The City Problem
It is fitting that intensive study should be given at this time to the mighty challenge of the city problem. In America over 60 per cent of our population reside in cities. Here are multitudes for whom Christ died, and who must hear His warning, winning message ere He comes again. Yet the task grows more complicated and intense each passing year. Let us seek how to penetrate these Gibraltars of wealth, worldliness, pleasure, and sin, to find lost jewels for the treasure house of our King. Further discussion will follow in later issues.
Now Is the Time
By B.G. Wilkinson
The great burden resting upon the heart of Mrs. E. G. White before her death was in behalf of the city work. During the long years of her ministry, the servant of the Lord, at different periods, bore a decided message concerning the advancement of various branches of the work. At one time, the burden of her message was for the publishing work, and she never ceased her efforts until this work was thoroughly established. At other times she referred specifically to the medical work, or the educational work, and other definite phases of denominational endeavor. But during the last months of her life the burden resting upon her heart was the proclamation of the truth to the cities of America. As evidence of this, note a few of the many statements from her pen bearing on this point:
"A beginning has been made in proclaiming the third angel's message in the city of Washington, and in other cities of the South and the East; but in order to meet the mind of the Lord, we shall have to plan for the carrying forward of a far-reaching and systematic work. We must enter into this work with a perseverance that will not allow of any slackening of our efforts until we shall see of the salvation of God."—" Testimonies," Vol. IX, p. 99.
"When I think of the cities in which so little has been done, in which there are so many thousands to be warned of the soon-coming of the Saviour, I feel an intensity of desire to see men and women going forth to the work in the power of the Spirit."-- Id., Vol. VII, page 40.
"My mind is deeply stirred. In every city there is work to be done."—Id., p. 41.
The increase of population in the cities is tremendous. In the city of New York alone there are three times as many people as there were in the thirteen original colonies. We must go where the people are, if we would reach them. These congested centers especially need " the salt of the earth," because the freshness of truth and purity becomes more easily marred through contamination by the masses; and every hour of earth's closing history makes efficient gospel work more difficult. The movies develop the popular demand to be " spoon fed," while the automobile, the radio, and the movie combine to turn the multitudes away from God and the revelations of His word, and tend to sweep them down the broad road to destruction. Let us arouse before our task becomes impossible.
The success of the work in the foreign mission fields depends, to some extent, upon the development of the work in the cities of America. It is from the large city churches that the greater proportion of tithe is received. It is in the cities that the sale of our publications is the largest. The city offers the best opportunity to secure foreign mission money through the sale of our small books and solicitation with the Harvest Ingathering magazine.
But notwithstanding these facts, we have as yet done comparatively little in the cities. After twenty-three years of almost constant contact with the work in the Columbia Union, I can go over in my mind nearly all the decided efforts put forth to reach the people in the large cities, and they are wholly inadequate. Yet in the Columbia Union as much attention has been given to this problem as elsewhere, and possibly more than in some other unions. Nevertheless, we have only touched the situation with the tips of our fingers. Our people everywhere are deeply stirred, and call for a more intensive study of the city problem. Last summer I attended fourteen camp meetings in three unions, and everywhere I heard the request from burdened hearts that something more be done to reach the people in the cities.
May we not at this time bend our hearts and our minds toward the solution of this city problem? Can we not reorganize, or, if that word sounds too strong, readjust our planning for the advancement of the Lord's work in such a way as to carry forward " a far-reaching and systematic work . .. with a perseverance that will not allow of any slackening of our efforts until we shall see of the salvation of God " ? Julius Caesar reorganized the Roman republic, and as a result it stood for four hundred years as the Roman Empire. In his reorganizing plan he had no more men or resources than he had before; but, figuratively, he pulled square plugs out of round holes, and put them in square holes where they belonged, and similarly fixed up the round holes. It is study and effort which produce results. May the Lord help us to rise to the challenge, that every vestige of professionalism in the ministry may disappear, and we may go forward in devotion and sincerity.
Washington, D. C.
The Enlarged Vision
By L.K. Dickson
I must confess to a profound conviction that the proclamation of the third angel's message has not as yet been brought to its rightful place in connection with city evangelism. To my mind, the plan of God for our evangelistic work, whatever else it includes and demands, calls for the largest, most far-reaching, and most efficiently organized and manned effort. No movement which has swept over the world in modern times should be compared to it in importance and extent of publicity. I believe that God would have this glorious message emblazoned, as it were, on the sky, so that the light will penetrate to every nook and corner of the giant cities of the world, with their millions of human souls.
I do not know how my brother ministers feel regarding this matter, but after giving much study to the city evangelism problem, I firmly believe that we have been far too modest in presenting our grand and glorious truth to the world, and that the time has come for a much larger and stronger evangelistic plan of action than we have ever before attempted. Altogether too many people to-day do not know who Seventh-day Adventists are or what they stand for. They must know these vitally important facts. The reason they do not know is beeause we have not developed and followed a program of evangelism which could not fail to command the attention of thinking men and women of the world.
Never before have there been such adequate facilities for reaching the masses as are now at our command. We must have the faith and the courage to step out and utilize them all for the proclamation of divine truth, which is the most important thing in all the world. I cannot believe that God would bring us upon the stage of action in this time of the finishing of the gospel work, and expect us to be mocked by these gigantic modern inventions for extensive and rapid publicity. It is my profound belief that God expects us to make these inventions serve to their full extent in proclaiming His last message of mercy to a dying world; and also that God expects us to act quickly, before these great channels of communication for world-wide publicity become closed to us as a people through the legislation which restricts our liberties and brings widespread persecution. In order to utilize these facilities, it is not necessary for the minister of the gospel to indulge in the sensational and spectacular methods employed by the promoters of worldly schemes. God will give His servants wisdom in making the appropriate use of them.
The perplexing problem of meeting the necessary expense connected with the employment of modern publicity facilities has not been overlooked. I have counted the cost; but to my mind the results we are after, far outweigh the matter of cost. The real question is not whether money should be spent in this way, but rather the availability of funds.
At the risk of seeming to be unduly enthusiastic or overambitious, I wish to present the question: Who is sufficiently wise to set the limits on what is necessary and should be spent in the evangelization of our well-nigh impenetrable cities? To my mind, one of our greatest handicaps is our shortsightedness and lack of an enlarged vision. A world-wide message must be handled in a world-wide way; and the men who are called to the task of the evangelization of our great cities of the world must not become paralyzed by beholding the gigantic responsibility, or tremble with fear at the thought of the large figures in finance which are involved. God has means at His command which can outstrip the plan of the devil and defeat the enemy's program to smother truth under an avalanche of error. There are men and women of ample means who are waiting for the proposal of the right program to bring forth the truth of God from its apparent corner of obscurity and insignificance, and proclaim it to all the world with the force and the rapidity of the most modern facilities.
To me it is a significant fact that many of our lay people are receiving a vision of the possibilities in the rapid finishing of God's work, which is far in advance of the perception of many who are leading the forces onward. I am wondering if God by His Spirit is not working upon the hearts of the true and loyal men and women in our churches, as a means of bringing us to the place where we are willing to " launch out into the deep " and let down our nets for a draught. We have the men, the means, and the message which could literally, under the fullness of the power of God's Holy Spirit, turn the world upside down, so far as breaking the bounds and bands which have heretofore hindered. Why should not God's people to-day, who know that they are intrusted with the last message of warning to the world, launch out into an evangelistic program which involves and combines every facility of modern times? Thus would Seventh-day Adventists, proclaiming the message in the power of the Spirit, stand as a flaming light in every great city.
New York City.
By H.M.S. Richards
While in Ottawa, Canada, I had opportunity to observe, and was deeply impressed by, the carefully planned, nation-wide evangelistic program of the Christian Alliance people; and I became convinced that in the large cities there should be continuous evangelistic work.
The method followed by the Christian Alliance people was to choose one of their best evangelists to begin work in a city and to continue the effort for about three months. At the end of the three months they brought in another evangelist, who continued the work as begun, holding meetings every night for two or three months. This second evangelist was in turn relieved by a third evangelist, and in this way they kept their best speakers going into the cities and maintained a continuous yearly evangelistic program.
I believe that this method, modified to include the medical-evangelistic phase of our work, would produce much better results than our customary plan of securing a good location, spending much money in advertising, and after getting the minds of the people turned in the direction of truth and they have attended a series of meetings for a few weeks, to pack up and leave for a new locality. For example, I am just completing a series of evangelistic meetings in this city. The attendance has been good. Thirty-nine have been baptized, and another class of candidates has been formed. Every week has seemed to bring new experiences of blessedness in presenting Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. But soon our commodious and well-equipped tabernacle must be torn down, because the conference is unable to supply a change in evangelists to carry on the work. It is exceedingly difficult for the same man to continue on through a second series in the same tabernacle.
I am convinced that plans for city evangelistic work should not be limited to the possibilities afforded by local conference workers, but that plans should be at least union-wide, so that a constant change of workers could be provided in connection with city efforts, and the work continued without a break year after year. In this way various gifts enter into the molding of the work, and this is in harmony with the instruction in the spirit of prophecy. The same truth, preached by different personalities, results in constant growth.
By A.S. Booth
Fox the accomplishment of the greatest results in cities of from fifty thousand to several hundred thousand, I have found that sectional efforts are most satisfactory. My plan is to begin with a large central effort, and follow with smaller efforts in other parts of the city. I find that the interested people will follow from one sectional series of meetings to another, and thus they become very familiar with all points of truth and firmly established in the faith. It is often the case that people who become interested in the truth through the first series of meetings, require the second and third efforts in order to bring them to decision. It is also observed that frequently those who take the longest time to reach a decision, are most firm and dependable when they do take their stand.
When a new sectional effort begins, we send an announcement of the time and place to all interested persons who have attended other meetings, and this frequently results In bringing in a number of people who may have attended but a few meetings in another section, and many such people are brought to definite decision.
In connection with each series of meetings we make special efforts to secure names and addresses of those present who desire to receive literature through the mail. Sometimes we have had several hundred names on our mailing list. After mailing ten or twelve copies of Present Truth, we follow with a Questionnaire, the response to which keeps our workers very busy in personal work with those who are especially interested. We revise our mailing list about every ten weeks. An aggressive literature campaign, properly conducted, in connection with an evangelistic effort, enables a few workers to accomplish a great deal in placing the truth before the multitudes in our cities.
Broadcasting the Message in New England
By James E. Shultz
While holding a series of meetings in Providence, It. I., last winter, a number of urgent requests from intelligent, serious-minded men of the world, led to careful consideration of the advisability of broadcasting our services. We were assured by people not of our faith, who were attending the services, that the message which Seventh-day Adventists had to proclaim was of such an interesting nature that it would prove of special attraction to the radio audience at large, and ought not to be confined within church walls.
In the midst of our deliberations as to the propriety of following this suggestion, one of the progressive sisters in the Providence church slipped into a local broadcasting station, explained the situation which confronted us, and readily secured permission to broadcast over this station, and to do so without cost. This we considered an encouraging indication. It developed, however, that the wattage at this station was lower than at other stations in the city of Providence, and therefore it did not seem advisable to accept the offer.
We then endeavored to secure a contract with the Lincoln Studios, whose call letters are WLSI, affording access to the public over all stations. The Lord prospered us in the undertaking, and we signed a six months' contract for the broadcasting of our regular Sunday evening church services, at one half the regular price, amounting to $40 a night, with an additional charge of $20 a month for direct telephone connection with the church. Through the liberality of the members of the Pawtucket church and the Southern New England and Atlantic Union Conferences, we were enabled to meet this expense.
At the time of securing the contract, we desired assurance that we would be permitted to renew under the terms of the original lease, but were refused any definite promise until the station had opportunity to determine the character of our publicity work. This situation caused us some anxiety, especially as we neared the culmination of the contract, and learned that another religious organization had offered $90 a week for the hour we were using. But prayer was answered. Before the contract expired, the station offered us a renewal, extending to us the assurance of their appreciation of our work. Special commendation was given to our song services, and the manner of rendering favorite gospel hymns; and an additional request was made that the soloist give them an hour's broadcast each week from their studio, to enable them to comply with numerous requests.
Just now, as I am writing this report, WLSI, our sending station, inquired if I would deliver their annual Thanksgiving address. I have assured them that I will gladly do so, and they have further requested that I bring with me to the studio on that occasion our mixed quartet. In explanation of this unexpected request, it was stated that a large business firm in the city broadcast commercially each Thursday evening from eight to nine. The head of this commercial firm called on the manager of station WLSI, and said to him, " Now, Thursday, November 24, is a holiday. But I am going to pay for my broadcast privilege just the same, on one condition, and that is that you will have the Seventh-day Adventists use the hour, and get Mr. Shultz to preach a Thanksgiving sermon." I consider this a favor for the cause of God which is of very great significance, occurring here in Catholic New England. I believe that soon we shall better understand the meaning of the statement in the spirit of prophecy, that " the message will return to the East with power."
As to the method adopted in our broadcasting, I wish to say that from the first we advertised ourselves as Seventh-day Adventists, and each week extended an invitation to all who wished to do so to join us in worship on Saturday, the Sabbath. We determined that those listening in should hear God's message for this time in a direct and forceful manner, keeping prominently in view our unbounded faith in the word of God and in the meritorious atonement of Jesus Christ.
I have covered practically every subject presented in a tent effort, and have never once intentionally toned down any point of faith as a matter of expediency. It• has been my aim to avoid anything which would antagonize, and we have addressed ourselves to dealing with principles rather than denominations, preaching an affirmative message, with strong emphasis upon the necessity of recognizing that Christ alone is our sufficiency. And we find that people are ready to listen, and to accept our teaching as the word of God in verity and truth.
Each evening, at the beginning of our broadcasting period, we state plainly just who we are, and ask to be notified of favorite songs which are desired to be sung, and request suggestions or inquiries. We also invite requests for prayer, or calls for free literature on the subjects presented. A similar announcement is made at the close of the sermon. The response is very gratifying. We always request our radio audience to sing with us, and to write down the texts which are announced. We make a special point of speaking a word of courage to the shut-ins, and suggest that they organize radio meetings, inviting their friends to listen in with them. On two occasions I have been called by special request to officiate at the funeral of members of our radio audience. It was indeed a new experience to preach the funeral sermon of a person I had never seen in life, but whose confidence had been won through the presentation of God's message over the waves of the air. The mother of one of the women who died is now studying the truth with one of our Bible workers.
There are indications that our broadcasting is having its influence upon people of all faiths and stations in life. We have had replies from people of practically every denomination, and are finding a number of very interesting cases among the Catholics. For instance, one of our ministers in a distant city informed us that he had come in contact with a wealthy Catholic family, and was giving them Bible studies, whose interest was first awakened by hearing our lecture over the radio explaining the numerical value of "the number of the beast." A French brother, whose Catholic relatives live in Boston, tells us that the bitter prejudice manifested toward him and his faith has entirely disappeared. When visiting these Boston relatives recently, he referred to our broadcasting, and was surprised to have them say, " Oh, yes, we know all about that! Nearly all our Catholic friends in Boston listen in regularly when the Adventists broadcast." It is to this fact that he attributes the changed attitude of his relatives. Another of our radio audiences is on Block Island, in the Atlantic Ocean. On this island there are fifty families reported to be listening in.
As to the local reaction apparent from the broadcasting, I will say that one of our workers finds that in the Protestant sections of Greater Providence, an average of one family in eight are interested in the radio sermons and desirous of having Bible studies for further investigation. The best homes in the city are open to our workers, and there is much more work to be done than our present force of workers can do. We are therefore mobilizing the entire church for action along definite lines. We have organized a Bible workers' training class, to prepare workers to take over the names of interested people and conduct Bible studies in the homes. Our Home Bible Study League is sending out an increasing number of Present Truth each week, and we are now receiving requests for baptism from persons who have been reading the literature but whom we have never seen. We are also sending the signs of the Times to one hundred of our most interested listeners, for a period of ten weeks.
There is an encouraging financial side to this broadcasting effort. Our Harvest Ingathering goal was raised in three weeks, due to the favorable impression which radio messages had made upon the minds of the people. At one of our Sabbath meetings, though no call was made for funds, donations by people not of our faith amounted to $60.
In addition to the encouraging local results, we find that the broadcast provides for radio meetings in the smaller churches in the conference. Our conference president suggested that where churches are without ministerial help, arrangements be made for a radio service in the home or in the church, to which friends and neighbors can be invited. This plan is proving very satisfactory and of great encouragement to our brethren and sisters in the smaller churches.
We acknowledge with deepest gratitude the way in which God has led us in the broadcasting of the message in New England, and we are praying that He will help us to follow faithfully every opening providence.
Providence, R. I.