The individual minister labors in relative isolation from his fellow laborers so far as the interchange of thought, the comparison of notes as to methods and experiences, and mutual study are concerned. It is always, therefore, a great pleasure and inspiration to a group of workers when they have opportunity to come apart from their labors for the specific purpose of engaging in devotion, and to attend an institute of study focused upon common problems and questions.
W. A. Spicer presented, in his ever fresh and inspiring manner, the lessons of providential guidance on behalf of this movement as manifested through the gift of the Spirit of prophecy. These studies, presenting the relation of this gift to the Bible, its contribution to the upbuilding of this church, its meaning in the individual member's personal life, and its evidences in the far-flung reaches of world missions, aroused new confidence and joy in this movement of the last day.
1. H. Christian conducted a series of Bible studies, setting forth necessary principles on which the minister of God may base his life and work. The great apostle Paul was exalted as the pattern for the advent preacher. Paul's source of power—the fountain of his life—was found to be his love for the Saviour. Filled with that love, the disciple of this day may have strength and confidence to stand firm in that time when he will not have the aid of the great Intercessor. Practical instruction was also given on certain homiletic matters, and a wholesome emphasis was placed on the gift of thought as the essential for successful speech. The preacher's sermon is of great importance. Ruskin defined it as "a half hour to wake the dead." It deserves the very best effort which he can put forth in preparation and delivery. Elder Christian related a number of incidents from the experiences of our fellow workers in Europe to clinch his points.
2. N. Campbell presented a series of studies on the work of the Holy Spirit, its converting and transforming power, as well as its gentle grace. Each worker was awakened to his own vital need of the Spirit in his own life. It is through individual cultivation of the Spirit's presence that one is prepared for the outpouring of the latter rain, which comes as he is personally in need of it, in an undemonstrative manner. The personal work of the Holy Spirit was stressed, and also its meaning to the movement as a whole. It is the latter rain which prepares for the coming of the Lord, which appears in the power of the loud cry, giving strength to stand in the final plagues. This enables the presentation of the message with compelling force, and brings the truehearted to accept truth against opposition.
Two hours were set aside daily in the ministerial institute for round-table discussions, in which the workers were given opportunity for introducing and discussing topics of a practical nature. A five-minute presentation was followed by a free and profitable interchange of thoughts. The discussions led into practical phases, and touched upon vital and sometimes delicate considerations. A sympathetic and brotherly spirit prevailed, in which a sincere search for underlying principles was manifested. In a report of this nature it is obviously impossible to render a full representation of everything that was set forth, but a few outstanding trains of thought can be cited as characteristic of the discussions and the conclusions reached.
Strong emphasis was placed upon the fact that a minister should always be a visible sermon—the living embodiment of his creed. The basis of his message should be his experience, and thus there should be a constant agreement between his life and the content of his preaching. In these days of chaotic social tendencies, the preacher needs to be characterized by sobriety, moderation, poise, and dignity in social relations, and in a refinement of dress that sets him off as a minister of the gospel. A minister's Bible must not become an old book to him, but rather through study he will be able to discover in it new beauties, making possible a skillful presentation of the message. Bible study on his part will be evident in his work. He needs to be strongly fortified by Scripture truth. A warning was sounded against the tendency toward shallowness in study because of a desire to be popular through the narration of thrilling stories. Counsel was given to the effect that a worker should carefully set aside certain hours a day for study and prayer. More important even than Bible study are the minister's devotion and prayer habits. Someone has aptly said, "We will travel fastest when we travel on our knees."
Prominence was given to the important role of the Spirit of prophecy in our work. The fundamentals of the message consistently interpreted and vitally connected with the teachings of the Spirit of prophecy should be taught in a positive way, avoiding extremes. The organization of formal courses of study in our churches should be undertaken on subjects like denominational history and the Spirit of prophecy. Church libraries might be established to great profit, from which the various volumes could be circulated.
The distintegration of modern society makes it essential for us to enhance the beauty and importance of home and family life. The home is the bulwark of society. Social problems are becoming so acute and complicated that church discipline is scarcely adequate to cope with some situations that arise. A definite educational system should be established in our churches for the purpose of fortifying our people against the inroads of social evils, notably that of divorce. Personal attention needs to be given to the youth, especially, in these matters. Where early training is given, both through the home and the pulpit, many difficulties can be escaped. On the matter of divorce, it is impossible to form any resolution that will adequately handle the problem. Complicated cases should be submitted to the conference president and his committee for counsel.
The increasing use of radio in evangelism came in for full discussion. A number of men in the territory of the North Pacific Union have been carrying on effective work over the air. They submitted helpful and practical counsel regarding methods of radio work, based on their own wide experience. The radio affords unlimited possibilities and multiplied opportunities for reaching hearts and minds; and because of this, no ordinary sermon should be delivered over the air. The message should be proclaimed in a straightforward way in all its phases, yet tact must be observed at all times.
A radio sermon is delivered to an unseen audience, but neverthless the radio minister has a very effective means of making definite contacts with his congregation through the mails. A large correspondence readily develops, making for increased opportunities for personal work. A profitable way of cultivating these contacts is by sending one of our papers to every person whose name comes in over the air.
The most effective method, perhaps, both of enlarging the radio audience and of securing contacts, is house-to-house work, in which master radio logs and announcements of the radio programs are delivered, people are encouraged to listen, and their responses are solicited. At the same time that these radio sermons are being broadcast, hall meetings can be effectively carried on. Many people who hear the preacher over the radio will gladly take advantage of the opportunity of seeing and hearing him personally in a hall effort.
One effective way of winning wide interest over the air was found to be in announcing that Bible questions would be answered. In some places our workers are announced by the radio station as the station preacher, and are given free time with gratifying results. A flood of responses comes in, and by answering the questions in sequence and systematic order, the evangelist is enabled to present the essentials of our message. Where a radio audience is scattered over a large area, effective follow-up makes it necessary for the evangelist to Iist the names that have come to him according to the territory of the respective conferences. These names are then forwarded to the proper conference, and contacts are made through the local workers.
H. L. Wood, of the Alaska Mission, pleaded for a study and mastery of amateur radio broadcasting. He urged training in this on the part of future missionary appointees. Through personal experience he finds great practical value in such equipment, for it enables widely scattered mission stations to keep in daily contact with one another and with headquarters through code broadcasting.
One of the practical topics which came in for considerable discussion dealt with the matter of accident, health, and life insurance. The subject was introduced by a study of the statements in the "Testimonies," Volume I, pages 549-551. Although insurance may today be recognized as more safe than formerly, yet the instruction of Sister White is still in force and will be until the end. Those who ask workers for advice on this matter may well be referred to the Spirit of prophecy. No worker, however, should become dogmatic in the treatment of an individual's problem. Accident and health insurance was not mentioned by Sister White, but we should be reasonable in dealing with this type of insurance on the basis of the principles expressed. The consensus of opinion was that we should support the position taken by the Spirit of prophecy, and not try to explain away the Lord's counsel.
In order to study certain matters pertaining to evangelism in the narrower sense of the word as we have come to use it, a certain group had short meetings in addition to the regular prescribed daily program. Among these presentations were some valuable suggestions offered by Evangelist F. F. Schwindt, who had been conducting a tabernacle effort in the city of Walla Walla during the winter and early spring months.
The evangelist, Elder Schwindt set forth, should have his preaching materials well prepared before the beginning of the effort, in order that he might have greater freedom in attending to the practical details in. connection with the meetings, and that he might be able to maintain a close study of current events during the period of his campaign. The plans for the effort should be well organized, and the lecture topics should constitute a harmonious whole. The aim is to construct an unbreakable citadel of truth.
A large factor in the effect of the effort is the order maintained and the punctuality with which the lecture begins and ends. Equally important is the site which should be selected for the effort. Certain types of meeting halls will be avoided by the better class of people. Our meeting places should do honor to the worthy cause we represent.
Space in daily or weekly newspapers is always a great help both in advertising and in getting our sermons into the hands of the people. But attacks on other churches should be avoided when we use this medium. Only such subjects should be chosen as will impress the better class of people with the dignity of our message.
The evangelist should not allow himself to become so absorbed in his work that he does not have time for private prayer and devotion. The great task of soul winning calls for agonizing prayer on the part of God's spokesmen.
Organization of a formal Bible study in connection with an effort was strongly advised, and the suggestion made that thirty minutes be devoted to this each evening preceding the main service. This half hour could be used for more intensive study of Bible topics and for the preparation of those in attendance for the truths to be presented in the sermon. It was found that possibly eighty-five per cent of those accepting the truth had received their preparation in the Bible hour. In the construction of a tabernacle, a separate room should be provided for the use of such a Bible class.
A large effort should take from fourteen to eighteen weeks. The interest of the people should not be hurried, and candidates for baptism should be fully established in the faith before the evangelist leaves the effort to go to some other place. An evangelist must see to it that those who are baptized by him are thorough Seventh-day Adventists before they are received into the church. But, nevertheless, the very first sermon should be constructed in such a way as to call for some sort of decision on the part of the congregation. Every sermon, Bible study, and visit should lead to a decision. Arguments should be avoided, and the interested individual should be constantly led to an agreement with the message presented. Tact needs to be used, and the evangelist should take care not to give the impression that he regards, himself as superior to the interested souls or to their pastors. The truth should be clearly presented, and thereby error will most effectively be exposed. The evangelist should take care to have the thoughtful cooperation of those who are interested, so that whatever step they take will be taken with the decision of their own minds.