The first lecture of an evangelistic series is the spearhead of the campaign. The title of this opening lecture, carefully and prominently placed in all advertisements, is the tip of the spearhead. For this reason it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of an opening title.
Nothing must blunt this spearhead tip; nothing must weaken it. The preacher's name or picture should not rival it in prominence. Those welcome musical helps—choirs, soloists, and bands—must be kept as subsidiaries, for should they prove to be the main attraction, their absence in subsequent meetings would cause unwelcome decreases in attendance. The chief attraction must invariably be the message of the evangelist.
As Adventists we have a wide range of subjects from which to choose the themes of our lectures. It is of the utmost importance when selecting our opening subject, and indeed when we plan our subjects from first to last, that we have in mind Revelation 14:6-10.
Here we have the essence of our message. It is to warn the world of its approaching end, to tell of the heavenly judgment now in session, to plead with men and women to accept Christ as their Saviour, demonstrating their acceptance by conformity with the commandments of God, the Creator of all mankind. It is our duty to lift up our voices with trumpetlike clearness, courageously declaring to the people, "Behold your God." Isa. 40:9.
Our opening lecture is truly an introduction, a well-reasoned presentation of world conditions in relation to the Creator's supreme plan for the salvation of men.
Psychology of Opening Titles
Naturally, we should aim at securing the largest crowd possible. We should strive to reach people from every stratum of the population. Jesus commanded His disciples to preach everywhere and to everybody. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation." Mark 16:15, R.V.
I am certain Christ did not have in mind any geographical or ethnical limitations when He phrased that command. It was His purpose to emphasize that the message must be preached far and wide with a universal appeal—to every land, to every race, to rich and poor, bond and free, cultured and uncultured. An opening title, therefore, should be designed with the widest appeal, to reach all sections of mankind—religious, philosophical, indifferent, political, social.
Evolution is a good subject and, if properly entitled, will draw an intelligent crowd, but a crowd from a limited class of people. The state of the dead, likewise, is a good drawing subject, and should most certainly be included in a first series, but again, it has a limited appeal in spite of the inevitability of death for all mankind. In my opinion all these and other subjects of similarly restricted appeal should not be used for the opening title of a first series. No subject has a more general appeal than a clarion call to consider the alarming state of world conditions in the light of God's infallible Word.
Individually we may have a special interest in one or another phase of our message. We must always remember that our predilections with their strong subjective appeals may have little or no objective appeals. They may be absorbingly fascinating to us, but of little interest to the people we want to reach.
Let us constantly think of the people and choose our subjects accordingly. And in doing so, give due recognition to the varied nature of man's make-up—the factors of cognition, emotion, and volition, or thought, feeling, and the will. Our opening title must be presented in such a way as to stimulate thought, feeling, and the will, to attract, stir, and cause to act.
The wording of an opening title should be short, strong, and stirring, ably supported by one, two, or three subtitles. Questions are very good with some subjects, when these subjects have several sides held by variously thinking people. But questions are poor when an evangelist could be expected to have but one answer. Titles with a positive nature are much better on such subjects. Learn by the mistakes as well as by the successes of others. Above all, let us learn by our own successes and mistakes. Negative knowledge is as important as positive knowledge.
However well worded the title of an opening lecture may be, its value as a sharp, strong spearhead can be improved or ruined by the layout of the handbill. When making out the copy of our handbill, block it out first of all and examine the body of printing matter. White spaces are important. The announcement on the handbill must be clear, with not one word too many and not one word too few. All units must be correctly balanced, with but one thought dominating. This dominating thought must be the message to be given, the subject to be presented.