Securing and Holding, an Audience

So delicate is the vine of evangelism and so precious the fruit which the husbandman rightfully expects, that every precaution should be taken against the inroads of the "little foxes."

By G. E. PETERS, Pastor, Harlem Church, New York City

It pays the evangelist to give heed to the admonition of Solomon: "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes." So delicate is the vine of evangelism and so precious the fruit which the husbandman rightfully expects, that every precaution should be taken against the inroads of the "little foxes,"—the negli­gences and mistakes which spoil or hinder that which has been divinely planted for the fruit­age of eternity.

It is my conviction that before the evan­gelist can ever hope to secure an audience, he must be conscious of the fact that he has a great message, and that he is prepared to tell it. If the evangelist has no message or is con­scious that he is not prepared to deliver his message, he will carry a mental reservation or have an inferiority complex which will make him not overly anxious for a large audience. We cannot logically hope for that which we do not desire. John the Baptist had a Spirit­indited message, and the people of Jerusalem, of the region about Jordan, and of all Judea went out into the wilderness to hear him. The finishing of the everlasting gospel message will be attended by mighty power such as has never been known in any previous age. But the messengers must be living receptacles of that power.

In starting out to secure an audience, be sure that you have a real message, whether it is to be given in a hall or in a tent. Be full of the message ! Then give yourself to much prayer, that God may send His Spirit to impress hearts to come and hear that message. If there is a church membership backing you, then hold regular prayer meetings with the church for a week or ten days preceding the effort, and pray for the Spirit Of God to impress hearts to come and hear. Pray also for God to bless. your advertising matter, so that it will suc­ceed in attracting the attention of the people to the meetings.

I believe in using proper accessories, and asking God to bless them. Cooperate with' Heaven and use the newspapers, posters, hand­bills, cards, and large pictorial signs announcing your subject, in order to gain the attention of the public. Advertise in a way that will arouse curiosity and interest.

Your announcement of subject should be terse and gripping. To illustrate, you could hope to attract a much larger audience with the title, "What Happened in Heaven Ninety-- four Years Ago?" than by announcing, "The Investigative Judgment." When I am about to present "The Spirit of Prophecy" in my evangelistic effort, I have sometimes even an­nounced as my subject, "The Headless Body and the Eyeless Head," that is, Christ the Head, the Spirit of prophecy, the eyes. In an­nouncing "The First Advent of Jesus," I would advertise, "When Michael the Archangel Lived on Earth." Instead of "Signs in the Sun, Moon, and Stars," I sometimes announce, "A Plain, Pointed, Positive Message Announced in the Sky." Instead of "The Great Image of Nebuchadnezzar's Dream," I announce, 'An­other Universal Kingdom Imminent—Will It Be in Our Day?" I speak on "The Millen­nium" under the subject, "Satan's Waterloo," or, "When Christ Captures the Devil and Binds Him for a Thousand Years." "The Set­ting Up of Christ's Kingdom" is announced as "All the World Under One Flag!"

Nevertheless, we must bear in mind that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against . . . spiritual wickedness in high places." That is why I contend that prayer should be primary, and accessories secondary. The apostle Paul, realizing that he was fight­ing against supernatural power, placed his de­pendence on God, and in this lay his strength. The late Elder A. G. DanielIs once said that no man has a right to be a Seventh-day Ad­ventist minister who is not a flame of fire. If the evangelist gives out dry doctrine evening by evening, his audience will constantly dwin­dle. Therefore we must make every sermon spiritual, and the only way to do this is to be spiritual ourselves.

Another drawing attraction is to have the hall or tent clean and neatly decorated. Music is also of prime importance in an evangelistic effort. Most people like to sing; therefore songbooks should be provided and selections from the old, familiar hymns announced. Give opportunity for special requests for favorite hymns. It is also well to teach the congrega­tion to sing new songs. A number of people will attend regularly because of the music. The finer qualities in some hearts can be stirred into action only by song.

Finally, as in the outset, it must be recog­nized that the power to secure and hold an audience is from above. Though we are to use all available accessories, we must depend primarily on the guidance of Heaven. Do not be too set in your method. Be susceptible to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, who will give wisdom for every emergency and for each new clay. The evangelist should set himself to graduate his effort on the ascending and not on the descending scale. One sure way to kill an evangelistic effort and to drive away your audience is to conduct yout services with sermons that are dry and long-winded. Learn how to use successfully the rather blunt three S's: "Stand up—Speak up—Shut up."

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By G. E. PETERS, Pastor, Harlem Church, New York City

February 1939

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