Colporteur Ministry

Chapter 9—Exemplary in Habit, Deportment, and Dress

A High and Elevating Work—The canvassing work is God's means of reaching many that would not otherwise be impressed with the truth. The work is a good one, the object high and elevating; and there should be a corresponding dignity of deportment. The canvasser will meet men of varied minds. He will meet those who are ignorant and debased and can appreciate nothing that does not bring them money. These will be abusive, but he should not heed them. His good nature should never fail; he should take a cheerful, hopeful view of every perplexity. He will meet those who are bereaved, disheartened, and sore and wounded in spirit. He will have many opportunities of speaking to these kind words and words of courage, hope, and faith. He may be a wellspring to refresh others if he will; but, in order to do this, he must himself draw from the Fountain of living truth.—Testimonies for the Church 5:405 (1885). CM 61.1

Dangerous to Do Careless Work—Well may everyone feel an individual responsibility in this work. Well may he consider how he may best arrest the attention, for his manner of presenting the truth may decide the destiny of a soul. If he makes a favorable impression, his influence may be to that soul a savor of life unto life; and that one person, enlightened in regard to the truth, may enlighten many others. Therefore it is dangerous to do careless work in dealing with minds.—Testimonies for the Church 5:405 (1885). CM 61.2

Need of Energy and Enthusiasm—Among the people professing present truth there is not a missionary spirit corresponding with our faith. The ring of the true gold in character is wanting. Christian life is more than they take it to be. It does not consist in mere gentleness, patience, meekness, and kindliness. These graces are essential; but there is need of courage, force, energy, and perseverance also. Many who engage in the work of canvassing are weak, nerveless, spiritless, easily discouraged. They lack push. They have not those positive traits of character that give men power to do something,—the spirit and energy that kindle enthusiasm. The canvasser is engaged in an honorable business, and he should not act as though he were ashamed of it. If he would have success attend his efforts he must be courageous and hopeful. CM 62.1

Cultivate Active Virtues—The active virtues must be cultivated as well as the passive. The Christian, while he is ever ready to give the soft answer that turneth away wrath, must possess the courage of a hero to resist evil. With the charity that endureth all things, he must have the force of character which will make his influence a positive power for good. Faith must be wrought into his character. His principles must be firm; he must be noble-spirited, above all suspicion of meanness. The canvasser must not be self-inflated. As he associates with men he must not make himself conspicuous, talking of himself in a boastful way; for by this course he would disgust intelligent, sensible people. He must not be selfish in his habits nor overbearing and domineering in his manners. CM 62.2

Employ Tact—Very many have settled it in their minds that they cannot find time to read one in ten thousand of the books that are published and put upon the market. And in many cases when the canvasser makes known his business, the door of the heart closes firmly; hence the great need of doing his work with tact and in a humble, prayerful spirit. He should be familiar with the word of God and have words at his command to unfold the precious truth and to show the great value of the pure reading matter he carries.—Testimonies for the Church 5:404, 405 (1885). CM 63.1

Honesty and Integrity—The worker who has the cause of God at heart will not insist on receiving the highest wages. He will not plead, as some of our youth have done, that unless he can make a stylish and elegant appearance, and board at the best hotels, he will not be patronized. What the canvasser needs is not the faultless apparel, or the address of the dandy or the clown, but that honesty and integrity of character which is reflected in the countenance. Kindness and gentleness leave their impress upon the face, and the practiced eye sees no deception, detects no pomposity of manner. CM 63.2

A large number have entered the field as canvassers with whom premiums are the only means of success. They have no real merit as workers. They have no experience in practical religion; they have the same faults, the same tastes and self-indulgences, that characterized them before they claimed to be Christians. Of them it may be said that God is not in their thoughts; He has no abiding place in their hearts. There is a littleness, an earthliness, a debasement in their character and deportment, that testifies against them that they are walking in the way of their own hearts and in the sight of their own eyes. They will not practice self-denial, but are determined to enjoy life. The heavenly treasure has no attractions for them; all their tastes are downward, not upward. Friends and relatives cannot elevate such persons, for they have not a mind to despise the evil and choose the good.—Testimonies for the Church 5:402 (1885). CM 63.3

Chaste, Meek, Temperate—Canvassers need self-culture and polished manners, not the affected and artificial manners of the world, but the agreeable manners that are the natural result of kindness of heart and a desire to copy the example of Christ. They should cultivate thoughtful, care-taking habits,—habits of industry and discretion,—and should seek to honor God by making of themselves all that it is possible for them to become. Jesus made an infinite sacrifice to place them in right relations to God and to their fellow men, and divine aid combined with human effort will enable them to reach a high standard of excellence. The canvasser should be chaste like Joseph, meek like Moses, and temperate like Daniel; then a power will attend him wherever he goes.—Testimonies for the Church 5:396 (1885). CM 64.1

Pleasing Dress and Manners—We now have great facilities for spreading the truth; but our people are not coming up to the privileges given them. They do not in every church see and feel the necessity of using their abilities in saving souls. They do not realize their duty to obtain subscribers for our periodicals, including our health journal, and to introduce our books and pamphlets. Men should be at work who are willing to be taught as to the best way of approaching individuals and families. Their dress should be neat, but not foppish, and their manners such as not to disgust the people. There is a great want of true politeness among us as a people. This should be cultivated by all who take hold of the missionary work.—Testimonies for the Church 4:391, 392 (1880). CM 64.2

Untidiness in dress brings a reproach against the truth we profess to believe. You should consider that you are a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let the whole life be in harmony with Bible truth.... This is not a matter of but little consequence; for it affects your influence over others for time and for eternity. You cannot expect the Lord to give you the fullest success in winning souls for Him unless your whole manner and appearance is of a nature that will win respect. The truth is magnified even by the impression of neatness in dress.—Letter 336, 1908. CM 65.1

Persons of uncouth manners are not fitted for this work. Men and women who possess tact, good address, keen foresight, and discriminating minds, and who feel the value of souls, are the ones who can be successful.—Manual for Canvassers, 15 (1902). CM 65.2

Christian Courtesy and Helpfulness—The canvasser should make every effort in his power to let the light of truth shine forth in good works. In his discharge of duty he should shed about him the fragrance of Christian courtesy, improving every opportunity to perform acts of helpful service. He should educate himself to speak distinctly and impressively. He should learn daily in the school of the Great Teacher. Christ will surely help those who hide in Him, depending on Him for strength.—The Review and Herald, June 16, 1903. CM 65.3

Carefulness in Deportment—There must be a decided stand taken by all our ministers and by all who profess to believe the truth, in reference to the low level that some seem inclined to take in regard to their words and their deportment. These in many cases in no way correspond with the holy, sacred truths that we profess. Many feel competent to become canvassers and colporteurs who are unconverted. They never have had the transforming grace of Christ. They are not pure. They are daily living a careless, sinful life. Their practices are such as make holy angels hide their faces. We must reach a higher standard, or we will be a reproach to the cause of God and a stumbling block to sinners.—Letter 26d, 1887. CM 66.1

Example in Health Reform—In your association with unbelievers do not allow yourselves to be swerved from right principles. If you sit at their table, eat temperately and only of food that will not confuse the mind. Keep clear of intemperance. You cannot afford to weaken your mental or physical powers, lest you become unable to discern spiritual things. Keep your mind in such a condition that God can impress it with the precious truths of His word. CM 66.2

Thus you will have an influence upon others. Many try to correct the lives of others by attacking what they regard as wrong habits. They go to those whom they think in error, and point out defects, but do not put forth earnest, tactful effort in directing the mind to true principles. Such a course often fails of securing the desired results. In trying to correct others we too often arouse their combativeness, and thus do more harm than good. Do not watch others in order to point out their faults or errors. Teach by example. Let your self-denial and your victory over appetite be an illustration of obedience to right principles. Let your life bear witness to the sanctifying, ennobling influence of truth.—Testimonies for the Church 6:336, 337 (1900). CM 67.1

The Graces of the Spirit—God, in His great love, is seeking to develop in us the precious graces of His Spirit. He permits us to encounter obstacles, persecution, and hardships, not as a curse, but as the greatest blessing of our lives. Every temptation resisted, every trial bravely borne, gives us a new experience, and advances us in the work of character building. The soul that through divine power resists temptation, reveals to the world and to the heavenly universe the efficiency of the grace of Christ.—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 117 (1896). CM 67.2

Personal “Atmosphere”—Every soul is surrounded by an atmosphere of its own,—an atmosphere, it may be, charged with the life-giving power of faith, courage, and hope, and sweet with the fragrance of love. Or it may be heavy and chill with the gloom of discontent and selfishness, or poisonous with the deadly taint of cherished sin. By the atmosphere surrounding us, every person with whom we come in contact is consciously or unconsciously affected.—Christ's Object Lessons, 339 (1900). CM 67.3

Character Is Power—Character is power. The silent witness of a true, unselfish, godly life carries an almost irresistible influence. By revealing in our own life the character of Christ we co-operate with Him in the work of saving souls. It is only by revealing in our life His character that we can co-operate with Him. And the wider the sphere of our influence, the more good we may do.—Christ's Object Lessons, 340 (1900). CM 68.1

True as Needle to Pole—May the Lord help everyone to improve to the utmost the talents committed to his trust. Those who work in this cause do not study their Bibles as they should. If they did, its practical teachings would have a positive bearing upon their lives. Whatever your work may be, dear brethren and sisters, do it as for the Master, and do your best. Do not overlook present golden opportunities and let your life prove a failure while you sit idly dreaming of ease and success in a work for which God has never fitted you. Do the work that is nearest you. Do it, even though it may be amid perils and hardships in the missionary field; but do not, I beg of you, complain of hardships and self-sacrifices. Look at the Waldenses. See what plans they devised that the light of the gospel might shine into benighted minds. We should not labor with the expectation of receiving our reward in this life, but with our eyes fixed steadfastly upon the prize at the end of the race. Men and women are wanted now who are as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men and women who will work without having their way smoothed and every obstacle removed. CM 68.2

When You Live Your Faith—I have described what canvassers ought to be; and may the Lord open their minds to comprehend this subject in its length and breadth, and may they realize their duty to represent the character of Christ by their patience, courage, and steadfast integrity. Let them remember that they can deny Him by a loose, lax, undecided character. Young men, if you take these principles with you into the canvassing field you will be respected; and many will believe the truth you advocate, because you live your faith, because your daily life is as a bright light set upon a candlestick, which giveth light to all that are in the house. Even your enemies, as much as they war against your doctrines, will respect you; and when you have gained this much, your simple words will have a power and will carry conviction to hearts.—Testimonies for the Church 5:406, 407 (1885). CM 69.1