In a certain parable our Lord approves of the king who sits down before making war and takes a complete inventory of the available man power and equipment and studies how he can best use his force against the might of the foe. History has repeatedly shown that not only wise strategy is needed in warfare, but also each planned move must be accompanied by accurate timing. There must be careful planning and timing before the first shot is fired. Every advance must be foreseen and prepared for from the start to the finish.
In the greatest of all warfares we cannot afford to discount these same principles. To do so would be to become "slothful in business." Order, time, and the "long vision" are as much the equipment of the Spirit as holiness. The inspiration of the hour is not a chance product, but is the blessing of God upon a mind that is conscious of having dutifully prepared every step. Unforeseen factors may arise, necessitating a modification of the original, but that will not detract from the value of a comprehensive scheme being formed before ever the first address is delivered. Not that there should be a slavish following of a predetermined plan. Rather should it be fluid, ready to be changed under the direction of the Spirit as needed.
I found that the variety of tasks I had to undertake as a missionary in Africa made it necessary for me to plan the year's work in detail in the opening month. I wrote down all the subjects I considered necessary to present before baptism and arranged them in an order which would give natural growth and development to the hearers. I believed a baptism would be possible after presenting these subjects, and in each campaign, set the approximate date of the baptism before it opened.
Three years ago, when beginning work in England, I learned that it was the usual plan for the first baptism to be conducted eight to nine months after the commencement of an effort. I have followed that plan in the two efforts I have conducted and so far have not discovered any difficulties to prevent its realization. Neither have I found any weakness in the plan which would suggest the lengthening of the period before the first baptism. But, of course, conditions may exist elsewhere which would call for a longer approach to baptism. The accompanying list gives my subjects and order of presentation. It provides a sketch plan for a year's work. The main effort is from April to November. Midweek meetings can be begun after the fifth or sixth address. The subjects are based on the book of Revelation and have been selected and presented as amplifications of the Sunday evening subjects. (It is not the best plan to present a major point of faith for the first time at the midweek meeting.) Thus the seven seals can be used effectively to press home the message, previously given, of the Lord's return. "The Four Horsemen" need be dealt with only briefly, to lead up to the sixth and seventh seals. Similarly the Thyatira church and the first beast of Revelation thirteen should not be dealt with until Daniel seven has been presented. "The Sealing Work" naturally follows the Sabbath truth.
The time period of 2300 days is explained after a general understanding of the heavenly sanctuary has been received, and this subject naturally leads to the consideration of the judgment and separation from Babylon. The rise of the advent movement is the logical follow-up topic to these Sunday services. I have found that "time" prophecies make better class subjects than preaching subjects, and for that reason bring them in during the week when a blackboard can be used to better advantage.
If the Sabbath is presented about the eighth week, it is well to begin the Sabbath afternoon meetings the following week. The subject of baptism was given on the twenty-second Sunday and the following Sabbath a baptism was conducted. Some of the candidates who came forward were from a previous effort and some from Bible studies given to people who responded to the literature card plan. If these cards are given out in January in our evangelical field, it is possible to prepare a few for baptism at the end of August and so have this baptism dovetail into the main effort plans.
The advantage to the interested ones of being able to witness a baptism immediately following the presentation of the subject is obvious. It is amazing what strange ideas some have regarding what is actually done at a baptism, for few have witnessed this rite. Their minds, previously impressed by the necessity of folloWing the Lord into the watery grave, are now at rest about the physical details which are involved. If conducted with order and dignity, this baptismal service can be a big factor in bringing others to a favorable decision that very week. From that point onward, the other special points of doctrine can be introduced at proper intervals on Sabbath afternoon until the next baptism. The interval between such subjects as tithing, unclean meats, and the Spirit of prophecy would be determined by the readiness of the majority to accept them.
Although I believe that it is a great advantage to exchange ideas of successful methods, nevertheless I am convinced that no worker can adopt another's methods in toto. The mind of Christ is exceedingly broad, and only a fraction of it can be revealed through us. Our personality, temperament, and talents largely determine how that part of the Christ will be revealed. In all reverence and humility we believe that the deep beauty of the Altogether Lovely One is colored differently through us, according to the peculiar gifts we possess. Therefore, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
It is far better for a worker to learn how to execute his plan through the simple expedient of prayer than to borrow the ways and means of a successful evangelist, Bible instructor, or good friend. When Paul knew that he had been called, that the Son might be revealed through him, he "conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went . . . up to Jerusalem," but went into a wilderness to be alone with God and discover that Mind that is higher than the heavens and to have traced before him that Way that transcended the totality of human planning. While not advising a policy of individual action, nor depreciating the value of human counsel, we must know that the finality of choice in all things must come to us personally from God. In times of doubt it is better to wait, watching unto prayer, until the revelation comes. Do we as workers often have that experience of truly hearing the voice say, "This is the way"?
Next to this matter of personal guidance is the equally important factor of building into the life of each interested one a spiritual foundation. This must be attended to early in the campaign. The minister who will apportion time to giving Bible studies as well as to visiting will be more likely to discover the spiritual needs of his hearers. Our visits should have as a primary objective the implanting of the Rock within each life. Attention to the elementary things of a Christian life at the outset will make the subsequent work much easier. Once the foundation of a converted heart has been truly laid, one need not fear boldly to build a testing upper structure. The Rock foundation can stand all and carry all. Surely we need to learn that souls are willing to bear the weight of the cross this message brings, not because of the might of our arguments nor because of the power of our personality or presentation, but because they possess the Spirit of God.