Rural Evangelism

Reaching those outside the cities.

The Field, of Operation Described

" In the lonely byways of the country are families and individuals . . . who are without church relations, and who, in their loneliness, come to feel that God has forgotten them.. .. Those who go into the byways and hedges will find . . . those who are living up to all the light they have, and are serving God the best they know how. But they realize that there is a great work to be done for themselves and for those about them. They are longing for an increased knowledge of God, but they have only begun to see the glimmering of greater light. They are praying with tears that God will send them the blessing which by faith they discern afar off. . . . There are many of whom ministers and churches know nothing." —" Christ's Object Lessons," pp. 235­238.

The Commission

" We are not to wait for souls to come to us; we must seek them out where they are. . . . There are multi­tudes who will never be reached by the gospel unless it Is carried to them." — Id., pp. 232, 233. " Let the stewards of the manifold grace of God seek out these souls, visit their homes, and through the power of the Holy Spirit minister to their needs. Study the Bible with them, and pray with them with that simplicity which the Holy Spirit inspires. Christ will give His servants a message that will be as the bread of heaven to the soul. The pre­cious blessing will be carried from heart to heart, from family to family." — Id., p. 238.

As in Operation in North America

Montana Presents a Rural Prob­lem.— President B. M. Grandy refers to the fact that " Montana, the third largest State in the Union, with a population of less than 600,000, a Seventh-day Adventist constituency of 850, and a very limited force of ordained evan­gelists, must depend quite largely on the solving of the rural problem for the carrying forward of God's work in that field." Elder Grandy gives as his conclusion that the need is not new plans or devices for the successful pro­motion of rural evangelism, but rather a keener sense of responsibility and a fuller baptism of the Spirit of God, in order to energetically, successfully, and more extensively keep in opera­tion the plans already devised. The most practical and successful avenues of approach to the rural communities have been found to lie in colporteur and home missionary endeavor, and it is believed that the proper development of these two branches of our organized work will largely solve the rural prob­lem. Fundamentally important in this endeavor is it that both colporteurs and scattered believers shall have a keen sense of their responsibility, and stand ready to make the most of every opportunity. This involves closest contact, both by correspondence and visitation, in order to keep before the colporteurs the sacred nature of their work, and to make the necessary con­tact between purchasers of literature and the nearest Seventh-day Adventist to follow up with personal work.

Arizona Needs Rural Evangelism in its sparsely settled territory, and is demonstrating the effectiveness of " medical evangelistic tours," as clearly set forth by the spirit of prophecy in the following words: " From the instruction that the Lord has given me from time to time, I know, that there should be workers who make medical evangelistic tours among the towns and villages. Those who do this work will gather a rich harvest of souls, from both the higher and lower classes. The way for this work is best pre­pared by the efforts of the faithful canvasser."—" Testimonies," Vol. IX, page 172.

Elder C. S. Prout, writing as presi­dent of the Arizona Conference (al­though at this time he is connecting with the General Conference Home Missionary Department as associate secretary), says: " We have a plan under way whereby we are endeavor­ing to combine the medical, colporteur, and evangelistic work in one. We ar­range to make up companies consist­ing of a man and his wife (one of them a nurse, if possible, or at least able to give treatments to the sick) who will conduct meetings and hold Bible studies, and connect with them a col­porteur who can distribute literature and sell our good books. We send these companies out in a small truck through the country, advertising our health work, helping the sick and af­flicted, and distributing our literature, and, where possible, holding public meetings. It is our aim to have three or four such companies at work in Arizona. I believe that such a plan, conducted properly and under con­ference control, would solve the prob­lem of our rural evangelism, and would increase our isolated membership a hundredfold."

Indiana Affords Experiment Sta­tion.— President F. A. Wright speaks from the standpoint of thorough in­vestigation and experience, and be­lieves that " plain, common, whole­hearted, hard work will answer the rural problem fully as well as, if not better than, any other plan which may be suggested." He further indorses the rural work by saying, " Rural evangelism is interesting, inexpensive, pro­ductive of good results, educational to the worker, and usually brings per­manent results. I am especially anx­ious to see this work carried forward in our conference to the fullest extent possible."

As to conditions facing the worker who enters the rural communities, Elder Wright says: " The rural people are usually hungry for spiritual food. They are not fed up on city life, which has a tendency to destroy all love for spiritual things. My experience teaches me that these rural people do not care so much for entertainment. What they want is plenty of Bible with intelligent explanation and interpreta­tion, and when they accept the mes­sage, they become ardent supporters."

As to methods, Elder Wright advo­cates that, where consistent, the work should begin in territory within reach of some local church, with a view to strengthening the organized work by the results which are obtained, al­though he adds:

" To be sure, there are territories where no church is within reach, and we must work these also. I have found that it pays to select a certain district, perhaps a township, or two, and secure the names of all residents through the poling list or some other consistent means, and place upon some local church missionary society the respon­sibility of supplying literature to these people in a systematic manner, for about ten weeks. Then follow up this effort by a personal letter to all who have indicated interest in the liter­ature, announcing the series of meet­ings which are to begin — either in tent, hall, or community church. If a tent is used, be sure to locate on the main highway, and spare no ex­pense to make the tent attractive, and keep the grounds in good order. In some places a community church serves the purpose better than a tent, and then the meetings can be con­tinued through the winter.

" Having paved the way for a series of meetings by the literature, and having decided on the suitable location and made due announcement, real rural evangelism begins in earnest. The services must be short and to the point. Farmers need to get home early. Visit the people at their homes; do not hesitate to be common and neighborly, even to the extent of help­ing in the field. This does not detract , from the dignity of your work, but rather increases it. Farmers love sociability.

" At one time a fellow worker and myself held a series of meetings in a community church in the middle of winter, and the snow was very deep. We took alternate nights in preaching, but went together to visit the people every day, wading through the snow from house to house. This was some­thing unusual for the people to see. Never before had they been given such special consideration, and it reached their hearts. As a result of this effort, thirty-five heads of families, and in nearly every case the entire family as well, took their stand for the truth, and to-day they stand as a strong and active church, liberally supporting the cause of God. I believe in placing em­phasis upon personal work as the secret of success in rural evangelism."

West Virginia's Rural Need calls for the faithful colporteur to pioneer the way, to be followed by a series of meetings in rural halls or school­ houses, for a period of four to eight weeks. President H. J. Detwiler be­lieves that the investment of " dimes in locations of this type will accom­plish as much as dollars in more con­gested localities." Citing personal ex­perience, he says: " With practically nothing spent for advertising, I have seen groups of people, ranging from fifty to two hundred, gather night after night in such a hall or schoolhouse during an entire series of meetings, many driving long distances. From such groups we have won some of the most faithful members in our constitu­ency,—men and women who have stood loyally by the truth, though isolated from others of the faith, and have sup­ported every department of the work to the utmost of their ability."

The qualifications needed for rural evangelism are set forth by Elder Det­wiler as follows: " In selecting the worker for this type of labor, one must be found who is willing to take his heels off the sidewalk, and by all means one who is a faithful personal worker. He must be able to adapt him­self to- the various conditions and cir­cumstances which arise; he must work faithfully, putting in long hours, with a determination to reach every fam­ily and every individual in the rural section in which he is placed. Men with a passion to reach precious souls in these rural sections, who go forth with the zeal, fervor, and interest re­quired of the foreign missionary, will, I believe, largely solve the problem of rural evangelism."

(To be continued next month)

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February 1928

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