We live in abnormal times, and those abnormalities are bound to increase rather than decrease. To attempt to conduct evangelistic efforts today just as they were conducted five or ten years ago, therefore, is often to invite disappointment and grief. Rubber shortages, reduced gasoline rations, longer work hours, staggered time, and congested public transportation all make it unreasonable to expect the public to come out as faithfully as formerly to some central place for five or six nights a week over a period of ten to fourteen weeks. These same conditions similarly make it hard for our people to come out so constantly, and bring friends and neighbors.
Our city evangelists in some sections are finding this out—to their distress. Some are inclined to censure our people for lack of support and loyalty, and to blame the public for apathy and worldly indifference. A few blame themselves for loss or lack of power to draw and to hold the crowds as of past years, especially on week nights. Others recognize the changed conditions, and are seeking to reach the people through adjusting their program. They are wisely adapting their plans to the conditions.
People can and will put forth the special effort required to come one night a week to some central place. They can and will spend another night a week in their own community, at a smaller meeting in a hall or home that is accessible on foot, or which requires but small mileage. The intensive filling of the week with such regional or neighborhood appointments is wholly feasible. And while such a plan takes a little longer, we must recognize that most people now will not come out more than two or three times a week where five-night or six-night efforts are still conducted. There are serious gaps in the public instruction that have to be made up in studies in the homes or in some sort of Bible class. Weakness in preparation for baptism has resulted. Later lapses from membership must be avoided.
Let us be realistic and wisely adjust ourselves to the new conditions. Let us study evangelistic strategy, as militarists study war strategy. Let us not conclude that we are necessarily failing or losing out in our presentations. Rather, let us adapt ourselves and accommodate our plans. If the people cannot come to us, we must go to them. If they cannot come long distances, we must provide a short-distance program. If lengthened hours of work make nightly appointments impossible, we must spread our contacts over a longer period and reach the same number in a different and perhaps more thorough way.
In any event, we must take conditions as we find them and aggressively carry on our adapted work. Evangelism must not slacken. Present conditions are a challenge to our alertness, our versatility, and our ingenuity. We must be elastic enough to fit into the particular problem of each community. We must find a way through. Our message must and will go forward. We must use more literature and do more work in the homes of the people.
Present restrictions in sugar, coffee, canned goods, and meats offer a marvelous opening for emphasizing the entering wedge of health, as we have been counseled so often to do. In it all there is a blessing. We must not weaken our efforts or our effectiveness through being tied to one method alone—that of the past. Adaptability, understanding, and wisdom are needed now as never before. We are called upon to discover the way through.
L. E. F.