown. Pause not, teachers beloved by God, as though doubtful whether to prosecute a labor which will grow as performed. Fail not, neither be discouraged. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. “We are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:9. Remember that you cannot trust in self.
As never before, we should pray not only that laborers may be sent forth into the great harvest field, but that we may have a clear conception of truth, so that when the messengers of truth shall come, we may accept the message and respect the messenger.
Chapter 54—The Home Missionary Work
A Warning from the Church of Ephesus
The True Witness addresses the church of Ephesus, saying: “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Revelation 2:4, 5.
At the first the experience of the church of Ephesus was marked with childlike simplicity and fervor. A lively, earnest, heartfelt love for Christ was expressed. The believers rejoiced in the love of God because Christ was in their hearts as an abiding presence. The praise of God was on their lips, and their attitude of thanksgiving was in accord with the thanksgiving of the heavenly family.
The world took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. Sinful men, repentant, pardoned, cleansed, and sanctified, were brought into partnership with God through His Son. The believers sought earnestly to receive and obey every word of God. Filled with love for their Redeemer, they sought as their highest aim to win souls to Him. They did not think of hoarding the precious treasure of the grace of Christ. They felt the importance of their calling, and, weighted with the message, Peace on earth, good will to men, they burned with desire to carry the glad tidings to the earth’s remotest bounds.
The members of the church were united in sentiment and action. Love for Christ was the golden chain that bound them together. They followed on to know the Lord more and still more perfectly, and brightness and comfort and peace were revealed in their lives. They visited the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and kept themselves unspotted from the world. A failure to do this would, in their view, have been a contradiction of their profession and a denial of their Redeemer.
In every city the work was carried forward. Souls were converted, and in their turn felt that they must tell of the inestimable treasure. They could not rest till the beams of light which had illumined their minds were shining upon others. Multitudes of unbelievers were made acquainted with the reason of the Christian’s hope. Warm, inspired, personal appeals were made to the sinful and erring, to the outcast, and to those who, while professing to know the truth, were lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
But after a time the zeal of the believers, their love for God and for one another, began to wane. Coldness crept into the church. Differences sprang up, and the eyes of many were turned from beholding Jesus as the Author and Finisher of their faith. The masses that might have been convicted and converted by a faithful practice of the truth, were left unwarned. Then it was that the message was addressed to the Ephesian church by the True Witness. Their lack of interest in the salvation of souls showed that they had lost their first love; for none can love God with the whole heart, mind, soul, and strength without loving those for whom Christ died. God called upon them to repent and do the first works, else the candlestick would be removed out of its place.
Is not this experience of the Ephesian church repeated in the experience of the church of this generation? How is the church of today, that has received a knowledge of the truth of God, using this knowledge? When its members first saw God’s unspeakable mercy for the fallen race, they could not keep silent. They were filled with longing to co-operate with God in giving to others the blessings they had received. As they imparted, they were continually receiving. They grew in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. How is it today?
Brethren and sisters who have long claimed to believe the truth, I ask you individually, Have your practices been in harmony with the light, the privileges, and the opportunities granted you of heaven? This is a serious question. The Sun of Righteousness has risen upon the church, and it is the duty of the church to shine. It is the privilege of every soul to make advancement. Those who are connected with Christ will grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Son of God, to the full stature of men and women. If all who claim to believe the truth had made the most of their ability and opportunities to learn and to do, they would have become strong in Christ. Whatever their occupation,—whether they were farmers, mechanics, teachers, or pastors,—if they had wholly consecrated themselves to God they would have become efficient workers for the heavenly Master.
But what are the members of the church doing that they should be designated “laborers together with God”? 1 Corinthians 3:9. Where do we see travail of soul? Where do we see the members of the church absorbed in religious themes, self-surrendered to the will of God? Where do we see Christians feeling their responsibility to make the church prosperous, a wide-awake, light-giving people? Where are those who do not stint or measure their loving labor for the Master? Our Redeemer is to see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied; how is it with those who profess to be His followers? Will they be satisfied when they see the fruit of their labors?
Why is it that there is so little faith, so little spiritual power? Why are there so few who bear the yoke and carry the burden of Christ? Why do persons have to be urged to take up their work for Christ? Why are there so few who can unveil the mysteries of redemption? Why is it that the imputed righteousness of Christ does not shine through His professed followers as a light to the world?
The Result of Inaction
When men use their powers as God directs, their talents will increase, their ability will enlarge, and they will have heavenly wisdom in seeking to save the lost. But while the church members are listless and neglectful of their God-given responsibility to impart to others, how can they expect to receive the treasure of heaven? When professed Christians feel no burden to enlighten those in darkness, when they cease to impart grace and knowledge, they become less discerning, they lose their appreciation of the richness of the heavenly endowment; and, failing to value it themselves, they fail to realize the necessity of presenting it to others.
We see large churches gathered in different localities. Their members have gained a knowledge of the truth, and many are content to hear the word of life without seeking to impart light. They feel little responsibility for the progress of the work, little interest in the salvation of souls. They are full of zeal in worldly things, but they do not bring their religion into their business. They say: “Religion is religion, and business is business.” They believe that each has its proper sphere, but they say: “Let them be separated.”
Because of neglected opportunities and abuse of privileges, the members of these churches are not growing “in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18. Therefore they are weak in faith, deficient in knowledge, and children in experience. They are not rooted and grounded in the truth. If they remain thus, the many delusions of the last days will surely deceive them, for they will have no spiritual eyesight to distinguish truth from error.
God has given His ministers the message of truth to proclaim. This the churches are to receive and in every possible way to communicate, catching the first rays of light and diffusing them. Here is our great sin. We are years behind. The ministers have been seeking the hidden treasure and have been opening up the casket and letting the jewels of truth shine forth, but the members of the church have not done a hundredth part of that which God requires of them. What can we expect but deterioration in religious life when the people listen to sermon after sermon and do not put the instruction into practice? The ability God has given, if not exercised, degenerates. More than this, when the churches are left to inactivity Satan sees to it that they are employed. He occupies the field and engages the members in lines of work that absorb their energies, destroy spirituality, and cause them to fall as dead weights upon the church.
There are among us those who, if they would take time to consider, would regard their do-nothing position as a sinful neglect of their God-given talents. Brethren and sisters, your Redeemer and all the holy angels are grieved at your hardness of heart. Christ gave His own life to save souls, and yet you who have known His love make so little effort to impart the blessings of His grace to those for whom He died. Such indifference and neglect of duty is an amazement to the angels. In the judgment you must meet the souls you have neglected. In that great day you will be self-convicted and self-condemned. May the Lord lead you now to repentance. May He forgive His people for neglecting the work in His vineyard which He has given them to do.
“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Revelation 2:5.
Oh, how few know the time of their visitation! How few, even among those who claim to believe present truth, understand the signs of the times or what we are to experience before the end! We are today under divine forbearance; but how long will the angels of God continue to hold the winds, that they shall not blow?
Notwithstanding God’s inexpressible mercy toward us, how few in our churches are truly humble, devoted, God-fearing servants of Christ! How few hearts are full of gratitude and thanksgiving because they are called and honored to act a part in the work of God, being partakers with Christ of His sufferings!
Today a large part of those who compose our congregations are dead in trespasses and sins. They come and go like the door upon its hinges. For years they have complacently listened to the most solemn, soul-stirring truths, but they have not put them in practice. Therefore they are less and less sensible of the preciousness of truth. The stirring testimonies of reproof and warning do not arouse them to repentance. The sweetest melodies that come from God through human lips—justification by faith, and the righteousness of Christ—do not call forth from them a response of love and gratitude. Though the heavenly Merchantman displays before them the richest jewels of faith and love, though He invites them to buy of Him “gold tried in the fire,” and white raiment” that they may be clothed, and “eyesalve” that they may see, they steel their hearts against Him, and fail to exchange their lukewarmness for love and zeal. While making a profession, they deny the power of godliness. If they continue in this state, God will reject them. They are unfitting themselves to be members of His family.
Winning Souls the Chief Aim
We are not to feel that the work of the gospel depends principally upon the minister. To every man God has given a work to do in connection with His kingdom. Everyone who professes the name of Christ is to be an earnest, disinterested worker, ready to defend the principles of righteousness. Every soul should take an active part in advancing the cause of God. Whatever our calling, as Christians we have a work to do in making Christ known to the world. We are to be missionaries, having for our chief aim the winning of souls to Christ.
To His church God has committed the work of diffusing light and bearing the message of His love. Our work is not to condemn, not to denounce, but to draw with Christ, beseeching men to be reconciled to God. We are to encourage souls, to attract them, and thus win them to the Saviour. If this is not our interest, if we withhold from God the service of heart and life, we are robbing Him of influence, of time, of money and effort. In failing to benefit our fellow men, we rob God of the glory that should flow to Him through the conversion of souls.
Begin With Those Nearest
Some who have long professed to be Christians, and yet have felt no responsibility for souls perishing within the shadow of their own homes, may think they have a work to do in foreign lands; but where is the evidence of their fitness for such a work? Wherein have they manifested a burden for souls? These persons need first to be taught and disciplined at home. True faith and love for Christ would create in them a most earnest desire to save souls right at home. They would exert every spiritual energy to draw with Christ, learning His meekness and lowliness. Then if God should desire them to go to foreign countries, they would be prepared.
Let those who desire to work for God begin at home, in their own household, in their own neighborhood, among their own friends. Here they will find a favorable missionary field. This home missionary work is a test, revealing their ability or inability for service in a wider field.
The Example of Philip With Nathanael
The case of Philip and Nathanael is an example of true home missionary work. Philip had seen Jesus and was convinced that He was the Messiah. In his joy he wished his friends also to know the good news. He desired that the truth which had brought such comfort to him should be shared by Nathanael. True grace in the heart will always reveal its presence by diffusing itself. Philip went in search of Nathanael, and as he called, Nathanael answered from his place of prayer under the fig tree. Nathanael had not had the privilege of listening to the words of Jesus, but he was being drawn toward Him in spirit. He longed for light, and was at that moment sincerely praying for it. Philip with joy exclaimed: “We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth.” John 1:45. At Philip’s invitation Nathanael sought and found the Saviour, and in his turn joined in the work of winning souls for Christ.
One of the most effective ways in which light can be communicated is by private, personal effort. In the home circle, at your neighbor’s fireside, at the bedside of the sick, in a quiet way you may read the Scriptures and speak a word for Jesus and the truth. Thus you may sow precious seed that will spring up and bring forth fruit.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6 pp. 419-428