Messenger of the Lord


Chapter 19—Evangelism, Local and Global, and Race Relations

“Your conception of the work needs to be greatly enlarged.” 1 MOL 210.1

Sabbatarian Adventists in the 1840s were largely devoted to helping their little band understand better the meaning of the Disappointment of 1844. 2 Early leaders encouraged other Millerites not to deny their past Advent experience. They energetically set forth their new understanding regarding Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary and the connection of the seventh-day Sabbath within the larger context of the messages of the three angels in Revelation 14. Understandably, their sense of mission was frustrated by hostile reactions from both the general public after the “embarrassment” of October 22, 1844, and by Sunday-keeping Millerites who bitterly rejected the new Saturday-Sabbath emphasis. It seemed that an ice curtain now isolated early Sabbatarian Adventists, leading to the conviction that, in some way, the door of mercy had been closed to those who had rejected the deeper implications of the Millerite message of 1844. 3 MOL 210.2

But the sense of mission involving Adventist responsibility to share their message with the world soon changed. The force and clarity of young Ellen White was the primary reason for the shift from the “shut door” mentality of early Sabbatarian Adventists to that of responsibility for the completion of the gospel commission. In fact, “the views of E. G. White had a profound influence on the new theological interpretations as well as the emerging missionary consciousness, making doubtful that without her influence the early Sabbatarian Adventists would have survived this period of turmoil.” 4 MOL 210.3

The developing Adventist sense (theology) of mission moved on from (but not forsaking) (1) reaffirming the Advent experience of 1844, to (2) restoring certain neglected Bible doctrines that needed to be reset in “the everlasting gospel,” to (3) recognizing that this restored gospel was to be preached to all the world before Jesus returned. 5 MOL 210.4

Coupled with Adventism’s consistent proclamation of the nearness of the Advent was its motivating and driving principle of restoration. 6 This principle involved more than a theological integration of restored Biblical teachings; it included “the context of man’s spiritual and physical restoration as necessary preparation for Christ’s return.” 7 Ellen White was the foremost spokesperson for the restoration principle shaping Adventist eschatology. 8 MOL 210.5

This theological emphasis on restoration differentiates Seventh-day Adventists from other religious groups that emphasize the nearness, or even imminence, of the Second Coming. Adventist theology of the Advent continues to attract those who want “to make sense of their own lives.” In an Institute of Church Ministry (Andrews University) research study, “seventy percent of new believers in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference survey said that they were most attracted to the church by ‘the truth and beauty of its teachings.’ ... Few people are attracted to churches in which theology is hedged around by qualifications. Adventism’s evident ideological appeal may also be a function of the church’s apparent theological certainty.” 9 MOL 210.6

In the early years, Adventists took their “world” assignment seriously but interpreted it less than globally. At first they believed that “if the third angel’s message were preached throughout the United States, it would thus have been preached to all the world.” 10 MOL 211.1

How could this be? Uriah Smith, struggling with the concept, concluded that, though “we have no information that the Third Message is at present being proclaimed in any country besides our own ... our own land is composed of people from almost every nation.” 11 Even until 1872 Adventists generally believed that Matthew 24:14 was being fulfilled in the rapid expansion of Protestant missions generally. 12 MOL 211.2

But Ellen White was being used by God to lift the vision of the emerging Adventist denomination. In her 1848 Dorchester, Massachusetts, vision she told her husband James that he should start a paper and “from this small beginning it was shown to me to be like streams of light that went clear round the world.” 13 Such a concept seemed preposterous to contemporaries. 14 MOL 211.3

During the 1850s Adventists with European family or friends were sending literature to them, and soon pockets of Sabbath keepers could be found in the “old” world. In 1864 M. B. Czechowski, an Adventist since 1858, left for Europe with his newfound convictions. This eventually led to a company of Sabbath keeping believers in Tramelan, Switzerland. 15 MOL 211.4

Prompted by this European interest, the 1874 General Conference sent the J. N. Andrews family, the denomination’s first official foreign missionaries, to Switzerland. Ellen White later commented that Andrews was “the ablest man in our ranks.” 16 Three years later the John G. Matteson family was sent to Scandinavia to follow the literature that had been developing interest in the messages of the three angels. 17 By 1890 Adventist missionaries were in about 18 countries, including various European nations, Africa, Russia, Australia, India, and South Africa. MOL 211.5

During this time Ellen White had been educating the church. In 1871, in a message based on a December 10 vision, she appealed: “Young men should be qualifying themselves by becoming familiar with other languages, that God may use them as mediums to communicate His saving truth to those of other nations.... Missionaries are needed to go to other nations to preach the truth in a guarded, careful manner.” 18 MOL 211.6

In 1874 she had “an impressive dream” of “giving the third angel’s message to the world.” In the dream she was told that Adventists were “entertaining too limited ideas of the work for this time. You are trying to plan the work so that you can embrace it in your arms.... Many countries are waiting for the advanced light the Lord has for them.... Your conception of the work needs to be greatly enlarged.” 19 MOL 211.7

Driven by her own sense of mission, Ellen White spent two years in Europe, 1885-1887. These years are well chronicled in Ellen G. White in Europe, 1885-1887. 20 Just as she was closely involved in the development of the Advent movement in North America, she now had much to do with establishing the work in Europe on firm principles. Not easy, working with many nationalities and languages, but her instruction at that time in bringing unity and good will has been most salutary for international and intercultural relationships since that time. 21 MOL 211.8

L. H. Christian, an administrator in Europe, 1922-1936, wrote: “The advent movement in Europe would never have been the same if it had not been for her visit.” 22 MOL 212.1

Ellen White was a globalist. The “how” of fulfilling Matthew 24:14 she left up to God: “God will do the work if we will furnish Him the instruments.” 23 She who saw the “streams of light” going “clear round the world” in 1848 when there were fewer than one hundred Sabbatarian Adventists, never gave up that vision of a world enlightened with the messages of the three angels. She prompted the church to develop its message, and prodded it to reach out to fulfill its staggering mission. 24 MOL 212.2