Seventh-day Adventists have reason to thank God for the light that has been given to them. Our message is not just an ordinary one; it is the message. It is the last warning to be sounded to the world. There are many thousands of honesthearted people who are anxious to know the truth in this hour of confusion and great darkness. It is our solemn responsibility to see that they receive the light. The Bible states, "When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." Isa. 26:9. This prophecy is finding a literal fulfillment at the present time. We have never had a more opportune time for the proclamation of the great prophecies of God's Word than we have today.
It is incumbent upon God's workers to devise methods of presenting the great truths that we hold in such a way as to impress them upon the multitudes who know them not. I want to emphasize the word methods, plural. I do not think that we should be satisfied with any one method. No one method will succeed so well as will a number of them. A teacher who uses the lecture method or any other method without variation will become monotonous. One outstanding teacher has said, "Any one method used to the exclusion of all others is a poor one."
We want to guard against becoming satisfied with one procedure to the neglect of all others in our evangelism. Using a variety of methods is one way to hold the crowds in regular attendance. For instance, one night we can use stereopticon pictures; on another night we can use charts; another time we may use the blackboard, or a plywood device.
There are occasions when a sound motion picture can be used, either as a preliminary or as a conclusion to the presentation of the message. (Motion picture projectors can be rented in many cities.) This method is particularly valuable when the subject of Armageddon is presented, for it can be made more striking by the showing of a picture such as the one entitled "Fire Power," an impressive war picture. Another case in which moving pictures are effective is the presentation of the subject "Hell —and the Destruction of This World." I have used a sound motion picture of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in connection with the presentation of this subject. As the audience views the picture showing the hot, molten lava sweeping away entire cities and villages in its awful destructive work, they are impressed with the truth that our world will be burned and the elements melt with fervent heat. No words of the speaker can so impress them with this fact.
On this matter of using a variety of methods to keep our meetings from becoming monotonous, we have a statement in Testimonies to Ministers, which reads : "Different methods of labor are really essential in sowing the seeds of truth."—Page 251. It is evident that one who uses the same procedure night after night for months at a time will wear out the patience of the people who attend, and the crowd will diminish before very long. There is a bit of strategy in the plan of keeping the people in an attitude of expectancy from night to night, and it is bound to stimulate interest so that they will want to come and see what the evangelist is going to do each night.
Pictures, charts, and devices are most valuable in the presentation of our message. A familiar old Chinese proverb states that one picture is worth a thousand words. Modern educators affirm that eighty per cent of our information is received through sight. If we were to quote texts to uphold this, a familiar one, found in Habakkuk 2 :2 would fit in well: "Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables." It is doubtful if anyone can adequately present the subject of the 2300-year prophecy using words alone. Its very nature requires that it be made "plain upon tables."
A portable blackboard, placed on an artist's light easel or other stand is an inexpensive yet valuable piece of equipment for the evangelist. All charts, diagrams, maps, pictures, graphs, and sketches that we use should be as simple as it is possible to make them. Sometimes the method or device used to present such subjects as the 2300-year prophecy is so complicated that it is doubtful if the evangelist fully understands what he is doing, much less the people who are sitting in the audience.
There are various classes of pictorial display mentioned in A. J. Wearner's book entitled The Art of Personal Evangelism. We find the following listed:
1. Christological.—Horizontal lines marked off to represent periods of time, as desired to indicate epochs or reigns. This method would be used to illustrate the prophecy of the millennium and the 2300 days.
2. Diagrammatic.—For relationships and genealogies, also percentages and figures.
3. Symbolic—This class is that of the Bible examples of symbolical representation.
4. Pictorial.—The best examples of the picture class of display are the picture roll and the stereopticon.
5. Cartoons.—Often these bear a very impressive lesson with very few words.
6. Geographic.—Maps of the nations or sections of the world being studied are very helpful.
7. The Ground Plan.—Especially valuable is the ground plan sketch in any study on the subject of the sanctuary,
All these helps should be kept secondary to the main topic, of course, and each must contribute a definite part. Be careful to avoid the danger of overdoing the method.
I want to caution against the use of theatrical or sensational methods. There has been a tendency with some to follow the style of the popular evangelists of the world. "The work in the large cities is to be done after Christ's order, not after the order of a theatrical performance." —Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 142. We are not to be actors, acrobats, or clowns. We should not endeavor to provoke laughter and tears. On the other hand we should not appear to be stiff and unbending.
Let us also remember that it is the truth we are preaching, and the truth needs no help from falsehood. Let us exclude from our preaching the use of all fiction, even though it has been produced by noted writers and is glamorous in its appeal. We need to take heed not to bring into the explanation of Bible stories details which have originated in Catholic tradition, such as the Christmas story. Historical novels, Christmas stories, dramatizations of Bible incidents by fiction writers, and the like have no place in our work. The use of these are really attempts to add to the Word of God, and are not pleasing to the Author.
A further warning needs to be sounded against the use of forged and invented religious documents, such as supposed contemporary manuscripts from the times of Christ; and also wild and unfounded rumors of archaeological discoveries, such as the finding of Noah's ark. It would be wise for each evangelist to familiarize himself with the book Strange New Gospels, by Dr. Goodspeed of the University of Chicago, in which this mass of fraudulent and forged religious documents is exposed. However, if we each stick closely to the Bible and to the truth, the counterfeit will not appeal to us. May God help us to recognize that we stand before a judgment-bound world, and preach the truth in all its solemnity.
In volume 9 of the Testimonies, we read:
"We must also have, in our cities, consecrated evangelists through whom a message is to be borne so decidedly as to startle the hearers."—Page 137. In Desire of Ages we are told in regard to Christ's method, "With deep earnestness He [Jesus] explained the prophecies." —Page 154. (Italics mine.) Zechariah 4:6 says : "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."
We are preaching a serious message to a dying world. We stand between the living and the dead. We should be consecrated men and women of God, and we should manifest the utmost sincerity. Our message should come from the heart and not altogether from the head.
John the Baptist was a man who fits the description of what to my mind is the perfect evangelist. He was ordained of God, as you and
I are, "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just: to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Luke I :17. The following brief statements from The Desire of Ages reveal what a stirring preacher John the Baptist was. His messages "caused them [the people] to tremble because of their great wickedness."—Page 104. "The whole nation was stirred. Multitudes flocked to the wilderness."—Ibid. "Under his heart-searching words, His hearers were convicted. They came to him with the inquiry, What shall we do?"—Ibid., p. 107.
When by God's help we can preach with the sincerity, fervor, and power of John, we will not need to worry very much about methods. The greatest need is for humility and consecration such as this man of God had. The method that we need most to concern ourselves with is the method of preparing for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. May God help us to receive it soon.