The Victorian Conference comprises the state of Victoria in Australia; the area covers some 87,000 square miles, and the population is just short of two million. Approximately 75 per cent of the people live in homes equipped with wireless receiving sets. Our Seventh-day Adventist broadcasters operate from eight radio stations, and within a radius of twenty-five miles of these eight stations over a million people are accessible through the medium of the radio. The eight stations are used by six of our radio evangelists.
Our experience thus far has been that the radio has proved to be a means of breaking down prejudice, mainly because people listen in from their homes and become convinced that we have a sound Scriptural basis for our message, whereas they will not attend our church or mission services. From correspondence and personal contacts, our radio men know that among their listening audience there are many ministers of- other denominations, and the majority are favorably disposed. There are, of course, other ministers listening in who are quite hostile, and they reveal this in their statements in the press and from their pulpits.
Members of the listening audience usually feel quite honored when, after having written to the Advent Radio Church,* they receive a personal visit from the pastor of the church. This is one of our main reasons for reckoning those interested people within twenty-five miles of the radio station as being in the parish of the local radio evangelist. The radio serves as a means of making contact, the Bible correspondence course helps develop the interest, and the final contact is made by the radio evangelist or one of his fellow assistants.
Radio interests have been developed along the lines of individual stations, rather than on a national program basis. Local conditions have to be taken into consideration as to the time of the session and the manner of presentation. For instance, five-thirty on a winter evening will hold a larger city audience than the same hour in the summertime. In the winter people are more likely to be indoors, but in the summer, if not at some pleasure resort, they are probably still out of doors at home. For twelve months we had a session from nine-thirty to ten at night, and it was an outstanding success for city listeners, but too late for country listeners in the farming districts, most of whom had retired by nine-thirty. *On Sunday the Advent Radio Church can be heard at:
10 A. M. from a country station
12 noon from a country station
5 :30 P. M. from one city and three country stations
6:30 P. M. from a country station
8:30 P. M. from a country station.
The 8:30 P. M. session is from a country station only forty miles from the city, and caters to the listening audience built up during the period we had at 9:30 P. M. A very interesting situation arose regarding this city radio session. At the end of the first six months the station management was agreeably surprised to know from an independent survey that our estimated audience was 55,000. At the end of twelve months, a further survey revealed a listening audience of 8o,000. For a church audience this was considered outstanding, as the next largest church audience was 40,000, and the third church audience io,000. Pressure was soon brought to bear against us, and it was so powerful that we were unable to renew the contract for 9:30 P. M. Instead we had to take a daylight session at 5:30 P. M. Since the changeover, there has been no survey ; so we do not know the extent of the present listening audience.
Radio listeners do not always tune in to the station nearest their home, and consequently personal visits are made by arrangement with a worker located near the interested person. The card system used by our radio evangelists answers the purpose quite well, and one is reproduced here. The card records the name and address, also particulars regarding copies of the weekly sermons sent out. From the addresses a locality list is compiled, and from this all names in a given suburb or town are grouped together. This immediately reveals the area with a good listening audience and the area with but few listeners, and helps in a more intelligent distribution of invitation cards. It also helps in allocating interests to Bible instructors by giving them a number of names of people who are grouped together. In this way loss of time in traveling from one home to another is minimized, and it is possible to arrange cottage meetings for Bible study classes.
If the interest is in another district altogether, the name is referred through to the conference office for allocation to another worker. Postal Bible studies are recorded, also personal visits and contributions. On the other side of the card a very brief account of the correspondence is recorded. From these cards a Bible instructor is able to form a mental picture of the person with whom he is asked to study. In a growing work it is sometimes necessary to change a worker, and in such a case the cards are a great help to the incoming evangelist.
Every radio evangelist is reporting good progress. Interested people write in for copies of the sermons, and these are sent out fortnightly to save postage and envelopes. Most of the radio men announce once or twice a year that they will, beginning on a given date, send out no further copies of the sermons unless another request is made. This plan eliminates those who have lost interest, and has on each occasion so far located new interests.
A postal Bible course designed especially for radio work seems quite essential. At present we are drawing up a set of simple studies with questions that can be answered in an easy manner, for it seems that there are many honest people who are anxious to learn more about the Bible, but who have a very limited knowledge of the Word and therefore have to be led along by easy lessons.
The major problem of Bible instructors is to make contact with the interested listeners. With so many engaged in war industries and working on shifts, there is no regular basis of contact as in former times. Our colporteurs render valuable aid in distributing invitation cards, and also in reporting interested listeners who have not made contact by writing in for copies of the sermons. Some of the 'best intereSts have been found in this way. The radio gives us a very large listening audience, and we have to make plans for handling many names In mission work in halls we have reached our hundreds, but in radio the contacts are in the thousands; hence the need for new and different plans to cope with the opportunities offered.