"The Lord has given to some ministers the ability to gather and to hold large congregations. This calls for the exercise of tact and skill. In the cities of today, where there is so much to attract and please, the people can be interested by no ordinary efforts. Ministers of God's appointment will find it necessary to put forth extraordinary efforts in order to arrest the attention of the multitudes. And when they succeed in bringing together a large number of people, they must bear messages of a character so out of the usual order that the people will be aroused and warned. They must make use of every means that can possibly be devised for causing the truth to stand out clearly and distinctly."—Testimonies, Vol. IX, p. 100.
From the earliest days of the advent movement charts and diagrams have had their place in the presentation of our message and have contributed largely to success in the giving of that message. Through the years, however, methods have been changing, or shall we say, maturing. With the introduction of the stereopticon, lantern slides have for years been in great demand. This is an excellent method for the portrayal of a subject and it permits of endless variety of illustration. But, like every other method, it has its weaknesses, one of which is the fact that the congregation is in the dark, and even the evangelist is but dimly seen. Another disappointing thing about a lantern slide is that when once the picture has been shown, it passes away, and it is easy to forget the "illustration.
On the other hand, cutouts and diagrams which grow into a picture before the eyes of the people, are, we feel, more effective. We are not decrying lantern slides, for we make free use of them, but if they are used in conjunction with the progressive chart, their effectiveness will be greatly increased. The progressive chart permits the doctrine or prophecy to be built up piece by piece.
Advantages of Progressive Development
One of the main things in teaching is to keep the mind of the student focused on the particular thing being emphasized. A chart or diagram which reveals at a glance all the various features of a subject, such as the 2300 days, has decided pedagogical weaknesses. The minds of the congregation can wander from one end of the diagram to the other, and, be the evangelist ever so eloquent, some, instead of listening to his application of truth, are looking at the other end of the chart, making mental reservations and perhaps already building up an argument against his final conclusions.
The progressive chart permits the teacher of truth to conceal every point of the subject until he develops it. Imagine the effect of a millennium chart on which the words "earth desolate" are conspicuous. At once the interpretation of almost all other groups of professed Christians is challenged. Perhaps some of them are sitting together in the audience quietly offering comments to each other and deciding against the message long before the evangelist has reached his point. But if this glorious truth can be presented by degrees, devices that deal with only one point at a time being used with absolutely no clue as to what is to follow, we can then get the assent of the congregation to each point as we go along.
With this kind of system, the more challenging phases of the subject can be reserved until those points less likely to arouse opposition have been presented and accepted. In this way opposition is completely disarmed. We have found this progressive, or unfolding, method to be very effective, for at the conclusion of such a presentation the people, having seen the whole thing built up step by step and having accepted each particular phase as it came before them, were ready to accept the subject as a whole. The counsel from the Spirit of prophecy in regard to the general presentation of truth applies equally to the development of each sermon.
"Do not make prominent those features of the message which are a condemnation of the customs and practices of the people, until they have an opportunity to know that we are believers in Christ, that we believe in His divinity and in His pre-existence."—Ibid., Vol. VI, 13-58.
Based on Sound Pedagogy
If we get the congregation's assent to those phases of truth upon which we can more easily agree, then when we present phases which challenge their past understanding and interpretation, they will be less likely to decide against the message, for they will have discerned that rather than being fanatics, we, like John the Baptist, are "sent from God."
"The manner in which the truth is presented often has much to do in determining whether it will be accepted or rejected."—Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 404. In the light of this statement, what a responsibility is thrown upon us! We may speak of those who accept the message as the "honest in heart." But some others just as honest may be turned from the truth by our bungling methods.
The principle of the progressive chart is to reveal only those phases of the subject under discussion. This can be carried out by having the chart covered and then uncovering each portion as it is needed. Such a plan, however, is usually crude. A simple but effective method is to prepare a base by using two sheets of three-ply or composition board, and binding the back edges with 2" X 1" lumber. We usually use 8' x or - 10' x 4' sheets. and when completed they give a 16' x 4' or 20' X 4' area. On this surface, which is painted white, the diagram is built up. Colored ribbons are used, and fastened in some way behind the surface. Fishing reels are excellent for this purpose. Then as each new phase of the prophecy is introduced, it is brought before the people—and not until then. The way we do this is simple. Each feature is summarized in a word or two, and printed on white sign cloth. Slits are cut in the surface to permit these pieces of cloth to slide through and hang down 'behind. These are hemmed top and bottom, and dowels or wires are inserted, so that at the proper moment they can be easily pulled into position.
The Psychology of the Method
By the use of these ribbons and individual cloth signs one can work, as he would on a blackboard. But this has an advantage over the blackboard, because as soon as a point is reached, the sign is drawn into position and the wording appears. In using a blackboard, one has either to write so quickly that the wording is not legible or, worse still, to waste time printing carefully, thus perhaps losing the interest of the audience. When working with large crowds, the clearer and more precise one can be in his presentation, the greater the prospect of holding and building the interest. The millennium chart in the illustration on page 24 was used in a large hall before an audience of two thousand, hence its brief but bold lettering. (With smaller groups we have a suitable Scripture reference appearing with the wording.) When at the proper moment it was rolled out on the platform, nothing was seen but a white painted surface. As each feature of the prophecy was developed, it unfolded itself.
There is a psychology in this method that means much, not only in teaching truth but in holding the interest of those who perhaps do not even want to hear truth. Curiosity plays its part. Although some may disagree with what the evangelist is saying, they are nevertheless eager to see what the other sections reveal, for as the diagram is being built they discern places where other wording is yet to appear. In this way they are forced to hear the sermon till the last, and to hear the assent of the congregation to each feature as the evangelist proceeds. We have known of prejudiced ones who have been won to Christ and His message.
Bible work as a profession is rapidly coming to the front. An ever-growing interest is apparent in every section of the field. There is now a great demand for trained women to assist in our developing evangelism. During the last three years we have concentrated on a rediscovery of our denominational plan for the Bible work, and these efforts have already added new impetus to this phase of endeavor.
By means of an attractive and very practical course in advanced Bible instructor methods, given twice a year at our Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., about one hundred and fifty workers have received worth-while instruction during the last three years. These classes have not been limited to regular conference Bible instructors, and we have been 'pleased to see some ministers and workers of long experience participating. However, with the spring term of 1945 this class, taught by Miss Louise Kleuser of the Ministerial Association, will broaden its scope of training and will be definitely a part of graduate work for those who attend. The instruction will be divided into two distinct phases. Whether a worker plans for graduate work or merely a refresher course, this instruction in practical Bible work and personal evangelism will be invaluable to all.
Although conference officials are now conscious of the helpful service the Seminary is rendering through these methods, who might otherwise have been lost.
We are admonished to "make use of every means that can possibly be devised for causing the truth to stand out clearly and distinctly."—Thid., Vol. IX, p. 109. The progressive chart is one of those devised methods. The principle of the accompanying chart is pedagogically sound. Various techniques can be added to make it even more attractive. For instance, it can be built with attachments to use neon lighting instead of ribbons. That is certainly modern and attractive, but it is also expensive and not necessarily more effective. The main thing is to make the truth stand out in its beauty and simplicity. Theatrical methods are not to be countenanced, but we should study how to bring the message before the multitudes in a way they can understand.
"Let the workers for God manifest tact and talent, and originate devices by which to communicate light to those who are near and to those who are afar off."—E. G. WHITE, Review and Herald, March 24, 1896. Our challenge is to present our truths in a manner that will appeal to hearts, leading them into an experience so transforming that joy unspeakable will be theirs. Illustrations often point the way.
(M. K. Eckenroth's article which follows on page 24 shows the progressive method of illustrating the 2300 days and related subjects.)
R. A. A.