Rally to Radio Preaching

Fulfilling the great commission over the air waves.

By W. E. HOWELL, Secretary, Radio Commission, General Conference

The great watchword of the advent movement ment is "Go... preach the gospel to every creature." Like many of the divine commands, this one is not only all-comprehensive, but adaptable to every people, every condition, and every facility that the Lord by His unceasing providences may raise up.

When the founders of this movement accepted the great commission seriously, they had only pedestrian, horse-and-buggy, and slow-train methods of travel available for undertaking so stupendous a world-wide task. Little did they dream of the fast train, the swift motor­car, the speeding airplane, and least of all, the radio, as means of "going" and means of "preaching." But here they are, all geared to high speed, to effective transmission of the voice, to unceasing service day and night, win­ter and summer, in all kinds of weather. These modern inventions all give new and impressive meaning to the prophetic forecasts, "knowl­edge shall be increased," and "many shall run to and fro," albeit the divine mind had them all definitely in view when He moved upon the prophet to utter those significant words.

Centuries later came the inspiring assurance: "He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth." This passage itself is cut short in Weymouth's Resultant Greek Testament, concurred in by the principal texts outside of Text= Receptits, and reads literally: "For, bringing [His] word to a full end and cutting [it] short, will the Lord do upon the earth." Half a generation later, John viewed and described that striking prophetic symbol of speed: "I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven" with the everlasting gospel to "preach."

So here we have it for our day, beloved fellow workers: "run to and fro" (Nahum says "run like the lightnings"), "cut short," and culmi­nating in "fly"—all in the preaching of the everlasting gospel. The pace is set for us. The facilities are available. The command is abso­lute. What shall we do? The Lord says of His doing upon the earth, that He will bring His word—the preaching of His word—to a full end, and cut it short, that is, cut it off by com­pleting it. But, wondrous in our eyes, He has chosen to accomplish so great and so quick a work through human spokesmen whom He has rescued from sin and appointed as His mouth­ pieces. What an exalted calling—this call to "preach"! May God exalt it still more in our eyes.

Outstanding words in these scriptures need attention. First is that phrase so much on the tongue of every Seventh-day Adventist—"every creature." It is so comprehensive that it is all but appalling to contemplate. We accept it, we believe it measures our task; but how can we compass so great a mountain? As we look upon the unwarned millions at home and abroad, our courage almost fails us. We know that we have only touched the fringe of popu­lation in our great metropolitan centers, such as New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, with their fifteen million souls. We can count hun­dreds of rural towns and populous counties with scarcely a note of preaching or a representative believer in the near coming of the Lord. Yet we know, too, that "thousands are on the verge of the kingdom" who receive the truth with marvelous readiness when it reaches their ears.

And, behold, in the very midst of our despera­tion comes the radio, with all its uniirecedented potentialities for both speed and penetration into the very dwelling and workshop of "every creature." We find the voice of the radio in palace and hovel, in busy mart and social gath­ering, in the quiet study and on the highways of land and sea.

Radio authorities assure us that approxi­mately one hundred million people in the United States listen in daily on the radio. That is more than three fourths of the population. Nearly twenty-five million radio sets are in actual use, about five million of them in motor­cars. The electric vibrations of the human voice radiate into the atmosphere day and night from 625 radio stations, ranging from 100 to 500,000 watts in power, unlimited in radius by means of station hook-up. Was ever an inven­tion perfected that came so close to reaching the divine objective of bringing the gospel to "every creature"?

But, you say, the voice of an Adventist preacher cannot reach this vast audience. Wait a moment. "Many shall run to and fro." We do not begin to have enough Adventist preach­ers on the air. In number we are only playing at the task. A recent survey of our actual broadcasting under way, reveals only about eighty broadcasts a week made by approximately forty Adventist preachers. A large ma­jority of these are on small local stations that reach a very limited audience. Reader, do you think forty preachers constitute any more than a meager beginning toward reaching the great goal designated as "many"? What we need is more, and more, and more preachers on the air, and preachers better and better trained in the science and art of broadcasting. Shall we not pray unceasingly that the Lord of the harvest "will send forth [thrust, as if drawn from the figure of a sickle] laborers [radio preachers] into His harvest"?

The accompanying map may help the reader to visualize our needs by showing the distribu­tion of radio stations in the United States, and the number and distribution of stations used by Adventist preachers. It is true that we have an Adventist preacher on the air every day in the week, and that every union conference uses one or more stations. But "what are these among so many"!

A little attention must be given to a storm cloud appearing on the radio horizon that, in its menace, should spell out S-P-E-E-D in what we purpose to do on the air.

A letter was recently laid on my desk, by whom I do not know. It was addressed to one of our college presidents, and presumably was passed on to me because it dealt with radio work. It came from an organization that de­clares itself "amply financed," and its mission to be "to purge religious broadcasting of all commercialism." It is "asking all broadcasting stations to cooperate." If it had held to its announced mission, fairly interpreted, it might be legitimate, but in its method and scope ap­pears a real menace to religious broadcasting itself. It calls itself "The Bible Foundation," and declares in this letter:

"The Bible Foundation is also strongly op­posed to the broadcasting of any alleged reli­gious program by any broadcasting station un­less the script of the program has been written, or carefully scrutinized and edited, by a com­mittee of ecclesiastics or educators. There's too much danger."

By "a committee of ecclesiastics or educators" they mean as expressed in another-paragragh; -- "The Bible Foundation's broadcasting council for scrutiny" of programs, which they declare is comprised of "capable men, qualified to pass upon such matters." How far this self-appointed body of religious censors, with its national headquarters in Washington, may be able to influence radio stations, remains to be seen. It smacks of a bigotry that is both un-American and unchristian. Whatever such an organization may be able to accomplish in its bold venture, its existence and purpose should serve as a warning to us in free America to push vigorously the radio preaching of our message before even the free air is hedged about by restrictions that would seriously im­pede our progress in this direction.

Is it not truly high time to institute a strong rally to radio preaching in all our conferences? We must not have it recorded of us that "while men slept" the "enemy came" and bound us hand and foot so that we could not preach on the air. For an entire decade and more, the radio has been highly efficient in transmitting the human voice into every ear that will listen. Commercial, political, and entertainment organ­izations have been quick to make extensive use of radio facilities in the worldly work of buy­ing, selling, and amusing, with the volume growing rapidly from year to year.

The National Broadcasting Company an­nounces 22 percent increase in October reve­nues from such sources over any preceding month. During the year 1936 a total of fifty-six new radio stations were established in the United States. Looking forward to the new year, a broadcasting magazine says: "Riding a wave of public acclaim and advertiser demand, radio broadcasting will take 1937 by a land­slide." The president of an advertising com­pany expresses the opinion that "good chain time on good local stations will probably prove increasingly hard to get," yet increase in the listening audience is indicated by the sale of nearly eight million new radio sets in 1936.

While the world thus moves on, shall we trail along in the rear with the message the world needs most of all? Thank God, we have made a real beginning. But it is only a meager be­ginning. The principal thing for which our movement is organized—preaching the word—must not be allowed thus to lag. In our budget making, this should be our first, not our last, consideration. In fulfilling the great mission for which our preachers were primarily or­dained, it is high time that they undertake greater things for God.

Not everyone can do successful preaching by radio, but means are available for testing out the voice and learning ways and means of doing effective work on the air. Apply to any good radio station, and you will be given tests and helpful counsel. Colleges and universities are offering radio courses that are most helpful in learning the science and art of broadcasting.

The General Conference Radio Commission is still young in experience, but it is finding its way into friendly relations with radio stations, and is ready to help in securing contracts at a favorable figure. It is diligently at work pre­paring a good variety of transcription rec­ords to help the preacher and the layman, and in due time will have them available for rental or free service. Let us know your needs, and we will work hard toward supplying them.

Above all, dear fellow workers, will you not join us in instituting an arousing rally to radio preaching before the summer is past and the harvest is ended, and before we fail in the great passing opportunity to get on the air with our heaven-entrusted message?

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By W. E. HOWELL, Secretary, Radio Commission, General Conference

March 1937

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