Radio greatly amplifies the preacher's message. Through this medium he is able to move his pulpit into the homes of the people everywhere. He speaks to tens of thousands in city and country with as much ease as to a mere hundred in his church auditorium. As with a giant hand, his voice is hurled across cities, countrysides, and mountains with the speed of light. By means of this magic agency the preacher's sphere of influence is greatly enlarged, and his prestige greatly increased. Truly God has given us this medium by which to finish the proclamation of the gospel in all the world quickly.
Yet, despite all these possibilities, hundreds of radio preachers have been disappointed at the results obtained. They have learned that radio of itself does not produce many baptisms. There must be some means of getting hold of the listener, some way of contacting him and gaining his confidence. Commercial radio broadcasting is for the most part a long-range proposition which is designed to mold public opinion. However, a district superintendent often does not have five to ten years to spend in getting results. He wants results in a few months or at least in a year. And that brings me to the plan which I have found feasible for getting results in a reasonable length of time.
The plan to which I refer is to offer to the public, by way of the radio, a correspondence course in Bible. I believe that best results are obtained by first building up a large listening audience with an attractive program, and then offering the correspondence Bible course free. I offer the course twice in each fifteen-minute broadcast, using about four minutes of the time in this way. I extol the merits of the course, picturing the pleasure and joy that will result from its study, and dwell upon the eternal benefits. I tell the people that if they purchased this course from a correspondence school, it would cost them $25, but that they may have it free if they will write in and ask for it. And they do ask for it—eight hundred at Williamsport in a little. more than six months. Many thoughtful, earnest people are scattered throughout the length and breadth of the land who are eager to have help and guidance in the study of the Bible. They are delighted with the opportunity offered them.
When the student enrolls, the first two lessons of the twenty-four are sent to him with explicit instructions showing just how to proceed and what is expected of him. He is instructed to study the first lesson, and when finished to answer the test questions at the end. As soon as he completes the first lesson he is to mail it in for correction, and then while it is in transit, to work on Lesson No. 2.
When Lesson i is received it is corrected, graded, and returned to the student with Lesson No. 3. When Lesson No. 2 is received it is corrected and returned with Lesson No. 4. This saves postage and prevents the lessons from stacking up on the student and causing him to become discouraged. It prevents the student from looking ahead and becoming prejudiced, and it allows him to work as fast or as slow as he cares to.
When the student successfully completes his course he is given a certificate in Bible. While correcting the lessons we wi-ite helpful notes of instruction and encouragement to the student. In many instances the student becomes so fascinated with the correspondence plan of study that he can hardly wait to see how he made out and for the arrival of the next lesson. The student is first offered a 24-lesson primary course. The primary course is divided into two sections of 12 lessons each. There is a test at the end of each section. The primary lessons embrace the following subjects:
The Word of God
How to Study the Word of God
The Character and Attributes of God
Christ's Pre-existence and Deity
The Beginning and End of Sin
God's Plan of Saving the Lost
Prophecies of Christ's First Coming
The Atoning Death of Christ
The Resurrection of Our Lord
Christ Our Mediator and High Priest
The Work of the Holy Spirit
How to Be Converted
(Test on first section)
Prophecy, the Gift of the Spirit
Daniel's Great Prophecy
Prophecies of Our Lord's Return
Signs of Christ's Coming
The Home of the Saved
The Law of God
The Two Laws
The Law That Christ Abolished
The. Law and the Gospel
Is God Particular ?
The Two Covenants
(Test on second section)
Each lesson has about fifty test questions, and each test has about two hundred, making around fifteen hundred questions that the student must answer to complete the primary course. When the student successfully completes the primary course he is offered the advanced course, which will take him into the deeper things of God. The advanced course consists of twenty-four lessons with two sections and two tests. This course takes the student into the doctrines that are peculiar to Seventh-day Adventists and embraces the following subjects :
The Importance of Sound Doctrine
The Sabbath Institution From Eden to Eden
God's Memorial of Creation
The Sabbath in the New Testament
Who Changed God's Sabbath?
Obedience by Faith
The First Day of the Week in the New Testament
The Seal of God and the Mark of the Beast
How Much Do You Owe God?
The Time of the Judgment
The 23oo-Day Prophecy
The Sanctuary in Type and Antitype
(Test on first section)
Man's Nature and His State in Death
The Fate of the Disobedient
Bible Standards of Christian Living
How to Live Healthfully
How to Keep the Sabbath Holy
Attendance at Worship and Prayer
Which Is the True Church?
The Spirit of Prophecy
The Evidences of Love
Some Excuses Tested by God's Word
The Rewards of the Overcomer
(Test on second section)
A certificate in advanced Bible is given at the completion of this course, and a baptismal certificate is the ultimate goal.
When a person sits down with his own Bible and clear, simple lesson helps to guide him, and studies the word of God for himself, he gets it better than if he is spoon-fed. The Holy Spirit thus has a chance to work upon the heart with no human agent in the way. The individual who accepts the truth through his own effort in study makes a far stronger Adventist than the one who hears it by the presentation of another. He knows where he got it, and knows where to find it again when questions arise. Of the correspondence students we have baptized we have had but one apostasy.
There is very little unpleasantness connected with this work. Few disagreeable letters are received. When the student gets to a certain place in his course he must be visited. There is no other way. We cannot bring people into our church without personal contact. It is the same proposition here as in the evangelistic series. If the evangelist did nothing more than his pulpit work his results would be very meager. Most of the visits are very pleasant. The student is usually happy indeed to meet his instructor.
It is truly said that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The proof of the correspondence plan is in the results obtained. We have baptized sixty-five, the majority of whom were the product, either directly or indirectly, of the correspondence course. There are some others who will be baptized, and only heaven itself will reveal the results in their entirety.
These results, while gratifying, are but a preliminary to what may be expected. In a number of ways our work was carried on under unfavorable circumstances. To begin with, it was a pioneering proposition. We had to experiment. My wife and I were able to visit only a part of our students. There were between five and six hundred that we never saw. We got most of our baptisms from the first hundred and fifty students, as these were the first ones we visited. By the time we had made one call on these, it was time to start over again.
One thing that undoubtedly hindered results was the fact that, at the time, I had no lessons adapted to correspondence work. The lessons were much too difficult. Another thing was that the Sabbath was introduced at the eighth lesson, which is much too soon. When we hold evangelistic meetings we do not bring in the Sabbath until the fifth week, which corresponds to the twenty-fifth meeting. It is even more necessary in the correspondence work first to gain the confidence of the student. In the idea) arrangement the Sabbath is not brought to the student until the twenty-sixth lesson.
Before beginning a work of this kind, careful thought, study, and preparation are necessary. I have been experimenting with this way of soul winning for four years, and feel that only now am I in a position to go ahead with any degree of efficiency.
Other Ways of Enrollment
Radio is not the only way to enroll students. We enrolled all of two hundred students in the Williamsport district by the use of cards. Twelve and one-half per cent of this two hundred came through other students. We send the students one of the cards stamped "For a Friend." They handed it to their friends to enroll. We get good students in this way, and it makes a good tie-up among the students.
There is another way of getting students, as yet untried, but which I believe to be the best of all. And that is to allow our colporteurs to give out the correspondence course in Bible free to all who make purchases from them. If this were done by all, thousands and tens of thousands could be taught our doctrinal truths. Not only would thousands of students been rolled, but the free $25 course would increase the colporteurs' sales and be used as a powerful inducement in closing the sale.
Following this procedure the lessons would come into the home at a time when interest was at its highest peak, because of the purchase of religious books. The lessons would tend to sustain this interest. They would teach the book to the purchaser, and make it less likely that he would lay it away unread. This plan would guarantee a follow-up of the colporteurs' work, determine the degree of interest, and prevent loss. It would effect a long-sought tie-up between the colporteur and the minister.
The plan is very simple and would work like this : Each colporteur, at the discretion of the field Missionary department, would be supplied with a letter or card authorizing him to give the course free to each purchaser. Then at the time of the delivery of the book, the colporteur would deliver an enrollment card for the correspondence course. All, then, that the purchaser would have to do in order to secure the $25 free course, would be to sign, stamp, and mail the card. Upon receipt of the card the purchaser would become a student, and his first two lessons would be sent him.
What are some of the speculative possibilities of this plan ? There are two hundred colporteurs, exclusive of magazine workers, in the Columbia Union. If, on the average, each one of these took one order, large or small, each day, we would have 200 prospective students, i,000 each week, and 52,000 for the year. Then add to this the 12% per cent that we can get through the students themselves, and we have 58,500. This is a low estimate, for no colporteur can live by taking one order a day. The average would likely be between three and five. But figuring only one order a day, we have 58,5oo students who are studying the lessons directly in one union. However, figuring five to a family, 292,500 people are brought under the influence of the lessons.
Of my eight hundred students, I baptized approximately one fifteenth. Applying this as a measuring rod to our 58,5oo students, we would have 3,900 who should be baptized in the Columbia Union as a result of this way of work. The cost is exceedingly low per baptism, as most of the money needed for operating the correspondence course can be obtained from the students themselves. The quality and stability of the correspondence candidate is superior. As our local elder said, in referring to these people at Williamsport, "They are the cream of the whole church," and that is true.
It is highly inspirational and gratifying to see a student grow in grace and increase in knowledge, and the letters received are most cheering.