The Place of Public Evangelism No. 1

There are many today, not of our faith, who are sens­ing the fact that the home has been recreant to its trust.

By JOHN L. SHULER, Instructor in Evangelism, S.D.A. Theological Seminary

Much counsel, admonition, and instruction regarding the home and the family have been given to this people through the Spirit of prophecy, which other churches do not have. We profess to believe the state­ment in "Ministry of Healing," that "the well­being of society, the success of the church, the prosperity of the nation, depend upon home influences," but unless we do more than give assent with the mind, we cannot hope to be "the head and not the tail" in promoting the work of the home.

Other Denominations Aroused.—There are many today, not of our faith, who are sens­ing the fact that the home has been recreant to its trust. Many serious-minded people of other denominations are concerned about the condi­tion of the home and its influence upon world conditions.

A great "United Christian Advance for 1942­45" is now being launched throughout this land by many denominations through the "Inter­national Council of Religious Education." Sensing the fact that "parents need more definite help in fulfilling their teaching responsibilities," they are going ahead with plans for instructing parents and for improving the spiritual and moral conditions of the home. It is their en­deavor to reach every person in this country with Christian teaching.

During April and May of this year they held 135 one-day conventions throughout the United States, where the matter of Christian advance was studied, and definite plans were laid for its promotion—first, by emphasizing religion in the home, and then in the church and the com­munity. It was my privilege to attend one of these conventions, the theme of which was, "Speak to My people that they go forward." It sounds just like a Seventh-day Adventist theme, does it not? This convention was held in one of the popular churches on the West Coast, and the building was simply packed.

The work of the home and of the church were closely linked together in the discussions which took place. Many anxious parents were present, wondering what to do for their children. One mother (not an Adventist) said with anguish in her voice, "What are they teaching in the public schools these days ? Why, my boy has learned to disbelieve the Bible !" Another told of a preschool child who, when his mother suggested teaching him the Lord's Prayer, re­plied, "Aw, don't teach me that. Teach me something nice and jazzy !"

Two important phases of home religion were suggested : one, regular Bible reading and prayer ; two, living as Christians in the family.

Evangelism includes every kind of effort that brings men to a saving knowl­edge of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are various lines of evangelism. Some of these as­pects of evangelism may be designated by such descriptive terms as public, personal or indi­vidual, radio, medical, literature, pastoral, cor­respondence, educational, singing, Sabbath school, Bible reading or Bible school, and even prayer and godly life evangelism. We list public evangelism, or preaching, at the head of these various forms of evangelism, because God has appointed public evangelism, or preach­ing, to hold first place in this highest, noblest, holiest, and most important work committed to man—that of leading souls to the Lamb of God.

It has "pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." 1 Cor. 1 :21. The New Testament teaches most em­phatically that man's salvation depends upon knowing and accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ. It also shows most clearly that preach­ing is the chief means by which men are to learn the gospel. In fact, it indicates that with­out preaching men may not learn the gospel. Thus it is written, "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear ' without a preacher ?" Rom. 10:14.

Public evangelism has been appointed by the Head of the church as His primary method of carrying out the great commission. He said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." He instructed also "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations." Ac­cording to His pronouncement in Matthew 24: 54, it is the preaching of the gospel of the king­dom unto all nations, that will bring the finish­ing of the work, the end of this age, and the consummation of the Christian's hope.

Evangelism may be likened to a great tree, with Jesus Christ, the root; public evangelism, or preaching, the trunk; and the various lines of evangelism, such as personal work, distribu­tion of literature, medical missionary endeavor, Christian education, Sabbath school work, mis­sionary correspondence, Bible readings, and Bible schools, etc., as the branches of the tree. As every branch contributes its part to the making of the tree, so each of these lines of evangelism has its place in God's plan for saving the lost. In their zeal to promote one certain line of evangelism some have made the mistake of attempting to displace the trunk of the tree with one of its several branches. But no single branch, or all of them put together, can take the place of the trunk. Public evan­gelism holds the same relative place in the work of God's, church as the trunk does to the form and existence of the tree.

All ministers are called of God to be soul winners, but not all ministers are called to do public evangelism. God has given some to be pastors and teachers, and He has given others to be evangelists. Some ministers may not be qualified for the conducting of public efforts, but every minister ought to make the winning of souls his first and supreme objective. Some ministers will win more souls by pursuing per­sonal work, conducting Bible schools, or by training workers, than by conducting public efforts. This we should recognize. But the church of God must never lose sight of the fact that public evangelism is the spearhead for her advance in the achievement of her appointed mission.

As the church multiplies its de­partments, institutions, committees, bureaus, and machinery, there is increasing danger that ministers will leave the word of God to serve tables. Too often the church increases her activities in certain lines at the expense of decreasing her evangelism. Any church ac­tivity that is minus the evangelistic objective is a hindrance and not a help in the divinely appointed work of the church.

Conference or mission committees, with all their activities, plans, and financial expendi­tures, ought never to relegate public evangelism to some second or third place when God has put it in the primary place. It is not according to God's plan to take men who ought to be pro­claiming the truth to the perishing multitudes, and fill their hands so full of church business that they have no time to preach God's message to those in darkness. Every minister who shows an aptitude for public evangelism ought to be given the best possible opportunities for developing into a strong evangelist who can reach the largest possible number of persons in public evangelism.

The book of Acts furnishes ample proof of what may be accomplished by public evangelism, and the place it should occupy in the program of the church. It tells the story of what was ac­complished by the preaching of the gospel. If you will trace the word "preach" in its various derivatives in the book of Acts, you will see that preaching was the chief and foremost activity in all the work of the apostles.

It was preaching on the day of Pentecost that converted the three thousand. The conversion — of the Samaritans to the gospel was brought about by a public evangelistic effort conducted in the city of Samaria, when Philip "preached Christ unto them." It was by preaching that the gospel was extended from Jerusalem. It was by preaching that churches were raised up in such great cities as Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, Antioch, etc. It was an intensive and extensive public evangelism that made it possible for Paul to declare in 64 A. D. that the gospel had been preached to every creature on earth. (Col. I :23.)

When we follow down the stream of church history, we see that preaching has had a prominent place in all the great Christian movements. It was the preaching of the Reformers that started the Reformation. It was the preaching of George Fox that started the Quaker move­ment. It was the preaching of John Wesley, Whitefield, and their associates that turned Eng­land back to God. In later days the revival produced by Charles Finney was the result of his preaching. Moody's great revivals were the result of preaching. Even though there were auxiliary things that greatly helped in these revivals, yet these attending helpful things sprang from preaching. Had Moody done noth­ing but write, he would never have stirred the people as he did. His writing was inspired by his own preaching.

Without a single exception, so far as I am aware, in every country in the world where the work of our message has made the best and swiftest progress public evangelism has been utilized as God's primary method. Just to the extent that other methods, good and necessary as they are in their place, have been pushed to the forefront, ahead of public evangelism, or have been allowed to eclipse it, just to that extent has the real advancement of the message been slowed down. It is significant that at a recent conference of missionary leaders from Moslem countries, after spending many years in evangelism along educational and medical lines with hardly any fruitage, they decided to center their efforts henceforth on preaching the gospel.

Public evangelism is a divinely ordained way whereby a knowledge of God's message may be imparted to hundreds and thousands at one time by one man, and where the interested can be taken into after-meetings and led over the line by the score. The evangelist with a regular nightly audience of five hundred non-Adventists may thus teach five hundred the truth in almost the same length of time in which a personal worker would need to teach the truth to one individual if he gave him one Bible study daily.

This comparison does not depreciate in the least the high value and basic importance of per­sonal work in all evangelistic endeavor. But we cite this comparison to emphasize the tre­mendous opportunities wrapped up in public evangelism.

Some of our experienced evangelists are find­ing that the total number baptized from the nightly public effort is equal to about one third of the average nightly attendance. On this basis the effort with the average nightly attend­ance of five hundred non-Adventists may yield around one hundred sixty additions to the advent movement in a space of three or four months. The opportunities which a five-or­six-nights-a-week public effort affords for bringing scores and hundreds into the faith in a space of a few months make this method of superior value in our work, particularly in the moderate-sized city.

One of our evangelists recently held two efforts in a large public auditorium in a metro­politan center of more than half a million people. Meetings were conducted for five nights a week for about twenty weeks in each effort. More than 500 were won to the truth by these two efforts. It is safe to say that no other evan­gelistic method, aside from public evangelism and its follow-up work, could have produced such excellent results in that city in the space of one year. This is what has made a nightly public evangelism of supreme importance in the work of Seventh-day Adventists, who have such a great work to do for earth's teeming millions in such a short time.

To be concluded in February

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By JOHN L. SHULER, Instructor in Evangelism, S.D.A. Theological Seminary

January 1943

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