Most of our evangelists today are equipped with some means of illustrating their messages. Some use charts, while others use the stereopticon and the projector. If a minister needs equipment like this to make the truth stand out clearly in the minds of his hearers, and to help in gaining and holding an interest, surely the lay worker also needs some such equipment. The following program, as conducted at Memphis, Tennessee, is based on a recognition of such need.
The set of twenty-four lessons used in Community Bible Schools covers in a logical way the fundamental truths which it is our duty to carry to the world. These lessons have been illustrated by the Southern Publishing Association, and are compiled on twenty-four film strips made and sold by the Mayse Studio in San Diego, California. These films are made on thirty-five millimeter film strip, and may be shown with the small projectors that are now on the market. The films show titles and subtitles as required, all leading texts, and appropriate illustrations, beautifully colored,
The films are placed in a lending library of the local church. By starting not more than two or three new studies or meetings each week, it is possible for as many as twenty or twenty-five lay workers to use one set of films. This necessitates supplying a manual* for the study of the lay worker, as he would not be able to get his film strip until a day or two before he is to give his study. The purpose of the manual is to tell what the film contains, the titles, verses, and illustrations. One projector can be used by two or three people quite readily if they live close enough or can arrange to pass it from one to another.
Program of the Bible Study
The lay worker prepares for his meeting by studying the printed Bible lesson in connection with the manual, and making notes. When he gets the film, he goes over it a time or two to make sure that his notes correspond with the film. He is then ready to give his study, and can return the film immediately thereafter.
Arriving at the place of meeting a few minutes early, he arranges a small sheet as a screen, and sets up and focuses his projector. When the hour of meeting arrives, he anlounces the opening song, if music is desired. If not, he asks all to kneel or stand for prayer. When the people are seated after the prayer, a few minutes may be spent in reviewing the preceding study; then the lights are turned out and the projector is turned on. A small reading light can be arranged to help the inexperienced to follow their notes.
Most of these studies will be held in homes, and it is usually advisable for the one who gives the study to sit or stand behind a small desk or stand on which are his Bible, notes, and projector, and operate his own machine. This helps to bring in a friendly spirit without giving the people the idea that someone is preaching a sermon. The people are looking at the screen rather than at the speaker. A text is flashed on the screen, and as the leader reads it aloud, everyone follows the words on the screen, and thus it is impressed upon the mind. During the comment, the attention of young and old is held on the subject either by the text before them or by an appropriate illustration or two.
The lay worker may bring in any additional thought or text that seems to him to make the subject plainer, by simply opening his Bible and reading, or by quoting the reference while the text just used remains before them. Thus he can bring in his own thoughts, but the film keeps him from going too far astray from the subject. This is often a greatshelp to the inexperienced. The study is always closed with prayer, after which the next meeting is announced and literature is distributed.
Literature Used.—At the close of the first meeting, the worker explains that this is the first study in a Bible course which covers many interesting and important Bible truths. He announces that one illustrated meeting will be held each week, and a printed copy of the study will be given, at the close of each meeting, to all who enroll in the course. There is no financial obligation to the people who enroll. All they do is give their name and address. We urge them to come to each meeting if at all possible.
The church, from its first Sabbath offerings, is to supply the lay workers with lessons and binders. The binders may be purchased at the ten-cent store. The church should have a supply of these lessons and binders on hand at all times, and someone appointed to look after this part of the program. As soon as a lay worker starts a series of meetings, he reports to this person the number of families who have enrolled, and receives the same number of complete sets of lessons and binders. He clips in each binder the lesson he gave the first week, and the lesson he expects to give at his next meeting. After his second meeting, he then passes out these two lessons and the binder to each one enrolled. Each week following he writes on slips of paper the names of those enrolled. The names and the lessons are fastened together with paper clips, and the lessons are passed out. The name is not written on the lesson itself, as that would mar the book of lessons.
Should anyone be absent, the leftover lesson should be delivered, if possible, or saved until the next week. The lay worker must keep this phase of the work straight. If others enroll as the meetings progress, the lay worker can apply to the church and get lessons for them also. He should give them the lessons up to date in the binder, and then one a week, following the regular procedure. If someone drops out, he should be visited, given the lessons he has missed, and invited back to the meetings. If a person should drop completely out, he could be given the remaining lessons. It is a good plan to give, along with the Bible lesson, a tract or a copy of Good News or Present Truth on the subject. Some people get much more out of literature in readable discourse form than in question-and-answer form. These tracts should also be paid for by the church.
Financing the Project.—It takes money to put on a program of this sort, of course, but where the plan has been tried, we find that our people rally to it. They believe in the program and want to see it carried out. We find that what is given for this work in no way affects the regular offerings of the church. Where the first Sabbath offerings for church literature have previously amounted to only $2 or $3, under this plan they jump to $so or $15, and the money seems to come just as easily.
Twelve Advantages of the Plan
1. It is easy to awaken an interest and to get a group together, using this plan. We always have more openings than we are able to fill. One lay worker reported 180 out to one of his meetings. For many weeks he had more than a hundred out each week. Another lay worker had more than two hundred out to a single meeting. There have been forty to fifty out to other cottage meetings. One sister had so many coming to her home on Friday nights that she had to call a double session, and for several weeks she had two studies at her home each Friday night.
2. The interest of the audience is held on the subject all the way through the meeting by material thrown on the screen.
3. The Bible texts are vividly impressed on the minds of the people because they have not only heard the verses read, but they have themselves read them with you and looked at them while you commented.
4. After hearing you speak, seeing the forceful illustrations, and reading the texts for themselves from the screen, they then receive in printed form the same lesson, which uses the very same texts in the same order in which the lesson was presented. This lesson they may study at home with their own Bibles, and it is clear to them because they have heard it all explained point by point.
5. In addition to the printed lesson, each one receives a tract or a paper which presents the same truth, with perhaps a different line-up of texts, by a different writer.
6. The fact that the people have enrolled in the course helps to keep them coming week after week.
7. It is less difficult to get our laymen to do this type of work, because it is much easier to give a study when the people are looking at the screen rather than directly at the speaker.
8. No matter how inexperienced, a lay worker cannot go far off the track in presenting the message, because the film will keep him on the general outline, which is very logical and conclusive. But there is still opportunity for the more experienced worker to bring in other texts or supporting thoughts of his own at any point he may desire.
9. Although the films and the projectors cost something, yet it is the most inexpensive way we have yet found to equip a large number of lay workers. Between $250 and $3oo equips twenty lay workers, or an outlay of only $15 for each worker. Our people believe in this type of work, and money will come for equipment and literature when the program is started. [For information on projectors, see page 43.—Editor.]
10. Work of this type is bound to win souls to Christ. It has brought forth fruit where it has been used.
11 The lay workers are themselves greatly strengthened as they study this message in order to be able to present it to others.
12. Such a program will bring new life, courage, and inspiration to the entire church wherever it is carried out.
A Word of Caution.—Lay workers must be led to look to God for power to enable them to present this great message to those who know it not. Never must they put their dependence on a manual or a film. The illustrations must not be used as a crutch. The study or talk is the main part of the meeting. The pictures merely amplify what is being said.
It is seldom necessary to call attention to the pictures by saying, "This is a picture of —." To do this will kill the effect of the study. To illustrate, in film-number i there is a picture of Nebuchadnezzar sleeping. Do not say, "This is a picture of King Nebuchadnezzar dreaming." Go ahead and tell about the dream, and while you are telling about it, let the picture be on the screen, but do not call attention to the picture. You are not there to explain what the pictures are. You are giving a study, and the pictures silently accompany you, to back up what you are saying.
How to Start a Lay Evangelistic Program
1. Preach a stirring sermon on the need of this type of work and outline the details of the program.
2. Pass out cards, such as the accompanying sample, on which the people may record their response.
3. Order a complete set of films and one or more projectors.
4. Appoint some capable person to look after the circulation of films, and to see that they are passed from one to another on time.
5. The church must order the Bible lessons from the Book and Bible House. There is a small saving if one hundred sets are ordered at one time, and compiled into sets by the church. Binders must also be kept in stock at the church. Look until you find binders that are plain and do not have arithmetic problems or tables in the inside of the cover, or that look like schoolbooks. I have found suitable binders in Woolworth's and other ten-cent stores.
6. From the cards received, select some of the most experienced laymen and see them personally. Give them manuals, arrange dates when they can use the films, and put them in touch with those who will open their homes for studies. Let these few pioneer the way. Then week by week start one or two new workers, and soon the work will grow to great proportions.
7. See that all who are interested in giving studies have an opportunity to buy the manuals and the Bible lessons for themselves. As they study the manuals and hear reports of the work others are doing, they will find or make openings for studies faster than you will be able to supply them with equipment.
8. Provision should be made for a regular lay fund toward which people can contribute when they feel impressed, so that new projectors may be secured from time to time as the work grows, and also to supply extra bulbs for the projectors. Projector bulbs are not long-lived and must be replaced from time to time. The cost of a 300-watt bulb is $2.70, and of a zoo-watt bulb, $2.00. A spare bulb should always be ready in the case, so that when one bulb burns out, another can be put in, and the program can go right on without interruption. Whenever a spare bulb is used, the lay worker must report it at once to the one in charge, so that another spare bulb can be secured and placed in the case.
9. As often as possible, call lay workers together for instruction and prayer, and to exchange experiences. If a class in giving Bible studies is not being conducted, each lay worker should be urged to secure and study the book, "How to Give Bible Readings." [See further information regarding this book and other helps for lay workers, page 47.—Editor.]
10. Urge the entire church to pray every day for these lay meetings. Have lay workers give reports of their work once in a while during the fifteen-minute missionary service.
Monthly reports showing the names of lay workers in the church, with the number of meetings held during the month by each, and the total attendance, should be passed out to the lay workers. Totals should be reported to the church each month. A sample of one such monthly report follows.
*A mimeographed manual telling what each film contains, as used by Elder Butterfield, may be obtained from the Kentucky-Tennessee Book and Bible House, 2001 24th Ave. N., Nashville, Tennessee, for twenty-five cents.