Gospel Workers (1892/1893 ed.)


The Danger of Formalism

There is a great work to be done in the day of God's preparation, in devising and executing plans for the advancement of his cause. Our publications should have a wide circulation; for they are doing a great work. There is much missionary work to be done. But I have been shown that there is danger of having this work too mechanical, so intricate and complicated that less will be accomplished than if it were more simple, direct, plain, and decided. We have neither time nor means to keep all parts of this machinery in harmonious action. GW92 332.1

Our brethren who bear responsibilities in devising plans for carrying forward this part of the work, must keep in mind that while a certain amount of education and training is essential in order to work intelligently, there is danger of making this too great a matter. By obtaining a most thorough education in all the minutiae, and leaving vital principles out of the question, we become dry and formal workers. The hearts that God has made willing by the operations of his grace, are fitted for the work. GW92 332.2

God wants heart-work. The unselfish purpose, the pure, elevated principle, the high and holy motive, he will accept. His grace and power will work with these efforts. All who realize that it is the work of God to prepare a people for his coming, will find in their disinterested efforts opportunities where they can do tract and missionary work. But there may be too much means expended and too much time occupied in making matters so exact and minute that the heart-work is neglected, and a dry form preserved. GW92 332.3

I tell you frankly that Jesus and the power of his grace are being left out of the question. Result will show that mechanical working has taken the place of piety, humility, and holiness of heart and life. The more spiritual, devoted, and humble workers find no place where they can take hold, and therefore they stand back. The young and inexperienced learn the form, and do their work mechanically; but true love, the burden for souls, is not felt. Less dwelling upon set forms, less of the mechanical and more of the power of godliness, are essential in this solemn, fearful day of responsibilities. GW92 332.4

There is order in heaven; and there should be system and order upon the earth, that the work may move forward without confusion and fanaticism. Our brethren have been working to this end; but while some of our ministers continually bear the burden of souls, and ever seek to bring the people up in spiritual attainments, those who are not so conscientious, and who have not carried the cross of Christ nor felt the value of souls as reflected from Calvary, will, in teaching and educating others in the mechanical working, become formal and powerless themselves, and bring no Saviour to the people. GW92 333.1

Satan is ever working to have the service of God degenerate into dull form, and become powerless to save souls. While the energy, earnestness, and efficiency of the workers become deadened by the efforts to have everything so systematic, the taxing labor that must be done by our ministers to keep this complicated machinery in motion, engrosses so much time that the spiritual work is neglected. And with so many things to run, this work requires so large an amount of means that other branches of the work will wither and die for want of due attention. GW92 333.2

While the silent messengers of truth should be scattered like the leaves of autumn, our ministers should not make this work a form, and leave devotion and true piety out of the question. Then truly converted, willing-minded, unselfish workers can do more in the missionary field than one hundred who confine their efforts to set forms, and preserve mechanical rules, working without deep love for souls. GW92 333.3

Vigilant missionary work must in no case be neglected. It has done much for the salvation of souls. The success of God's work depends very much upon this; but those who do this work are to be those who are spiritual, whose letters will breathe the light and love of Jesus, and who feel the burden of the work. They should be men and women who can pray, who have a close connection with God. The ready mind, the sanctified will and sound judgment, are needed. They will have learned of the heavenly Teacher the most successful manner of appealing to souls. They will have learned their lessons in the school of Christ. They will do their work with an eye single to the glory of God. GW92 334.1

Without this education, all the teachings received from your instructors in regard to forms and rules, however thorough the lessons may be, will leave you still novices in the work. You must learn of Christ. You should deny self for Christ. You should put your neck under the yoke of Christ. You must carry the burden of Christ. You must feel that you are not your own, but servants of Christ, doing a work that he has enjoined upon you, not for any praise or honor or glory that you shall receive, but for his own dear sake. Into all your work you should weave his grace, his love, his devotion, his zeal, his untiring perseverance, his indomitable energy, that will tell for time and for eternity. GW92 334.2

The tract and missionary work is a good work. It is God's work. It should be in no way belittled; but there is continual danger of perverting it from its true object. Canvassers are wanted to labor in the missionary field. 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. GW92 334.3

The work of the colporteur is elevated, and will prove a success, if he is honest, earnest, and patient, steadily pursuing the work he has undertaken. His heart must be in the work. He must rise early, and work industriously, putting to proper use the faculties God has given him. Difficulties must be met. If confronted with unceasing perseverance, they will be overcome. Much is gained by courtesy. The worker may continually be forming a symmetrical character. Great characters are formed by little acts and efforts. GW92 335.1

There is danger of not giving sufficient encouragement to our ministers. I was shown some men whom God was calling to the work of the ministry, entering the field as canvassers. This is an excellent preparation, if their object is to disseminate light, to bring the truth revealed in God's word directly to the home circle. In conversation, the way will frequently be opened to speak of the religion of the Bible. If the work is taken hold of as it should be, families will be visited, the workers will carry with them tender hearts and love for souls, and will bear, in words and deportment, the fragrance of the grace of Christ, and great good will be the result. This would be an excellent experience for any who have the ministry in view. GW92 335.2

But many are attracted into the canvassing field to sell books and pictures that do not express our faith, and do not give light to the purchaser. They are induced to do this because the financial prospects are more flattering than can be offered them as licentiates. These persons are obtaining no special fitness for the gospel ministry. They are not gaining that experience which would fit them for the work. They are losing time and opportunities by this kind of labor. They are not learning to bear the burden of souls, and daily obtaining a knowledge of the most successful way of winning people to the truth. These men are frequently turned aside from the convictions of the Spirit of God, and receive a worldly stamp of character, forgetting how much they owe to the Lord, who gave his life for them. They use their powers for their own selfish interests, and refuse to labor in the vineyard of the Lord.—Testimonies for the Church 4:600. GW92 335.3