There are two fields of service for the home-base evangelist. These two fields are the country and the city. One differs from the other in many respects; and paying close attention to these differences will help an evangelist to succeed. The approach to the people in the country must oftentimes be entirely different from the approach in the city. My introduction to the gospel work was in the country. With another worker in charge of the mission, we began an effort in a country town. The attendance was not large, and I felt that we must go out and visit the people in the surrounding country. And this visiting opened up homes and brought in far more results than did the mission tent.
I have found that a frank, practical, sympathetic appeal to the people through avenues of natural approach is a wonderful success in the country—helping a wood chopper for an hour or so, milking a few cows, taking hold of a hoe or a shovel for awhile—these I have found to be most successful ways of winning people to a frame of mind in which the gospel seed will take deep root.
In beginning efforts in country towns, an evangelist may be wise in setting aside the ordinary procedure of listing his full series of meetings, and concentrate upon his first subject, choosing one of vital interest to the community. For instance, on one occasion I opened a series of meetings with a talk on "Agriculture in New Zealand," and the meeting was a real success. In a coal-mining town, one could well open his effort with a lecture on coal mining. This would require the evangelist to study coal mining in the great countries of the world, and to learn the depth of mines and their output; then, drawing attention to how coal is formed, he could lead the audience into the story of the great Flood.
In a wheat-farming district, an evangelist can give a most interesting talk from the Bible on the cultivation of soil and crops. This requires study, but an encyclopedia will provide the information. By announcing subjects that come close to the lives of the people, one can disarm prejudice and allay suspicion.
An evangelist is listed among those thought to be parasites by the hard-working public, and it is highly important that he show himself to be a man who can do practical things, and who can be sympathetic and understanding in his contact with people. Unless friendly contact is made with country people, an evangelist might just as well pack up and leave. In the country his approach must be tactful and individually direct. Untiring visiting must be continued, with tact and good understanding.
The work must be largely done in the homes of the people. To do this, a means of transportation, charts, lantern slides, and films, are indispensable today.
Different Approach in City.—In the city the approach is different. Here the people do not know everyone else in the community. The evangelist starts out with big advertisements. Hoardings (billboards), newspapers, and handbills bring out the people. And when you get the people out, the next responsibility is to hold them. A good choir, selected vocal and instrumental music, and stereopticon equipment will help the lecturer.
According to the capacity of the crowd which an evangelist can hold, so must his staff be numbered. The success of many an able speaker is minimized because he does not have a staff who will mingle among the people.
His associates often tend to lean on him as the one to secure the interest, instead of moving among the people to contact interested ones. Thus thousands come and thousands go, never to be reached again, because personal contact was not made. This is what I call "scorching territory." These people cannot be as easily interested the second time as they were the first time.
I have found that suburban efforts work more satisfactorily when only a few hundred people come. After close observance of evangelistic work here in Australia during the last twenty years, I am positive that the moderate-sized meetings produce the best results. This is obvious, for the leading evangelist can do only a certain amount, and he has all that he can deal with in handling a few hundred who come to the suburban mission. He is the key man of the mission to unlock doors for his staff, and the staff should be untiring in encouraging and widening the interest.
A Danger to Avoid.—I think the gravest danger an evangelist must avoid is his loss of spirituality. He feels that he must thrust himself before the public to secure an audience. He must advertise himself. He must parade himself before the people in studied gesture and metaphorical language. And all the time his better nature revolts at this. He feels his spiritual life ebbing away as his ability to entertain grows. And because of this, when he conies to the great testing truths that demand spiritual power and unchallenged sincerity and earnestness, he feels his own lack of power to persuade the people. Men and women will not sacrifice a day from their business each week or a tenth of their income, unless they are fully convinced that the evangelist himself absolutely believes and practices what he is preaching and advocating. The power of Christ must be seen in his life in heartfelt sincerity.
The evangelist needs the prayers of God's people. There is no work more severe on the whole physical, moral, and spiritual life than the strain on a responsible evangelist. Having served in nearly all departments of our work, including executive work, I can truthfully say that the responsibility to win souls to God today is the heaviest of all. All other workers have their congregations and people gathered for them by the evangelist. Joy and bitterness, hope and disappointment, happiness and sorrow, gains and losses, play havoc upon the nerves of a responsible evangelist. Often the only calm is found in the chamber of prayer.