There are two trends in our denomination that has many people puzzled. One is why our evangelistic efforts are no longer effective; why is it that we cannot bring more people in. The other trend is that of losing so many people. In their quest for an answer, they blame others. Pastors blame the laity; the laity blames the Pastors. They say of each other, "they are not trying hard enough," or "they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. A few of them ask themselves, "why did we stop doing things the way we see to do them? It used to work." The answer they get is, "it no longer works." Some even blame the status of our society. They are too busy for church or God. People are more interested in shopping and entertainment than they are in spiritual things. Could it be that the problem is what we preach? Or could it be the way we preach? How about the worship service? Is it a matter of making it interesting; of engaging people more?
So, many are tempted, as many other denominations have, to use entertainment and marketing techniques to attract and retain people. They see these large church buildings that can sit thousands of people, The Church services are full, The church programs are well attended, and Participation is high. But, in the end, very few are truly satisfied. And, many remain worldly while calling themselves Christians. So, what shall we do? Rarely does any one of them look at themselves and ask, "Am I the problem?"
Let's take a step back and consider how Jesus worked. Jesus never tried to fill up a building. But, He did try to bring all to follow Him. Jesus was not victorious in this. However, He was effective in bringing the people to a decision. The decision was many times sowing of a seed that would germinate later. Christ never forced nor manipulated anyone to make a choice. The apostles after Pentecost also were effective in bringing people to a decision. Why were they effective? No one will deny that Jesus and the Apostles were the real deal. They had authenticity. And, it showed. Are we authentic?
Jesus said He finished His work (John 17: 4). No doubt the Apostles did too. Since Christ will not return until the Work is done - the Gospel preached in the whole world (Matthew 24: 14), - it follows that we have not finished our work. Considering the points made above, are we doing the job at all? Are we genuinely preaching the Gospel? And, if we are, are we teaching it the right way?
In the book of Revelation, it says that there will be a generation that will finish the work. They are described in Revelation 14: 4 – 5, 11. Let us read,
Revelation 14:4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth…
Revelation 14:5 And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Revelation 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
There is another characteristic in Revelation 12: 11. Let us read,
Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
I doubt that anyone of us can honestly say that this describes us perfectly. Yet, it is the kind of authenticity that it will require to finish the work. It is not only a matter of preaching doctrines. It is a matter of living them. And, the only way that can happen is that we let the Holy Spirit dwell in us and transform until Christ is entirely formed in us. Ellen White concurs. She says,
Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 69)
It could just be that this last generation is the one to preach the Gospel into the whole world.