The Radio in Evangelistic Efforts

The radio is unquestionably one of the most wonderful achievements of man that have been devised in the providence of God for the accomplishment of the mighty work of warning the world of the imminence of His coming.

By ROBERT L. BOOTHBY, Evangelist, Columbia Union Conference

The radio is unquestionably one of the most wonderful achievements of man that have been devised in the providence of God for the accomplishment of the mighty work of warning the world of the imminence of His coming. In "Testimonies," Volume IX, page log, we are admonished to "make use of every means that can possibly be de­vised for causing the truth to stand out clearly .and distinctly." God wants us to make ear­nest use of the radio.

There are two methods that may be em­ployed in preaching our message over the radio. One is to use the radio as a single instrument in conducting an evangelistic cam­paign. By this I mean that the radio would be employed independent of any public meet­ings. It is possible to conduct a strong evan­gelistic campaign entirely by radio—by preaching the truths of our message over the air, securing names by offers of copies of the sermons or other pieces of literature, or by some other means inducing listeners to send in their names, and then following up these names with personal visits in the homes. But I have been asked to discuss the practical use of the radio in connection with a series of evangelistic meetings in a public effort. So I will confine myself largely to this particular method of radio work. The radio can be made a great agency in publicizing a series of meet­ings. I have depended almost wholly in some campaigns upon the radio as a medium of ad­vertising.


The radio program should not be more than thirty minutes long, and fifteen minutes is quite acceptable. In a thirty-minute program, one should have about twelve minutes of good music, about thirteen minutes for a sermon­ette, and about five minutes for announcements of the meetings and asking for names by offering a piece of free literature. In a fifteen-minute program, I prefer to make the announcements after I have given the ser­monette, rather than at the beginning of the program. In the thirty-minute period, I make the announcements both at the beginning and at the close. The repetition makes for emphasis. In a fifteen-minute program I devote three minutes to music, three minutes to announce­ments, and nine minutes to the sermon.

The sermonette should be intensely interest­ing. There are two reasons why this is very necessary. First, the value of your program as an advertising feature is determined by the number of your radio listeners. If you fail to have an interesting program, you will not have a large radio audience, and consequently the value of your program for advertising will be almost nil. There should be no dull moments on the program, no multiplying of empty words. The dials of radios are so easily turned that any listener may easily shut off your program if he finds it uninteresting, and thus fail to hear you announce your meetings. On the other hand you may have a new lis­tener tune in in the very middle of your program or near the close. Your program should be such as to grip his attention imme­diately.

It is important that you have good music. Remember quality and not personality counts over the air. Insist on songs that have a heart appeal. Unless it is a song with a real message, I would rather the singer did not waste time that is costing real money, for we are paying for returns. I believe in using several illustrations in my radio sermonettes. These illustrations given rightly command the immediate interest of listeners. I do not be­lieve that we should tell stories just to be telling them, but every illustration should force home to the listener, with compelling attention, some great message of truth. Jesus often used a series of parables to attract His listeners, and to send His message home with power.


When using the radio in connection with a public effort, I do not give the Sabbath and other testing truths until I am nearing the close of my campaign. During my series of sermonettes, I am endeavoring to get as many listeners as possible, and to create a desire within them to attend the meetings. I like to dwell on the many aspects of salvation and the nearness of Christ's coming, until I come to the end of the series of meetings. The story of Jesus' coming has a great heart appeal and builds the audience in readiness to accept our message in its entirety. As I near the close of the campaign, when crowds are not the first consideration, but decisions to obey God's message are of primary consequence, then I preach the Sabbath, the law, and other kindred truths over the radio. Some listeners will stop lis­tening, but by this time I am sifting my lis­teners for the really interested ones.

There are some subjects that must not be given over the radio. Such subjects as "The Mark of the Beast," or "The Healing of the Papal Wound" would create bitterness on the part of many, and might cause you to lose your time on the air. You can announce these sub­jects under some attractive title, and present them in a public auditorium. Such a subject is received better when the listeners can see you, and have opportunity to see the spirit under which you deliver it.

I present the change of the Sabbath, but I do not speak of its having been changed by the Catholic Church. I show that the seventh day is the Sabbath in both the Old and the New Testaments, that Christ declared He never changed a jot or a tittle of the ten-command­ment law, and therefore He has not changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. And since many thousands today are observing the first day of the week instead of the seventh, it is very evident that man has made a change. I also read statements by leading ministers who acknowledge that Christ has not changed the Sabbath. I show that Daniel 7 :25 tells of a power that would change the law. Then I tell them I shall be glad to send them free literature that will make very plain who is represented by this little horn.


The radio popularizes the preacher and gives the people a desire to hear him. Our aim must ever be to convert the people to the message and not to the minister. Never­theless, we can never fully divorce the mes­senger and the message. Many people are first attracted to the meetings because they want to hear the speaker. Jesus said to the people who had gone to hear John preach:

"But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee." Matt. s i :8-so.

The people went out to see John, and when they saw John, they heard John's message. Many are first induced to hear the man, and then they hear God's message. The radio makes it possible for a man to go into a city as a stranger, and in a few weeks attract those who hunger for truth to attend his meetings. That is what I mean by saying the radio popu­larizes the preacher.

The radio will induce a constant stream of new attendants to the meetings, thus con­tinually building new interest. The radio is very effective in drawing Catholics to our meetings. Catholics, as we all know, are for­bidden to attend Protestant meetings, and they fear that in doing so they will bring upon them great judgment. But in the heart of many a Catholic is a real pang of hunger for a knowl­edge of truth that will satisfy. There are many in Catholicism today who are as thirsty for a pure drink from the wells of salvation as was Martin Luther. Although at first they are slow to attend a Protestant meeting, they will listen to the radio where their priest can't see them. Our messages from the Bible com­ing into their homes over the air cultivate their hearts' interests, and they will finally get the courage to come to the meetings. I have seen this demonstrated many times.


As to the most favorable time in the day for a broadcast, I will say that any time is better than no time. But personally I am al­ways anxious to get a period somewhere be­tween five and six in the evening, when broad­casting in connection with an effort. Most stations charge much higher rates after six o'clock; so the period just before then is valu­able under the low rate. After advertising your meeting in the newspaper, you would be glad to ring the doorbell of every home and give a last-minute appeal to the people to at­tend your service, if it were possible. That is just what you are doing in broadcasting just before six. It is only an hour and a half or two hours before they should be sitting in their seats at the meeting place. Your message over the air has warmed their hearts, they have been led to sample the manna from heaven, their spiritual appetite has been quick­ened, and now you are telling them, in as appealing a way as your ability makes possi­ble, where they can come and have their hun­gry souls fed.

Your sermonette should be interesting, soul stirring, full of life and hope. It should quicken the indifferent and bring a balm of solace to those in the slough of despond. It should convince all that you have something they need. The sermon should be well pre­pared. Remember, your audience does not see you. Your pleasing gestures, your magic smile, your attractive personality mean noth­ing over the air. People hear only what you say and how you say it. You must put into your words and voice and spirit that which will win. I prefer writing out my radio mes­sages and reading them. Thus I can weigh my thoughts and choose my words, and con­sider the tone of my voice. There is one thing to which a speaker must in so doing closely adhere: make his message such a part of him that he will not seem to be reading it. Five broadcasts a week make for a successful program. It is best to have not less than three. But use the radio, even if you can use it only once a week.

How can you secure listeners to your pro­gram? If you put on a worth-while program, it will advertise itself and secure many lis­teners. It is easy to secure a large radio audi­ence in connection with an evangelistic effort. On every announcement you put out for house­-to-house distribution, advertise your radio broadcast. In every newspaper article and every paid display advertisement, mention your broadcast. Advertise your meetings over the radio, and advertise your radio broadcast in your meetings. Make the one help the other. I have found it helpful to get out a radio an­nouncement in the form of a postal card with a blank place for the address. These can be given to church members and to those in attendance at the evangelistic meetings, to write in names and addresses on the cards, and send to their friends.


How shall we finance these broadcasts ? It is very helpful when the conference can pro­vide something in the budget for this. The evangelistic audience holds great potentialities for financing radio work. Calls may be made for those attending the effort to finance a broadcast. Sometimes I have the entire amount pledged by one person for a broadcast, with the promise that this broadcast be dedicated to his mother or a relative or friend. I have successfully used a dime folder, with proper announcement of the radio work printed on the outside, and slots on the inside into which dimes can be inserted.

You can also appeal to your radio listeners to send in money. Some radio stations will permit direct appeals over the air for money, and some have a policy contrary to this pro­cedure. But by offering a written copy of your sermon or some other piece of litera­ture, you can secure names, and then make a personal appeal by letter for money. I con­sider this appeal by letter the more successful and the least distasteful to a radio audience. Avoid making too much of money on your radio programs. The audience tires of hear­ing you continually asking for money. At the conclusion of one of my efforts, I sent a letter to my list of radio listeners, and was successful in raising several hundred dollars in this way.


Our opponents are busy misrepresenting us to prejudice the public against our work. They tell people that we don't believe in Christ as a Saviour—that we believe we are saved by keeping the law—that we don't believe in grace, and that we do not believe in being saved by the blood. The radio affords us a wonderful opportunity to preach Christ so that they will know these statements are untrue. It my re­cent Pittsburgh campaign, nearly every preacher falsely represented us and told his congregation not to come to our meetings.

These preachers said that we Seventh-day Ad­ventists did not believe in the blood of Christ. Several of my listeners said this turned them against their preacher, for they had heard me preach the blood of Christ, and they knew their preacher misrepresented us. One radio preacher falsely accused us many times over the air, and several told me they never listened to his program again.

One woman who was baptized during the campaign said she had been forbidden by her minister to come. But she listened to our first radio program, and the message sounded so good to her, that she said, "I niust go to the tabernacle." This experience has been dupli­cated many times in my work. I try to put forth the same earnest endeavor and appeal in my radio work that I would if I were sit­ting in the homes of the people, and it has a telling effect. We do not see the listeners, but the Spirit of God is carrying the message with conviction to their hearts.

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By ROBERT L. BOOTHBY, Evangelist, Columbia Union Conference

October 1939

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