For sometime I have been studying the follow-up methods and results of our radio and correspondence school interests, and at long last feel that some observations can be made.
It would seem that almost before a worker in the field gets a name from a Bible school director, that minister or Bible instructor is quite positive that the name is not of the best type, or the person will live too far away to reach, or that it is just a passing interest.
Face the facts we must, and they reveal that most conferences have a multitude of names that are never called on by the workers. Let us consider some of the reasons why and see whether a solution can be found.
The first reason is that quite often the directors of Bible courses fail to give sufficient information to the ministers. Second, it is sooner or later discovered that a large number of those who are reporting an interest in the Sabbath are already members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. At best, and even with the utmost care, some of our own people will be included in the list of those who report as being vitally interested in the truth. This, however, can be cut down to a minimum, if the plan of the 20th Century Bible Course is rigidly followed out, and that is to send out a blank with one of the early lessons on which is asked, "Of what church are you a member?"
Then, too, there is the bogey of not knowing where the person lives. He may give his address as John Doe, Route 3, Hammerstown, Sledge County. Here again if a blank is included with one of the lessons, asking for directions to the student's home, it will save the minister many miles of needless travel.*
Another factor that hinders efficient follow-up work is faulty methods of visitation, and we shall now consider a few of these.
Almost without exception, when a follow-up is requested by the Bible Correspondence School, the worker in the field interprets the proposed call as a request to hold studies in the home of the student. It is the natural thing for a worker to do. He has followed the method of calls 4nd Bible studies until it is second nature as far as the routine is concerned.
But right here is the first wrong step. True, there are times when studies are needed, but as one looks over the 20th Century Bible lessons, and those prepared by the Voice of Prophecy, and others, he recognizes that they contain enough truth to ground persons in the message. Why, then, do we need to start all over on some other course, or begin from the-beginning with studies in the home?
Usually there is no need for such a procedure. Bible studies with students of the correspondence schools should be the exception rather than the rule. Most students need encouragement more than they need additional studies covering the same ground. For example, a minister gets the name of an interested student, and he learns from the report that the student is already past the Sabbath question, but as yet is a bit confused over one point. The best procedure is to review briefly some of the major points in the lessons that the student has already had, but use the lessons as a review. Do not introduce new material until the points in the lesson have been exhausted.
One of our major problems in following up correspondence students is that of overcoming the idea in the minds of others that people cannot be brought into the truth without going through a series of meetings or a regular course of Bible studies in the home.
We must recognize that the Bible Correspondence Course, with the contacts through correspondence from the office, can and does bring persons into the truth, and a series of meetings or a group of Bible studies is not necessary to bind off the work.
Just recently it was my pleasure to call on a woman in Oklahoma City who was taking our Bible lessons and listening to the radio. My first visit produced results, because there was a positive interest. We briefly went over the lessons, and in less than half an hour were talking of bringing her into the church. My expressions of confidence in her stand crystallized her decision, and she was baptized three weeks later. She now has her family taking the Bible lessons.
Fellow teachers and preachers of the message, the Bible Correspondence Courses are capable, under God, of bringing hundreds of persons into the truth, if we will work with them in the proper manner. Too many look upon the lessons as merely a feeder for names in an effort. The lessons are more than openers into homes. They are as vital an avenue of soul winning as any evangelistic effort or any group of Bible studies. The only limit placed upon their effectiveness lies within the minds of those who doubt that it can be done.
How often someone calls on those enrolled in the Voice of Prophecy course and invites them to take another of his series of lessons. This procedure is not the best. How much better to say: "The Voice of Prophecy is a wonderful organization. You should follow in all that it teaches. Tell me of your Sabbathkeeping, and other points that the lessons have covered." At every point where the student avows acceptance of the teachings of The lessons, strengthen that faith by saying, "I am glad to see that you accept that truth. God will honor your faith. Surely you have felt blessed already, have you not ? I know that God is working on your heart, and how much better you will feel when you do all that the lessons point out, for they are but the teachings of the Bible."
Such a follow-up call takes the focus off the visitor and places it on the truth of God, and it is the same procedure that is followed in evangelistic efforts. The follow-up worker need not introduce a mass of new material, but back up the lectures, and constantly keep the interested person loyal to the meetings. It must be so with the Bible lessons also. Never can we afford to permit the student to get the idea that the course he has been taking is not as good as the one we have, or studies we can give personally. Such an idea causes confusion and delay in decisions.
God has given us wonderful lessons through a number of courses. Let us use them, and use them to the full. Talk hope, courage, and baptism to those you visit. Rely on the lessons more completely. Constantly direct the student to them, and you will have more baptisms as a result of your follow-up calls.
* The Radio Commission of the General Conference reports still another impediment to efficiency and progress, and that is the practice by some zealous church members of copying hundreds of names from telephone books or city directories and sending them in to the Voice of Prophecy. This indiscriminate collecting of names, without any indication of interest, is to be discouraged, of course.