E. E. Cleveland
Retired Associate Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference

To the man of God the year 2000 is one of unlimited opportunity. As a people we have belted the globe with the three angels' messages. But above and beneath the belt, there are millions of lost souls who know not the gospel. In short, the challenge of 2000 is not coverage but saturation; not exposure, but contact. The gospel commission, "go ye into all the world," envisions the total conquest of the earth inch by difficult inch.

Obviously this will demand more of us personally than we have thus far committed in time, effort, and consecration. This also involves a heavier commitment of the resources of the church, human and material, or the task of "finishing the work" will forever remain an aspiration.

Ours is not an impersonal task that machines or machinery can complete. Behind the doors we face are human beings, each an entity with needs that vary in depth and complexity. Sitting opposite me was an earnest young man. We had just completed a Bible study when he asked, "Do you honestly believe that the Seventh-day Adventists have the solution to all of the world's problems?" My answer: "The Bible has the solution to all of the world's problems. To the extent that Adventists believe and teach the Bible, we have those solutions." And I say to you, Sir, we must believe that. We must believe that our message solves problems!

And what are the people's problems? Idolatry, profanity, Sabbath breaking, disrespect to parents, murder, stealing, adultery, lying, covetousness, and scores of related evils. The message that we preach concerns itself with the spiritual, mental, and physical welfare of man. It is relevant! A young man said to me, "I don't see that Christianity relates itself to this world. It seems to be the religion of the world to come." What a pleasure it was for me to assure him that it is the religion for this world and the world to come. Behind the door in 2000 is a challenge to meet human need unprecedented in the annals of mankind.

Darker the night, brighter the light

The dark night of forbidding circumstance will serve to accentuate the light we possess. Hindrances will not depress the light bearer. Difficult territory, lack of facilities, and outright persecution are problems that have all been overcome. The exciting experience of Pastor Paul Monk illustrates what must be the spirit of God's workers now. He pitched his tent but a severe storm knocked it down. He moved it to higher ground but an automobile ran into a water main and flooded his new lot. Again he raised it another driver hit a telegraph pole and it fell on the tent. Hoodlums tried to burn it, and later to cut it down. But Pastor Monk went on to baptize 17 souls. It seems that success follows him who perseveres.

There is also the darkness of spiritual ignorance to consider. Church people know little of the Bible and what it teaches. The world is grossly ignorant of the will of God. The world is hungry for the Word of God. It is ready to listen to anyone who speaks for God. This readiness is getting to the point of desperation. Proof of that fact is abundant. Humanity's dangerous experimentation with idol gods is but an erratic expression of man's basic desire for satisfaction which God alone can give. His frantic search takes the form of extreme art portrayals as well as intemperate behavior. This is a proud world's way of crying "Help!"

The Saving Message

There is miraculous power in the advent message. Men came to hear the three angels' messages six nights a week for ten weeks in great, sophisticated, pleasureloving New York, in the fabled entertainment capital of the world. The Word of God made its way in spite of television, night clubs, movies, and other assorted competition. This fact increased my confidence in the saving message. It is doing what it is supposed to do, namely, sobering the intemperate, mending minds, saving marriages, giving hope to the disconsolate, peace to the dying, and light to dispel the darkness from sin-riddled lives.

With what expectation we may approach the needy public with the message of God's saving grace! Divine optimism should pervade the ranks of the Advent clergy. The triumphs of the cross should be our inspiration. The science of winning souls our preoccupation. We stake our claim by faith on every human soul. And all that we have is at the disposal of the cause. We believe nothing that we need to apologize for. There are educated people who are concerned over the breakdown in human affairs. They want answers; you have them; make them available. Evangelize!

The Open Door

Doors are now open that will soon be closed. The signs are too clear to deny that that day is not far hence. The rapid resurgency of papal influence, the increase in ecumenical ties between Protestant bodies, and the increasing influence of Spiritualism reveal the approach of restrictions on a scale heretofore unknown in this land.

Now is the time to press the advantage we now enjoy by spreading the gospel everywhere and by all means. Now is the time to secure radio time and preach the message on the air. Now is the time to rent tents, halls, theatres, and to use airatoriums, homes, and even the market places as launching pads for the good news. Now is the time to give the gospel the widest possible exposure. The place is here; the time is now.

No Time to Pass the Buck

In the past (not too distant) we have blamed everything from hard territory to bad weather for our baptismal poverty. In all honesty there are such things as hard territory and bad weather. But, at various times in our history, the cause of Christ has triumphed over both. May heaven deliver us from the sin of expecting equal numerical returns of all men regardless of circumstances. Pastors who are bearing responsibilities over and above that of their fellow workersare running campaigns. And some fields are more fruitful than others. All evangelists do not share equally the evangelistic gift. But may we also be delivered from the crime of expecting little and getting less! These are clearly not times for paucity of vision. Our times are gigantic, titanic, atomic! Our faith, anemic? God forbid!

The experts are legion who know what will and will not work. "The age of tents is past," one sage remarks. Before the sound of his voice dies out in the air, another evangelist baptizes hundreds in an old-fashioned tent campaign. "We must discover a new evangelistic method," another says. While he yet speaketh, someone succeeds with a procedure a hundred years old. "I can't afford visual aids," is an additional lament. A pastor baptized 47 souls with only a Bible. "I am inadequately financed," still another wails. One pastor baptized over four hundred people with only $500 invested by the conference. Yes, Israel's "wailing wall" is crowded with preachers wasting positive energy on negative pronouncements. We literally paralyze ourselves with our doubts and fears.

Sure Cure

The cure for fear is action. The swimmer who does not plunge into the water will never lose the fear of it. Action breeds the chain reaction. Positive, constructive action is the mother of achievement. A consistent, persistent, devotional life lends sanctity to our toil. The purposeful person with a vision knows no frustration. He simply moves ahead and uses his problems as stepping stones. The next campaign is better because of the experiences gained in this one.

There is also a cure for our sparse soul yield behind the door of 2000. We simply need to lift our sights. Faith sets a high goal for itself, while humility acknowledges God as the source of all worthwhile achievement.

Is there fear of derision should one fall short of the announced goal? Then, for whom are we working? A good effort that falls short of its goal is better than a good effort without a goal. Human beings who aim at nothing, usually hit it. Few pastors are so favored as the young evangelist who was sent to a South Carolina town against his wishes. Expecting little, he pitched his tent. On the opening night he decided to pay a routine visit to his own opening. Imagine his surprise upon his arrival when he found a full tent. On his knees behind the platform he apologized to God and began the effort. He baptized 74 people in that South Carolina meeting. But his experience is an exception. Big meetings are the offspring of big vision. It is the will of God that we aspire. Gigantic goals grow souls through prayer and hard work.

Then let us set great goals for ourselves under God in 2001 goals without reference to past achievements, for the past must not be the prison house of our future. Nor may we be bound in our thinking to what others more fruitful than ourselves have done, for this makes man the measure of our faith in God's capacity to save.

Let us seek a faith to match these times. What times these are!

Times of the giant computer—
The machine brain—
Impersonal times—the faceless fact feeder—
The robots reign.

Times for big decisions of little men.
The day of the rich, bored bum—
'The man of sin.
'Times of God these be—
'Tho dark—yet bright.
Times for giants in faith—
To send the light.

E. E. Cleveland was associate secretary of the Ministerial Association when he wrote this article. He presently lives in Huntsville, Alabama.