Unique and highly practical evangelistic council for the Central Union Conference was held in Boulder, Colorado, December 16-22. Administrative officials, departmental secretaries, pastors, evangelists, and district leaders of Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wyoming gathered for this special convention, presided over by the union president, J. F. Piper. The convention followed the plan of class instruction, and was really a school of evangelism taught by Elder J. L. Shuler. In the opening meeting, Elder Shuler sounded the keynote that was carried throughout the whole convention, basing his presentation on the call of the ministry in Isaiah 6:1-9. There is found in this text a great challenge to the Seventh-day Adventist ministry, outlined as follows:
1. "I saw . . . the Lord." (Vision.)
2. "I am undone." (Realization of one's need.)
3. Sin purged." (Regeneration.)
4. "Who will go?" (Sense of others' needs.)
5. "Send me." (Consecration to the task.)
6. "Go"—And He gives the enabling power.
The intensity of the times and the challenge of the hour solemnized the whole convention and whetted the interest of every worker present. The entire session was most practical.
Elder Shuler led out in the presentation and invited discussion and questions. It was evident throughout the meeting that all present had a great desire to learn better methods in carrying on last-day evangelism. For the benefit of those MINISTRY readers who were unable to attend this most profitable convention, 1 have been asked to present a few of the concrete suggestions made there which are applicable to large city efforts as well as to smaller efforts.
1. Preparation of Church for Service.—If a successful evangelistic effort is to be held in a given community, the church must first be stirred. This may be done either in a week of revival services for the church members, or on Sabbath mornings for a period of weeks preceding the opening of the evangelistic campaign. Upon the church members must be rolled the burden of praying for the evangelistic meetings and for the conversion of new members. For the church to enter into the true spirit of prayer, it must itself come up to a high spiritual plane. Our instructor suggested placing a card in the hands of each member during the church service preceding the opening of the campaign, on which are printed the fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. The evangelist explains to the members that the new converts will be expected to subscribe to all of these vital points, and therefore the church members themselves should take inventory to be sure they are living up to their own profession.
2. Preparatory Distriibution of Literature.—As one of the first steps in preparing the church for service, a special consecration service is conducted about five weeks prior to the beginning of the evangelistic campaign. At this service the matter of preparing the territory by distribution of literature is discussed. Volunteers are asked to turn in their names and addresses for this work. If unsuitable candidates offer their services, it can be explained to the group that it is not necessary to use all their volunteers in this way, and that some will be given other duties to perform. The territory around the evangelistic hall is divided into districts of a hundred homes each. Each distributor is given one district which he is to work every week with a special series of four very readable Good News leaflets (A to D in the series A to G) prepared from the viewpoint' of stirring up interest in deeper Bible study. (See page 40.)
During the first week the member takes Good News leaflet A to each door, endeavoring to get acquainted with the people personally. An open letter, printed on the front page of the first leaflet, explains the mission of the distributor, so that he does not need to linger to converse long with the people. During the second week, leaflet B is taken to the same home. Finally when leaflet D has been taken, the people are invited to turn in their requests for further reading matter, and the opening announcement of the meeting, starting the next Sunday night, is given out. From week to week thereafter, these distributors call at the same home with the handbills of the meetings. Three follow-up leaflets in this Good News series of seven are also available for those who request further reading matter. In this manner, the names of the most interested in the community can be obtained by the time of the opening of the evangelistic series, and thus the opening of the campaign is built up.
3. Evangelism Bible Schools.—Much time at the convention was spent on the possibility and method of organizing district Bible schools in a city or town, to be conducted during the evangelistic series on certain week nights, such as Monday. After the period of distribution of literature, when the names of interested ones are procured, special appointments are made for Bible schools to be opened in private homes. Details of this very practicable plan are contained in the pamphlet ''Bible School of Evangelism Plans," available through the Southern Publishing Association, Nashville, Tennessee. By this plan, ministers not engaged in large efforts can also carry on public evangelism through several Bible schools carried on simultaneously. In these Bible schools, the twenty-three outline studies are followed.
These lessons are obtainable not only in looseleaf notebook form, but also in filmslide strips from the Mayse Studio. (See page 43.) An article by H. M. S. Richards, which appeared in the September, 1940, MINISTRY, tells how one of his Bible workers presents her Bible studies each evening as a "pictured truth" feature preceding the evangelistic lecture by using these film strips and a projector.
Some of our radio speakers are mailing these Bible-school outlines to their most interested listeners week by week. A few are carrying on the work in the form of a correspondence course.* Every time a lesson is mailed in, a new lesson is mailed to the enrollee, the former lesson being graded and returned to the sender.
4. Use of the Question Box.—Most valuable was the presentation concerning a systematic question-and-answer period, preceding the evening evangelistic meeting. Oftentimes the question box has been a disconnected jumble of perplexities, but the speaker described his systematic use of the question box as a definite, progressive "build-up" for coming meetings, and a valuable review of preceding subjects. The plan is carefully outlined
See series on "Radio and the Divine Commission," by Dallas Youngs, starting on page 15 of this issue. In the third article of this series, to appear in the May MINISTRY, full details of a successful radio correspondence school are given.—Editor.
in the book "Public Evangelism." Mimeographed copies of 250 questions and answers, gathered by Elder Shuler during many years of question collecting, are available upon request from the S.D.A. Theological Seminary.
5. Progressive Appeals Toward Surrender.—Every minister would do well to study the "Testimonies," Vol. VI, pages 65 and 68, on the question of making appeals for surrender after each sermon. Progressive calls for prayer are described in detail as follows :
a. Hand Raising. During the early meetings of the series the people are asked to raise their hands in response to certain appeals, but not asked to take a stand on a definite proposition. Later they are asked to show publicly their position by standing.
b. Standing Calls.—From night to night the speaker varies the call to suit the subject, occasionally asking the people to stand. This leads to the next step.
c. Coming Forward. This is a consecration prayer call. It may be a general call forward, or it may be a more specific call in which the people are invited to come forward for definite reasons. Thus the people have become accustomed to answering calls, and the evangelist has gradually broken through a frigid resistance,
d. The Afterineeting. All are invited to stay for aftermeetings in which simple suggestions regarding the Christian life are given in an eight or ten minute talk. After this, they are invited to take advantage of a very special meeting in the prayer room. In these meeting-s the people are asked to make special requests for prayer. This meeting is informal. After counseling those who have come for special prayer, the evangelist closes with an earnest season of prayer. From interests obtained here, and from those who take their stand in the meetings, the baptismal class is later organized.
6. Class in Giving Bible Studies.—We have all observed that new members are enthusiastic Christian workers, on fire with zeal in their first love. This is the time to train them for definite soul-winning work. At the end of the effort, a class on "How to Give Bible Studies" should be organized immediately, so as to train our people in definite soul-winning methods. As strong leaders develop in this class, they may be used in conducting future Bible schools.
7. Center Every Doctrine in Christ.— Our instructor strongly stressed the importance of making Christ the supreme object of every doctrinal discussion. The only reason a doctrine is important is its connection with the great plan of Christ. Every presentation should tie to the wonderful plan of redemption. Hearts are melted under the warmth of the Sun of Righteousness. Lives are lightened by the light from Calvary.
The day's program during the convention was started by prayer bands, followed by a devotional study. The remainder of the morning was given over to the intensive study of evangelistic methods. Following the dinner hour came the round-table discussions, in which three or four men led out. One minister acted as the questioner, and the others entered into the discussion from their varying viewpoints. Following this informal discussion, the question was thrown open to the whole session for further discussion. In this informal way, we presented our varying problems and were able to learn the position of our fellow workers on the various points in question. In the latter part of each afternoon the convention again met for study of methods.
The evening meetings were conducted by Elder W. G. Turner. In his studies Elder Turner gave practical and concrete suggestions, and made most earnest appeals for deeper consecration and earnestness. These stirring meetings were of great value and inspiration to the whole group of workers.
In the sermon of the last Sabbath morning, Elder J. L. McElhany pictured the tragedies and triumphs of our work in these most difficult times. His closing appeal was one that those present will never forget: "If probation were to close in just two minutes' time, there would be two definite groups in this room, and only two groups—those who are ready, and those who are not. Each one of you would fall into one of these groups. There is no halfway place. Either you are ready, or you are not ready. Which group are you in now ?" In closing he pointed to the standards for the Christian life as outlined in 1 John 3:1-7.
Following the final discussion hour, the climax of the session was a modest banquet given by the Central Union Conference. Over and over were heard words of appreciation on the part of the workers to their conference president and union officers for making possible this most profitable convention. Special thanks were extended to Elder Piper for outlining a definite program, which was carefully followed, bearing directly on evangelism and methods. Scores of workers were heard to say, as the meeting came to a close, "This is the most practical and most inspiring convention I have ever attended."