Here in Britain, every city and hamlet has a multiplicity of long-established churches and chapels, manned by university-trained clerics. Coupled with this we are confronted with a conservatism of the highest degree. And the fact that the principal papers are of national circulation makes the cost of serious newspaper publicity almost prohibitive. Consequently the problems that face the evangelist today are legion.
I firmly believe it to be a serious mistake for our evangelists to ape the popular ministers and "water down" the truths which make us a separate people. The public representatives of this movement should be men aflame with a vital message that grips the hearts of the people. The distinctive character of our public meetings should be evident. The world needs a strong and definite presentation of this message; and when it is given in humility, honest-hearted souls will respond.
The tremendous events of the day, which are of such general concern to the public at large and are of universal interest and discussion, provide a medium for reaching the public and gripping their interest by touching the things that concern them from day to day. The modern business man knows the value of effective advertising in selling his goods. The gospel is of infinitely greater value than merchandise; indeed, its importance cannot be overemphasized. In the matter of advertising where we can influence only by the few words that appear upon the handbill or poster, such opportunities should not be overlooked. Personally, I have had the greatest success when using bold, outstanding posters. My favorite size is known technically as a "thirty-two sheet," i. e., 160 inches by 120 inches. The words are few, the title is very bold, and there is a four-sheet (40 by 60 in.) photograph of the speaker. This is not to gratify vanity, but to give information to the public in harmony with current custom. Twenty to fifty of these provide an effective means of attracting the public to our meetings. I have frequently supplemented this poster advertising by handbills, and by cinema and newspaper announcements.
Some feel that expenditures of this nature savor of extravagance, but my experience has convinced me that heavy budgets can be made to yield large returns, both financially and in souls won. In one section of London, under the providence of God, a new congregation of over one hundred was organized, a church building erected, and E1,750 ($8,750) donated to the church building fund in less than eighteen months. The tithe of the church totaled between £300 and £400 ($1,500 to $2,000) for the year; and the mission offerings were liberal. But best of all was the company of capable young people brought into the church. Some of them are today occupying positions of trust in the cause both at home and abroad. -
Lantern lectures can never take the place of gospel addresses. They should be used only when special circumstances require a departure from regular methods.
Experience has taught me ever to avoid controversy, and not to attack the preachers of other denominations, but rather to confine myself to the positive presentation of the message.
Some important features of a strong effort follow:
1. The hall or theater should be a place of good repute, prominently situated, and comfortably seated and lighted. Frequently a cheap second-rate hall proves to be very uneconomical.
2. Two or more experienced Bible workers are necessary for a large effort, with a promising young licensed minister to assist. It is very desirable that either the evangelist or his assistant be a good conductor of congregational music. It is hardly necessary to mention that a spirit of loyalty and enthusiasm should possess all members of the staff.
3. An organ recital of sacred music, or selections by a well-trained choir, provide an ideal prelude to the presentation of the message. These, however, should not predominate, and should last no longer than half an hour. By this means conversation on the part of the audience is discouraged and a religious atmosphere is created. Immediately preceding the lecture it is well to have hearty congregational singing, and perhaps one or two gospel solos; but the presentation of vital truth should ever be the one great object of the meeting.
4. Our doctrines and the prophecies forcefully but spiritually presented from the open Bible still constitute the greatest magnet of the religious forum of today.
5. In my ministry I have invariably followed the plan of inviting the audiience to submit questions in writing at the close of the service during the receiving of the offering. These I answer briefly before the benediction, and many times they afford opportunity to press home the truths we believe.
6. The evangelist should not be withdrawn from a newly organized church or company until a suitable meeting place has been provided, with a qualified leader in charge.