At times we hear discussions that so emphasize the value of the laity in the preparation and work during evangelistic efforts, that some might well conclude that it would be almost impossible to conduct a successful effort where there is not already a church. Some might conclude that about all the evangelist has to do is to keep the church members busy giving the message, while he baptizes the converts.
Although it would be a deplorable lack of foresight and understanding on the part of an evangelist to fail to recognize the assistance that a large church membership can give to his effort, and to fail to harness such power, it is a grave mistake even to suggest that the laity might be so used that the preacher would no longer need to heed the inspired admonition, "Preach the word." All the assistance, help, and power which the laity can give the evangelist to preach the word is to be commended, but that which keeps him from heeding the clear mandate of the Scriptures is to be condemned.
Doubtless we all desire the help, the increased attendance, and the prospects of an abundant fruitage which a large church may contribute to an effort. And we should certainly carry on evangelism in places where we have strong support from our churches. But we should not allow this desire to keep us from giving proportionate time to evangelism in places where we have no churches. There are scores of small cities throughout America with a population of five thousand to fifty thousand or more, which have no Seventh-day Adventist church. Are these multiplied hundreds of thousands to go unwarned ? Should we continually allow our churches to keep us from proclaiming the message in towns and cities in which we have no organization? It would be better by far to so use the membership of these churches that the ministry might give more time to evangelism in new fields. This would be in perfect harmony with the recommendation unanimously voted at the St. Louis and Philadelphia evangelistic councils six years ago. In that report we find the following statement:
"Among these objectives which we will ask our churches to join us in making effective, we are placing, first, the apostolic plan of training our churches to care for their own interests, carrying forward their own work to a much larger degree than heretofore, supplying their own needs, officering and supervising their own activities, thus releasing the minister for ever-advancing evangelistic endeavor in new and unentered fields, while themselves become evangelistic agencies in their own surrounding territory."—Review and Herald, Feb. 28, 1935.
Realizing, then, the importance of laboring in cities in which we have no churches, what shall be our procedure? When starting an effort in such a city we may be confronted with technical problems difficult to handle, which could be easily solved in a city in which we have a church and could take some influential resident brother or sister with us to city officials. People are usually a bit suspicious of anything new that comes to town, and world conditions at present may make this condition worse. To decline to tell what church or organization is supporting a project might cause the curiosity of the people to become more intense.
Disclosing the Denominational Name
It may not be possible to remove all doubt from the minds of the public when we decline to disclose the denominational name. However, I believe that in the majority of cases it will be best at the beginning of the effort to refuse, because of unwarranted religious prejudice, to tell what organization is sponsoring the campaign. This view is supported by reasoning and experience, and both the Spirit of prophecy and the Bible lend support to it. In "Gospel Workers," we read, "In laboring in a new field do not think it your duty to say at once to the people, We are Seventh-day Adventists."—Page 119.
As a denomination we have long taught that John the Baptist and his message is typical of this people and the last message to the world. And we find in John 1:19-23, that when he was questioned by religious leaders regarding who he was, he merely replied that he was a voice crying, "Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias." In other words, all he revealed was the fact that he was proclaiming prophecy. We may do likewise, by informing people through the press and verbally that we intend to discuss present-day conditions in the light of Bible prophecy, and thus reveal something of what the future holds, and that we are a part of a great campaign that is being sponsored in every State in the Union for the purpose of making better men and women and more law-abiding citizens. In communities in which we are not known, to avoid classification with such groups as Jehovah's Witnesses, we may properly show that we are patriotic by flying our national flag on the outside of the tabernacle and by appropriately displaying it inside.
Advertising in cities in which we have no membership is practically the same as in cities in which we have churches, with the exception that more advertising may be required, and a greater variety of it, to attract a crowd. There will not be scores or hundreds of church members to enlarge the attendance by their presence, and by bringing their friends and their relatives. Therefore, the only way to get people to attend the meetings in these new places is through sufficient advertising.
It is well to advertise, not only to get people out, but to keep them attending, especially when we present the Sabbath question. One way I have found effective is to offer to give a Bible to all who will 'attend fifteen nights out of the next twenty. On the first Thursday or Friday night, I display a Bible and promise to give it to the person who invites the most people to attend the following Sunday night. I then place a notice in the printed advertisement which announces the Sunday night subject, that Bibles are to be given away. At the Sunday night service, the Bible is given to the one who has invited the most people, and I then state that I know that others also wanted a Bible, and I am going to tell how all may get one. I have cards prepared- to give out, as shown above.
These cards are given to all who want to try to get a Bible. From night to night they bring these tickets, and have them punched as they pass out the door. I arrange it so that the twenty nights will include three sermons on the Sabbath truth, and then end with a sermon on the mark of the beast. This not only aids in getting more people to hear the Sabbath truth, but it also aids in getting them to attend long enough and often enough to establish an interest in the message. In addition to these benefits, the plan secures for the evangelist the names and addresses of those who are likely to be most interested. When I have more of these cards printed, I think I shall add another rule to it, requiring all who try to get a Bible to be at least twelve years of age. But care should be taken not to make the rules so rigid as to defeat the purpose of the plan. [For advertisement of Bible given away, see page 43.—Ed.]
After the Sabbath truth has been explained. I establish a Sabbath school, but instead of conducting it in the forenoon, using the regular Quarterly, giving the mission reading, and calling it a Sabbath school, I conduct it in the afternoon. I use the Bible School of Evangelism lessons, and call it a Bible school, placing considerable emphasis on the name "Bible school." Before announcing that there will be a Bible school conducted, I talk about it at some service, and. get the people to express their interest in it by raising the hand, and, of course, finally settle that Saturday afternoon will be the time for the school. I also promise to give them a special sermon when the Bible class is finished.
Although the unworked fields may require a larger outlay of money from the conference in order to supply the evangelist with a sufficient number of helpers, and to meet the running expense of the effort, profitable efforts could be held in many of these places and scores of new churches organized. It is true that, in some respects, this work may be more trying. It may not be so interesting to the evangelist as where a large church membership exists, and the results may not be so spectacular, but men with the gift of evangelism and a message for the unsaved should not be so influenced by show that some of their time cannot be given to evangelism in cities in which there is no church. To permit the church to keep God's message from going into places where there is not already an organization is inconsistent with what we believe, and to some extent defeats the purpose for which the church was established.