No great soul-winning endeavor can be truly successful without quite close co-operation between the local pastor and the visiting evangelist. When large amounts of money are expended for city efforts, it is imperative that there be a very close coordination of plans and co-operation between these two workers. If God's Spirit is to work freely and powerfully for the conversion of sinners, there must first of all be a very close bond of fellowship and unity between the pastor and the evangelist. The heartbreaking results of the lack of such harmony have often been seen, not only during the effort but in the follow-up work after the campaign is over.
It was my pleasure while serving as pastor of a large church in the West, to welcome a well-known evangelistic company to the city for two very successful efforts. Therefore these few suggestions are made from the viewpoint of the pastor. They are convictions born of actual experience derived from a successful, application of workable plans and methods. First of all I shall list three duties of the pastor.
I. Prepare Church Spiritually for Coming Effort. If the effort is to be truly successful, the church must first of all be prepared to receive new members. The King's highway must be prepared. Sin must be put out of the church and individuals be reconverted if the Spirit of God is to work unhindered in behalf of souls.
The pastor should lead out in this revival. Weeks and even months can be spent profitably in this way. The preaching service and the prayer meetings can be devoted to seasons of heart searching and prayer. Known sins must be dealt with. Old church troubles should be cleared up and forgotten. Perfect unity must exist in the church. A love and passion for souls should possess every church member. This is all very essential to spiritual preparation. Such work should not be left for the evangelist to do, but should precede his coming.
2. Organize Church for Service. Every church member should be assigned a certain responsibility. The city should be districted and bands appointed to distribute announcements. Those with talent should prepare to assist in the choir at the invitation of the evangelist or song leader. Others can serve as ushers. All should bring friends and neighbors to the evangelistic services. This thorough organization of the church for service is the responsibility of the pastor. He should seek to ascertain the desires of the evangelist and put at his disposal the facilities of careful organization. The pastor should take the responsibility of keeping the church army functioning efficiently and smoothly during the time of the effort.
3. Give Evangelistic Effort First Place. All regular church functions should take second place. This does not mean that they should be neglected. This is unnecessary, but they should not in any way hinder the free functioning of the evangelistic effort. Close co-operation here is very essential. The pastor is now second in rank, and the evangelist takes the lead in all soul-winning endeavors, and nothing should be allowed to hinder him unnecessarily.
The evangelist is charged with the responsibility for the success of the effort. Therefore he is the leader, and all other workers should rally to assure the success of the campaign. The eleven o'clock service on Sabbath, as well as other public services, should be planned in harmony with the desires of the evangelist. Let the evangelist, baptize all converts during the effort, unless by special request of the candidates. All social functions should be held on some night in which there are no meetings, and these should be kept at a minimum during the time of the campaign. Such concessions need not jeopardize the work of the church or the pastor, but in the end will greatly strengthen it.
Reciprocal Cooperation by Evangelist
We have now considered several specific duties of the pastor and the church to the evangelistic effort. The same spirit of helpfulness and co-operation should be reciprocal on the part of the evangelist. Therefore let us consider three specific duties of the evangelist toward the pastor and the church.
I. Counsel with the Pastor Concerning Campaign Details. Where there are several churches in the city, all pastors concerned should be taken into close counsel. Herein lies the strength of the evangelist, and as a true leader he will recognize his responsibility. He cannot afford to proceed without the complete co-operation of the pastor and the church. The desires of the pastor and the welfare of the routine functions of the church should be respected. The pastor should be made to feel that he is a very definite part of the effort, and should be recognized as the associate evangelist. Every effort should be made to collaborate with the pastor in all the responsibilities and duties of the effort. Matters of finance, location of tent or hall, and other matters should be freely discussed with the pastor.
2. Consider Pastor A Part of Evangelistic Company. The pastor should give as much of his time as possible to the work of the effort. He will receive a great blessing by visiting from house to house with the other workers. He should attend all workers' meetings. He should take his plate with the other workers on the platform each evening. He may assist by making announcements, by leading in prayer, or calling for the offering. In this way the audience will be led to feel that a very close tie exists between the pastor and the evangelist. Much can be done by the evangelist to bring about this feeling of fellowship between himself and the pastor and between the audience and the pastor.
3. Accept Counsel of Pastor Before Baptizing Candidates. Unfortunately, at this point many good pastors and evangelists part company in their co-operation. However, at this point the closest harmony should exist. All true success depends on a mutual understanding of policy in regard to baptisms.
The following plan resulted in success and complete satisfaction to all concerned. When interest developed to a point where the candidate took his or her stand for the message and desired baptism, the name was given to the pastor, who in turn visited the individual at home, became personally acquainted with him, and satisfied himself as to his readiness for baptism. Each candidate was visited in this way by the pastor. Then before the baptismal service, the church board was called into session. Each name was presented to the church council for approval. Thus the good judgment of the evangelist was augmented by that of the pastor and the church board.
It is reasonable to expect that from this wide counsel, a better group of converts will be brought into the church and fewer apostasies will result. True, the number of baptisms will not always be as great, but the number of stanch Seventh-day Adventists will always be greater following the effort, and this is the true purpose of all our evangelism.
And after all, why should not this plan always be agreeable? It merely widens the circle of influence and protection for the new convert. The convert learns to know the pastor before the baptism. The church board feels its responsibility for the welfare of the new church member. After the evangelist is gone, he may rest assured that the pastor and church board will be more sympathetic toward the problems and perplexities of the new church members in years to come. The careful evangelist will always welcome this protection to his reputation, and the plan will prevent many misunderstandings.
Let us work for closer co-ordination of plans and efforts on the part of pastors and evangelists. Unity is our strongest weapon against the enemy. Bighearted, unselfish, reciprocal confidence and fellowship should always manifest themselves between workers charged with the solemn responsibility of bringing the third angel's message to all the world in this generation.