Work for the Church or the World?

The real point is that the church needs a revival and reformation within its ranks before this loud cry can take place, and the Rod’s ministry is endeavoring to awaken God’s people to that fact. The sooner we…

Why don’t you go to the people out there? Said an angry church member. We have the truth already! Go out there and save the lost.

There is no question that the Seventh-day Adventist denomination has the charge to go to the world and preach the gospel as commanded by our Lord. (Matthew 24:14, 28:18, 19). And there is no dispute that Christ’s injunction will be fulfilled. Thus the world must and will hear the last invitation of mercy prior to His return. So why do Rod believers focus their efforts on the church and not the world?

Before answering this important question, we should clarify a couple of things. First of all, although the Rod’s message focus on the church, it does not teach against or discourage efforts to reach the world with the gospel. And second, believers do witness to non-church members when afforded the opportunity. Again, the Rod teaches that the world must, and will hear the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, or what we term the Three Angel’s messages. (Revelation 14:6 -12).In fact, it teaches that there will be a time when the truth will belt the world with the power of the Holy Spirit, and, as was stated in the earlier sections, a great multitude will be garnered into the “fold” (John 10:16) of God—what Ellen White termed the “loud cry.”

The real point is that the church needs a revival and reformation within its ranks before this loud cry can take place, and the Rod’s ministry is endeavoring to awaken God’s people to that fact. The sooner we awaken to this truth, the sooner we can have a genuine revival reformation in our own hearts and in the church at large.  

By way of a simplistic illustration: An award-winning high school orchestra planned a bus trip from Richmond, Virginia, to Portland, Maine, USA. They all boarded the bus with great excitement. They had never been to Maine and they couldn’t wait to get there. As the bus roared over highways, they hardly noticed the signs. Most conversed or slept. One or two reviewed their music sheets in preparation for their much anticipated performance in the City of Portland. Four hours into the trip, they stopped to eat at a restaurant. After consuming a harty meal, they returned to the highway. 

As darkness descended upon them, someone pointed out that they had just crossed the North Carolina State line. Most didn’t appear bothered.. A hour or so later, a sign told them that Charleston was just 75 miles ahead. Charleston! Instead of heading north they were going south and the driver was oblivious to the fact. If they continued south, they would never reach their destination. What would you do? Obviously someone would have to get the map and show the driver that Maine was in the opposite end of the United States. 

This is precisely the point of the Rod’s message. Yes, this is God’s church—we are on the right bus, and we were going in the right direction–that is, we were heading for the last proclamation of the gospel and the kingdom of God, but somewhere along the line, like the bus, we got back on the highway and ended up going in the wrong direction. Now we need a revival and a reformation–we need to go back to the map and turn the bus around and go north not south! No wonder the servant of the Lord was shown that we have “turned back from following Christ and steadily retreating toward Egypt” and that the Lord does not now work to bring many into the truth because of our spiritual condition.

Now, when the riders told the driver that he was going in the wrong direction, were they abandoning their goal or purpose to reach Portland, Maine and their performance? Of course, the answer is no. But until the bus was turned around, their focus was on the bus and getting the driver to understand their true condition and the remedy for their dilemma!  This simple parable illustrates the purpose of the Rod and Inspiration supports this:

*“God calls for a spiritual revival and reformation. Unless this takes place, those who are lukewarm will continue to grow more abhorrent to the Lord, until He will refuse to acknowledge them as His children. A revival and a reformation must take place, under the ministration of the Holy Spirit. . . .Revival signifies a renewal of spiritual life, a quickening of the powers of mind and heart, a resurrection from spiritual death.  Reformation signifies a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices.”*

God normally sends a new message to His own first before it goes to others. Jesus told His disciples: “Go ye first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6) Christ’s command, however, is an example of the fact that God’s messages always come first to His own enlightened people then extends to the world. The prophets, as a general rule, were primarily sent to their own people. Yes, they had messages for other nations, but their focus was on Israel.

But, someone may ask, “doesn’t Ellen White’s writings primarily emphasize working for the world?” There is no doubt that when one reads the Spirit of Prophecy that it highlights outside evangelism. However, as we have seen, Ellen White also spoke of the great need for revival and reformation within the church. So some would argue, “why not do both?” Victor Houteff summarized the whole issue this way:

“The mission to save the world cannot be more important than the mission to save the church. Enlarging the church membership under the now prevailing lukewarm Laodicean conditions, could no more advance the Kingdom of Christ than could have been done under the conditions in the Jewish church in the days of His first advent. Understanding the true situation in that church, John the Baptist and Christ Himself, and even the Apostles at first, engaged themselves to work not for the world in general, but only in the interest of their brethren in the church. As the same departure from Christ exists within the church now as it did then (Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 217), it will take much greater effort to rescue the people from the Laodicean “sad deception” (Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 253), than if they were in heathenism. For in Laodicea they are made to believe that they have all the truth there is to be had, that they are rich, increased with goods, and have need of nothing– their salvation forever secured as long as they hold membership in the church! Hence there is greater risk of their losing their souls in the church while she is “lukewarm” and about to be spued out, than if they remain in the world until the church awakes from her slumber. . .” 

*“Let every honest member ask the question, if the church herself is not saved . . how can she save others?. . . The men and means already devoted to missionary work for the world are so plenteous as entirely to overshadow the meager facilities available for carrying the message to the Laodiceans [SDA church], although the church is in even greater need than is the world.*   

“However, carrying the message to the church does not affect the mission work for the world, for while the Davidians labor in the interest of the church, the denomination carries the old message to the world. . . .**Consequently, to save the world, we must first seek to save the church from the ruin that is imminent, as did John the Baptist, Christ, and the apostles, in their day.**” [Brackets added] 

The conclusion of the matter is that the Rod’s message clearly reveals from numerous studies, that our special call right now is to call for a revival and reformation within the Seventh-day Adventists Church. Ezekiel nine says: “sigh and cry for the abominations in the midst thereof–the Church (3T:266, 267)  Hosea says: “plead with your mother [ministry], plead” (Hosea 2:1, 2)  Joel says “Blow ye the trumpet in ZION, and sound an alarm in My Holy Mountain: (Joel 2:1). Isaiah says: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show MY PEOPLE their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” ( Isaiah 58:1). “Judgment begins at the house of God.” (1 Pet. 4:17).  Can we ignore these commands of God?