The Logical Sequence in Evangelism
An increasing demand comes from workers of experience, as well as from beginners, for a discussion of the logical sequence of sermon topics in an evangelistic series in the light of changing world conditions and a clearer vision of needs and provisions. Favorable opening themes and titles, together with guiding principles of approach, are also widely requested. The need is patent, and the response has been frank and illuminating. Men of successful experience have mature convictions which are here expressed. As would be inevitable, viewpoints vary, but it is hoped that this Forum discussion may stimulate further earnest study and prove of tangible help. Following a discussion of principles, suggestive lists of subjects and titles are given. These have borne the test of use upon the anvil of experience.
L. E. F.
Changed Conditions Confront
By W. C. Mofett
The remarkable change in conditions confronting the rising generation, involving the breaking down of the Christian faith in popular churches and the honeycombing of modern thought with a fanciful idealism, makes it imperative that the presentation of God's message at this time shall be appropriately adapted to counteract these conditions. Such adaptation does not imply the moving of a plank or the stirring of a pin in the solid platform of the message, but it does mean that in order to be successful in securing a hearing, to hold the interest and win people to the truth, we must seek to present the message in the light of current conditions and events, to which it applies as adequately as to the situation existing in years gone by.
This same principle of adaptation has primary application in the manner of advertising subjects for public meetings. I do not see any necessity for camouflaging in the selection of subjects, nor for employing sensational titles in order to draw a crowd; neither is it necessary to follow sensational methods of presenting the message in order to hold the interest, for the message itself carries all the stir and thrill that is needed.
Whatever the adaptation we may make in announcing and presenting the message to the people of this critical stage in earth's history, there must never be failure to give the people the real spiritual help for which their souls are longing and for which they vainly seek through the formal services in the popular churches or in the attractions presented by the world.
Every evangelist knows that it is not a difficult matter to convince men that the Bible teaches the sanctity of the true Sabbath; that Jesus is soon to return to this earth to receive unto Himself those who are watching and waiting for Him; or that the Bible condemns the use of tobacco and swine's flesh. But conviction on any or all of these points, and many others of equal importance, is of no avail unless it leads from such conviction to Jesus, by whose representative, the Holy Spirit, conviction has come. Conviction must lead to cleansing, healing, and keeping; thus conviction becomes transposed into peace and joy and victory. But in order to lead people through this stage of experience, the evangelist must experience in his own soul the saving power of Jesus moment by moment, which causes him to make a clean sweep of every wrong thing, open or secret, so that the Spirit of God in all His power can control and work through him. This, it seems to me, is sadly lacking at the present time.
As an incidental means of adaptation to present-day conditions, I am sympathetic to the careful use of modern facilities, such as the radio, the moving picture, and the vast field of display advertising which is available through the public press. We cannot ignore the fact that the railroad train, the automobile, and the aeroplane have permanently replaced the oxcart, and that the ocean liner has replaced the sailing barque of ancient days. In proclaiming the gospel to the inhabitants of earth, the messenger should keep abreast of the times, and through divine wisdom be enabled to use those methods which are in harmony with the spirit of Christianity.
Meeting the Modern Challenge
By A.J. Meiklejohn
The early pioneers, proclaimed the message in such a manner as to meet the needs in their day. And it-is essential that we who are carrying the banner of truth which they have bequeathed to us, should be as diligently resourceful as were they, in relation to present world conditions. The problem of modernism, which is a live issue today, did not confront the pioneer preachers of the third angel's message; but if we fail to present the adequate provisions of the gospel for meeting this problem, we do not measure up to our opportunity and privilege.
In conducting a series of evangelistic meetings I have endeavored to present, (1) The fact that Christianity is a supernatural religion,— preaching a sermon or two on the Bible as the word of God, and presenting reasons why it is rational to believe that God reveals Himself through the written word. (2) Why and how the Bible should be studied, emphasizing prayerfulness, an unbiased mind, and willingness to learn and obey God's revealed will. (3) That the Bible reveals a Person as the living demonstration of God's will; that this Person is Christ, who came to reveal sin and to destroy sin, and through whom we are enabled to live the divine life. (4) What sin is, where it originated, and how it will finally be destroyed. (5) The significance of the, death of Christ and the meaning of the atonement.
(6) The certainty of the resurrection of Christ, and what this means to us.
(7) The judgment and the second coming of Christ as the climax to human history. (8) Christ, the Creator and Law-giver, as opposed to evolution. (9) The Sabbath and kindred truths.
I am convinced that caution should be used in presenting subjects which needlessly arouse antagonism. I find that some of our evangelists feel they have not delivered the true message if they have not stirred up the wrath of the dragon. But as I study Christ's method, I find that when He had truths to present which He knew the crowds thronging about Him were not ready to receive, He withheld those lessons of truth until He could present them to the disciples and those ready to hear. Many times we do ourselves and the cause we represent a positive injury by the public presentation of truths for which the people are not ready. Probably the people who are present for any particular sermon, have not heard the preceding sermons, or only a few of them, and they are not ready for some things that we must teach people before taking them into the church. This teaching that otherwise may stir up a spirit of antagonism should be given in the baptismal class, for here the people are ready for it.
A Gradual Transition
By T.G. Bunch
I am not satisfied with my former method of advertising our doctrines, in view of an enlarged vision of the importance of making Christ the center and theme of all; but the change will doubtless come by gradual process. I believe we should do the best we can while making the change, and keep preaching the message to the best of our ability. I must confess that I do not yet know how best to advertise and preach on some subjects, in harmony with this enlarged vision, and thus far I have not found any one else who seems to know. It is practice that makes perfect, and we learn by experience.
Loma Linda, Calif.
First Things First
A successful evangelist refers to the change which has taken place in his evangelistic program, as follows:
" I once began a series of meetings with Daniel 2, and followed with chapters 7 and 8, and on to Revelation, in the usual way, until the crowd had thinned out, and then to the few who were left I presented the importance of obedience to the Saviour, and other vital truths of the message. I reserved my heart appeals until the majority had slipped away and were beyond my reach. I felt that I was preaching doctrinal truths in a convincing manner, but realized that I was dealing too largely in cold facts and impersonal truth, which failed to break up the soil of the heart. I knew that something was wrong, and set out to find the trouble.
" I now have a strong conviction that God has something better for us. What I once made first in a series of meetings, I now make last. I seek to appeal to the heart, holding up Christ, and stressing obedience to truth, at the beginning of the series. As a result, when testing truths are later presented, it is difficult for people to resist. The oft-repeated and partially just accusation, that Seventh-day Adventists preach little but the law and the Sabbath, led me to do some earnest thinking; and I formed the resolve that I would make Christ the center of every feature of our message. It is this lifting up of Christ that appeals to the people. When one hears sermons on the millennium, Armageddon, evolution, capital and labor, et cetera, in which Christ appears as the central figure and factor, there is a different ring to the message, and it produces converted Seventh-day Adventists."
The True Keynote
By Henry De Fluiter
The Lord has greatly blessed in the evangelistic effort conducted by H. M. S. Richards and C. C. Ellis, in Hanford, Calif. God is moving upon the hearts of the people as never before. The keynote of our meetings has been Christ in every phase of the message. We have not conducted a single meeting since the 13th day of January last [written May 20, 1929] in which Christ has not been made the central theme of the discourse. It has been the old-fashioned gospel in the old-fashioned way. At our numerous altar calls, men and women have wept for their sins, and God has graciously forgiven.
One of the outstanding features of the campaign has been the reclaiming of men and women who once rejoiced in the truth, but had long since, given up. On the occasion when seventy new converts were received into church fellowship, the following words of welcome were extended to them:
" It is to no life of ease and worldly pleasure that we welcome you; but we welcome you to one of the bitterest, fiercest battle fronts this world has ever seen. We are a church militant. The warfare against those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus will rage on and on with ever-increasing cruelty, until the conflict is ended and every child of God is gathered for His kingdom. We welcome you to rigorous toil; you now become united to a church that makes God first in matters of dress, appetite, association; which recognizes Him as the giver of all our spiritual and physical blessings, thus lifting us into the realm of partnership with our blessed Creator, Redeemer, and King."
Subject and Title Arrangement
M.R. Coon, of Philadelphia, Pa., submits an original and a revised list of subjects, concerning which he writes as follows:
"I have made earnest endeavor to formulate a list of subjects all centering in Christ, to be presented in our meetings. The great problem is to get something that sounds interesting and covers the ground we must go over. I worked, and worked, and worked on this desired list, without making satisfactory progress until the thought occurred to me that possibly in my meetings I had been covering some ground which could be omitted without loss and thus permit me to get back to the revival program, which points out man as a lost sinner, and presents Jesus as the only hope, weaving in the doctrines in their proper setting, The longer I worked on the list of subjects from this angle, the more enthusiastic I became.
"But I found that I had become so imbedded in the old phraseology that it was hard to break away and start on the new road leading to higher ground. For instance, one of the changes which I have made is to substitute for The Seal of God and Mark of the Beast,' the subject title, The Marks of the Lord Jesus.' Paul said, ' I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus' And with this as a beginning, it seemed most consistent to place Jesus in the forefront, and eliminate some things which have embittered Catholics, at the same time presenting the full message in its completeness.
"For comparison, I submit my former outline of subjects for an eight weeks' campaign, and my revised list, covering a seven weeks' campaign. I am not at all satisfied with the new outline. It still savors of the old bottles,' but it is the best I can produce at the present time."
(See PDF for Outline of Subjects)