Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 15, 1968
NUMBER 40, PAGE 4-5a

Meeting The Crisis!


We get more denominational papers than you can shake a stick at. Not only from our own denomination, but from the denominational denominations — if you can figure that one out. They make interesting, sometimes boring, sometimes hilarious, reading. All of them. For instance:

One of the Presbyterian denominations had their annual "General Assembly" not long ago, and were depressed and saddened by the official statistics of the previous year which showed they had suffered a heavy net loss in membership. In spite of all their valiant efforts — increased contributions, orphan homes, colleges, retreats, summer camps, mission hospitals, social centers, ghetto programs, etc. — their denomination had shrunk in size by an alarming figure.

What to do? Obviously this called for desperate counter-measures; no half-hearted, apathetic, lukewarm response could be made to this dangerous and threatening condition. The General Assembly faced up to the challenge with all the courage, energy, and enthusiasm worthy of their heritage from John Calvin. They passed a resolution!

And what was their resolution? It declared in no uncertain terms that this frightening emergency would be met; the noble denomination would rise to the occasion. Every pastor and every elder in the church was going to be asked to make a serious effort to win one other person to the denomination within the next twelve month period!

Now, you just can't ask much more than that! The "lay" members (some 400,000 of them) were apparently not to be bothered with this, only the pastors and elders. This was to be a denominational crusade, and clearly it was up to the denominational leaders to bear the brunt of the battle. In this alphabetical age of abbreviations they may well adopt some such slogan as "Preserve Our Denomination." (POD for short), or maybe "Save Our Denomination" (like SOD)?, and be on their way with a crusade.

The situation is not quite so sad (or ludicrous, if you prefer) among the Lord's people, but even here there is much to be desired. As witness our "personal workers" group in so many congregations, our "intensive campaigns" etc. If we fault our Presbyterian friends for their action in trying to meet their crisis by calling on the "pastors and elders", what excuse do we make for having one special group in the congregation who are called upon to make the contacts and win converts to Christ? We have an inborn animosity to this idea of a "personal worker" group; we believe that EVERY Christian ought to be a "personal" worker in exactly the same sense as he is a "personal" worshipper. The obligation to bring souls to Christ is surely no less urgent and specific than is the duty to partake of the Lord's Supper. Those congregations which try to develop a special group of "personal workers" are missing the mark, as are also those congregations which put on a six-weeks "personal work campaign." They could with equal justification put on a six-weeks "worshipping campaign."

When will Christians learn that this tremendous task is an every-day, every-member obligation? These limited, restricted, short term crusades and campaigns give the wrong kind of emphasis. Why should we be interested in the salvation of a man's soul for six weeks in the year, and forget him for the remaining forty-six? Why should twelve or fifteen People in a congregation feel under the necessity of telling others of Christ, and the rest of the congregation feel no obligation at all? It really doesn't make sense.

We have read the books our brethren have written on "personal work" — all of them we could find. As well as a great number written by men in the denominational world. All of them have some good points; some of them are excellent. But a great number of them, in our judgment, put far too much emphasis on organized, planned, carefully systematized congregational activity. Saving souls becomes a congregational function — which it was NOT in apostolic days. The early Christians were filled with a compulsive drive to share the good news of Christ with their friends and neighbors. It was that simple. There were no classes in personal work, no organized, systematic plan for covering the city. But these people as individuals told others the good news of Christ. That resulted in vast multitudes hearing the gospel, and hearing it from someone who cared enough to take the time and trouble to tell it. Once we get that spirit into the hearts and lives of individual Christians, the problem will be solved. Until then, it will never really be solved.

F. Y. T.