Evangelism for Colored People

Advice for a more effective witness.

By W. W. FORDHAM, Secretary, Colored Department, Florida Conference

The effort recently conducted in the city of Jacksonville has brought us many ex­periences which we are glad to share. Whatever success has attended our efforts has, we feel, been the result of some definite meth­ods. A few of these we present in this report. Let me say from the outset that these methods were not original with me. In my attempt to improve my work and in searching for new and better ways, I have studied the procedures of several of our most successful evangelists, and have endeavored to adapt them to the needs of the locality, having in mind particularly the needs of my own race.

I. Place of Meeting. In working for col­ored people, we ourselves are perhaps to blame for accepting the general idea that any kind of equipment will do, with hardly any financial backing at all. Perhaps in times past, the av­erage colored man could be persuaded to accept the message on any location, and under any kind of canvas, with almost any kind of preach­ing; but today the picture has changed. I find now that the colored evangelist has to discard the old idea that "my people will come any place where there is a tent," and he must plan to make his tent as attractive, and his advertise­ment as up to date, as he possibly can. Espe­cially is this true if he expects to win those of the better classes.

A few dollars spent on an amplifier, with sacred recordings, will add immeasurably to the success of the meetings. To attract, we must be attractive; especially is this true in the modern age. Get the best location in the city if you can. The message we preach demands the best. The messenger of the Lord has said :

"The character and importance of our work are judged by the efforts made to bring it before the public. When these efforts are so limited, the im­pression is given that the message we present is not worthy of notice."—"Historical Sketches," p. 200.

2. Length of Series. In studying our needs, I have been impressed that as colored evan­gelists, we fail to get full results because our meetings are stopped too soon. Especially is this true in our large city efforts. It would be better not to start an effort at all than to abandon it before the interest is bound off properly. The messenger of the Lord says: "No field is so unpromising as one that has been cultivated just enough to give the weeds a more luxuriant growth. . . . A minister might better not engage in the work unless he can bind it off thoroughly." —"Gospel Workers," p. 368.

Time and time again in my own experience I have reluctantly had to lay down my evangelistic work because of other pressing problems, thus closing an effort too soon. This, I believe, has frequently resulted in great loss. In preparing for my present effort, I adjusted my program so as to devote all the time necessary to con­ducting a large city effort properly and success­fully. And as a result of the continuation of the meetings for fifteen weeks, instead of eight or ten weeks, our fruitage of souls is double that of any other effort. Many of our best converts came in at the last. Generally speaking, the longer the effort is conducted, the larger the number of souls won.

1. Printed Sermons. I have found that the method used by our leading evangelists, of giving a mimeographed copy of the sermon to the people, or a printed outline in addition to the special literature, will aid greatly in the success of an effort. Some who would not read general literature will cherish and read the printed sermons or outlines of the evangelist.

2. Question-and-Answer Service. For the first time, I used the open question period and found it to be a greater asset to the meeting than the older, question-box plan. We are using printed cards for the questions, with , printed instructions on the card. During this period, the ushers move up and down the aisles collecting the questions. The people enter en­thusiastically into this phase of the service. Not only does this excellent idea bring the people out earlier, but it also gives us the names of some fine prospects.

3. Use of Lantern Pictures. In evan­gelism, pictures always prove to be of real value. I use picture slides during my meetings —and I probably always will—but I have dis­covered that my sermon is much more effective and my appeal more gripping when I am able to look into the faces of the audience. Instead of following the old plan of using slides almost exclusively, therefore, we use them only with lectures on certain subjects, such as "Daniel 2," "The Law and the Sabbath," "The Change of the Sabbath," and "The Life of Christ."

For the most part, all my meetings are con­ducted without the use of slides. During the Bible school, which convenes three nights a week, I use slides mostly to review the previous lectures. I believe some of our men would have greater results if they would not depend exclu­sively on pictures, as lame men do on crutches. Slides have their place in evangelism, and al­ways will have, but we should train ourselves to be able to get along without them if need be.

4. The Altar Call and Aftermeeting. In past efforts I have been a little timid in attempt­ing altar calls, especially during the early stages of the effort. But during my past few efforts, God has given me the courage to launch out into these calls, and I have been thrilled by the results. I have found that the altar call is an effective method of leadinc,b people to accept God's message. The more decisions made for Christ before the Sabbath, with its kindred truths, is presented, the greater the results. Why not begin the very first night by calling for a show of hands? Then keep pressing for decisions step by step, clear through until you come to the altar call and aftermeeting.

In my last effort the aftermeeting for those who came up as a result of the altar calls af­forded me an opportunity to find out the real need of each individual. I really attribute my lack of greater results in past efforts to my ina­bility to conduct altar calls and aftermeetings properly, for these are vital to final decisions for the third angel's message. As the result of much earnest prayer, the help gleaned from the writings of the Spirit of prophecy, and a study of other evan­gelists' methods, I have been especially blessed of God, and have been happy to see scores of men and women, boys and girls, give their hearts to God, and ac­cept this message as a result of these calls. For you younger evan­gelists especially, let me emphasize the impor­tance of these calls in your evangelistic effort.

I fervently believe God would have us all carry on more evangelism ; especially is this true among colored people. Ours is the great re­sponsibility of giving the message to over twelve million of our race, and we have only a short time in which to do it. I earnestly pray that a greater wave of spiritual enthusiasm will grip our hearts and that we will ever be ready to improve our methods so that larger results will be ours.

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By W. W. FORDHAM, Secretary, Colored Department, Florida Conference

March 1943

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