"So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God." 2 Chron. 27 :6.
Many a minister today, who is only a mediocre worker, might be a mighty soul winner for Christ if he, like Jotham, "prepared his ways before the Lord his God."
No army would be successful in an invasion of the enemy's territory unless very careful and deliberate planning was first made. Secretly men are sent ahead to report back all available information concerning the opposing forces. Underground armies are organized. Then comes a strong aerial attack, followed by the ground forces. We all recognize that the effects of the atomic bomb on civilization were far greater than were those of the preparation, but who will deny the far-reaching importance of the many months of preparation?
Anciently God sent spies before Israel. A very thorough preparation of the soil naturally gives a better promise of a rich harvest. There are, of course, many other essentials if we are to be sure of a hundredfold return, but one thing is certain, and that is we can never expect to reap much if we depend only on selfishly reaping the fruits from the unselfish toil of others.
Ellen G. White says on page 432 of Evangelism: "Preparatory work is not of one half the value that the afterwork is." Although this is very true we must not overlook the importance of preparation—both the theory as well as the actual ground work. Jesus said, "These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
A practical question regarding follow-up work is found on page 84 of Evangelism, and leads us into a wise course to pursue in preparing the ground: "Wise generalship is needed in the selection of fields of labor. Plans should be made before a field is entered, [as to] how these souls are to be cared for. Who will minister unto these who shall take hold of the truth?"
One solution to the problem may be found by encouraging colporteurs, medical workers, and missionary-minded families who live the truth to settle in unworked key centers. To my mind this is one of the best ways to prepare a field, and at the same time have loyal members ready on the ground, who are qualified to hold the interest once it has been gained.
"We need wise nurserymen who will transplant trees to different localities and give them advantages, that they may grow. It is the positive duty of God's people to go into the regions beyond. Let forces be set at work to clear new ground, to establish new centers of influence wherever an opening can be found." —Ibid., p. 60.
THE COLPORTEUR COMMANDO.—The evangelist should work very closely with the publishing department secretary. The colporteur is a commando who goes right into the homes of the enemy, carrying truth-filled literature. The evangelist can then follow this up by an aerial attack. (He conducts an air raid—not a tirade.) He, of course, does not use his heavy bombs, but a few incendiaries to set on fire the honest in heart. By the time he marches into the town or city, he is already assured of victory. He may not have any converts in name, but he does have many sympathizers who are potential converts.
"More than one thousand will soon be converted in one day, most of whom will trace their first convictions to the reading of our publications."—Review and Herald, Nov. to, 1885. Thus God has given His approval of using literature in preparing the ground for a harvest. Although we have not come to the place where we are witnessing a thousand conversions to the truth in a day, I believe that we would see scores taking -their stand for this truth if we were more systematic in our distribution of literature.
Layman's Part in Preparing Ground
Laymen who are rightly trained can accomplish much in preparing the ground for an effort by literature distribution, Bible studies, cottage meetings, and lay efforts. Some evangelists are rather skeptical of lay efforts, but I have found them very helpful. The interested ones from these smaller lay efforts who have not yet taken their stand can be bound off in a central effort.
Our laymen need careful instruction, however, in their work, lest they tear down instead of build up. In our preparatory work we do not need to reveal what our real plans are. I have had the sad experience of having someone with zeal, but not according to knowledge, go before me and tell everyone that I was planning to start a new church. This spelled defeat before we even started.
"You need not feel that all the truth is to be spoken to unbelievers on any and every occasion. You should plan carefully what to say and what to leave unsaid. This is not practicing deception ; it is to work as Paul worked. He says, 'Being crafty, I caught you with guile.' "—Evangelism, p. 125.
If we are expecting a good catch, we must not splash around in the water before we let down the net. We might catch a few fish that have little or no backbone, but the ones we are trying to get are gone. We have spoiled it for ourselves and those who will follow us. "Do not arouse opposition before the people have had opportunity to hear the truth and know what they are opposing."—Ibid. p. 143.
We must do all we can to remove the stones in the stony ground of prejudice. The unselfish service of our Dorcas sisters can break up and enrich the hitherto unproductive soil.
Putting Right Arm to Work
Throughout most of Canada We have been trying to do our work with one hand—our left hand at that. But we have been plainly told: "As the right hand of the third angel's message, God's methods of treating disease will open doors for the entrance of present truth."—Ibid., p. 516.
"As a means of overcoming prejudice and gaining access to minds, medical missionary work must be done, not in one or two places only, but in many places where the truth has not yet been proclaimed."—Ibid., p. 515.
Cooking schools, branch Sabbath schools, Sunday schools, as well as temperance and health lectures, can all be used in preparing the field. We should feel free to use any method that will bring results, whether it derives from the home missionary, the Sabbath school, the Missionary Volunteer, the medical, or any other department.
A little boy was lost in one of the dark jungles of Africa. The searching party returned at dusk, their efforts in vain. Early the next morning at dawn the search continued. This time, however, they all joined hands to comb the tall jungle grass. When the lad was found, and his lifeless form was finally placed in the arms of the brokenhearted mother, she cried, "Oh, why didn't you join hands before?" May God help us to join hands in saving earth's millions!