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Transferring Meetings From Theater to Church

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Archives / 1947 / September

 

 

Transferring Meetings From Theater to Church

Frank B. Thompson

By FRANK B. THOMPSON, Pastor, First Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

 

There are many methods of conducting an evangelistic meeting. Some prefer to re­frain from revealing the denominational identity until all, or at least the major portion, of the testing truths have been presented. Others, wishing to avoid all appearances of deception, prefer to openly reveal the denomi­national sponsor. Not only will the choice of method govern the entire style of presentation, order of subjects, and freedom of association with religious and civic leaders, as well as news reporters, but it is also an important factor in making a successful transfer of any sizable por­tion of the audience from the public meeting place to the church for continued evangelistic meetings. This article will discuss the transfer problem solely from the angle of the open, frank type of evangelistic meeting, where no secret is made of our identity.

Perspective and objective would, it seems, give direction, shape and purpose to every public contact and utterance during an evange­listic service. One may be concerned only with immediate results, as measured by the size of the baptismal class, and give no thought or con­cern to continued good will among the many who do not "accept the truth." One may look upon the church building as a place for church members to worship in, but never conceive of it as a place for evangelistic meetings. But when the evangelist takes a different view of his work, and considers himself as an ambassador of good will, when he is not only concerned with the immediate results of a particular effort, but is concerned in cultivating public attitude in such a manner as to improve the working conditions of his successor (the local pastor), his larger vision will cause him to want to popularize the denominational name as well as his own.

He will endeavor to break down any preju­dice, misunderstanding, or . dissatisfaction that may be existing when he arrives, and will with meticulous care avoid giving the enemy of truth any opportunity to accuse us of unfair­ness, of lack of Christian candor, or of using questionable, undignified evangelistic methods. His ethics will be above reproach. He will stand as a champion of truth and sincerity, a supporter of the denomination that is supporting him.

It seems to be a demonstrable proposition, so patent as to be incontrovertible, so apparent as to be axiomatic, that any transfer of an audience from a hall or theater to a church building, for evangelistic purposes, must stem from good will toward the speaker and the denominational sponsor. And that this can be done has been demonstrated.

When the time came to close the second series of meetings in the Lyceum Theater in Minneapolis, the attendance was good. The offerings indicated good will. And all who came knew they were attending a meeting sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist churches of Minneapolis. From the inception of the effort this information was put in the news ads and given over the air. In no way did Evangelist Eckenroth endeavor to cover the denominational identity. Early in the first series of meetings, and again in the second, the pastors of the local churches were introduced to the large audience. The names and locations of the five Seventh-day Adventist churches were printed on the evening program, and a printed and an oral invitation were extended to the audience to visit the most convenient S.D.A. church. Many accepted the invitation. Thus the good work of ultimate transfer from theater to church building was begun long before it had to be put into final effect.

Two Methods of Procedure

When the time approaches for the evangelist to begin labor in another area and the central meetings must close, two methods present them­selves: (x) Have as large a farewell meeting in the hall or theater as possible, and let the local pastors wrestle with the problem of getting any besides the actual church members to attend the local church, or (2) the evangelist, knowing how it is almost impossible to transfer an audience from a central, downtown hall to a suburban church, yet knowing that a great many more will follow him through the door of the church building, may, if he chooses, take a sizable portion of the audience with him into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

As a result of this recent effort in Minnea­polis, so large was the crowd that followed the evangelist to the First Church that they could not be accommodated. The church seats over six hundred. A public address system was in­stalled in the basement rooms, where another two hundred and fifty could be seated. And for the farewell service two sections were arranged the same evening, each of which produced overflow audiences.

The Sunday night meeting in the church is still in progress, conducted by the local pastors. The staff of workers is greatly reduced, interns have moved to their districts, workers have responded to calls, and lay members are filling in as best they can. Unforeseen contingencies caused speakers to be switched back and forth, but the people still come. The interest is still good, and the transfer was a success.

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