Chapter 16—The Church Expansion Movement
The Divine Plan
It is not the purpose of God that His people should colonize, or settle together in large communities. The disciples of Christ are His representatives upon the earth, and God designs that they shall be scattered all over the country, in the towns, cities, and villages, as lights amidst the darkness of the world.—Testimonies for the Church 8:244.The plan of colonizing, or moving from different localities where there is but little strength or influence, and concentrating the influence of many in one locality, is removing the light from places where God would have it shine.—Testimonies for the Church 2:633.If the church of Christ were fulfilling the purpose of our Lord, light would be shed upon all that sit in darkness and in the region and shadow of death. Instead of congregating together and shunning responsibility and cross-bearing, the members of the church would scatter into all lands, letting the light of Christ shine out from them, working as He did for the salvation of souls, and this “gospel of the kingdom” would speedily be carried to all the world.—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 42, 43.Brethren and sisters, why hover about the churches? Study the parable of the lost sheep, and go forth as true shepherds, seeking the lost one who is in the wilderness of sin. Rescue the perishing.—The Review and Herald, December 12, 1893.The lay members of our churches can accomplish a work which, as yet, they have scarcely begun. None should move into new places merely for the sake of worldly advantage; but where there is an opening to obtain a livelihood, let families that are well grounded in the truth enter, one or two families in a place, to work as missionaries. They should feel a love for souls, a burden of labor for them, and should make it a study how to bring them into the truth. They can distribute our publications, hold meetings in their homes, become acquainted with their neighbors, and invite them to come to these meetings. Thus they can let their light shine in good works.—Testimonies for the Church 8:245.Brethren who wish to change their location, who have the glory of God in view, and feel that individual responsibility rests upon them to do others good, to benefit and save souls for whom Christ withheld not His precious life, should move into towns and villages where there is but little or no light, and where they can be of real service, and bless others with their labor and experience. Missionaries are wanted to go into towns and villages and raise the standard of truth, that God may have His witnesses scattered all over the land, that the light of truth may penetrate where it has not yet reached, and the standard of truth be raised where it is not yet known.—Testimonies for the Church 2:115.Nothing will so arouse a self-sacrificing zeal and broaden and strengthen the character as to engage in work for others. Many professed Christians, in seeking church relationship, think only of themselves. They wish to enjoy church fellowship and pastoral care. They become members of large and prosperous churches, and are content to do little for others. In this way they are robbing themselves of the most precious blessings. Many would be greatly benefited by sacrificing their pleasant, ease-conducing associations. They need to go where their energies will be called out in Christian work, and they can learn to bear responsibilities.—The Ministry of Healing, 151.There are thousands of places to be entered where the standard of truth has never been raised, where the proclamation of the truth has never been heard in America. And there are thousands who might enter the harvest field who are now religiously idle, and as a result, go crippling their way to heaven, expressing their doubt whether they are Christians. Their need is a vital union with Jesus Christ. Then it can be said of them, “Ye are laborers together with God.” I want to say to many, You are waiting for some one to carry you to the vineyard and set you to work, or to bring the vineyard to you, that you may experience no inconvenience in labor. You will wait in vain. If you will lift up your eyes, you will see the harvest ripe, ready for the sickle, whichever way you may look; you will find work close by and far off. But of how many will Christ say in the judgment, “Good and faithful servants”? I think how the angels must feel seeing the end approaching, and those who claim to have a knowledge of God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent, huddle together, colonize, and attend the meetings, and feel dissatisfied if there is not much preaching to benefit their souls and strengthen the church, while they are doing literally nothing.... If their temporal, financial prospects are not as prosperous by moving to localities where the truth has not been proclaimed, or where there has been but a glimmering of light, will they not be doing just the work that Jesus has done to save them?—The General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 4, 1893, 131.We see the great need of missionary work to carry the truth not only to foreign countries, but to those who are near us. Close around us are cities and towns in which no efforts are made to save souls. Why should not families who know the present truth settle in these cities and villages, to set up there the standard of Christ, working in humility, not in their own way, but in God's way, to bring the light before those who have no knowledge of it?When the church shall truly have the spirit of the message, they will throw all their energies into the work of saving the souls for whom Christ has died. They will enter new fields. Some who are not ordained ministers will be laborers together with God in visiting the churches, and trying to strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die. There will be laymen who will move into towns and cities, and into apparently out-of-the-way places, that they may let the light which God has given them, shine forth to others. Some whom they meet will not appear to be the most promising subjects, but the only question should be, Will they come into harmony with Christ? Will they become partakers of His spirit, so that their influence, in precept and example, will present the attractions of the Author of truth and righteousness?In places where the truth is not known, brethren who are adapted to the work, might hire a hall, or some other suitable place to assemble, and gather together all who will come. Then let them instruct the people in the truth. They need not sermonize, but take the Bible, and let God speak directly out of His Word. If there is only a small number present, they can read a “Thus saith the Lord,” without a great parade or excitement; just read and explain the simple gospel truth, and sing and pray with them.—The Review and Herald, September 29, 1891.
Abraham a Worthy Example
It was no light test that was thus brought upon Abraham, no small sacrifice that was required of him. There were strong ties to bind him to his country, his kindred, and his home. But he did not hesitate to obey the call. He had no question to ask concerning the Land of Promise,—whether the soil was fertile, and the climate healthful; whether the country offered agreeable surroundings, and would afford opportunities for amassing wealth. God had spoken, and His servant must obey; the happiest place on earth for him was the place where God would have him to be.Many are still tested as was Abraham. They do not hear the voice of God speaking directly from the heavens, but He calls them by the teachings of His Word and the events of this providence. They may be required to abandon a career that promises wealth and honor, to leave congenial and profitable associations, and separate from kindred, to enter upon what appears to be only a path of self-denial, hardship, and sacrifice. God has a work for them to do; but a life of ease and the influence of friends and kindred would hinder the development of the very traits essential for its accomplishment. He calls them away from human influences and aid, and leads them to feel the need of His help, and to depend upon Him alone, that He may reveal Himself to them.Who is ready at the call of Providence to renounce cherished plans and familiar associations? Who will accept new duties and enter untried fields, doing God's work with firm and willing hearts, for Christ's sake counting His losses again? He who will do this has the faith of Abraham, and will share with him that “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” with which “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, 126, 127.
What Doest Thou Here?
Much depends on the unceasing activity of those who are true and loyal; and for this reason Satan puts forth every possible effort to thwart the divine purpose to be wrought out through the obedient. He causes some to lose sight of their high and holy mission, and to become satisfied with the pleasures of this life. He leads them to settle down at ease, or, for the sake of greater worldly advantages, to remove from places where they might be a power for good. Others he causes to flee in discouragement from duty, because of opposition or persecution. But all such are regarded by Heaven with tenderest pity. To every child of God whose voice the enemy of souls had succeeded in silencing, the question is addressed, “What doest thou here?” I commissioned you to go into all the world and preach the gospel, to prepare a people for the day of God. Why are you here? Who sent you?—Prophets and Kings, 171, 172.Of families, as of individuals, the question is asked, “What doest thou here?” In many churches there are families well instructed in the truths of God's Word, who might widen the sphere of their influence by moving to places in need of the ministry they are capable of giving.—Prophets and Kings, 172.
The Call to Christian Families
Missionary families are needed to settle in the waste places. Let farmers, financiers, builders, and those who are skilled in various arts and crafts, go to neglected fields, to improve the land, to establish industries, to prepare humble homes for themselves, and to help their neighbors.—The Ministry of Healing, 194.God calls for Christian families to go into communities that are in darkness and error, and work wisely and perseveringly for the Master. To answer this call requires self-sacrifice. While many are waiting to have every obstacle removed, souls are dying without hope and without God in the world. Many, very many, for the sake of worldly advantage, for the sake of acquiring scientific knowledge, will venture into pestilential regions, and endure hardship and privation. Where are those who are willing to do this for the sake of telling others of the Saviour? Where are the men and women who will move into regions that are in need of the gospel, that they may point those in darkness to the Redeemer?—Testimonies for the Church 9:33.There are whole families who might be missionaries, engaging in personal labor, toiling for the Master with busy hands and active brains, devising new methods for the success of His work.—Testimonies for the Church 9:40.If families would locate in the dark places of the earth, places where the people are enshrouded in spiritual gloom, and let the light of Christ's life shine out through them, a great work might be accomplished. Let them begin their work in a quiet, unobtrusive way, not drawing on the funds of the conference until the interest becomes so extensive that they cannot manage it without ministerial help.—Testimonies for the Church 6:442.
Transplanting Requires Wise Nurserymen
Prepare workers to go out into the highways and hedges. We need wise nurserymen who will transplant trees to different localities, and give them advantages, that they may grow. It is the positive duty of God's people to go into the regions beyond. Let forces be set at work to clear new ground, to establish new centers of influence wherever an opening can be found. Rally workers who possess true missionary zeal, and let them go forth to diffuse light and knowledge far and near.—Testimonies for the Church 9:118.Many of the members of our large churches are doing comparatively nothing. They might accomplish a good work if, instead of crowding together, they would scatter into places that have not yet been entered by the truth. Trees that are planted too thickly do not flourish. They are transplanted by the gardener, that they may have room to grow, and not become dwarfed and sickly. The same rule would work well for our large churches. Many of the members are dying spiritually for want of this very work. They are becoming sickly and inefficient. Transplanted, they would have room to grow strong and vigorous.—Testimonies for the Church 8:244.
Assurance of Results
If the lay members of the church will arouse to do the work that they can do, going on a warfare at their own charges, each seeing how much he can accomplish in winning souls to Jesus, we shall see many leaving the ranks of Satan to stand under the banner of Christ. If our people will act upon the light that is given in these few words of instruction, we shall surely see of the salvation of God. Wonderful revivals will follow. Sinners will be converted, and many souls will be added to the church.—Testimonies for the Church 8:246.Our church members should feel a deep interest in home and foreign missions. Great blessings will come to them as they make self-sacrificing efforts to plant the standard of truth in new territory. The money invested in this work will bring rich returns. New converts, rejoicing in the light received from the Word, will in their turn give of their means to carry the light of truth to others.—Testimonies for the Church 9:49.In fields where the conditions are so objectionable and disheartening that many workers refuse to go to them, most remarkable changes for the better may be brought about by the efforts of self-sacrificing lay members. These humble workers will accomplish much, because they put forth patient, persevering effort, not relying upon human power, but upon God, who gives them His favor. The amount of good that these workers accomplish will never be known in this world.—Testimonies for the Church 7:22, 23.
A Lesson from the Failure of Ancient Israel
When the Israelites entered Canaan, they did not fulfil God's purpose by taking possession of the whole land. After making a partial conquest, they settled down to enjoy the fruit of their victories. In their unbelief and love of ease, they congregated in the portions already conquered, instead of pushing forward to occupy new territory. Thus they began to depart from God. By their failure to carry out His purpose they made it impossible for Him to fulfil to them His promise of blessing. Is not the church of today doing the same thing? With the whole world before them in need of the gospel, professed Christians congregate where they themselves can enjoy gospel privileges. They do not feel the necessity of occupying new territory, carrying the message of salvation into regions beyond. They refuse to fulfil Christ's commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Are they less guilty than was the Jewish church?—Testimonies for the Church 8:119.
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