When existing conditions make it difficult to get the majority of the interested people to attend the week-night meetings in an evangelistic effort, it may be wise to have only two or three week-night meetings, and use the other week nights for community or neighborhood Bible schools in small halls or in the homes of interested people in the respective sections of the city.
A young minister who has just recently finished his internship held a public effort in a town of fifteen hundred. He secured the names of ninety-two people by offering free printed Bible lessons to those who would attend schools in their neighborhoods. Sixty-five of these were grouped in eight neighborhood schools in various sections of the town. Of this number, forty-two accepted God's message and were baptized in the first two baptisms. Additional persons from these schools came into the church later on, so that the total number baptized from the eight schools amounted to fifty.
This means that more than 50 per cent of the people who turned in their names for the Bible schools were won to the truth, and that over 75 per cent of those who attended the classes decided for the message. This young man writes, "Bible schools help wonderfully now to solve the gas-rationing problem, and rationing makes it easier to organize the schools."
Gasoline rationing, rubber shortages, longer working hours, work shifts, and congested public transportation are making it more difficult to get people out to a central meeting place for five or six nights a week for a period often to fourteen weeks. But one of the fundamentals of evangelism is, If the people will not or cannot come to us, we must go to them.
Interested people within a circle of eight or ten blocks will gladly attend a neighborhood Bible school for two nights a week. It is easily accessible on foot. Many of these would not, for one reason or another, go all the way downtown to a central meeting place on these week nights.
I have just prepared a new circular for promoting Bible classes in connection with a public effort. Part of this circular is reproduced in connection with this article. It is printed on a 4" x 6" card. It is inexpensive, and this enables us to use it bountifully in distributions to the audiences at the public meetings, in mailing to the names of the interested, and in carrying it to the homes of those who request free literature. Interested persons can be given a dozen or fifteen circulars to distribute to their neighbors and friends, and work up an attendance for a school in their homes. The circular does not specify any certain set of Bible lessons, and can be used with whatever Bible course the evangelist chooses. (See page 40.)
You will notice that the circular first explains the plan for a neighborhood Bible school, so that the person who is given the blank may act intelligently regarding the propositions. It stresses that the printed lessons which are given to those who attend these sectional Bible schools are entirely different from the lessons furnished free in the streamlined Bible course for busy people. This creates a desire on the part of those who are enjoying the lessons in the streamlined Bible course to enroll for the community Bible course also, and open their homes for the classes. In order to have the complete list of all the free Bible lessons, the interested person must plan to attend one of these community Bible schools in his section each week, as well as taking the streamlined Bible course either by mail or by personal service.
The circulars are not distributed until the beginning of the third week of the meetings, as it is best to wait until we have won the confidence of the people to some extent and their interest has been definitely aroused. These sectional Bible classes or schools are opened during the fourth week of the meetings.
The Community Bible course which I am using deals with nine subjects : The Revelation of God to Men, How Men Are Saved, The Second Coming of Christ, The Law as God's Rule of Right, The Examination of the First-Day Texts, The Seal of God and the Mark of the Beast, The 2300 Days, The Cleansing of the Sanctuary, and The Judgment.
The Mayse Studio of San Diego has prepared films in both single and double frames which exactly parallel the printed lessons on these subjects. This enables workers who find the projector effective to use it in the Community Bible School.
No test papers are used in these sectional Bible schools. The following is a suggestive program, which we follow in these neighborhood Bible schools:
Present subject from Bible or show lesson film. Answer questions on the subject.
Distribute copies of the printed lesson. Invite new persons to enroll in the class. Announce time and subject of next class session. Dismissal prayer.
Some workers have conducted two of these community Bible schools on one night when they were in the same section of town. They meet one group from seven-fifteen to eight-fifteen and another group from eight-thirty to nine-thirty. If the evangelist is preaching at the central meeting hall on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday nights, that leaves Monday, Thursday, and Saturday nights open for the workers to conduct sectional Bible schools.
If there are only four workers connected with the effort, and each has four Bible schools each week, that means sixteen Bible schools a week. If there is an average of ten people to a school, these schools would reach one hundred sixty people each week in an effective way without any expenditure for hall rent.
The Community Bible School plan is a method of proved value for any time, but it can be used to special advantage in this abnormal time. Perhaps there never was a time when more people sensed the need of real religion, but for the most part they will not attend church. Why not then go to them with Bible schools in their homes ? The Lord has promised to guide His workers to the homes of those who need and desire the truth:
"If the teachers of His Word are willing, the Lord will lead them into close relation with the people. He will guide them into the homes of those who need and desire the truth, bringing them into the situations best suited to their talents. And as the servants of God engage in the work of seeking the lost sheep, their spiritual faculties are awakened and energized."—Ellen G. White Letter 95, 1896 "Timely Counsel to an Able Minister in a New Field," Aug. II, 1896).
Under this plan a group of friends and neighbors meet for one hour on a certain night each week in a near-by home to enjoy an interesting discussion of some of the major doctrines of the Bible under a qualified Bible instructor. You may ask questions as the subjects are explained. At each weekly meeting you will be given a question-and-answer Bible folder, which covers all the interesting points of the Bible subject under discussion.
In some instances the instructor may present the lessons in pictured form by means of filmstrip or slides.
These lessons do not present any new or strange doctrines or religion. They deal with the great fundamental truths of the Bible, which abide forever for the people of all churches and nations. There is nothing to join, nothing to buy, in order to receive these free printed lessons.