Six Principles of Approach
1. Suitable Location.—First of all, I would place emphasis upon the location. I believe that much of the effectiveness of the first meeting may be attributed to the proper location, whether it is for tabernacle, tent, hall, or theater effort. In building a tabernacle or pitching a tent, it is of first importance to secure a central location, not necessarily in the business section if it is in a large city. In cities of 100,000 to 500,000 there are many centers, and one of these centers where the people will be attracted by the effort should be selected. I would not want to locate in close proximity to a factory, for instance, or by the side of an old building.
In every city there is a poor, a middle-class, and a wealthy section. Personally, I would go to the middle-class part of town. We get most of our members from the middle class. If we start our effort among the wealthy, we do not find many of the middle class there. But if we start among the middle class, we reach not only that class, but also, to some extent, the poorer class; and some of the wealthy people will find their way to us, too.
2. Thorough Preparation of Ground.—Next, prepare the ground thoroughly. It is of prime importance, in securing an attendance, to make preparation for that attendance. One of the best methods is personal visitation to the homes of the people every week, distributing Present. Truth or some other good literature. We usually send out the church members to visit five or ten thousand homes with Present Truth, in the section of the city we are going to work. It takes many personal workers to do this, but we find this personal solicitation to be the most successful. Over two hundred people were baptized in our last prolonged effort, and 75 per cent of these were those who had read Present Truth in this way. Other methods of preparing the ground, just before the effort begins, will be noticed under "Representative Advertising."
3. Choice of Effective Subjects.—Too much emphasis cannot be placed upon the importance of choosing a subject, of having it well worded in dignified and attractive form, and of avoiding sensationalism. In the first part of a series of meetings I often spend as much time in preparing the wording of my subject as I do in actual preaching. I have found that even a good subject, if poorly worded, brings a small audience for the night. For instance, the subject might be some allusion to Matthew 24. Now our people would at once recognize what was implied by that, but other people would not. There are many other expressions which are more appropriate and appealing for public use, such as: "Will the Generation in Which We Are Living See Christ Come?" "Did Christ Come in 1914?" "Will Christ Come in Person?"
4. Representative Advertising.—I think we ought to give attention to the dignity of our advertising. Automobile and electric concerns put out their advertising in such a manner as to attract the attention of the people by its very appearance. Seventh-day Adventist evangelists ought to give much attention to putting their handbills out in a form really representative of the message. Consequently, I would say, Let us give study to the dignity of advertising, and not make it cheap, either in quality or color of paper, in what goes on the paper, or in any •other respect. Cheap advertising will bring a cheap class of hearers. This I say from experience.
In the selling world, the approach to the individual is of paramount importance. The first impression that you make upon the prospective buyer will largely determine your success in selling. That is also literally true in a series of evangelistic meetings. Look well to your preparation for the first night. If your advertising has been cheap, and you use cheap expressions in preaching, the class of people that you really desire to bring into the church will somehow be turned away, and will not come back.
There are several methods of advertising that I will discuss—newspaper, handbill or folder, telephone, and letter.
After some years of experience, and the spending of thousands of dollars in newspaper advertising, I have come to the conclusion that I have more success by using a good folder than by using the papers as the chief medium. Many of you may not agree with me; I speak only from my own experience. I favor a folder —well printed, well put together. Do not leave the make-up to the discretion of the printer. There are few printers who know how to make up a handbill or folder which will rightly rep;resent our work. If you have had experience, block out your own folder. State what colors of ink and paper are to be used, and make your selection of stock. Then have these handbills discriminately placed, by the church members, in the hands of the people. In our latest series of meetings at the tabernacle, we put out ten thousand handbills a week, and we had a total of fifty thousand people in attendance at our first six weeks' series of meetings.
The telephone can also be effectively used in inviting people to the meetings. Get the church members to call their friends and relatives and business acquaintances just prior to the meetings—not long before, lest they forget. After this is done, if help for this work is still available, divide up the names in the telephone book, and continue to issue personal invitations.
Still another effective way of advertising the meetings is by the use of letters. Secure from your church members the names of people they know. Send to this list a personal letter over your own name as evangelist, telling each one that his or her name had been given you by such and such a person; invite each one to the meetings. You can be fairly sure of getting one third of the people invited in this way out to the first meeting.
Other names can be selected from the telephone directory. When I begin in a new place, I select one or two thousand names from this source, and send them letters of invitation signed, "Evangelistic Committee."
5. Keep the People Coming.—Next I would speak of the importance of keeping the people coming. It is important to get them started, but it is equally essential to keep them coming. With the vital message we have, with proper preparation of the ground, a, good location, an appealing subject, and diligent, dignified advertising, we should be able to get an audience of one or two thousand people for the first night, But the great test is to keep them coming, to present the message in such a convincing, abiding way that we shall arouse their interest and hold them to the services. But that forms a separate topic which cannot be discussed here.
6. Eonger Efforts Necessary.—Finally, greater results are accomplished when we hold a series of meetings longer than three months. I preached a year and a half in one location in a city of a hundred thousand, and during the last six months we reached a most promising, educated, fine class of people. Do not try to cover the whole of a sizable city in one effort. Concentrate on one section for a number of months or a year's time, and then locate in another section.
*Address at Ministerial Association meeting, June 3.