Topic No. 4 Making Doctrinal Preaching Spiritual

Symposial discussion from St. Louis.

By various leaders and pastors. 

I once heard Elder A. G. Daniells say that no man has a right to be a Seventh-day Adventist minister who is not a flame of fire. To me, that really expresses the heart of this topic: "Making Doctrinal Preaching Spiritual —An Appeal in Every Sermon—Preaching Christ." The only way to make the doctrines spiritual in our preaching is to be spiritual our­selves. If we are making an intellectual or philosophical appeal, our talks will be lectures, and not sermons. So I believe that the way to make our preaching spiritual is to have our own hearts burning with the love of Jesus Christ. We need that same burning heart of love and zeal and faith that the apostles had. Experienced evangelists and leaders do not, of course, need this exhortation so much as young men just entering the work. But I believe we all need to give study to this particular prin­ciple.

In my work I have tried to make a spiritual appeal in every sermon. In fact, I do not be­lieve we have done our work right unless that has been accomplished. On my father's side there is an unbroken line of preachers reaching back to the time of John Wesley. My grand­father was a very godly Methodist minister, and I remember distinctly that every time I heard him preach, he made an appeal for sinners to come to Christ. He said to me one day, "It's the duty of the Christian minister to make some kind of appeal in every sermon he preaches." In some of our sermons it is hard to make an appeal, but I believe that every doctrine of this message is a spiritual doctrine if rightly pre­sented.

No sharp distinction should be made between spiritual subjects and doctrinal subjects. The word "doctrine" simply means "teaching;" and in 2 John 9 we read of "the doctrine of Christ," that is, the teaching of Christ. What right have we to go out and command Sunday-keepers to keep Saturday? What right have we to go out and create confusion just to get people to believe the 2300 years ended in 1844? Unless Jesus Christ is in the Sabbath, I have no right to preach it; unless the 2300 days is simply a great ray of light focusing on the work of Christ, as a Christian minister I have no place for it in my work.

I believe we can make an appeal for converts on the change of the Sabbath as well as on any other subject. And from the very first night in our meetings we ought to appeal to people to make decisions, so that it will become nat­ural for them to make a right decision. When we separate our different subjects into spiritual and nonspiritual classes, then the doctrinal subjects lose their spiritual power. We do not, of course, need to advertise with the name of Christ in every subject. Use different titles —titles that are timely, that appeal, that at­tract attention without being sensational. But every sermon ought to move upon the hearts of men to accept Jesus. Our presentation of Christ should be like a great picture studded with jewels, of which He is the center. The jewels are the doctrinal subjects we have to present, but He should always remain the center of attraction.

I believe when we have that burning zeal and love for Jesus which the apostles had, every sermon will close with an appeal. We cannot always call people forward, but we can have them raise their hands. We can ask them dif­ferent questions. We can get different re­sponses. We can have them stand. I am just old-fashioned enough to like a real old-fashioned revival once in a while. That is where we get the names of people, and every name we get in a service like that is gilt-edged. Long before we reach the Sabbath question people have come forward, and have accepted tithing. I present tithing before the Sabbath.

I do not believe in the methods of the modern preacher who converts "after a fashion." Our message must have a positive ring to it. This is God's only hope for the world; and if we can portray Christ in every one of these sub­jects and make these appeals night after night, people will know that we are Christians. You may disagree with me, but I believe that the average person accepts this message today. not because of our arguments nor the material we use, but because of our earnestness and zeal. They look at you, and they see a man who is on fire with the message and whose faith in God is strong. They say, "That man is in earnest; he believes in God," and that makes them think of God and eternal things.

I want to read a little poem that shows how we are to present Christ. The principles set forth are so important that they deserve our close attention, and in these lines are more effectively presented than in my own words.

"The Hand That Held It

"He held the lamp of truth that day

So low that none could miss the way ;

And yet so high to bring in sight

That picture fair—the world's Great Light ;

That, gazing up—the lamp between—

The hand that held it scarce was seen.

"He held the pitcher, stooping low, To lips of little ones below ;

Then raised it to the weary saint,

And bade him drink, when sick and faint!

They drank—the pitcher thus between—

The hand that held it scarce was seen.

"He blew the trumpet soft and clear,

That trembling sinners need not fear;

And then, with louder note and bold.

To raze the walls of Satan's hold!

The trumpet coming thus between—

The hand that held it scarce was seen.

"But when the Captain says, 'Well done,

Thou good and faithful servant, come I

Lay down the pitcher and the lamp,

Lay down the trumpet, leave the camp'—

The hand that held them will then be seen

Clasped in those pierced ones—nought between."

In "Gospel Workers," page 151, is presented the necessity of an appeal in every sermon:

"No one can tell what is lost by attempting to preach without the unction of the Holy Spirit. In every congregation there are souls who are hesitating, almost decided to be wholly for God. Decisions are being made; but too often the minister has not the spirit and power of the message, and no direct appeals are made to those who are trembling in the balance."

One time a minister went to speak at a peni­tentiary, and in the chapel he saw two chairs draped in black. He was told that was because two men who were to be executed were to sit in those chairs, and this was the last meeting they were to attend. You may be sure that minister's talk that day had no foolishness in it. He had no time for nonessentials. He was speaking to men about to die. In every audience there are chairs that could be draped in black. There are souls trembling in the balance, and we are to give them a message. Shall we forget to make an appeal, or leave out an appeal when souls in every audience are waiting to hear that call?

We have a wonderful message, but we neglect it sometimes. We need to take to heart these statements: "Of all professing Christians, Sev­enth-day Adventists should be foremost in up­lifting Christ before the world. . . . It is at the cross of Christ that mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other."—"Gospel Workers," p. 156. It is only there that the whole truth of God has the power designed to melt hearts and convert souls.

On the top of the old, original Eddystone lighthouse these words were engraved in stone, "Arise, ye winds, and try my worth." A hurri­cane came one day. The lighthouse was blown down, and Hooper, the engineer, lost his life. The British government rebuilt the lighthouse, but it suffered a like experience. Finally Smea­ton, a very godly man, came and cleared away the debris, and built upon that rock another lighthouse, inscribing on the foundation the words: "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it;" and on the top the words, "Praise to God." This lighthouse stood through the years until it was taken down.

This profound principle is the secret of suc­cessful evangelistic preaching. The personal appeal of Jesus Christ must be there, and our lighthouse must be built on Him, through Him, and by Him. May God help us to preach Him. We preach not ourselves, but the Lord Jesus Christ.

Discussion From the Floor

Conversion Precedes Sabbath Presentation

W. C. Hankins (Chicago, Illinois) : One thing that has impressed me increasingly through the years is that Christ should be the center of every sermon. I do not imply that I know ex­actly how this is to be done, but I do know that in attempting it I have myself received a great blessing, and it has also enabled me to make the doctrinal subjects more and more spiritual. I have a very firm conviction that there is little use in arguing with a man about the Sabbath question while he is unconverted. You may convince him, but that is all. The first thing to do in holding a series of meetings is to seek to get men and women converted. I lead up to the Sabbath question by presenting a number of subjects that are calculated to bring about conversion.

Some of the themes on which I speak are re­demption, justification, salvation, and recon­ciliation. The people have usually thought that they are all the same, but they are not; and so I start in by explaining what redemp­tion is. The next time I explain what justifica­tion really is,—justification by faith. It takes time to present justification so that the people have any real idea of what constitutes justifi­cation by faith. And then we have salvation by faith and reconciliation by faith. After giv­ing several talks of this nature, I have had whole families, sometimes four or five families, come into the truth before I ever touched the Sabbath question. They were converted, and many a time have begun to keep the Sabbath before it was presented publicly. When they are converted in this way, and the doctrinal points are brought out, with Christ as the cen­ter of each, they come into our message, and they stay in.

2300 Days a Good Revival Sermon

E. W. Wolfe (Birmingham, Alabama) : About thirty-five years ago, in a little southern Iowa town, I heard a sermon on the 2300 days for the first time. And for many years I have heard the subject given by some ministers in a very uninteresting way. For some time I studied how I might put a heart appeal into that subject. Finally the Lord brought it vividly to me in connection with Daniel 9 and the "seventy weeks," where we are told that Messiah shall "be cut off, but not for Himself." Then I began to give as the climax the story of His trial and persecution, with a description of the experience in Gethsemane as told in "Early Writings." That sermon has become one of my best revival sermons, and I believe the same can be done with nearly all our ser­mons.

Appeal in Change of Sabbath

R. A. Smithwick (Chicago, Illinois): Some doctrines, such as the 2300 days or Daniel 7, require more time to present than others. It is helpful then to recognize that it is not necessary to take up every text dealing with the subject. Use a few key texts and make a forceful presentation; then take time afterward for the appeal. Recently I closed a series of Sunday night meetings. The presentation of the change of the Sabbath naturally requires the reading of different authorities. I endeav­ored to convince the people in regard to the historical part of it, then made a quiet appeal, bringing Christ into my presentation, and also speaking of Sabbathkeeping in the home of the saved.

When the meeting was over, I was called down to talk to different ones. One of our brethren came with tears in his eyes, and told me he would like me to meet two ladies who were there that evening. One of them said, "I have found the Saviour tonight." She had fought the Sabbath question for weeks, because she had heard only the argumentative side. But she saw it in a different light that night, because, after I had presented some of the same texts of Scripture and some of the same historical proofs, I had made the appeal of coming to Christ, and had presented the fact that the Sabbathkeepers on this earth will be the Sabbathkeepers in the new earth. Both ladies decided to give their hearts to Christ that night.

Question Service After Sermon

M. A. Hollister (Brookfield, Illinois) : I en­deavor to confine my sermons to thirty-five min­utes, though possibly a few subjects cannot be given in that time. The Spirit of prophecy says over and over that we should preach short sermons; then at the close of the service ask those who are puzzling over some phase of the sermon, or any who have questions of a reli­gious character, to remain. I have been sur­prised to have my whole congregation stay; at other times from twenty-five to fifty remain. I get right down among the people, and talk to each individual face to face, answering his questions. I have found it wonderfully helpful in winning the confidence of the people, to get them to talk to me personally, asking for per­sonal help; and often questions asked by one person help some one else in the meeting. The question service and the appeal make an effec­tive combination.

Making Altar Calls

Introductory Presentation At Philadelphia By J.L. Shuler

Altar calls are necessary in our public ef­forts in order to reach the objectives of our preaching. Why preach that the second coming of Christ is near, if we do not give people op­portunity definitely to get ready to meet Him? Why preach on the unpardonable sin, and fail to give the people a chance to yield definitely to the pleading of the Holy Spirit by coming forward that very night? Why preach about the terrors of hell, without making an appeal for people to accept salvation? I have made up my mind that I shall never preach a sermon on hell without giving an altar call. While Jesus was on earth, He presented it as a warn­ing to men to forsake sin. I get my largest au­diences when I preach on hell.

What would we think of a canvasser who made exhibitions all the time and never en­deavored to take an order? Yet many of us ministers are making the "exhibition," without attempting to "take the order." The altar call and the definite appeal are necessary for the taking of the order. It is like fishing. We are not to let the fish eat off all the bait and never give the jerk at the right time.

I believe in altar calls. The lack of definite results in much of our preaching is because we do not make these calls. We sometimes hear of men holding an effort for ten or twelve weeks, and yet when the twelfth week is ended they see little result. They have waited for the close to gather in the harvest, and when they finish their series, they find no harvest to gather. It helps if we can get people to express themselves early. I believe in making an appeal the very first night. I would not say that I would make an altar call the first night, but I believe in making a very definite appeal—an appeal to which the people will re­spond either by raising the hand or by stand­ing, thus turning the tide in the right direction that very first night.

I believe in making one or two altar calls a week all through the effort. If we can get people really to accept Jesus Christ, they will accept Christ's Sabbath when it is rightly pre­sented, and they will follow the diet and dress that He has ordained. In our meetings we should see more real conversions. We are not mere lecturers. Our meetings should be places where sinners can find Christ.

I believe in making such appeals frequently throughout the series, and in having altar calls to help the people to decide fully to obey the message on all points. I believe in having a prayer room to which we can take the people when they come forward. In some places I have had those who responded go directly to the prayer room. In others I have followed the plan of having them wait, and all go to the prayer room together. This works well, save in a crowded meeting. Under those con­ditions it is better to have them go directly to the prayer room. When the people come forward during these altar calls, I use a card which I have found quite helpful. This card [here reproduced in miniature] is used either when the altar calls are made before the Sab­bath question is presented, or afterward.

I go directly to the prayer room after the people come forward. These cards are then passed out, with the request that they mark with an "X" the particular point on which they desire help. We must get at definite things in altar calls, and find out the particular need of the individual. We should give counsel as to how one can be born again, how the backslidden are to return to Jesus, and then give the people opportunity for a word of testimony. Pray for them. Give them a copy of Good News on "The Way to Christ," or lend them "Steps to Christ." Turn these names over to personal workers and Bible workers who have charge of the particular section in which they live. I think it would be well to have a standard card that we could use, as it is expensive to have one printed every time. If we could have a committee to draft a card. and then have a supply printed, it would not cost much and would be very helpful.*

Discussion From the Floor

Begins Appeal First Night

Question.—How early in the meetings do you begin making altar ealls?t

H. M. S. Richards: I like to make an appeal the first night. Get the people to express their belief in the subject presented. Get them to put up their hands and say they agree with you. I like to speak on heaven the first night, then on Daniel 2, giving it some appealing title, of course. Then by Friday they are usually ready for some more definite subjects.

In the matter of calling people forward, I believe the Lord has to lead us. Sometimes when I plan to make a call on a certain night. it does not work out that way. The preacher is often tempted not to call the people forward, and I am sorry to say that often I have not called them forward when I should. But if the Lord moves, then make a call, and someone will always respond if the Lord is leading.

There are many different ways of making these calls—different things to say at different times. Sometimes in our meetings we have the people stand or put up their hands for certain things. Sometimes we ask them to come forward without even a song, without the people even standing. We tell them this is a special call, and that we do not want any one to come forward unless he means it with all his heart. When a person gets up and comes down the aisle on that kind of call, you may be sure he is sincere.

In our meetings we have a prayer with the _people while they are at the_frimt.il _like_to have the audience hear the prayer, and then we invite those who have come forward to the prayer room. There we get their names. We have a little testimony meeting there. If you do not have a prayer room, ask the other people to sit down and be quiet. It is very distracting to have people rustling around in their seats, talking and whispering. Our Bible workers are right in the crowd, and if we make a call, they know the people they have been working with, and urge them to come forward. The man in charge of my bookstand comes for­ward. He is a soul winner, and he, too, urges the people to come forward.

*In response to the numerous questions from the floor, clustering about this topic, Chairman Branson called upon different individuals to answer, whose names appear immediately following the inquiry.—Ed.

* Passed as council recommendation. (See April p. 9.)

Educate Toward Public Expressions

John Ford (Boston, Massachusetts) : Elder Shuler has touched a very vital point in the evangelistic program. Without altar calls I would scarcely know what to do. I would not be able to get many to take a stand. I learned this principle of evangelism out in the canvass­ing field,—learned to get the name down on "the dotted line" immediately. This is espe­cially needful in the North and East. The public in Boston, for example, is not used to altar calls. It scares them when you begin to talk about coming forward in a public meet­ing.

The first Sunday night I do not even ask them to raise their hands for prayer, but I always close the sermon with prayer, and in­clude every one in the audience in my prayer. By Friday night I ask them for the first time to raise their hands for prayer. We have to educate them to do this, for they do not respond as do people in the South or West. I present some definite fact, and say, "What are you folks going to do about it?" I close the meeting with a prayer, and before closing the prayer ask them, "How many would like to have a special word of prayer offered for you, that you may have courage to walk in the light that God has given?" I get the audience educated so that a large proportion raise the hand.

Then when we come to the Sabbath question, sometimes I ask them to stand, signifying their desire for special prayer that evening. In Boston this did not work so well. They did not mind raising their hands for prayer, but when it came to standing, it was different. So I very seldom ask folks to stand there—just have them raise their hands. When you have them stand, you make a division in your audience; you make it embarrassing for those who do not stand, and very often they will not come back.

After presenting the Sabbath I seldom have them come forward in public services. For the following Sabbath I advertise an afternoon service on my regular advertising, and we urge every one to come to that service. Our workers are concentrating all their time on those they know to be interested, and they urge and en­courage them to come to that afternoon service. We preach our sermon, in an evangelistic style, working in different points on dress, health, laying aside of tobacco, etc. Then at the close of that first Sabbath afternoon meeting, at the time of the closing prayer, I make an appeal for persons to take their stand for this truth, and to come forward and unite with this people. We have the church members begin to sing while we ask the people quietly to come for­ward. I go down the aisle to meet them. They are coming forward as candidates for member­ship in this church.

I present the question of baptism. I take them into the prayer room, and there go over this subject with these people. I have a little booklet presenting the different phases of Sev­enth-day Adventist belief. I go over the points of that booklet with them, especially certain points, like washing the disciples' feet and dress reform. I also give them a copy of spe­cial Sabbath School Lessons. Then I say, "Now you have taken your stand for the message. Next Sabbath morning we will expect you to be here for Sabbath school." We start them out in the daily study of the Sabbath school lesson, with the study of the lesson for that week.

Having gone through these special points, I ask them if they have any questions. The workers are with us, the elders of the church, and others. If they have inquiries, they pre­sent them, and if not we pass out a card with questions like these: Have you been a member of the church? Have you been baptized? Have you been using tobacco or liquor? and if so, are you willing to give it up? Are you in harmony with the principles of Seventh-day Adventists? Do you desire to join the church? Then there is space for the name and address, —and also age, if they are young people. They are then formed into a baptismal class, and I meet with them. Some are soon ready for bap­tism, depending upon the experience they have had before, and upon their acquaintance with our message. Others require longer time.

There is another type of call which is effec­tive. I make a general call for people to come forward at my Friday night meetings. I ask all to come forward who would like to have victory over tobacco using, the liquor habit, or some other sin. They are not yet members of the church, but they are coming forward to be made pure, to keep the Sabbath, or for prayer for healing. I make some sort of call every Fri­day night at the close of the meeting. People expect it; they come for that special prayer. This we make very definite, and the prayer is offered before the entire audience. Before we dismiss the meeting I say: "You have taken your stand for victory over these things. Remember tomorrow is the Sabbath." The Spirit of God comes in and people get victory right there, and this is a distinct step toward church mem­bership. I would not drop this plan for any­thing. Both kinds of appeals are effective.

Spiritual Members Form Nucleus

M. H. St. John (Orlando, Florida) : It is helpful to have our people who are spiritually minded remain for the after meeting. If it is hard for people to go forward, they will form a nucleus, thus making it much easier. They can also kneel with the people and help them to pray.

Assistants Inviting Folks Forward

Question.—In these altar calls to what extent can Bible workers go to individuals in the au­dience to invite them to come forward without causing embarrassment?

J. L. Shuler: In my meetings I have never had Bible workers or any one else speak per­sonally to the people. I believe it can properly be done, but have not personally followed that plan. We have just let the people come as they were impressed by the Spirit of God. And I think the Holy Spirit can also help a man de­cide when to make an altar call. I think the Holy Spirit can help a man when he sits down to study for his sermon for that night, and when he prays to God about what he shall say and how God can use him to move the people. I believe the Spirit of God can operate right there as well as in the meeting. At camp meeting time we expect a revival. It is usually planned for the Sabbath. Does it hurt a re­vival because it is planned for?

Every man has to work in his own "harness," but I think there are certain subjects on which a man cannot preach without the conviction that he must make a call after he preaches that sermon, and I believe that God has put that conviction in his heart. Because I have preached that sermon, there is a responsibility; and I have a conviction that I must shoulder that responsibility and make an altar call, and I believe that conviction comes from the Lord.

I believe it a grave mistake to hold a series of meetings, and not make direct calls until after the Sabbath has been presented. I think we should get people converted before we preach the Sabbath. A man who accepts Christ will be willing to keep Christ's Sabbath, and pay Christ's tithe, and do all the rest. I do not believe I should preach night after night and have sinners come to hear me and not find Christ. We should open the way for sinners to be converted in the early weeks of our meet­ings.

H. M. S. Richards: In my meetings the Bible worker goes to those she knows, and with whom she has been laboring. I go to those I know should make a decision, and we have some glorious victories with such people.

John Ford: I follow about the same plan as Brother Richards. We go to the folks we know until the last two weeks, when we try to get everybody.

Chairman Branson: Brother Richards preached in St. Louis, where an effort was in progress, when our council was on there. In the -altar-waif-that night, after a large number had raised their hands,—it was not known who they were,—I saw one of our ministers who was an absolute stranger there, and did not know a single soul except the preachers, go to three people who had raised their hands, and bring them down to the platform, and they took their stand for the truth. That was fine work, and it was done in a careful and tactful way. That is just as fine help as one can give to the preacher.

Meeting Inquirers Without Assistants

Question.—How would you care for those who come forward when you make a call if there is no one to assist you, except just your wife? How would you carry out such -pro­gram?

J.L. Shuler: I think in that case I would dismiss the congregation, and then take those people immediately to the prayer room.

Chairman Branson: Have an earnest season of prayer right before the congregation, so that the whole congregation is blessed, and then those who come forward can remain a few minutes after the congregation is dismissed. Have your Bible worker or head usher or church elder go to the entrance to shake hands with the people, so they are not left to them­selves.

Definite Times for Calls

Question.—Is it wise to have a definite time for altar calls known in advance by the evan­gelist's helpers?

John Ford: I found a definite time to have a particular call very helpful. When you have a group of Bible workers assisting you, they tell the people, "Next Sabbath afternoon the evangelist will give you an opportunity to ac­cept the Sabbath message." That part of the program is very important. Everybody is pre­pared for your next Sabbath afternoon meeting, and it greatly helps.

Propriety of Planned Calls

Question.—Is it a fact that we can plan these altar calls ahead of time, or is there some indication that comes from above that instructs the preacher when to make the call? Can we snake it any time and expect it to be effective? I have always had the idea that God operates through His ministry, and somehow lays a burden on the minister's heart when that call should take place. am especially interested in the operation of the Holy Spirit in the mat­ter of altar calls.

L. H. King: Many times I have conducted a service with no intention of making a call, but at the end of the meeting I have been impressed by the Holy Spirit to make a call. I believe that the Holy Spirit works in that way, and operates at the right time through the chosen instru­ment for that purpose. It takes the power of God to move men to Christ, and there are times that are more propitious than others. I do not believe we can. make out a schedule and say that an--this night I will make a calf and on that night I will not. I do not believe the Holy Spirit operates in that way.

Chairman Branson: Brethren Shuler and Richards have said that sometimes they have planned altar calls, but have decided to change their plans. Brother Ford makes a special appeal every Sabbath afternoon for people; so he has a definite time. We cannot lay down a hard and fast rule on that point. I think we have to recognize that some men work a little differently from others. I have found that usually we can have the kind of meeting we plan for. If we have a definite plan and seek God for a revival on a definite occasion, God usually gives us the kind of meeting we have prepared for. Of course, sometimes we find that the Lord works some other way, but I think that generally we ought to have a plan. The trouble with many of us is that we are afraid. For a long time I was afraid to do enough of that kind of work. If I had done more of this real revival work, I am sure I should have had much greater results in my ministry in evangelistic lines.

Should we do revival work? I think this group of ministers should answer that ques­tion. Have we come to the place where we are afraid to do revival work, or do we find that revival work is helpful in our ministry in win­ning souls? I should like to ask how many of our evangelists have some kind of definite revival work in connection with their large efforts. [Many hands raised.] How many make definite altar calls for consecration, prayer, and surrender in your public meetings? [Good response.] How many make such a call on an average of once a week in your effort? [Not quite so many.] Perhaps more of you make these calls during the last weeks of your meet­ings.

From the beginning of my public ministry for those not of our faith, I have felt that altar calls should be made from the very start. I believe in making these appeals from the first week right through the whole series. I have never conducted an effort without using that method. I believe, brethren, that we should not present the great doctrines to the people without trying in every possible way, under the blessing of God, to persuade them not merely to accept the doctrines, but to accept Jesus Christ, and to accept and obey the doctrines because they are the doctrines of God and the doctrines of Jesus Christ.

How many have followed the plan of having a prayer room, some special place where you invite these people for prayer and counsel after they have come forward? [Not many hands raised.] I have noticed that some of our evan­gelists are curtaining off a corner of the tent for a prayer room. At the close of the meet­ing the evangelist will say, "If there are any here who feel the need of further counsel and prayer, and wish to have a heart-to-heart talk with the evangelist, please remain after the au­dience has been dismissed, and come to the prayer room. I will meet you there, and some of the Bible workers will be there." It is astonishing how many remain. People take advantage of such an opportunity. They want to have a word with some man of God about their souls, if they can talk more or less in private.

In a volume of Special Testimonies printed in tract form a number of years ago, speaking to evangelists who were working for the public, the servant of the Lord said:

"After a short discourse, change the order of the exercises, and give opportunity for all who desire it, to remain for an after-interview, or Bible class, where they can ask questions upon subjects that trouble them. You will find great success in coming close to the people in these Bible lessons."—"Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers," No. 7, p. 7; dated January 6, 1897.

Repeated Calls Imperative

R. S. Lindsay (Greensburg, Pennsylvania) : I believe with all my heart in making altar calls. If I preached a series of evangelistic sermons and did not make altar calls, I question whether there would be any converts at the close of the meetings. I try to gain the confidence of the people so they know and understand they are receiving the message of God for this time, and are receiving wonderful truths from the Book of books, and are beginning to keep the com­mandments of God. In the past I have felt reluctant to ask people to come forward before I have presented the ten commandments and the Sabbath of that law. The Baptists, Pres­byterians, Holiness people, and others ask the audience to come forward, and sometimes bap­tize them at that very service.

I first present the Sabbath and the ten com­mandments, and then ask them to come for­ward and embrace the truth and keep the ten commandments and live up to all the light that has been presented to them from the Book of God. I reserve seats for them at the front, and they usually come.

Then night after night we ought to get back to the invitation again. We preach on the state of the dead, and say, "Jesus is coming. How many of you are going to be prepared to go home to glory?" Then right back to that ques­tion again, "How many will come tonight and take their stand for the Sabbath and to obey the truth of God?"

I once held a series of meetings in a small town. When about ready to close a three-week series of meetings, I gave the invitation for people to come forward who would keep the Sabbath. There were forty who responded. I could see that others were impressed and should come forward. I continued meetings for another week. When the next invitation was given, others came. The next night an invita­tion was given, and still others came.

Had I given the invitation only once during that series of meetings, or only twice, perhaps the great majority of those who did come for­ward would not have been there when the invi­tation was given, or would not have yielded their hearts to God. If we limit the invitation to one certain night, there will be souls who will not have an opportunity to come forward. Night after night we should give the appeal. and try to bring people to a decision, and plead with them and persuade them to give their hearts to God.

Close Every Sermon With an Appeal

G. R. West (Chicago, Illinois) : I seldom preach a sermon on Sunday night without mak­ing a call, for I have found there is almost always a response. There are always people who are anxious to have the minister pray for them. And I have found that there is great need among our own people for that very thing. They are hungering for a deeper experi­ence. I have an old-fashioned mother, who not long ago said to me: "We believe the Bible from cover to cover. We believe in revivals, but why do we not have revivals at our camp meetings?" I have conducted revival services at our camp meetings, and have always had a good response. People have come to me from time to time on our camp grounds, and have told me how much they appreciated these re­vival meetings.

When I am asked to speak, I cannot preach with anything else on my heart except a burden for souls. When I preach, I feel that if there is a soul in the audience who needs Christ and I do not make an appeal, that soul may be lost. So I always make an appeal, and ask any who wish to do so to remain for prayer. Some of our ministers say, "I do not believe in excite­ment." But I cannot sit down at the end of a sermon without asking if there is a soul in the congregation who is longing for Christ, and without giving that soul a chance to come to Him. Why call it excitement? The Spirit of prophecy says that there should be an appeal at the close of every sermon.

Friday Nights and Sabbath Mornings

B. M. Heald (Peekskill, New York): I have found Friday night a good time to make altar calls. There are several advantages in Friday night in a regular series of meetings. In the first place, that is not too often to make a call—once a week. Then again Friday night uncon­sciously becomes sacred time. The interested ones come forward, their lives are consecrated, and somehow it becomes a solemn occasion. Unconsciously they begin entering into the spirit of the Sabbath, and are all ready for the Sabbath question when that is presented.

I have also been much impressed recently with the importance of the pastor's having an occasional altar call at the eleven o'clock Sab­bath morning service. The vast majority of us here are pastors and district superintendents, and we are all to be evangelists. I was greatly impressed with the way Elder Peters has been meeting the great apostasy in the section to which he was sent. He has won back 150 through the altar call service on Sabbath morn­ings. I have seen him in earnest appeal, with the power of God resting on him, and it has brought me to my knees. I have seen him go right down among the people, and they could not help coming forward. He was in the con­gregation with them, and they sought God together.

For those who have not made altar calls, it is a wonderful experience to start it on Sabbath morning with our people. In the churches of the world, to a very large extent, since the days of Wesley, Whitefield, Moody, and others, the pastoral work seems to be separate from evangelism. They call in the evangelist to do this special work. The Seventh-day Adventist preacher should form the habit of making these calls, for our own people first, and then at our public meetings.

Advantages of Coming Forward

Question.—Is it as effective to ask people to stand, and then while standing, ask them to come forward? Is it not true that some people will stand who would not come forward?

H. M. S. RICHARDS : Any plan that works is good; but when you have persuaded a person to come forward, he has taken a greater step than merely to stand. And when he comes up the steps to the prayer room, he has made his decision just that much firmer. I have often had the experience, after making a call, of having some remain in their seats who should really come forward. Then before we kneel to pray I ask, How many who have not come for­ward wish to be remembered in this prayer? A number will raise their hands. Sometimes they will come forward at once. At other times they will hold off, but later on will come for­ward.

Method Where There Is No Church

Question.—I notice these methods are used where there is a church. What is done in places where there is no church, where you cannot take them to a church?

John Ford: We have thought it best to organ­ize a tabernacle church—the nucleus formed by the group of people connected with the effort—and it works just the same. It is recognized as the Tabernacle Church, and as soon as they are baptized they join it.

Securing Names of Interested

Question.—How do you get the names of the people who raise their hands?

John Ford: We secure names by asking those who wish free literature to sign a card. They sign these each Sunday night. The Bible work­ers have these for record. The people who come forward on Friday night are usually per­sonally known to the Bible workers.

Minister's Place in Prayer Room

Question.—Naturally some want to discuss special problems with the evangelist. And a number have invited others to the meeting. We know that it is well for the evangelist to meet the people as they leave, and shake hands with them. If you wait until every one goes, some time has elapsed, and the inquirers are not willing to remain. We should really meet the people as they pass out; but on the other hand, people are waiting for us in the prayer room. How do our evangelists avoid that difficulty?

J. L. Shuler: When I make altar calls, my assistants dismiss the meeting, and I go to the prayer room immediately. I forgo meeting the people that night.


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By various leaders and pastors. 

June 1935

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