Although we cannot always secure the ideal place for our meetings, yet a number of different types of meeting places may be acceptable. The choice depends largely upon local conditions and the meeting places available. We here list those best adapted to our needs.
1. Auditoriums Ideal. In the average modern city of today are to be found large meeting places, usually centrally located and widely known to the populace. There are cities having more than one auditorium of more than one size. Thus a choice is afforded. These auditoriums are usually equipped with every modern convenience for the comfort of large audiences, and they usually have smaller rooms that can be used for prayer, for study, or for aftermeetings. Such auditoriums are preeminently acceptable for a city evangelistic campaign.
2. Theaters Desirable. The modern, Centrally located, comfortably seated, well-lighted theater or moving-picture hall, when possible to secure, is a desirable meeting place. In certain sections of the country this type of meeting place has been, and will doubtless continue to be, successfully utilized for evangelistic services. It is often well to secure such a popular place for Sunday nights, even though it is necessary to occupy a smaller, near-by hall or church building for meetings on other nights of the week.
3. Armory Easily Adapted. In many of our larger cities, the National Guard controls an armory. With its spacious drill hall and other conveniences, readily adapted to evangelistic services, the armory is a very suitable meeting place when appropriately located.
4. Various Halls Suitable. All kinds of lodge halls, Y.M.C.A. or Y.W.C.A. halls, community halls, women's club halls, etc., usually make advantageous meeting places.
5. Advantages of Tabernacle. When for various reasons we are unable to secure meeting places in permanent buildings such as those already mentioned, or when it is decided to conduct a campaign of long duration, we have found it necessary to build a meeting place of our own in the form of a tabernacle. The tabernacles most familiar are (I) of rough, unfinished wood construction; (2) a portable tabernacle of wood and steel construction; or (3) a modernized stream-lined tabernacle. This last-named type is of unique curved-roof construction and of attractive appearance. The plans for tabernacles often provide for choir room, evangelist's study, caretaker's room, baptistry, and rest rooms. Tabernacles offer the distinct advantage of being under the complete control of the evangelist, and are used exclusively for soul-winning purposes. Any number of meetings at any time of the day or evening, can be arranged in the tabernacle on short notice, and at little additional cost.
6. Definite Place of the Canvas Tent. Successful tent meetings continue to be conducted every year. Although it has been outmoded in the larger cities where other types of assembly are taking its place, in smaller cities, towns, and rural sections, there is still a definite place for the tent effort. Thousands will yet be won to the truth in well-located evangelistic tent meetings.
7. Unusual Meeting Places. In addition to the usually known meeting places, there are other good evangelistic meeting places. The "Air Dome" is an open-air meeting place, often surrounded by neatly hung canvas. The wall of a big tent has been found to be suitable for this purpose. A platform with a canopy, a sounding board, a musical instrument, lights, and a seating arrangement rounds out the equipment. This forms a suitable meeting place where the climate is right and the weather is stable. This type seems fitted for cities where only a limited space is available, and also where municipal fire restrictions or other restrictive regulations would rule out a tent or a tabernacle.
Other unusual meeting places are church buildings of sister denominations when appropriable, and large ballrooms in well-known, respectable city hotels. Street-corner meetings have been conducted as feeders for large evangelistic efforts and also as efforts in themselves. Vacant store buildings and garages in cities, and schoolhouses in rural sections, have at times been pressed into emergency service with profitable results. And we must not overlook the opportunity of using our own church buildings to good advantage in holding meetings. Added lighting facilities and an evangelistic sign or banner in front would convert many of our church buildings into places of attraction to the general public.
In considering these evangelistic meeting places, it may spur us on to still greater achievement to think of Christ, our example, who conducted His work on so great a scale "that there was no building in Palestine large enough to receive the multitudes that thronged to Him."—"Gospel Workers," p. 41. On the green hillslopes of Galilee, in the thoroughfares of travel, and by the seashore, the Master established His forum. In this connection comes the inspired statement of encouragement to our city evangelists of today : "The Lord has given to some ministers the ability to gather and to hold large congregations."—Id., p. 345. Referring to unusual locations of today, the servant of the Lord writes:
"In the world-renowned health resorts and centers of tourist traffic, crowded with many thousands, . . there should be stationed ministers and canvassers capable of arresting the attention of the multitudes." —"Testimonies," Vol. Dc, p. 122.
Inspired by the new and grand vistas of world evangelistic opportunities opening before us, let us consider anew the best locations for evangelistic meeting places. Think of the careful study which commercial concerns give to choosing the most suitable location procurable. When selecting places for their enterprises, department stores, chain grocery stores, ten-cent stores, restaurants, cafeterias, and filling stations first studiously survey the possibilities. They not only seek the best business street, but they also look for the busiest block in that section. They go even farther, as I learned from personal interviews with businessmen. They endeavor to ascertain which side of the street in that particular block is frequented by the largest number of people. And that side of the busiest block in the busiest section is considered the point of greatest advantage and opportunity. So important do they regard the best location that if a site in that desirable section is not available at first, alert men watch for changes and vacancies, and embrace the first opportunity to move their entire enterprise in order to establish themselves in the most desirable spot.
Guiding Principles for Selection
Said the Master : "The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." The poor locations selected for many of our church buildings and evangelistic meeting places amply attest our general lack of good judgment in these matters. However, profiting by the mistakes of former years, we ought now to redeem the time by avoiding the failures of the past and choosing better locations in the future. Three great guiding principles may well be followed in selecting the most success-producing locations for any type of evangelistic meeting:
a. Choose the Best. The best is none too good for Heaven's enterprise and God's work of saving souls. The place of meeting should be the most well-known and most favorably located that ways and means at our disposal can secure. Non-Adventists will be apt to judge the importance of our message and work by the type of place in which the message is presented. As anciently God called for the first-born and the first fruits to be dedicated to Him, so today we may well seek a place of meeting in which to proclaim God's truth that is suitable in reputation, dignity, accessibility, and attractiveness. Such a meeting place, though expensive, will draw a class of people able to help carry on the work.
Use the First Floor. For our second guiding principle, let us agree that the first floor is always preferable. If a first floor is absolutely unavailable, then one must accept the handicap, and in the strength of the Lord go forward, doing the best he can. However, some estimate that in meetings held on the second floor of a hall or auditorium the attendance is 25 per cent lower than it would be in a first-floor meeting place.
Size Commensurate with Ability. The evangelist's ability to arrest the attention of the multitude should measure with his desires for a sizable meeting place. In other words, whenever I can choose the size of my meeting place, then I naturally assume responsibility to fill the meeting place I have chosen. If faith impels me to pitch a large pavilion tent, to rent a spacious auditorium, or to secure a sizable theater, then is it not reasonable to expect that I should be able to attract sufficient persons to fill that meeting place? Our experienced men agree that it is better to have a smaller place filled to overflowing than a large place only partially filled.
In general, it seems best in smaller cities and towns to select a place most frequented by the people of that city, on one of the main streets in or near the very center of the town. Sites near the post office or the courthouse have afforded excellent locations. In larger cities, where a popular auditorium, hall, theater, or armory may be secured, one of these is generally the best site. However, when a meeting place of our own is to be erected, such as a tent or a tabernacle, then it is well to give careful, mature consideration to locating it in or very near the center of one of the large sections of the metropolis, and also on or near the main bus or streetcar lines and intersections. We must not overlook giving consideration to the main arteries of automobile traffic. In congested areas of our large cities, it is best to locate where ample parking space is already available or where it can be provided. Any location should be a respectable place, in a neighborhood of good reputation, and if possible, a place where the people are accustomed to going.
In our large eastern cities it is difficult to find, and then often more difficult to secure, city lots, auditoriums, and theaters, or to build tabernacles. And we can but expect increasing difficulties with each passing year. Building requirements, fire regulations, and zoning restrictions all add their burdens. Nevertheless, the call to evangelistic soul winning will continue to sound forth in clear, insistent notes. When difficulties present themselves, we are to persevere in the strength of the Lord, and master the difficulties.
"The greatest victories gained for the cause of God are not the result of labored argument, ample facilities, wide influence, or abundance of means ; they are gained in the audience chamber with God, when with earnest, agonizing faith men lay hold upon the mighty arm of power." "Though apparent Impossibilities obstruct their way, by His grace they are to go forward. Instead of deploring difficulties, they are called upon to surmount them. They are to despair of nothing, and to hope for everything." —"Gospel Workers," pp. 259, 39.