I am very happy that we have the opportunity to study Gods word this morning and it is my earnest prayer that the Holy Spirit will teach us what the Lord wants us to learn and to know in the days for which we are living.
I have something very serious to talk to you about today, something which is easily misunderstood because it is impossible to look at all sides of the truth at the same time. I want to invite you to pray with me that through the Holy Spirit we will correctly divide the word of truth and correctly understand it as we study. Please bow your head.
The subject that I want to talk to you about today, many of you here will say, well that is perfectly obvious; I can answer the question in one word. But just the same, we need to look at the history of this subject and how we got to the point that we are at right now. What I want to study about with you is this question, has God authorized independent, self-supporting work? This idea of independent, self-supporting work is very old. Some people think that this has just existed in the last few years, but there were a number of independent, self-supporting workers in Bible times that we do not have time to look at today.
The disciples came to Jesus and said, "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world. Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you." Matthew 24:3,4. That is the first thing that Jesus said when they asked Him for the sign of His coming and the end of the world. Be careful that somebody does not deceive you.
Before we look at what the Bible has to say about this subject, I want to mention, for clarification sake, the Bible teaches that in the multitude of counselors there is safety. In Bible times, Gods people counseled with one another. We are not talking about being independent in the sense that a person goes off and just does his own thing. We are not talking about that. This spring (1991) my brother wrote a booklet on that very subject. If you have not read it, I would like to invite you to get a copy and read it. It is called Sinful Independence. Now that is a different subject. We are not talking about people just going off and doing their own thing. Gods people are never independent in that sense. All of Gods children counsel with other people that the Lord is leading, and they work together. That is the way things are done in heaven. They don’t just go off and do their own thing. The angels are organized and all of Gods work is organized. If we are not organized in our work fort he Lord, He cannot work with us--the angels cannot work with us. We cannot have the success that the Lord wants to give us if we are not organized. We are not talking about disorder or people just going off on their own, but just the same we are asking the question, has God authorized independent (when I say independent I mean independent from the true church), self-supporting work?
Jesus had this problem. "And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority?" Matthew 21:23. Have you ever heard that question asked? Who gave you authority to do this? Has your meeting been authorized? Have you ever heard of that? Has your preacher received authority? Is he duly credentialed? Does your institution have somebody from the right place on your board? Have you been given permission to give Bible studies? When I was a boy I never would have thought that a question like that would be asked in the Seventh-day Adventist church. But it is being asked today.
I received a telephone call the other day. A person who has been actively involved in evangelism visited a certain conference office. This person has some baptismal candidates that are ready to be baptized and he was told, we do not want to baptize your candidates because you have been involved with special ministries and your people are tainted. What are they talking about? He had been giving the Revelation Seminars. He had been using materials from our publishing houses to teach these people.
Are you authorized to do what you are going to do? Or is there a representative? Have you been given permission? Have you been recognized? The next thing people say is, since you have not been authorized, you are against the church. That is a pure supposition. Eventually it comes to a threat and people say, If you cannot follow directions, then you are going to have to be disfellowshipped, or your ordination is going to have to be taken away, and you are not part of the church, and so forth. Jesus had this problem. We see it right here in Matthew 21:23. They said, "By what authority?" Did Jesus have authority from the Sanhedrin? No, He did not. Did He have a certificate from any of the schools? No, He did not. Did John the Baptist? No, he didn’t either. Neither John the Baptist or Jesus had received permission from the "right sources" to do what they were doing. They were not authorized. Their meetings were not authorized, their ministry was not authorized, they had not received permission.
I want you to see that this is a very current thought subject that we are talking about. I am holding in my hand a paper that was published March 30, 1991. Here are ten questions that it says to address to find out whether you ought to listen to somebody or not. The third question is, "Are you authorized by the General Conference committee?" Let me ask you this question. If you had asked this question in Jesus day, would you have gone to listen to Jesus? No, you would not Would you have gone to listen to John the Baptist? No, you would not. Well let us take it back a little farther. If you had asked that question in Isaiah’s day, would you have gone to listen to him? Would you have gone to listen to Elisha? Would you have gone to listen to Elijah? Friends, if it would not have worked then, if it would have caused you to reject the Messiah, if it would have caused you to reject John the Baptist, if it would have cause you to reject the greatest of the prophets, I wonder if that is a good question to help us figure out what to do now. In one of our church papers, that is a question that people are being told to ask.
There are nine other questions. I do not have time to address all nine today. But we need to ask this question, has God authorized independent self-supporting work? We need to do the same thing that Jesus did when He was challenged as to His authority. Who gave you the authority to do this? Who gives you the authority to teach? Who gave you the authority to come in here to the temple and talk in public? Who gave you the authority to do that? That is what they were saying. I want you to notice how Jesus answered that question. Do you suppose that would be a good model for us to follow to figure out how to answer this question--to answer it the same way that Jesus answered it? Do you know how Jesus answered this question? They asked Him this question, "By what authority doest thou these things? Who gave thee this authority?" Matthew 21:23. This is the way Jesus answered the question. I am going to show you--this is not a trick. Jesus was not playing a trick on them when He did this, this is a straight forward answer to the question.
"And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, >From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell." They were telling a lie by the way. "And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things." Matthew 21:24--27.
Now I want you to notice what Jesus did here. They said to Jesus, Who gave you the authority to do what you are doing? Who gave you the authorization? Where did you get permission? Jesus led them backward in the providence of God to the time of John the Baptist and He said, The baptism of John, where was the authority for that? Was the authority for John’s baptism from heaven or was it just human authority? Where was the authority? Now let me ask you this question. Suppose that they would have told the truth. They knew what the truth was, but they saw that telling the truth would get them into trouble.
One of the great shocks that had as a young minister was being in a meeting with young ministers and having a man in very high position in the Adventist church say to us, don’t do this and this and this, because if you do this, you will make us tell a lie. I thought to myself, what are you talking about, make you tell a lie? Nobody has to tell a lie. That is the way these people felt. They would have to tell a lie, because if we tell the truth, Jesus is going to get us in trouble right in public. We are going to really be embarrassed. If they had told the truth that they knew, and said that John the Baptists baptism was from heaven, what would Jesus have said?
Had John the Baptist recognized who Jesus was and told everybody who Jesus was? Have you read it from the first chapter of the gospel of John? Remember John the Baptist said, "He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost And I saw, and bear record that this is the Son of God." John 1:33, 34. That is what John the Baptist said. If they had recognized that John the Baptists authority came from heaven, would their question have been answered as to where Jesus authority came from? Oh, they would have known exactly where Jesus authority came from. It came from heaven. The question that Jesus asked them was a straight forward way to answer their question and teach them the answer to the question they were asking. But they did not want that answer and so they told a lie.
The answer to the question, has God authorized independent, self-supporting work, is the same answer today as it was in Jesus day. The way to find the answer to the question is to go backward in the providence of God and see what God has authorized, and what God has done in the past. As we go backward, we will find the answer to the question. That is what I want to do for just a few minutes.
Do you understand the difference between a Protestant and a Roman Catholic? I am going to run out of time if I go into that. I don’t have time to discuss it. I will just tell you in one sentence. The difference between a Protestant and a Roman Catholic is this; for a Protestant, the highest authority is Gods word, and underneath that is every other authority, including the authority of the church--that is a Protestant. Ellen White says that Jesus was a Protestant, she was a Protestant, Adventists are Protestants, and if you and I are Seventh-day Adventists, we should be Protestants. lam sorry to tell you Mends that there are some Adventists today that are more like Roman Catholic Adventists. Now this is what a Roman Catholic is. It is different than a Protestant. For a Roman Catholic, the supreme authority is the authority of the church and even the Bible is underneath that. That is what a Roman Catholic is. The church is the supreme authority and the Bible is authoritative. You cannot say to a Roman Catholic that they do not believe the Bible, because they do believe it, but they believe that it is under the authority of the church. A Protestant believes that the authority of the Bible is above the authority of the church. That is the difference between a Protestant and a Roman Catholic. You have to understand, that if you are going to understand this subject. Has God ordained independent, or self-supporting work?
Let us look at a little history. In 1888 we had the culmination of a great problem that had developed in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It did not end at that time, it went on. But that was a crisis point in our history. One of the primary problems that the Seventh-day Adventist Church had in 1888 was the problem of finite men putting themselves in Gods place and taking a Roman Catholic position.
"Finite men should beware of seeking to control their fellow-men, taking the place assigned to the Holy Spirit. Let not men feel that it is their prerogative to give to the world what they suppose to be truth, and refuse anything that should be given contrary to their ideas. This is not their work. Many things will appear distinctly as truth which will not be acceptable to those who think their own interpretations of the Scripture always right. Most decided changes will have to be made in regard to ideas which some have accepted as without a flaw. These men give evidence of fallibility in very many ways; they work upon principles which the word of God condemns. " Ellen White says, "That which makes me feel to the very depths of my being, and makes me know that their works are not the works of God, is that they suppose they have the authority to rule their fellowmen. The Lord has given them no more right to rule others than He has given others to rule them. Those who assume the control of their fellowmen take into their finite hands a work that devolves upon God alone.
"That men should keep alive the spirit which ran riot at Minneapolis is an offense to God. All heaven is indignant at the spirit that for years has been revealed." Testimonies to Ministers, 76
Oh friend, do you want to manifest a spirit that will cause all heaven to be indignant at what you are doing? This is what was happening in our work in the 1880s, and it reached a crisis point in Minneapolis in 1888. This idea of trying to control and rule Gods work by finite man causes all heaven to be indignant. Here is another statement:
"There are men whose character and life testify to the fact that they are false prophets and deceivers. These we are not to hear or tolerate." Ibid., 294
"Men can become just as were the Pharisees--wide-awake to condemn the greatest teacher that the world ever knew." Ibid., 294
"There are those who are today doing the very same things." Ibid., 294
"These men who presume to judge others should take a little broader view and say, Suppose the statements of others do not agree with our ideas; shall we for this pronounce them heresy? Shall we, uninspired men, take the responsibility of placing our stakes, and saying, This shall not appear in print?" Ibid., 294,295
"Has not our past experience in these things been sufficient?" Now notice the next sentence. She says, "Will we ever learn." Does it sound like the prophet is frustrated? She says, "Will we ever learn the lessons which God designs we shall learn? Will we ever realize that the consciences of men are not given into our command? If you have appointed committees to do the work which has been going on for years in Battle Creek, dismiss them; and remember that God, the infinite God, has not placed men in any such positions as they occupied at Minneapolis, and have occupied since then. . . I feel deeply over this matter of men being conscience for their fellowmen. "Ibid., 295
What about in the local church? Or what about in a conference? Now this took place at the General Conference level. Lets look at the church: "A strange thing has come into our churches" What do you suppose it is? Here it is.. "Men who are placed in positions of responsibility that they may be wise helpers to their fellow workers have come to suppose that they were set as kings and rulers in the churches." A strange thing indeed. "To say to one brother, Do this; to another, Do that; and to another, Be sure to labor in such and such away. There have been places where the workers have been told that if they did not follow the instruction of these men of responsibility, their pay from the conference would be withheld." Ibid., 477. That has happened lots of times.
"I write thus fully, because I have been shown that ministers and people are tempted more and more to trust in finite man for wisdom, and to make flesh their arm. To conference presidents, and men in responsible places, I bear this message: Break the bands and fetters that have been placed upon Gods people. To you the word is spoken, 'Break every yoke. Unless you cease the work of making man amenable to man, unless you become humble in heart, and yourselves learn the way of the Lord as little children, the Lord will divorce you from His work" Ibid., 480, 481
Oh friend, I do not want God to divorce me from His work. Do you? If I lose everything else in this world, I do not want to lose the Lord. I do not want the Lord to cut me off and divorce me from His work. Do you? Ellen White said that if you keep on doing this, that is what is going to happen.
This problem did not cease at Minneapolis. We reached a crisis point at that time, but it did not cease at Minneapolis in 1888.
"The prejudices and opinions that prevailed at Minneapolis are not dead by any means; the seeds sown there in some hearts are ready to spring into life and bear a like harvest. The tops have been cut down, but the roots have never been eradicated, and they will bear their unholy fruit to poison the judgment, pervert the perceptions, and blind the understanding of those with whom you connect, in regard to the message and the messengers. "Testimonies to Ministers, 467
We are not to our subject yet We need to give a historical setting--a historical background to what we want to study. I hope that you have seen from these statements, that in the Adventist church, we were in the middle of a gigantic apostasy from truth. What did this apostasy involve? It involved men in positions of responsibility dictating and controlling what other people should do, and that you could not follow your own conscience, you had to follow and do what you were told. The problem came when some men had convictions about how something should be done, but they could not carry it out There were men who were trying to do Gods work and they could not do what they in their conscience thought that they should do, because they were receiving orders and instructions from men in responsibility. They said, "we are in authority and you are going to do it this way." Because of this gigantic apostasy, there were sincere men in the Seventh-day Adventist Church that wanted to do Gods work in the way that God had specified, and the way that it was spelled out in the Spirit of Prophecy, but they could not do it. They found it impossible to carry out Gods instructions within the organization of His true church. Isn’t that ironic? But that happened. This is what eventually led to self-supporting work.
Apparently the educational work was the first work to be reformed on a different basis in a self-supporting way. There were two young men by the name of Sutherland and Magan who were trying to follow the counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy in regard to education, and they found it impossible to do so. The development of self-supporting work at Madison, Tennessee came into being because our church leaders would not listen to the counsel from the Spirit of Prophecy about Gods method of organization. Listen to what Ellen White says about that:
"A great many of the difficulties that have come in to our work in California and elsewhere have come in through a misunderstanding on the part of men in official positions concerning their individual responsibility in the matter of controlling and ruling their fellow laborers. Men entrusted with responsibilities have supposed that their official position embraced very much more than was ever thought of by those who placed them in office, and serious difficulties arose as the result"
"Simple organization and church order are set forth in the New Testament Scriptures." The Paulson Collection, 298.
Let me just take just thirty seconds or so on that, Mend. I have had ministers in the Adventist church challenge me and say, "Do you believe that our church organization, the way that it is now, is divinely inspired." Friend, if you want to find what method of church organization is condoned by the God of heaven, Ellen White says you better go to the New Testament. If what happens in your church organization is not according to the New Testament, you had better watch out, your organization is not divinely inspired. Let me take one or two minutes on that. This is important.
Take your Bible and turn to the book of Galatians. I want you to see something here that for some reason we have often overlooked. The apostle Paul is writing to the brethren which were at the churches in Galatia. See Galatians 1:2. Now who is he writing to? Is he writing to a world headquarters organization, or is he writing to the believers in these churches in Galatia? He is writing to the believers. Notice what he tells them: "And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no mans person:)." Galatians 2:4--6.
Notice, Paul said, "I don’t care who they are." Do you know who some of them were? Some of them were from the General Conference of those days. Did you know that? Some of them were people that had eaten with, and had been some of the twelve disciples of Jesus. The apostle Paul said you better reject what they did and you better refuse it and he stood up to them to their face. Notice what it says here, "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel..." Galatians 2:11--14. The New Testament teaching here, is that if somebody comes to your church, whether they are from the General Conference, or wherever they are, if they say something that is not according to the truth, you should oppose it. That is what the Bible says. Now this was Peter that he is talking about. This was one of the leading of the twelve disciples of Jesus. Paul had to stand up and oppose him in public. Why? Oh, but you say, that is the rock on whom the church is built, you cannot oppose him! It depends whether you are a Protestant or a Roman Catholic. If you are a Protestant, you have to take your position on the truth, and it does not matter, Paul says--whoever it is. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:8. Paul said, if an angel from heaven comes and tells you something that is contrary to the truth, oppose it. That is the New Testament position. "Simple organization and church order are set forth in the New Testament scriptures and the Lord has ordained these for the unity and perfection of the church." Paulson Collection, 298
I want you to see what the Lord says is the rightful position of a leader and what is the wrong position for a leader. We are going to specify it right here. Here is what a person should do if they hold an office in the church:
"The man who holds office in the church should stand as a leader, as an advisor and a counselor and a helper in carrying the burdens of the work." That is what they should be if a person holds an office in the church--a leading position--that is their function. They should be a leader, an advisor, a counselor, and a helper--those four things. Now here is what they should not do. He should be a leader in offering thanksgiving to God. But he is not appointed to order and command the Lords laborers" Ibid. Now that is Bible, church organization.. "He is not appointed to order and command the Lords laborers. The Lord is over His heritage. He will lead His people if they will be lead of the Lord in the place of assuming a power God has not given them.. .Position does not give a man kingly authority. The meekness of Christ is a wonderful lesson given to the fallen world. Learning this meekness from the great Teacher, the worker will become Christ-like." Ibid., 298, 299
Oh, friends, as I have studied this subject, my great desire is that the work that I do for Jesus will become Christ-like. Do you want your work for Jesus to become Christ-like? If that is going to happen, you and I are going to have to humble ourselves. I am very concerned, I can easily get worked up over this subject because I realize as I study, that unless you and I learn the lesson of humiliation and penitence at the foot of the cross, we will not be saved. Read it in Desire of Ages, page 83, 84. She says that is why we should spend an hour every day studying the life of Christ, especially the closing scenes. She says "If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross." Desire of Ages, 83
Because of these problems with kingly authority--the rule or ruin principle, the desire to control others--because of this great apostasy that came into our church and continued, after 1888, (See Testimonies to Ministers, page 467) because of this great apostasy over the issue of church authority and church organization, Ellen White began to encourage self-supporting work and she helped to set up a self-supporting school near Madison, Tennessee. She counseled them to get a non-profit organization and she told them to remain separate from the General Conference. The basic issues were always the same. Sutherland and Magan were opposed by the General Conference, and especially by the president of the General Conference. They said to them, "You should not work independent of the conference and you must not ask Seventh-day Adventists for any money to do a project which the General Conference has no vote or control over." That was the issue. Ellen White wrote to Magan from Loma Linda, California on May 14, 1907. She said, "I bear positive testimony that you and your fellow workers in Madison are doing the work that God has appointed to you. . .The attitude of opposition or indifference on the part of some of your brethren has created conditions that have made your work more difficult than it should have been.
You have not received from some many words of encouragement, but the Lord is pleased that you have not been easily discouraged.
"Some have entertained the idea that because the school at Madison is not owned by a conference organization, those who are in charge of the school should not be permitted to call upon our people for the means that is greatly needed to carry on their work. This idea needs to be corrected. In the distribution of the money that comes into the Lords treasury, you are entitled to a portion just as verily as are those connected with other needy enterprises that are carried forward in harmony with the Lords instruction." The Spalding-Magan Collection, 411
When we look at the diaries and letters from this period, we find that the General Conference president was one of the main ones, if not the main one who was always in opposition to self-supporting work.
"The Lord does not set limits about His workers in some lines as men are wont to set. In their work, Brethren Magan and Sutherland have been hindered unnecessarily. Means have been withheld from them because in the organization and management of the Madison School, it was not placed under the control of the conference. But, the reasons why this school was not owned and controlled by the conference have not been duly considered. The Lord does not require that the educational work at Madison should be changed all about before it can receive the hearty support of our people.. .The work that has been done there is approved of God." Series B, No. 11, page 32.
Now that we have gone backward in the providence of God, let us ask ourselves, did God in 1907 approve independent, self-supporting work? Did He do it? He did, and we have seen why He did. He did it because of the difficulties that we were experiencing. People could not follow the dictates of their own conscience and follow the counsels of the Lord because their brethren would not let them do it within the organization. That was the precise problem. It cannot be denied by anyone who looks at the evidence.
"The work that has been done that is approved of God, and He forbids" (Now this is getting strong, Mends, are you listening to the rest of the sentence? The first part of this sentence says this work is approved of God and notice what the last part of the sentence says) "and He forbids that this line of work shall be broken up." God forbids it. Now I want to tell you Mends, when Madison was organized, Ellen White did not allow them to place themselves under the control of the conference. She did not allow it. She told them not to do it. And she said God forbids that this line of work be broken up. I see people today that say, Well unless you have somebody from the conference on your board, then you should not be recognized. I want to tell you Mends, that is directly contrary to the divine counsel. Directly contrary. "The Lord will continue to bless and sustain the workers so long as they follow His counsel." Ibid.
Notice what the emphasis is. The emphasis is not on who you are associated with, the emphasis is are you following the divine counsel. Are you following the truth? That was the position of the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul’s position was not who are you connected with, the apostle Paul said that even if somebody comes from the General Conference at Jerusalem and says something that is contrary to the truth, oppose it.
Ellen White was very emphatic about how the title should be held and where the controls of this property at Madison should be. Dr. Floyd Bralier, was a well known doctor in the Adventist church. He died in 1952. He was a naturalist and a writer, a prominent Madison worker in the early years, and he relates that Ellen White said the following: "I want you to know that I have been shown how this school should be organized, it is not to be organized like our older schools, neither owned or controlled by them. I want you, professor Magan, to go with me and we will get hold of an attorney and we will get him to draw up the papers and take it to the state authorities and get the institution incorporated and I will stay here until we get that done and then I will go to California. I want you professor Sutherland, to go North and see if you can get enough money to make the first payment on this place." She was advising Dr. Sutherland to go to Seventh-day Adventists in Michigan and solicit money for Madison. That is exactly what she was advising.
From P.T. Magan’s diary, August 7, 1904: He says he worked with W.C. White during the forenoon getting article of plans ready regarding the incorporation of the school at Nashville. In the afternoon he met with Daniels, Prescott, Griggs, Washburn, Byrd and W.C. White to consider our plan of organization. Daniels did not like it.
You ought to think about that a little while. Here is a plan that the Spirit of Prophecy has authorized and said to do, but the General Conference President does not like it.
"Prescott thought that we traveled too much. So did Daniels. Bland thought other teachers would envy our independence and would like to do likewise."
August 9, 1904, two days later: "Talked with Mrs. E.G. and W.C. White regarding our plan for organization. She said we were not to go under the dominion of the Southern Union Conference."
April 14, 1906: "Spent forenoon with Daniels. Had a very satisfactory conversation. Told him why our school was independent and would have to eat showbread."
That is something you ought to study through a little bit. What did it mean when they said they would have to eat showbread. You better think that over.
May 7, 1907, Paradise Valley: "Talked with Sister White regarding attitude of General Conference toward us. Miss. Sarah Mc Enterfer and Lillian present Told Sister White about the administration that we had no right to go and get money unless we were owned by the conference. She replied; 'You are doing double what they are. Take all the donations you can get. The money belongs to the Lord and not to these men. The position they take is not of God. The Southern Union Conference is not to own or control you. You cannot turn things over to them." Why? Because when things were turned over to them, they forced people to go against people and not follow their conscience.
May 14, 1907, Magan sees Sister White. He says, "I talked to her about the General Conference position that concerns non-conference owned [enterprises] should have no money. She answered, 'Daniels and those with him have taken a position on this matter that is not of God. She said she had something written on this and would try to find it."
If you want to find something that she wrote on that subject, we just read it in the Spalding-Magan Collection page 411,412.
May 23, 1907, St. Helena: "Spent the forenoon with W.C. White. He gave me Sister Whites letters to Daniels regarding us. He told me he did not agree with the administration at Washington in insisting that all moneys pass through their hands. Said that he would not agree to our going under conference domination."
January 19, 1907, this is from Ellen White. "Today I have been carrying a heavy burden on my heart.. .You have a work to do to encourage the school work at Madison, Tennessee. ..The brethren who have influence should do all in their power to hold up the hands of these workers by encouraging and supporting the work of the Madison School. Means should be appropriated to the needs of the work in Madison,--that the labor of the teachers may not be so hard in the future." Spalding and Magan Collection, 395, 396
Now, I want to ask you some questions. This self-supporting school that was begun in Madison, Tennessee around the turn of the century, was it a Seventh-day Adventist school? Yes, it was. Do you know what you just said? Here is a school that is not owned or controlled or operated by the conference, but it is a Seventh-day Adventist school. It was not some school owned by some other church, these people were Seventh-day Adventists. You do not know where I am leading you, but you are going to find out.
Did they start a sanitarium at Madison? Was this a Seventh-day Adventist sanitarium? Was it owned and operated by the conference? No, it was self-supporting. It was independent from the conference but it was Seventh-day Adventist. It was not anything else. Did they later start a printing operation and did Madison start many, many self-supporting schools and sanitariums and print shops all over this area of the United States? Yes. Those printing shops that were self-supporting and not owned or controlled by the conference, were they Seventh-day Adventist? Yes. Do you see, Mend, any area of Gods work, even if it is self-supporting, can still be Seventh-day Adventist, even if it is not connected or controlled by the conference.
Is it then possible for a local church to be a self-supporting congregation that is not controlled or operated by the conference and still be Seventh-day Adventist? Is that possible? It most certainly is. Now I am not telling people to do that, but people have been forced to do that in the same way that Sutherland and Magan were forced to do it. People say, Oh you are starting a new church. Absolutely not, we are not starting a new church. Were Sutherland and Magan starting a new church when they started a self-supporting school? No, they just wanted to be Seventh-day Adventists, but they wanted to be able to follow the counsels. If somebody cannot go to a Celebration church and there is no place for them to go and they have church in their home, if they are not recognized, are they still Seventh-day Adventists? Yes they are. Has God authorized that? Yes He has, we just read it.
Now one of the questions that always comes up as in this recent Seventh-day Adventist publication of March 30 of 1991, which says something like this, that all genuine independent ministries will encourage their supporters to return their tithes and offerings through the appropriate channels and so forth. I want you to see, Mends, what inspiration says about that question. You cannot have a candid conversation about self-supporting work without discussing finances--it is impossible. God is not raining manna from heaven to support us today, He has given us, however, guidelines and taught us what we should do and how His work is to be supported. Do you think that God has designed for any work to be done and not have any idea about how He would support it? Can you comprehend such a thing? Friend, any kind of work that God wants to be done in the world, He has it figured out how it is to be supported. Don’t you believe that? Did God have a plan how His ministers would be supported? Yes, He did. Did He have a plan how literature evangelists would be supported? Yes, He did. Did He have a plan how sanitariums would be supported? Yes, He did. Did He have a plan how Bible workers should be supported? Yes, He did. Now let me ask you a question. Do you think it would be at all safe for you and me to try to figure out our own way about how things should be supported instead of following Gods direction? Do you think that would be safe?
Do you know that the Lord has given us instruction that Bible workers are to be supported from the tithe. Did you know that? Do you think that it would be safe for me to say that I am going to hire a Bible worker and lam going to support them from secular money because we have it. Do you think that would be safe? You better not, Mend. God has told us how that is to be done and it is dangerous for you and me to go trying to do things on our own in a different way. It always alarms me when I hear of a church that is saying that they are going to hire a Bible worker and we will just pay him out of church expense. Watch out! You are contrary to divine counsel and you cannot expect the Lords blessing. Let us read a few statements on how our means are to be used.
"There are fearful woes for those who preach the truth, but are not sanctified by it, and also for those who consent to receive and maintain the unsanctified to minister to them in word and doctrine." Testimonies, vol. 1, 261, 262. If you maintain the unsanctified minister, Ellen White says a fearful woe is upon you. We are held responsible as to how our tithe and offerings are used. We will have to answer for it in the judgment.
"If God pronounces a woe upon those who are called to preach the truth and refuse to obey, a heavier woe rests upon those who take upon them this sacred work without clean hands and pure hearts. As there are woes for those who preach the truth while they are unsanctified in heart and life, so there are woes for those who receive and maintain the unsanctified in the position which they cannot fill." Testimonies, vol. 2, 552
Do you want to come under the curse of God? Here is how to do it. Just take your tithe and offering and just send it to support an unsanctified minister, the curse of God will be on you. That is what inspiration says.
"I call upon Gods people to open their eyes. When you sanction or carry out the decisions of men who, as you know, are not in harmony with truth and righteousness, you weaken your own faith and lose your relish for communion with God." Testimonies to Ministers, 91
"The Lord has made us individually His stewards. We each hold a solemn responsibility to invest this means ourselves.. .God does not lay upon you the burden of asking the conference or any counsil of men whether you shall use your means as you see fit to advance the work of God." Special Testimonies to Battle Creek, 41, 42
According to the comments in the diaries, one of the main points of contention between the General Conference and those who were trying to start Madison was, who is going to get the money? Who is going to use the money of Gods people? Inspiration has given us no right to feel that all the means should be handled through one organization. Notice this is to those bearing responsibilities in Washington and other centers by Ellen White. January 6, 1908,. "Those who have had experience in the work of God should be encouraged to follow the guidance and counsel of the Lord.
"Do not worry lest some means shall go directly to those who are trying to do missionary work in a quiet and effective way. All the means is not to be handled by one agency or organization." Did you get that? That is the servant of the Lord speaking. She says, "All the means is not to be handled by one agency or organization.
"To those in our conferences who have felt that they had authority to forbid the gathering of means in certain territory I now say: This matter has been presented to me again and again. I now bear my testimony in the name of the Lord to those whom it concerns. Wherever you are, withhold your forbiddings. The work of God is not to be thus trammeled.. .This wonderful burden of responsibility which some suppose God has placed upon them with their official position, has never been laid upon them." Spalding and Magan Collection, 421, 422
This is written to a person in self-supporting work: "You ask me what you shall do in view of the fact that so little help is given to that department of the work in which you are working.
"I would say, trust it with the Lord. There is a way opened for you in regard to securing help for the Southern field. Appeal to the people. This is the only course you can pursue, under the circumstances.
"Send no statement of the situation through our religious papers; because it will not be honored. Send direct to the people. Gods ways are not to be counter worked by mans ways. There are those who have means, and who will give large and small sums. Have this money come direct to your destitute portion of the vineyard. The Lord hasn’t specified any regular channel through which means should pass." Spalding-Magan Collection, 498
By the way friends, is that plain? I hope it is. If we cannot understand language as plain as that, I don’t know what we will do.
James White foresaw all this kind of thing. He said one time to Ellen White that he would rather die than have these institutions that he had started get mismanaged. Maybe that is why the Lord let him die, I don’t know.
In closing, I want to read you a statement by James White in regard to church organization. I will tell you before I read it, it is directly contrary to what I was trained and taught as a young minister. All the time that I was going through the Adventist educational system studying theology, first at Walla Walla College and then at the seminary, and then working as a minister in the North Dakota Conference, I was trained, I was taught over and over again, everything goes to the conference committee. Place your hands in the hands of the conference committee.
When my brother was threatened to be fired in Wichita, Elder Pierson had this same misconception. He came to Wichita and he said to my brother, "Just place yourself in the hands of the brethren." My brother Marshall said to him, "Elder Pierson, I cannot do that with a clear conscience." Praise the Lord, Elder Pierson was a Christian and he said, "Well, if you cant do it with a clear conscience, don’t do it." But that idea of placing yourselves in the hands of the conference or in the hands of the conference committee, just doing whatever the conference committee tells you, is a misconception and James White, one of the founding fathers of the Adventist Church was absolutely against it. Notice the strong language he uses. This is what James White said concerning leaders and conferences:
"They should have a fatherly care of all branches of the work in the conference. It is their duty to counsel together in the fear and love of God and regard themselves as a board of counselors to all the ministers and churches under their supervision and not a board of directors. Our great leader and director is Christ Their strength is in so counseling with their brethren in the spirit of tenderness and love as to bind the hearts of all the laborers to their hearts and give room for the voice of the Holy Ghost as was manifested in the days of the apostles. They should ever bear in mind that the head of every man is Christ. They may counsel with the state conference committee in reference to ministers laboring here or there, but should never direct. The head of every man is Christ. The minister who throws himself on conference committee for direction takes himself out of the hands of Christ" The Review and Herald, January 4, 1881
Did you know that that is what James White believed? He said that the one who throws himself on the conference committee for direction is taking himself out of the hands of Christ. And he said that "that committee that takes into its own hands the work of directing the ambassadors for Christ takes a fearful responsibility. One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. May God preserve to us our organization and form of church discipline in its original simplicity and efficiency." Ibid
I do not want to comment on that last sentence. I don’t know if you could take it or not. But Mends, because of what happened, because of the great apostasy, God authorized independent, self-supporting work as one of the means through which He would finish His work. And Mends, don’t let anybody tell you that self-supporting work is not Seventh-day Adventist, that something that is not controlled, directed, or authorized by the conference is not Seventh-day Adventist It is. A self-supporting school can be Seventh-day Adventist, a self-supporting sanitarium can be Seventh-day Adventist, a self-supporting printing press can be Seventh-day Adventist, and a self-supporting congregation can be Seventh-day Adventist I believe that before the second coming of Christ, we are going to see far more little groups of self-supporting congregations than most people have any idea of yet. The important thing is to do what Paul said in Galatians the second chapter. Is it according to the truth? And if it is according to the truth of inspiration, you can depend on
Friend, I want to stay with the truth. Do you? Whatever happens, one of these days very soon the truth is going to triumph. I have been looking for several years to see if there is any statement in the Spirit of Prophecy that says that our organization is going to triumph, and I have not found any yet. If you find one, let me know because I have been sincerely looking to see if there is any such statement, but I cannot find it. I will tell you that I found a whole bunch of statements that say the truth is going to triumph. And when the truth triumphs, I want to be with it. Do you? If that is your desire and the earnest longing of your heart, I want you to kneel with me in prayer. Let us dedicate ourselves to be faithful to the truth, no matter what happens.