Gospel Workers 1892

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Labor at Camp-Meetings

A serious mistake has sometimes been made, in the attempt to hold as many meetings as possible during the camp-meeting season. The forces were divided, and, of course, weakened, and the efforts made were comparatively feeble. The close successions of camp-meetings, with the scarcity of laborers, has brought a heavy tax upon those who bear the burden of the work. They are called to go from camp-meeting to camp-meeting, and endure the strain of continual speaking upon subjects that stir the soul to its depths, and they cannot long pursue this labor without becoming enfeebled. Changes must be made, if our ministers are to be saved to do good work for the Master. If it is necessary to hold fewer general meetings, for want of laborers, let there be a sufficient force where meetings are held. God does not design that any of his servants shall labor to exhaustion. GW92 218.2

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The severe and wearing effort required of our leading ministers at every camp-meeting unfits them for important work which demands their attention at the close of the meeting. As they meet and counsel together, they lay their plans for labor; to execute these plans successfully, they need a clear brain, calm nerves, and a heart filled with courage: but they lack all these essential qualifications. They have made a serious mistake in regard to the work resting upon them, and have done much that others should have done, and that would have been a blessing to them, giving them a precious experience in laboring for Jesus. While all cannot be ministers, all can and should act a part in the work. GW92 219.1

There has been a failure to call into exercise talent which should be employed, but which needs development and cultivation. We have had but few ministers and but few men to bear responsibilities, because we have had so few educators. We have lost much because we have not had those who were apt to teach, and who could conduct a training-school for the inexperienced, and press them into the service. GW92 219.2

The real workers in this cause are few, yet the work covers much ground; and it is often impossible for the laborers to look after the interest awakened, and they fail to discern that they must enlist the lay members of the church, and teach them to work, that they may hold all that has been gained, and continue to advance. The plan of labor has been such as to lead the people to feel that they could do very little themselves; if anything was to be accomplished, they must have a minister. GW92 219.3

At our camp-meetings, tenfold more might be done than is usually accomplished. At the very outset the minister should organize a corps of laborers upon whom they can depend to perform various duties essential to the success of the meeting. There may be several present who have been laboring in the smaller places, testing their own ability, and learning to teach the truth. If these men really desire to learn in the school of Christ, that they may teach others the way of salvation, the camp-meeting is the very place where they can learn most, not by looking on while others do all the work, but by sharing in the labor themselves. Every one should have something to do, some burden to bear. If there is anywhere a field in which they can work, it is at these large gatherings. They should first take heed to themselves, see that their own hearts are softened and subdued by the grace of Christ, and they are prepared to help others. In meekness and love they should labor for the discouraged and backslidden, inviting them to some place of retirement and praying with and for them. There should be many little groups thus earnestly pleading with God in the intervals between preaching services. Such was the course pursued in 1844; at our general meetings, little companies would scatter in every direction to draw near to God and seek his blessing. They did not seek in vain. The rich blessing of the Lord came upon them in answer to their prayers. The same course now pursued would lead to the same results. GW92 219.4

Some of our ministers have had so little to do at these general meetings that they have themselves backslidden from God. How different would have been their experience had they been earnestly laboring for others! There is work to do in the family tents. Suitable persons should be appointed to engage, modestly and wisely, in religious conversation with the inmates of the various tents. Cases that need special help could be brought before the ministers, who might better understand how to advise. There is work enough to engage every one who can work. Many have been converted through personal effort, and a blessed revival may be expected to follow such labor. GW92 220.1

The older ministers should be careful that they do not, by precept or example, give young men to understand that the work of laborers in the field consists mainly in preaching. The education of which young ministers are in greatest need, is that which will enable them to work in the various departments of the cause, and relieve those who are wearing out from overwork. GW92 221.1

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There has often been more preaching in our camp-meetings than was really necessary. Ministers should not feel that everything depends on their efforts in presenting doctrinal, or even practical discourses. They must have a firmer reliance on Jesus, our mighty helper; they must encourage in their own hearts a faith that will not falter under any circumstances. They must depend more upon Christ's presence, and less upon their own efforts. GW92 221.2

Let the discourses be short and right to the point, and then let other exercises come in. Especially should Bible readings be often held, and both believers and unbelievers should have an opportunity to ask questions upon points which they do not understand. And special meetings should be held for those who are interested in the truth, and who need instruction. GW92 221.3

If our ministers would preach short discourses, and then educate the brethren and sisters to work, and lay the burden upon them, the ministers themselves would be saved from exhaustion, the people would gain spiritual strength by the effort they put forth, and the result would be tenfold greater than is now seen. Too heavy burdens, both in preaching and in the transaction of business, have rested upon the few who labor in word and doctrine. These men should preserve their strength and vigor, and keep their minds staid upon God, that human infirmities may not affect their judgment, or mar the solemn, dignified, holy character which should mark all their deliberations. GW92 221.4

While our leading ministers do too much, our lay brethren and sisters do too little. The rich experience which the latter might gain in earnest, personal labor, is lost to them because they fail to bear the burdens which they can and should bear. They should seek to do all that it is in their power to do, not feeling that they are working for the minister or the conference and that they should receive remuneration, but as working for God, laboring unselfishly to make the meeting a success. In so doing they will bring a blessing to their own souls, and will also become a channel of light and blessing to others. GW92 222.1

The people should not depend upon the minister, but upon Christ. Attention should especially be given to teaching them to labor in the meetings held among the tent companies. None who come to the meeting should be content to leave it without a deeper religious experience than they had when they came. Our brethren and sisters come to camp-meeting hoping to receive the blessing of the Lord; yet it is often the case that they do not know just what to do to make the meeting a benefit to themselves or to others. Many do not realize but that the only object for which they came is merely to hear preaching. Therefore they do not strive for the blessing of God, they do not from the very beginning of the meeting feel the necessity of confessing their sins, and striving for the earnest of the Spirit. They do not know that the success of the meeting depends largely upon themselves, and therefore do not feel the burden of the work. The very first effort of ministers should be to set them in the way of working for themselves. Let the minds and hearts of the people be enlisted in the work. Let all be taught what they must do to open the door of the heart to Jesus, that they may receive him gladly. GW92 222.2

In our camp-meetings the spiritual interest is far from being what it might be. With the growth of the work there are so many branches that require attention, so many and so varied subjects are crowded into the meetings, that but little room is left for attention to the spiritual interests. Little time is given for meditation, for heart searching, and personal communion with God. GW92 223.1

There are many meetings for education in the canvassing work, and in other branches, in which many of the people take no special interest; and others who are interested in them, and who desire to obtain all the instruction they can, become so wearied, their minds are so crowded, that they fail to obtain that which is of the highest importance to them. GW92 223.2

All the branches of the work are important, and the people need instruction upon them. But too often things of a business character have occupied the time that should have been given to earnest labor for souls. It would be better if the matters which relate more directly to business could be brought before the churches in special meetings appointed for the purpose. Instruction relating to Sabbath-school work, also, should be largely given in the several churches. The labor will thus be more effective, and the improvement more permanent. GW92 223.3

During the year the people are largely occupied with temporal, earthly things; and when they assemble in the yearly convocations, they need to change the current of their thoughts. Many have a knowledge of the theory of the truth, but know little of its practical bearing upon character and life. And as our camp-meetings have been conducted, the people often return to their homes no better qualified to work for God in their families and churches than before they came. There is a great dearth of the Spirit and power of God because the subject of personal piety, true faith, and heart holiness is not kept before the mind in its real importance. Business activities in a religious line satisfy the consciences of many, while their hearts are destitute of the tender love, the compassion for one another, that dwelt in the bosom of Christ. GW92 223.4

That which needs to be especially kept before the mind is the work for the conversion of souls. The people must be led to see what they must be and what they must do in order to be accepted with God. They must be taught how to seek the Lord, how to believe on him, and how to work for others. The great object of these meetings is to secure an advancement in spiritual life, a deeper religious experience. GW92 224.1

There is altogether too little effort made for those who come to the meeting who are not of our faith. Never should we manifest a cold indifference to those whom we know to be in ignorance concerning the precious truths that will make men wise unto eternal life. The earnestness of our efforts for others should be in proportion to the value of that which God has given to us to present to the world. All who keep in a prayerful frame of mind, looking to God for heavenly wisdom, will be able, through the grace of Christ, to speak a word in season to those who are brought within the sphere of their influence. GW92 224.2

The necessity of a real heart work for every member of the body must be pressed upon the people. The labor should be directed right to the one end,—a more complete putting away of idols, a deeper consecration, a stronger faith, and more personal effort for the salvation of others. GW92 224.3

My brethren, there should be a different kind of labor from what we too often see in our camp-meetings. There should be more prayer and weeping, and more confession of sin to God and to one another. Let the indifference be broken up, let the complaining and faultfinding cease, and the time heretofore worse than wasted in this manner be spent in prayers of living faith for the refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Let us arouse as one man, and unitedly call upon God to send down his grace upon the souls of his people, and to revive his work in the midst of the years. GW92 224.4

Every tent's company should be set to work for themselves; and the people should also be united in larger divisions, with suitable men appointed in each to help, to the utmost of their ability, the ones placed under their charge. Men should not be chosen for this work who have so much sermonizing to do, to exhibit themselves, that they bear no help to the people. The leaders appointed should be carefully taught how to labor in order to secure the best results. The wisest generalship is in seeing, not how much we can do ourselves, but how much we can lead the people to do. GW92 225.1

The preacher himself must be alive; he must have the earnestness of the Spirit; he must labor through Christ; he must make direct appeals; he must sound the alarm to careless and world-loving professors, though they should be displeased because their ears tingle with the close application of the truth,—“Thou art the man.” It is too late to daub with untempered mortar. There must be plain and faithful dealing. The people must be aroused to do the work which God enjoins upon them, to take up the stumbling-blocks and clear out the rubbish, that the Spirit of God may come in. The guilt as well as the danger of backsliding must be faithfully pointed out. Follow up the work with personal effort. General appeals are often made with little effect. Come close to hearts, arousing all to act a part. GW92 225.2

What we need, what we cannot do without, is the Spirit of God to work with our efforts. All pampering of self must be at an end. There must be an earnest longing, a soul-hunger, for the presence of the Lord. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” [Matthew 5:6.] GW92 225.3

It is a case of life or death with us. We have been stricken with spiritual paralysis, and every one needs the help of the Great Physician. He alone can reach our case. He is only waiting to be invited by us with earnest heart, with sincere desire. Nothing is wanting but a preparation of heart, and earnest, believing prayer, to bring Jesus to our side as a mighty helper. He longs to come. If we will but listen to his voice and open the door, he will come in.—MS. GW92 225.4