Before leaving the matter of finances I want to mentioff an important item wherein it is possible for us to be "penny wise and soul foolish." I think that it is absolutely necessary that we have our place of meeting, whether it be an auditorium, a hall, a tent, or a tabernacle, 'brilliantly lighted, comfortably heated, and appropriately and tastefully decorated, with a dignity that will appeal to all classes.
Especially should the stage be a place of restful beauty. Frequently one rents an auditorium with a deep and wide- stage. A pulpit in the center with three chairs and a piano seems lost. The evangelist stands at the desk and looks out over an immense crowd and receives much inspiration from the sight of many faces and plenty of light. But the audience, looking to the stage, sees but one man, a piano, and three chairs. I recognize the value of centering the attention on the desk; nevertheless there are ways and means of attractively decorating a stage in an auditorium, or a platform in a tabernacle or tent. A roll of much-used green burlap and white bunting from the conference warehouse will not suffice for this.
Great amounts of money, thought, and skill are invested in window displays of the great stores in our cities. People of the world recognize the sales value in tasteful window settings. The same principle holds true in presenting our message in this day when the natural eye longs for color. We are told that the great Church of Rome, in its program to win converts, definitely caters to two human desires—one is that mankind wants a supreme authority in the field of religion, and the other is that humanity longs for color. The spirit of prophecy warns against spending money needlessly for effect ; yet much is said in favor .of making our message and meeting place attractive. For instance, there are business houses in every large city which carry a supply of decorative materials in the way of lifelike artificial ferns, ivy, palms, and other greenery. They carry beautiful card material for use in making background pillars and other devices to enclose the speakers' platform.
Especially would such material be necessary in preparing a rostrum in a tent or tabernacle.
There are die-cut letter companies that are able to furnish refreshing ideas and the materials to make them a reality in the way of mottoes, removable letter signs, etc. Surely the day is past for a worker to set out a homemade sign to describe his meetings or the subject for that night. The expenditure of a little money in the hiring of expert services in the field of sign writing and display work would pay much in winning men and women who evaluate our message by our outward display.
If a man can walk into a meeting place and mentally say, "This is something different; never has an evangelistic meeting come to our city revealing such grace and taste," that man has taken his first step in our favor. "Never be afraid of raising the standard too high. All coarseness and crudeness must be put away from us." This refers primarily to cultural graces the minister should possess, but the principle involved also applies to the preparation of our meeting places.
Preparations for all public services should be carefully taught to our associates. When preparing for a baptism at the close of a field school of evangelism, I like to see our young men learn the proper methods of baptizing people, even though it may be some years before they themselves will exercise this privilege. Usually this is done on the day we prepare our baptismal site. If we have chosen a lake in the summertime, the lake floor may need to be cleansed in the area to be used. It makes a baptism more beautiful to enclose the baptismal area with white rope suspended from small poles sunk in the ground.
If a young man demonstrates that he has a call from the Lord to the sacred work of the ministry, and is in the process of proving himself, he should be permitted to assist in as large a part of the baptismal service as possible. For instance, this past summer a near-by lake was chosen for our first baptism. The young men worked hard in preparing the water front and in organizing the equipment for the service.
When the day arrived, some four hundred people gathered on the shore. A quartet sang from a boat anchored some fifty feet from the shore. When the service was ready to begin, one of the workers stood up in the boat and read various verses of baptismal scripture as two interns in blue robes escorted the evangelist and pastor to a spot some sixty feet from the shore. These same young men escorted the candidates, one on either side, to the ministers, waited for their baptism, and carefully led them to the shore again, as other young men brought two more out. These brethren were instructed to pause after the group were ankle deep in the water and take a handful of water to moisten each candidate's brow, thus preparing his body for the shock of cold water. So thoughtfully and tenderly was this work carried on that the audience could not fail to be greatly impressed.
The young men will never forget their first experience assisting in this sacred rite. I believe that we should permit and encourage their participation, as far as possible, in the services of the church.
A theological student might be told in the classroom just how to anoint an afflicted one, but he never receives so thorough a lesson as when he assists a sympathetic pastor or evangelist in the actual experience. Careful instruction on ministerial decorum and responsibility during the funeral service may be very clear during college days; yet formal theory springs into real life when young men assist in actually conducting such a service.