Pointers on Appealing to the Masses

Radio Evangelism in Action.

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

With more Italians than there are in Rome, with more Jews than live in Palestine, and with multiplied thousands of practically every other nationality and creed on earth as potential listeners to our New York City broadcast, we found ourselves confronted with the task of appealing to a heterogeneous audience of fastidious tastes. While such an exaggerated condition is probably confined largely to our great cities, yet in planning for any broadcast of the advent message we are well advised to ponder carefully and prayer­fully the castes and creeds who may listen to our program.

It was Lincoln, I believe, who one time said that you cannot please all the people all the time. This certainly is true in preaching present truth over the air to thousands of people in these days. There will be those who will belittle, those who will criticize, and those who will take issue. Our task, then, is to present the message in such a manner as to appeal to the greatest number pos­sible.

During the twelve months I was in New York City, speaking for half an hour, six days a week, over one of the city's most powerful inde­pendent stations, I tried to follow certain under­lying principles in appealing to the masses. These seemed to prove helpful and effective, and I present them here.

I. Avoid Offense to color or creed.—Avoid, even by inference, any uncomplimentary reference to any nationality, color, caste, or creed. This seems obvious enough, and yet if the speaker is to avoid such pitfalls, he can do so only at the price of unrelaxing vigilance. The wrong kind of illustration, even an unfortunate inflection of the speaker's voice, may offend one or more, and cause them to invite you to leave by the turn of their dial. Examine your script critically to be sure that "whosoever will" is urged to drink of the water of life freely.

2. Remember All Ages.—Remember that among your listening audience are both the very young and the very old, and all the ages between. No greater challenge comes to the radio evangelist than that of being able to hold the interest of various age groups. You can go a long way in meeting this challenge by careful planning. The use of frequent, well-chosen illustrative material appeals to all. Writing from a well-prepared out­line so that your discourse is easy to follow will be appreciated by both young and old. Nonessential technicalities bore the young without being too convincing to the older listeners, so avoid such. As you prepare your manuscript, continually ask yourself the question, "Will it hold the interest of all through the whole program?"

3. Keep All Classes in Mind.—Keep in mind that your radio audience does or should include men and women of varied intellect and from differ­ent stations in life. In planning our subjects we should include in our series some subjects that will especially appeal to the more educated listeners. The technical subjects such as astronomy, archae­ology, geology, and others of scientific nature, when presented as an approach to the authenticity and trustworthiness of the Bible, will arrest the atten­tion, of the educated, and if presented in simple language will not jeopardize your interest among those who have not been privileged to obtain a higher education.

Be careful of your grammatical constructions and the pronunciation of your words. A few glar­ing errors in grammar or/and a few mispro­nounced words may so depreciate you with intelli­gent people that they will pass your program by in disgust. A reliable up-to-date dictionary is an indispensable friend of the radio evangelist.

4. Appeal to Both Urban and Rural.—Appeal to both urban and rural listeners if your station reaches both. If possible, choose the time of your broadcast so that it will be convenient for early risers and late retirers alike to listen in. Select your illustrations to attract both those who reside in the city and those who live in the country. It is worth your consideration, especially if you are on a powerful station that reaches large numbers of both classes.
 
5. Consider Both Saints and Sinners.—Bear in mind that your audience includes both saints and sinners. Use expressions that will be easily understood by all. Appeal for a closer walk with God as well as a first surrender. If you direct your message largely to sinners, it will almost surely be helpful to the saints who listen in. Keep men­tioning the fact that even the saints will be growing in grace, and will be led into new light. This will prepare them for new truths that are yet to come.
 
6. Use Ample Illustrative Material—It is bound to attract and hold the attention of all, if you select your material wisely and use illustra­tions that are definitely to the point. Without mak­ing a hothouse of your sermon structure, make room for plenty of windows to let the light of truth shine forth brightly. It will help you appeal to your maximum listener potential.
 
7. Minorities and Majorities.—Use phrase­ology calculated to appeal to minorities and ma­jorities alike. In New York City with its large Catholic population, it has been helpful to use such expressions as "Our Lord," "The Holy Scrip­tures," and "St. Matthew." In deference to our Hebrew friends we have on occasions used "Mes­siah" in referring to the Saviour. Since we have so many Jews in our area, we have presented rather frequent subjects on the sanctuary and other Old Testament topics especially calculated to arouse the interest of those who may tune in. From results we have had in holding the interest of these people it would seem to be a profitable plan.
 
8. Mention Your Travels.—If you are reach­ing a large area and you have had the good fortune to travel extensively, it is helpful to mention per­sonal experiences you have had in different sec­tions. The fact that the radio evangelist has visited their community will bind the ties of friendship more closely to those who listen. It also builds up the confidence of your listeners if they know you have traveled. If you can say in passing, "When I was in London," or "While I was visiting in South Africa," or "During the time I was privi­leged to spend in India," those who listen will not fail to be impressed, and your wide experience will place a stamp of authority upon what you say.
 
9. Omit Sarcasm.—Do not be sarcastic or caus­tic in your remarks. Such language will appeal to no one. Send your message forth fresh from the place of prayer, freighted with love for God and sinners lost. With the apostle John dip your pen deep in the ocean of a Saviour's boundless love, and you will reach the masses. Sarcasm repels!

10. Lift Up Christ.—Lift up Christ in all His beauty and loveliness. If you wish to appeal to the masses, old and young, learned and unlearned, saint and sinner, preach Christ ! If He is lifted up He will draw all men unto Himself. It is Christ and not our preaching that will save men ! Let us not bury Him beneath an avalanche of erudite theology or man-made speculation. If Christ changes the heart, the mind will open its doors to the entrance of progressive doctrinal truth.

Yes, if radio evangelism is to be successful, it challenges the best that is in the advent worker. It is a challenge not only to his ability to speak to men for God, but to his willingness to learn first to speak well to God for men. In the end it will pay rich dividends in souls won to the kingdom.


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

November 1944

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