Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Evangelism and Witnessing
Lesson 11: "Let the Church Know"
"In most areas of life, effective communication is the key to understanding" (quoted from Monday's lesson). In today's world, we can experience communication "overload" through reports we receive via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, TV, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, and the Internet in general. On days when there is a big news event, so many reports are issued by so many agencies that we wonder which is true.
Our beloved Seventh-day Adventist Church has experienced many events that have been worthy of "news," but there is one in particular that has been talked about, written about, and discussed for more than a century. And instead of bringing the unity into the church that the Lord intended, division comes in because of those who reject it. That event? The 1888 General Conference Session.
Do we have our own "Wailing Wall"? One area of contention revolves around the "latter rain." Ponder the never-ending stream of appeals and calls to prayer that come in the annual Week of Prayer readings, the campmeeting sermons, the General Conference sessions, and Annual Councils, calling on faithful Seventh-day Adventists to pray that the Lord will keep His promise, that He will open the windows of heaven to pour upon His people the refreshing showers of the latter rain, which would consist of an ultimate gift of the Holy Spirit to ripen the gospel grain for the "harvest" of souls. It will lead to the loud cry of the third angel's message--the final glorious enlightening of the world. We were told in 1850 that "time is almost finished."  In truth, the honor of the God of the pioneers is involved. Is He faithful? Is He even alive?
But like the Jews, our forefathers failed to recognize a heavenly gift, as did those who rejected their Messiah two thousand years ago. Just like a slender crack in the earth at Qumran hid the presence of fabulous manuscript riches in a hidden cave, an unpretentious entry in The Review and Herald of November 22, 1892, stated:
"The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth" (emphasis supplied). 
From the time of the 1888 Conference and for years that followed, Ellen White seemed obsessed that we were re-enacting the tragedy of the Jews, and "reported" on this theme in talks and in articles in the Review. By 1890 she dared to take the case to the people themselves:
"We should not be found quibbling, and putting up hooks on which to hang our doubts in regard to the light which God sends us. When a point of doctrine that you do not understand comes to your attention, go to God on your knees, that you may understand what is truth, and not be found, as were the Jews, fighting against God." 
But there was also good news in her "reporting." In a report of a campmeeting at Ottawa, Kansas, Ellen White wrote: "In every meeting since the  General Conference, souls have eagerly accepted the precious message of the righteousness of Christ. We thank God that there are souls who realize that they are in need of something which they do not possess--gold of faith and love, white raiment of Christ's righteousness, eyesalve of spiritual discernment. If you possess these precious gifts, the temple of the human soul will not be like a desecrated shrine. Brethren and sisters, I call upon you in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to work where God works. Now is the day of gracious opportunity and privilege." 
Again: "Those who were at South Lancaster last winter [to hear Jones and Waggoner] know that the church and the school were moved upon by the Spirit of God. ... Light is flashing from the throne of God, and what is this for?--It is that a people may be prepared to stand in the day of God." 
On February 4, 1890 Ellen White reported to the brethren assembled in Battle Creek: "I considered it a privilege to stand by the side of my brethren [Jones and Waggoner] and give my testimony with the message for this time. ... Suppose that you blot out the testimony that has been going during these last two years proclaiming the righteousness of Christ, who can you point to as bringing out special light for the people? This message as it has been presented, should go to every church that claims to believe the truth." 
Robert J. Wieland once related a life-changing experience resulting from a mission report:
"This unworthy servant was sent by a church missionary board to East Africa back in the almost prehistoric era of 1945. One reason he was eager to go: our church paper was reporting enthusiastically that the 'latter rain' of the Holy Spirit was falling in Ruanda, evidenced by large accessions of adherents by baptism. There were photographs of people covering hillsides at 'camp meetings.' Also, mass conversions were reported in the Lake Victoria area of Kenya. The people, many of them, were only recently from paganism; they had difficulty distinguishing economic development (which they naturally wanted) with being 'Christianized.'
"However, I was appointed to neighboring Uganda where there was a rich history of martyrdoms going back to the 1880s. The people were literate; they had history of kingdoms going back to the 16th century, and a high level of sophistication. The Protestant Christians loved the Bible and regarded it as the only rule of faith. Our particular mission was regarded as an interloper, and 'conversions' to the church were slow.
"When I learned the language and came to know the people, it became painfully evident that the mass conversions in Ruanda were not the biblical 'latter rain,' the miracle stories notwithstanding. They were the 'former rain.' The knowledge of the gospel was superficial; … the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, which Jesus enjoined upon us all to 'understand,' were almost unknown; yet people flocked into 'church' membership.
"Also perplexing was the famine for understanding justification and righteousness by faith in Romans, Galatians, etc. The 'gospel' should produce purity of living, transformed characters, a people raised up to welcome Jesus Christ when He returns at His second advent.
"We all await that final 'everlasting gospel' that will 'lighten the earth with glory.' The 'latter rain' will prepare its way; but let's remember that when the Lord 'pours out' the Holy Spirit, His first work will be to ferret out and convict of sin (John 16:8), a comforting message, for it reconciles us to God, at last." 
In "reporting" there is a danger in giving details about what "we" have done or are doing. All glory should be given to God. As our lesson tells us: "God is glorified by faithful reporting" (Thursday).
"Be cautious of believing ill, but more cautious of reporting it"
(Ellet J. Waggoner, The Signs of the Times, May 25, 1888).
--Compiled by Carol A. Kawamoto
 Early Writings, p. 64; emphasis supplied.
 Ellen G. White; see also Selected Messages, book one, p. 363.
 The Review and Herald, March 11, 1890.
 Ibid., July 23, 1889.
 Ibid., March 4, 1890.
 Ibid., March 18, 1890; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 545.
 Excerpted from "Dial Daily Bread," July 22, 2007.
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