"He Was Glad"

Joel Sarli was Associate Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the second editor of Elder’s Digest when this article was written.

Research reveals that the Seventh-day Adventist ^ Church on average is losing about 40 percent of its yearly growth. This means that for every 100 people who join the Adventist Church, 40 go out during that same period of time.

Can an elder help in closing what Elder Cleveland called "the back door"? What can an elder do to help prevent new members from falling away?

As leaders of local congregations, we need to have the feeling a father has for his family. He cares for the well being of every single one. And is concerned with the ones who are his responsibility.

Consider the significant statement made by Dwight L. Moody in relation to Acts 1 l:21-24.This scripture speaks of a great work being done in Antioch. A great number believed and turned to the Lord. When the Church of Jerusalem heard about of these things, they sent Barnabas to visit the Church at Antioch. When Barnabas arrived and saw all that had been done, he "was glad, because he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith." Mr. Moody points out, "It goes without saying that Barnabas must have been a good man and full of the Holy Ghost, for he was able to rejoice in another man's success." In other words, it takes an infilling of the Holy Spirit for a leader in the gospel ministry to see great numbers turn to the Lord, and be truly glad when this is the result of another person's labor.

Barnabas was happy in upholding the work of another worker, and did his best to conserve what was gained. In studying the example of Barnabas, we learn that a newly elected elder can rejoice in continuing the work started by a fellow elder who just left that position.

Once an elder told me his experience of starting some evangelistic meetings which, because of a call to another city, he was not able to complete. However, before he left, he gave his successor the names of about fifty interested people. But later he was saddened to learn that the local leaders in that church had paid no attention to these interested people. Because of lack of continuity, they were lost to the message.

Our Lord and Master takes a special interest in these "little ones"or "babes in truth," and launches a strong indictment against those who fail to care for them. In Matthew 18:6 we read, "Who shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." It seems that this text refers to new converts, as it speaks of the "little ones which believe in Me."

If we are in any way responsible for the falling away of any of these "little ones," Christ is very displeased with us. Seldom in all His utterances does the meek and lowly Savior use words that expresses such tremendous concern for a single, struggling soul as He does on this occasion. What stronger language could He possibly employ than to say it is better for the offender to have a millstone hanged around his neck, and be drowned in the depth of the sea?

These words of Christ should cause every one of us, elders as well as other leaders in His Church, to pause and seriously consider our responsibility when there is the slightest temptation to allow any new convert to fall away from the faith because of our neglect.

It would be profitable for us to reflect often on the example left to us by Barnabas in this important matter. He was "glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord."