This is to continue our discussion of sermon reporting as featured last month. To make reports of evangelistic sermons bright and interesting requires thought, patience, and real effort.
Let us assume you are holding Sunday night meetings for the public in your church, and that the editor of your paper will publish a short sermon extract on Monday. You may have three hundred people at the service, but perhaps the newspaper goes into thirty-five hundred homes. Any effort you make to get your message, or even part of it, into the newspaper is worthwhile.
One of the points that should constantly be emphasized is not to attempt too much in sermon reports. Select the outstanding thought, and build around it. The church page of many papers is open to brief extracts from sermons. Here is a good example of how a sermon can be boiled down and still teach a lesson. It appeared in the Syracuse, New York Post Standard, with the headline, "Right to Worship Bought With Blood."
Elder Alexander Houghton, pastor of James Street Seventh-day Adventist church, spoke last night on "The Struggle for Liberty."
"Men have paid the price for this liberty to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience," he said, "and it was bought through the blood and sacrifice of those who took their stand for Jesus and His teachings."
He explained that Christ also differentiated man's duty to God and his country when He said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's,"
A group of clippings from the Fort Pierce News Tribune has been sent us by Fenton Froom in Florida. He evidently has the co-operation and confidence of the editor, and can thus reach thousands of people with no expense whatever to the church. Under the heading, "Spiritism Subject of Froom's Talk," this item recently appeared:
"Spiritism has entered the field of religion. That makes it necessary for you and me as Christians to become acquainted with its origin and destiny," declared Fenton E. Froom before a large audience Sunday night in the Adventist temple.
"Through 800,00o mediums $200,000,000 is spent annually on fortune telling. Spiritualism claims that death is a transition into a higher state of existence and that the deceased are ever present with us," the evangelist continued. "Whereas, the Bible says that the dead know not anything." Eccl. 9 :5.
[Then what the Bible says about ancient spiritism , an abomination, etc.]
Study to present statements of truth in a few clear strong words. Our church press secretaries are opening the way for their pastors to have sermon extracts on the church pages of the newspapers. We would urge our pastors to interest themselves in the possibilities here presented.
Now let us further discuss leads for sermons. Where the subject so suggests, let your lead be sufficiently general to apply to the entire Christian church. For example, L. K. Dickson addressed a regional meeting of Seventh-day Adventists, and his central theme was depending on prayer and devotion for the finishing of the work. He also reviewed the prophecies and the fulfillment of almost all of them to date. A write-up of this service appeared in the Lansing, Michigan, State Journal, with the heading "CITES NEED FOR PRAYER. Adventist Leader Asserts Devotion More Important Than Material Assets." Note the lead, which is sufficiently general to apply to the Christian church as a whole:
Prayer and devotion of life on the part of its members will do more to advance the work of the church than all its material assets, Elder L. K. Dickson of Washington, D.C., told a large congregation at the West Junior high school auditorium on Saturday.
Addressing a union meeting of Seventh-day Adventist churches in the Lansing and Jackson districts, Mr. Dickson . .. declared that the whole world today is opening for the gospel.
"Every prophecy of the Bible that points to the second coming of Christ has been fulfilled to that point in history which calls for the outpouring of the Spirit of God in its fullness," he said. "The multitude of problems and the mountainous perplexities before the church today can only be met by the power of God in answer to prayer, and not by material resources." . . .
In these days you can often put hope into your lead. At the same time you can make it current in interest. Note this in the lead to this sermon preached by H. T. Elliott to a group of workers in St. Paul, Minnesota, and reported in the Minneapolis Tribune (circulation I01,000). The story is headlined, "CHRIST GOSPEL SEEN AS HOPE. Adventists Hear Washington Minister."
"In the face of rising crime, labor troubles, and international uncertainty, the gospel of Christ is the, only hope that can be held out," the Rev. H. T. Elliott, Washington, D.C., said Friday night in St. Paul.
Addressing Seventh-day Adventist ministers of the Northern Union Conference in the Volunteers of America auditorium, Mr. Elliott urged them to be diligent in studying and preaching the prophecies of the second coming of Christ.
Another recent example of gaining attention in the lead by referring to subjects upon which people are thinking is this report of a sermon preached at a union service of the Twin Cities churches during the Northern Union session, just closed. This story, headlined, "Adventists Told to Prepare for Coming of Christ," came out Sabbath afternoon in the Minneapolis Star Journal, appearing in the center at the top of the church page. Note the lead and the general construction.
Recognition of world conditions as fulfillment of Bible prophecy and preparation for the second coming of Christ were urged here today by the Rev N. C. Wilson, Washington, D.C., head of the Seventh-day Adventist church work in North America.
Mr. Wilson spoke at the Twin Cities Adventist union Sabbath services at Simpson Methodist church, held in connection with the quadrennial session of the Adventist Northern Union Conference.
"Religious and nonreligious people alike recognize that the world has reached a new day, a new hour, a new epoch in its history," Mr. Wilson said.
"It need not be a time for alarm," he added, declaring that "the only sensible thing to do is to let our lives be transformed by the gospel of Christ and make ready for His coming." . . .
You will enjoy working up sermon material for the press as you think of the wonderful possibilities for influencing someone who may not otherwise be reached. There are many types of sermons. They need not be doctrinal. Our ministers are being invited to contribute sermons for the papers along with the other ministers -of their cities. These can be general messages of truth. As a result of the news story in the Topeka, (Kansas), State Capital, handled by Oscar L. Heinrich, church pastor, he was asked by the church editor to contribute a sermon for the sermon page. He gave me a clipping of it at St. Louis during the Central Union conference session. Under the general title SUNDAY MEDITATION, there is a subtitle, "The Mystery of Peace," with his name and picture. It is a beautiful message. He leads out by quoting John 14:27, followed by a discussion of the peace of Christ. Below this there is a reference to the "Guest Writer today," with full information as to his work and background.
The Bureau of Press Relations (Takoma Park 12, D.C.) will appreciate receiving your clippings of sermons and other material of this type that you are having published. We have recently prepared a rather complete manual in mimeograph and illustrated form that we are using in the union conference sessions. This is entitled "How to Use the Press in Our Program of Evangelism." Any ministers or other workers who do not receive a copy in the union ministerial institute he attends, and who can make use of this material, may feel free to ask us for a copy.