More than sixty persons have gone forward in baptism as a direct result of our reading-guidance plan. Here is a plan especially fitted to lay evangelism which ensures success. Lay workers are enthusiastic over the plan, and find it easy to introduce and explain to the prospective reader.
Book outlines have been worked out for seven 96-page Crisis volumes as follows: Our Lord's Return, The Great Judgment Day, The Marked Bible, The Christian Sabbath, The Other Side of Death, Prove All Things, The Bible Made Plain.
For the most part the outlines are restatements of sentences, phrases, or texts used in the book. Only three symbols are used. After the restatement we use a figure in parentheses which indicates the page on which the statement is to be found. T means "text," W means "word," and D means "date." Here are three examples from book outline No. I:
Nineteen centuries ago Jesus said, "I go to the Father." (7) T________________ . [The blank is to be filled in with a text which will be found on page 7. The text wanted is John 16:16.]
The "third kingdom of brass" to "bear rule over all the earth" was (2o) W______ . [The word to be filled in is Greece, and this answer is found on page 20.)
The third celestial sign, the one to follow the signs in the sun and moon, was fulfilled in the great meteoric shower, or falling stars spectacle of (36)
D_____________ . [The date called for is November 13, 1833, and is found on page 36.)
The reader simply checks his reading as he proceeds. Here is systematic reading with guidance. There are no true-or-false questions. The restatements are more than educational—they are calculated to lead to decision. In effect, the book outlines make the reader give himself Bible studies.
In practice, the lay worker gives the folder and book outline I to the reader and explains how it is to be filled in. The lay worker emphasizes the fact that the folder and book outlines are entirely free, that he has nothing to sell. The books, of course, are loaned. Here is his excuse for the return call. If the books were sold with the first visit, the reader would not feel the same urgency to read, and the next visit would hot be quite so easy to make.
The plan is to read a book a week. The reader expects the lay worker to call again the following week with book 2 and book outline 2. Upon each return the lay worker looks over the book outline, and with a red pencil marks "Excellent" or "Very Good," as the work warrants. The idea is not so much that of giving a grade as of giving encouragement. Each lay worker has a key sheet which is used to check the answers.
When the seventh book is completed, the lay worker presents the reader with (I) a reading course certificate, (2) a gift book, Why I Am a Seventh-day Adventist, and (3) a special lesson (not an outline) on "Christian Fellowship." And with these he is also given a verbal invitation to attend Seventh-day Adventist church services the very next Sabbath.
As to results. Some twenty-five lay workers now have from one to seven people each rejoicing in the truth, and others are taking the reading course now who are fine prospects for church membership. Records kept for 230 who received the certificates show forty persons baptized.
Step by step the book outlines help the reader to make his decision for and accept truth as he proceeds and understands it. Reading guidance is direct evangelism particularly suited to earth's harvest hour. Has not the time come for the remnant people to do a quick work ? Scientists, educators, and statesmen are now helping us to proclaim the end of the world, and we do not need to multiply books or studies on the second coming of Christ.
The reading course passes quickly to the testing truths. While concern over the second coming of Christ is still high, book 3, The Marked Bible, is introduced. Thus the Sabbath truth is eased into the consciousness of the reader without offending. We find that the Sabbath question piques the reader's interest, and that most of those who continue as far as the third book go right on to finish the course. Book 4, The Christian Sabbath, clinches the Sabbath argument.
The seven books cover the principal doctrines taught by Seventh-day Adventists. It is left for the lay worker, Bible instructor, or pastor to prepare the interested person for church membership by studies on (I) tithing, (2) church standards (health, dress, amusements), and (3) the Spirit of prophecy.
Many of those taking the course have been ready for baptism in eight to twelve weeks; others have taken longer. The plan keeps right on working while the church carries on its regular activities.
It is not expected that the library reading course with book outlines will take the place of our Bible correspondence courses or any other tested methods of saving souls, but we do believe that it will greatly augment and supplement their effectiveness. It has already proved to be a successful means of winning souls, and has brought some to decide to be baptized who would not respond to any other methods or appeals.
In this hour, when time is at such a premium, the reading-guidance plan makes the interested person give himself his own Bible studies. The lay worker is seldom troubled with hard questions—the books and book outlines make things clear. It is well to remember that the life of the reading-guidance plan is the weekly visit of the lay worker. The regular personal contact is vital. We find that the plan is not adapted to correspondence work.
Reader response varies with temperament, training, and background. For instance, a Mrs. Wood, who many years previous to our contact had learned of Seventh-day Adventists, determined with the reading of the first book to be baptized and join the church. On the other hand, a Mrs. Enoch finished the course and hesitated to take the step until she had read some twenty books more. Our experience tells us that the interest aroused by reading can be
sustained by reading. (That is why we o- a follow-up series of seven books without outlines.) The plan is like an accordion—it can be expanded. Not a few of our readers have decided to observe the seventh-day Sabbath after reading the third book, The Marked Bible.
At the close of each book outline there is a "Meditation," which recapitulates and asks for a decision upon that which has already been acknowledged as truth. These meditations are written in the first person singular (as though a person were talking the matter over with himself, rather than responding to someone's appeal).
Books can be secured from local Book and Bible Houses at seventeen and a half cents each. Most people who take the course become so fond of a book they have already read that they want to buy it. It is then sold for thirty-five cents (not before it is read, but after it is read), and the money goes back to replenish the fund. If capitalized with $too or so, an ordinary church ought to be able to put on a program of book evangelism that would not only result in a fine fruitage but also be quite inexpensive.
How may names be secured to whom the reading course might be introduced? (I) Block-warden plan. (2) Ingathering interest. (3) Colporteur interest. (4) Radio interest. (5) Relatives, neighbors, or friends. (6) Casual contacts. (7) Signs of the Times interest. (8) Those who previously attended an evangelistic series. (9) Backsliders. (10) "Leads." (11) Roomers. ( 12 ) Telephone.
Selling points for the plan: Vital Bible truth.... For busy people.... Systematic reading with guidance... Very little writing.... Just seven 'books... . Free folder for the book outlines. . . Certificate to be presented upon completion. . . . No previous training necessary. . . . It's easy to read a book a week. . . . And it's entirely free. . . . There's nothing to buy now or later.
In view of all these things the prospect is urged to start "now" and read at least fifteen minutes each day. The lay-worker is expected to help the reader get started, and upon leaving after the first visit, asks the reader not to lay the book down but to continue right on with the reading.