Extensive Every-Night Evangelism Needed

Extracts from a statement made at the General Conference Officers' meeting held in Battle Creek, Michigan, just prior to the 1941 Autumn Council.

By W. H. BRANSON, Vice-President of the General Conference

There is one point on which we have been weak in all our efforts to promote larger evangelism, and that is action. We pass resolutions, and they are as good and as strong as we can write them. But after we have passed these resolutions, we do not seem to get up momentum. Some of our workers do not take what is voted on evangelism seriously enough to put much of it into actual practice in the field.

One cause for weakness is that many confer­ence committees do not really plan for evan­gelism. Recently I was talking with a young man in a certain division who said, "I am plan­ning to start an effort in a certain place."

I asked, "Who is going to help you ?"

"I do not think anybody is going to help me except my wife," he replied.

Then I asked him, "Why don't you ask the conference to give you some help ?"

"The conference doesn't seem to care whether I hold an effort or not,' he said. "The conference has told me that I can do it or not, just as I like. They are not planning to put any money into it."

I trust that this does not represent the atti­tude of many conferences or mission fields. But I have found as I have gone around the world that too many of our committees are not planning for evangelism enough to block out periods of time during the year when their evangelists can get away from some of the details of church administration and take up this work.

A great deal depends upon the attitude of the presidents of the conferences and the su­perintendents of mission fields. We have had many field leaders who have had evangelistic experience. But, strange to say, they seem to let that part of their work rock along when they take charge of a field. If we would but put half the effort and planning and organiza­tion into evangelism that we put into Harvest Ingathering, I am sure that it would go over in a large way. But we are not doing it. In some fields the evangelists themselves are very largely planning their own work, and too often without the sympathetic co-operation of the leaders of the fields.

Skepticism Over Nightly Evangelism

If you could meet with these committees scattered over the world field, as some of us do, you would seldom find the item of evange­lism on their agendas. We ask, "How many efforts are you going to hold?" They reply, "That is left to the workers." If the workers plan to hold an effort, and ask for help, then they are encouraged to go ahead and do it. If they do not, there is not much said about it. That may not be a general situation, but it is too general, I fear.

We find in many of the world division fields that when we advocate larger evangelism, the men just do not understand what we are talk­ing about. Recently, in a foreign field, I gave a study on this subject, and talked to the work­ers about how inadequate short efforts of two or three weeks are to make Seventh-day Ad­ventists out of people. I thought I had made an impression. It was not, however, more than two or three days until they were talking and planning to hold some public efforts of but three or four weeks. They evidently had not even heard what had been said. It was evi­dent that no change was contemplated. They had always done it that way, and so of course that was the way to do it.

We must have longer efforts, strong, well-organized efforts. I do not know what we can say to get workers to understand that some of the methods that have been followed are absolutely unsatisfactory.

I find a great deal of skepticism throughout the world concerning this idea of holding long efforts—holding meetings every night in a week, or nearly every night, and con­centrating right in one place for three to five months until we have really gathered some material fruit. This plan is not believed in in some places. It has been demonstrated in every field around the world where it has been tried that that is the way, and it has been talked in our workers' meetings. But we can­not get some workers to believe in it suffi­ciently to actually launch out and try the new methods.

In one country I visited, there was not a man who was holding a meeting more than one night a week. It was exceedingly diffi­cult to change that situation, and to get some to see that it was necessary to move faster than that. I am not sure even now that we succeeded in this. Only fifty-two public ser­mons in a year ! We can never cover our world territory that way. But I think the impression prevails more or less among our workers in many countries of the world that they cannot hold the people through the week. This is a tragic error. It is absolutely un­true. Men of vision who didn't know that it "couldn't be done" have gone into those same countries and proved that the people will cOme to hear this message any week night.

When we were out in China some years ago the brethren were talking about evan­gelism, and someone said, "Well, that kind of evangelism can't be carried on in China. It just won't work here." And yet during that very meeting we got word that Brother Frederick Lee, up there in Changsha, was holding meetings in a large new auditorium which we had built in the city, and after the first meeting or two had to tear down his signs so that more people would not come. He was getting into trouble with the police because of the crowds that attempted to attend his meetings.

It has been proved in America, China, Africa, Europe, and most of the other sections of the world that this plan for gathering the masses together and preaching the truth to them, holding on for a few months in one place, and conducting meetings every night, really wins souls and builds up a strong, stable work. And yet how to get that fact across to our workers, how to get them to believe in it and really launch out and undertake it, how to get leaders to put it on their agendas and actually start their men working along this line, is the task before us.

We come up to General Conference ses­sions, and to these Autumn Councils. We pass resolutions regarding this plan of evan­gelism, and send them out to the ends of the earth. And yet very little is done about it, because so many do not believe in the prin­ciple. It seems to me that we will have to inaugurate a different method of education and promotion. We will have to promote this matter twelve months in the year. We will have to plan that when our leading men go out to the mission fields, they will make evan­gelism item Number 1, and count that a General Conference man has not done his duty in these fields until he has done every­thing within his power, in co-operation with the division leaders, to promote this kind of public evangelism.

What can we do to awaken our leaders and ministers throughout the world to this kind of preaching, this kind of organized, continu­ous, protracted effort, where we stay for three or four months and actually indoctrinate the people and lead them into the truth? I think that if we could only do something to make effective in the field what we have been voting for the last few years, we would be taking a big step forward.

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By W. H. BRANSON, Vice-President of the General Conference

March 1942

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