It would be folly to ignore the sins which have been condoned and embraced by many in the church. It does no good to put our heads in the sand. The voice of warning must be heard. The cutting truth must be proclaimed, but it must be done in the context of love and concern for those who have been blinded by Satan. There is still a loyal group who will not be moved from the pillars of truth.
“The leaven of godliness has not entirely lost its power. At the time when the danger and depression of the church are greatest, the little company who are standing in the light will be sighing and crying for the abominations that are done in the land. But more especially will their prayers arise in behalf of the church because its members are doing after the manner of the world.” Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 209, 210.
This statement is typical of many in which Sister White identifies a “little company” within the remnant which refuses to follow the rest of the church whose “members are doing after the manner of the world.” From such statements it seems clear that there is a remnant within the remnant who will recognize the breakdown of standards and take a strong stand against the worldly drift within the church.
Today God is looking for those who will set their faces like flint against sin and all its allies. What joy there is in placing no limits upon the operation of His marvelous grace! Every one of us has the privilege right now of submitting every faculty of our being to God and His message. He does not call us to divided service. There is no peace in a half surrender of the heart.
What common ground is there between truth and error? God desires His remnant people to give an unambiguous witness to every point of true doctrine and experience. This church is not the true church just because it fits into a particular historical and prophetic framework. It is true, and will remain true, only as it continues to preach and practice in full harmony with the testimonies of God’s Spirit. We can feel no assurance of salvation, either, just because we belong to the true church. Our security rests upon a personal relationship with Christ, which produces the obedience of faith. An inordinate spiritual pride destroyed God’s Israel of old, and it could easily be a snare to Seventh-day Adventists today.
Several points are made by Sister White concerning the faithful “little company” within the remnant. They sigh and cry for the abominations done in the land, and “their prayers arise in behalf of the church because its members are doing after the manner of the world. . . . In the time when His wrath shall go forth in judgments, these humble, devoted followers of Christ will be distinguished from the rest of the world by their soul anguish, which is expressed in lamentation and weeping, reproofs and warnings. While others try to throw a cloak over the existing evil, and excuse the great wickedness everywhere prevalent, those who have a zeal for God’s honor and a love for souls will not hold their peace to obtain favor of any.” Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 210.
Oh, what a responsibility rests upon the watchmen on the walls! And how earnestly we should be studying and praying to be a part of that small group who grieve over the sins of the church. How clearly we see the fulfillment of Sister White’s description as we approach the sealing time. We long to be able to turn back the floodtide of compromise. Daily we need to plead for the Spirit of God to keep our feet from sliding back and to fortify our minds against the deceptions which surround us. Who is sufficient for these things?
As one watchman on the walls, I will be held responsible to God for the souls of any whom I do not warn against the approaching enemy. My heart mourns as I watch what is happening and see how little I seem able to do. What can be done to bring our church back to the pattern so clearly laid down in the inspired counsels?
The medical work has taken a direction against which we were warned years ago. By taking the administration of our institutions out of the hands of the church and placing them under the direction of highly paid health professionals, we have opened a floodgate of compromise. The new arrangement is accelerating the pace of our shameful competition to be the biggest and to attract the largest number of patients. Nowhere have we been encouraged by God to construct such facilities. Over and over we have been warned not to compete with the world in this area. Smaller, rural sanitariums where true health reform principles can be practiced and taught, was the burden of Sister White’s message from God. How can we defend the investment of borrowed millions of dollars in the proliferation of medical-surgical monoliths
which defy the great mass of instruction which God has given us?
The counsel against drugs has been flaunted. In most of our huge hospitals and medical centers there is little distinction from the world in the way we treat disease. My last two crusades were held in large cities where two of our sprawling hospital complexes were located. I often ate in the cafeterias of those metropolitan institutions. Imagine my shock and chagrin to find meat being served in one of those Seventh-day Adventist hospitals. Each day I had to question the servers closely to identify the real meat from the vegetarian entrees.
In the other hospital, no meat was served in the cafeteria, but large coffee-dispensing machines stood in the room. On Sabbaths, the public, as well as the employees, paid for their food at the ringing cash register, just as they did on the weekdays. Even though I had a guest card, it was an uncomfortable experience to watch the business-as-usual. I remembered how, years ago, no one could eat in our hospital cafeterias on Sabbath unless he had a meal ticket. No money was exchanged on that day.
My heart is sick also when I look at the trends our publishing and educational work are following. I know how sensitive our educators have become to the smallest criticism, but I must refer you to a statement by Dr. Winton Beaven in the Adventist Review of September 27, 1984, in which he is quoted: “Between 40 and 45 percent of male students at Adventist colleges in North America drink beer, wine or spirits.” Some will surely want to reject that appraisal, but who would be better qualified to make such a judgment? Dr. Beaven has been a recognized authority in drug research for many years, and he made the statement at the first board meeting of the Institute of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency at Andrews University.
I know we have some of the finest Christian educators in the world-men and women who are really dedicated to the character development of our youth. They are often limited by board rules, parental pressures, and proximity of the unpredictable young people day after day after day. Seventh-day Adventist teachers deserve a great deal of honor and recognition for their commitment to a difficult task.
Yet somewhere along the line we have dropped the ball, and along with it, many of the standards and rules which once safeguarded our educational centers.
On the basis of the Review statement, if our colleges still maintained the published standards of the recent past, almost half the male enrollment would qualify for immediate expulsion. Their continuation in the schools provides dramatic proof that the most basic Christian standards are not being maintained. If Dr. Beaven is correct, we are adjusting our rules to meet the Laodicean lifestyle of an indulgent generation, or else our educational leaders do not know what is going on right under their noses. Instead of disciplining the drinking students, some schools are instituting programs of alcohol rehabilitation. This is not to fault the good plan for alcoholic reform and recovery, but in the meantime there must be a meaningful program to uphold a disciplined lifestyle on every Adventist campus.
Does this lenient stance toward drinking bleed over into other areas of Adventist practice? Look at the divorce rate in the remnant church. It just about equals the worldly average. Consider the rapidly changing attitudes toward movie attendance, abortion, and homosexuality. Historic Bible positions are being adroitly neutralized by learned dissertations based largely on emotional appeals for fairness, equality and justice. Emotion we need, but far more, we need to stand on clear-cut, long-held, inspired principles which have served us well for over 125 years.
But in spite of some mistaken policies of compromise, this is still God’s remnant church, and it is going through to the Kingdom. Many of its members, its ministers, and its administrators will be shaken out, but the church of the translation will be pure and uncompromised. Worldly policy and political expedience will be unknown in the ranks of that Spirit-filled remnant who will give the loud cry!
“But the days of purification of the church are hastening on apace. God will have a people pure and true. In the mighty sifting soon to take place we shall be better able to measure the strength of Israel. The signs reveal that the time is near when the Lord will manifest that His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor.” Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 80.
“Satan will work his miracles to deceive; he will set up his power as supreme. The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out . . . This is a terrible ordeal . . . The remnant that purify their souls by obeying the truth gather strength from the trying process.” Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 911.
“I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. . . . Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God’s people.” Early Writings, p. 270.
Are we not entering the shaking time already when the church will be purified in both doctrine and practice? What a responsibility rests upon those who stand at the head of the work in various conferences and institutions! Not one hindrance should be allowed to interpose between our people and the spirit of true revival and reformation. No segment of the organized work should be permitted to cast stumbling blocks in the way of this sanctifying process.
Some would urge that it is better to ignore the blatant articles in the youth paper which run counter to our historic Christian standards. They would keep silent altogether when our college science teachers publish their views against a 6000-year earth history. But is that the best policy? Will the message of the True Witness accomplish its work when such a course is followed? A clear break with Laodicea calls for repentance for such grievous sin on the part of the leaders. It would be wrong for those who make up the church to accept quietly such misrepresentation of the true Adventist position. To continue the employment of teachers, pastors, or administrators who do not support the doctrines of the church does not encourage revival or reformation. Neither does it inspire confidence in those who have been elected to oversee the Lord’s business.
When men preach contrary to truth, they should no longer be retained as spokesmen for that truth. It just doesn’t make sense. Such a course would place the church in conflict with its own best spiritual interests.
Listen to the words of two former General Conference presidents as they looked at the spirit of compromise working in the church in their day:
Laodicea -its worldliness, pride, etc.-and to “I am troubled by the direction that our educational and training work is definitely taking. I am concerned by the more and more obvious fact that in the education and training of our workers we are inquiring more and more of the world and less of God than formerly.” Elder C. H. Watson, Review and Herald, November 21, 1935.
“The time has come for a thorough reformation to take place. What we need today is a people revived with new spiritual power, a church reformed and turned away from the world . . . there has come into the church a listlessness, a carelessness that is deplorable.” Elder J. L. McElhany, Review and Herald, December 3, 1936.
In the same year the Review editor made this earnest appeal for the straight testimony to be restored in the church:
“If our hearts become faint and our tongues palsied, and we fail to proclaim the whole counsel of God, crying out against sin in the church regardless of who may be involved, we shall lose our power, and heaven must raise up others from the ranks to take our places.” Elder F. M. Wilcox, Review and Herald, June I, 1936.
Today such honest confessions from church leaders is almost unknown. Administrators, workers, and laymen are discouraged from taking note of such specific shortcomings among the saints. But it was exactly that kind of strong, direct appeal which stirred the hearts of our members and made them aware of their individual needs. Nothing would more quickly restore and establish confidence in the leadership of this movement than their sincere, open admission of obvious failings, and a public commitment to make things right by God’s grace.