Inspiration stated over 100 years ago that “The Lord does not now work to bring many souls into the truth, because of the church members who have never been converted, and those who were once converted but who have backslidden“ (Evangelism p. 110).
That was written before the church was plagued by so much worldliness and so many divisive issues like women’s ordination, spiritual formation, errors on the Trinity and the LGBT. What would Inspiration tell us today regarding our efforts at evangelism?
We know God has never had a perfect church in the past, but in spite of the mixture of wheat and tares, He has brought many new converts into our midst. However, when the spiritual condition of the church deteriorates to a point where it is unsafe for new converts to be added to the church, the Holy Spirit will not convict those on the outside to join. All the best preaching and personal labors will not convict people to accept the truth. The world will be convicted by what the church lives, rather than by its preaching. Today, the church as a whole is presenting a great problem regarding the divine purpose for the church, which is pinpointed in the following:
“This is why the Lord cannot impart to his church the fullness of his blessing as he longs to do. To honor them in a distinguished manner before the world would be to put his seal upon their works, confirming their false representation of his character. When the church shall come out from world, and be separate from its maxims and habits and practices, the Lord Jesus will work with his people. But his blessing cannot be bestowed in its fullness while they are so corrupted with the spirit and practices of the world" (Signs of The Times, Dec.22, 1890).
Not only do we have worldliness and many winds of doctrine blowing in our church, but we have maverick church entities and conferences who are striking out on their own wayward course like rebellious teenagers who reject family governance to do their own thing. Yet they continue to urge the church members to engage in various kinds of witnessing programs to add new members. But would God bring the “other sheep not of this fold” into a dysfunctional church as we have today? They often quote the gospel commission of Matthew 28:19 to go into all the world and preach the gospel and baptize those who believe.
However, they forget that Christ first gave to His disciples an important commission before going into all the world. We find it in Matthew 10: 5-6.
“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
And before His ascension, He also told them to “ tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). There is an urgent to do a thorough house-cleaning in the church itself before the Lord will bring in the multitudes from the outside.
And what kind of gospel do the evangelists from the rogue conferences preach? Is it the Three Angel’s Message, or is it a modernized gospel indistinguishable from that taught in the popular churches of Christendom? What is the fruit of the extensive evangelism carried out over the past several decades? Today, we have nearly 20 million baptized church members, but how many of them know what Adventism is all about? According to the parable of the wheat and tares which Christ told, it was “while men slept” that the enemy was able to sow his tares among the wheat. So we need to be aware that Satan is a diligent evangelist who will bring as many tares into the church as he can to dilute the influence of true believers. And he does that through the preaching of a false gospel.
We know that God has His faithful people in our midst. There may be churches in different places where the truth and its standards are being upheld. But when people are baptized into the church, they are not just joining a local church family. They become part of a worldwide family. They may be shocked and dismayed by what they see and hear when they go to other churches or when they go to camp meeting. It will be difficult for them to reconcile what they were taught with what they are witnessing in other parts of the church. These things are dangerous stumbling blocks to those new in the faith.
Speaking of better times when holy men of old proclaimed their faith by their conduct, Inspiration tells us that
“They lived only for God's glory and declared plainly that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth, seeking a better country, that is, an heavenly. Their conduct proclaimed their faith. God could entrust to them His truth and could leave the world to receive from them a knowledge of His will. But how are the professed people of God today maintaining the honor of His name? How could the world infer that they are a peculiar people? What evidence do they give of citizenship in heaven? Their self-indulgent, ease-loving course falsifies the character of Christ. He could not honor them in any marked manner before the world without endorsing their false representation of His character" (5 Testimonies p. 188).
The Third Angel’s Message is to produce a people who will vindicate God and His truth by both precept and example. Christ cannot come until that has been accomplished. “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own" (Christ Object Lessons p. 69).
Christ entered the final phase of His priestly ministry in 1844 to produce a people in whom His character shall be perfectly reflected. This is what the Seventh-day Adventist church was raised up to do. Revelation 14:1-5 depicts those in whom Christ has completed His work of redemption from the last vestiges of sin. How and when that mighty work of grace is accomplished is indicated in this passage from Great Controversy p. 425, which describes what takes place in the investigative judgment.
“Says the prophet: “Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers’ soap; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” [Malachi 3:2, 3.] . . . When this work shall have been accomplished, the followers of Christ will be ready for his appearing. “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.” [Malachi 3:4.] Then the church which our Lord at his coming is to receive to himself will be “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” [Ephesians 5:27.] Then she will look forth “as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.”
Then the church will no longer be a dysfunctional church. Then will come the time for the greatest evangelism ever conducted.
“But I speak not my own words when I say that God's Spirit will pass by those who have had their day of test and opportunity, but who have not distinguished the voice of God or appreciated the movings of His Spirit. T hen thousands in the eleventh hour will see and acknowledge the truth. . .
These conversions to truth will be made with a rapidity that will surprise the church, and God's name alone will be glorified" (2 Selected Messages p. 16).
Floyd Sayler attended Walla Walla College as a music major and completed his diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music, University of Toronto. Along with a passion for Bible study & research, Floyd also enjoys writing for Creation Illustrated and the Adventist World magazines.