What Shall We Preach and When?

Radio evangelism in action

By ROBERT H. PIERSON, Superintendent, British West Indies Union Mission

If you are on the air every day over a protracted period of time, it is not unlikely that after some time you will be scratching your head to un­cover some new material for your daily manu­scripts.

In my recent experience in New York City I spoke on three hundred half-hour broadcasts over WHN and found many fruitful sources for sermon suggestions.

In planning for one or two months' programs in advance, I found it helpful to present a somewhat varied array of subjects. For instance, for a number of months every Monday evening was devoted  to various approaches on the message of the second advent. The manner and purpose of the Saviour's coming, preparation for that greatest of all events, the political, spiritual, economic, and physical signs of its imminency were all carefully considered in the light of Bible prophecy on Monday evenings. In like manner on other evenings, over varying periods of time, we presented series on the sanctuary, the Lord's prayer, the ten commandments, steps toward home, the trinity, the Bible and our bodies, and other topics.

One series that proved especially popular with our listeners dealt with the various gospel hymns.

Our program was especially blessed by the rich baritone voice of R. S. Watts. He and I worked together in presenting the messages contained in about ten popular gospel hymns. In my manuscript I presented the story connected with the composition of the hymn, and. selected some of the outstanding thoughts from the first stanza. Then Elder Watts sang the first stanza and the chorus. 

In the same way we presented other stanzas as time permitted. Such hymns as "One Sweetly Solemn Thought," "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus," "The Holy City," and "Entire Consecration" were used very effectively. In fact, several wrote in, stating they had accepted Christ as their Saviour during this series.

Regularly throughout the three hundred broad­casts we injected the doctrines peculiar to the advent message. Each sermon was freighted heavily with the love of God and the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Always the appeal was supported by an appropriate hymn on the subject, that would surely reach the heart with a strong appeal.

In the presentation of the more testing truths of the message, more than ordinary tact must be exercised. In a public effort the speaker has the advantage of looking into the faces of his audience, and in so doing he is likely to judge their response to his sermon. As his congregation leave at the close of the service, he is able to greet them with a few friendly words and at least briefly answer some of the questions that have arisen in their minds. But obviously such contacts are missing in radio evangelism. It is all too easy for the lis­tener to turn the dial if something is said wit which he does not agree, before the speaker i given an opportunity to explain or prove his point. We must weigh well our words in presenting con­troversial subjects, avoiding all sarcasm and any appearance of self-justification.

My humble opinion is that all such subjects should, from the very introduction, be inseparably linked with the life and teachings of Jesus, and to as great an extent as the subject will permit, sup­ported by Scriptural references from the New Testament. Let us plant the roots of our doctrines regarding the Sabbath, the state of the dead, pun­ishment of the wicked, the second advent, etc., deeply in the teachings and experience of Christ's earthly ministry. Let us make it Christ and the Sabbath, Christ's teaching regarding life after death, what Christ had to say about the unrepent­ant sinners' fate. The words of the Master are still true—especially in modern radio evangelism—"I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."

For almost obvious reasons it is not wise to preach some portions of our message over th air. Anything that might needlessly antagonize certain groups of people and cut them off from further reception of the truth should be avoided. In some places such unfortunate presentations might terminate our broadcasting in short order. Most of us have Bible schools that may be de­pended upon to open up these truths in the in­timacy of the person's own home, where he will have ample time to weigh the evidence pro and con with the materials before him. Just how far the radio evangelist can and should go will nat­urally be contingent upon the communities reached by the speaker's station and the nature of his radio mail. Some may be able to go farther than others.

Then there is the arrangement of our subjects, and the spacing of the controversial topics at suit­able intervals. In the current war a great deal has been said about "too little and too late." In radio evangelism too much too soon may be as disastrous as too little, too late. For reasons already suggested, the same degree of progress in presenting the truth over the radio as in the public effort may not be possible. I have found it helpful to precede the testing truths with deeply spiritual presenta­tions, and then to follow them immediately with topics which unquestionably set forth our position on life only through Christ.

In fact, in all our radio preaching, whatever the subject matter to be presented, let us remem­ber at all times that we have hearts to convert as well as minds to change, and let us hold up Christ in all His beauty and loveliness before the thou­sands who hear us.

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By ROBERT H. PIERSON, Superintendent, British West Indies Union Mission

October 1944

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