Editor's Corner - Bonfires and Cooking Fires

S. Lawrence Maxwell 

A very fine academy girl wrote me a letter that glowed with the passion of a glorious week of prayer. (She was not speaking about a celebration service. This was long before anyone had even thought of linking celebration to worship.) The whole student body, she assured me, was aroused. Testimony meetings were lasting long past the usual time for closing chapel. Students with bowed heads were gathering in spontaneous prayer meetings all over the campus. Everyone was sure the Spirit of God was at work and rejoiced in the effect of His power.

A few weeks later she wrote again, saddened and questioning. The holy excitement, she told me, had gone. No one testified at meetings any more. And the spontaneous prayer groups no longer came together. "Why," she asked—I don’t remember her exact words—"Why didn’t God keep up that high level of spirituality on our campus? It was so nice while it lasted."

I thought a long time and prayed a lot and finally answered her. I told her that there are two kinds of fires. One kind is the bonfire. That’s the fire we heap all our trash onto. A bonfire is always exciting. Flames leap up, and as new trash is piled onto hot ashes, sparks fly heavenward in the night air. There’s a lot of heat and light, and sometimes the neighbors come over to join the action. When the trash is gone, the fire goes out. Bonfires always do that when their work is done; there is no trash left to burn.

Then there is the other type of fire, what we might call the cooking fire. It is never spectacular. In fact, it is rarely seen. It just burns quietly in the stove, keeping the pots hot. It’s not much good for burning trash; the cook could set the house on fire burning trash in a cooking fire. But that slow-burning, out-of-sight fire cooks our breakfasts and makes our suppers hot. Similar slow-burning, out-of-sight fires keep our homes warm and our cars running and our airplanes flying.

Oh, yes, bonfires are exciting. And they are useful to a point. But they aren’t much use for cooking, and they’re no use at all for heating our homes or traveling.

Exciting, glorious, testimony-filled, everybody-praying weeks of prayer are bonfires. They are appropriately called revivals. We need them—no doubt about that; there is so much spiritual trash in our hearts. But they’re not much good for the long haul. In fact, keeping a revival going on too long can be like trying to keep a bonfire going when the trash has been burned and we begin to throw valuable items into the flames. Some celebration churches have run into this problem, as we learn in this issue. In order to maintain the early excitement, they have burned up the Spirit of Prophecy, the Sanctuary, and even the Sabbath.

The slow, cooking fire can be likened to reformation. As the cooking fire takes raw food and makes it palatable and digestible, to give our bodies health and strength, so reformation takes our talents and personalities and gradually makes us like Jesus, so we can represent Him properly to people on earth and live with Him in heaven.

In this issue you’ll read about revival and reformation and their place in our church. They are tremendously important if we are ever going to enlarge our congregations and tell the world how to get ready to meet Jesus.

You’ll also read in this issue about false revivals that attempt to attract new members and stimulate rapid growth the wrong way. They have actually prevented growth and hindered reformation.

The material in this issue is unusually important. In some areas questionable ideas and methods are pushing in at an alarming rate, crowding out the tried and true, and leaving behind them bewildered youth and scattered congregations. We mustn’t let this happen.

Left Out. Usually in the editorial we give you a brief rundown on the articles and short biographies of the authors. We are leaving that feature out this time; not because the articles aren’t good, for they are excellent. But because to get all the articles in, we had to leave something out. It seemed to make sense that, if we didn’t have enough room to print the articles and tell you how good they are, we should print the articles and leave you to find out by yourselves how good they are. (Incidentally, my favorite is—. No, I’d better not say! You’ll be sure to say you like another one better!)

Another feature we’ve left out this time is the letters. We hate to do this. We love your letters, and we’re happy to let other people read them, even when you say so many nice things about us! But the Summer 2002 issue was mailed in mid-December. We apologize for its being so late and appreciate your patience. We recognize that you’ve scarcely had time to read it, let alone write about it. But do please write. As I said, we love your letters. And I’ll let you in on a secret. When you Adventists who read Adventists Affirm affirm us in what we are publishing, you encourage us to continue to Affirm Adventists in the wonderful truths God has given us. It works both ways. May God continue to bless us all as He has promised. May we cooperate so willingly with Him this year that 2003 will see the Advent message spread through the world more widely and with greater speed and effectiveness than ever before!