During the six weeks' evangelistic campaign conducted by the Voice of Prophecy group in the Sligo church during the fall of 1945, we had a good opportunity to observe the conduct of meetings carried on by perhaps the best-prepared and best-equipped group in the denomination.
Elder and Mrs. Howard Curran had charge of this phase of the meetings. The Pictured Truth meeting was held just preceding the sermon each night, and the subject presented was, so far as possible, co-ordinated with the sermon topic. Mrs. Curran operated the picture machine from the front of the balcony, and gave her message as the pictures were thrown upon the screen. She spoke through a microphone so that she could be heard plainly throughout the entire auditorium.
The Pictured Truth meetings did much to build up the attendance and also to deepen the interest in the regular preaching service each night. Having proved the value of these presentations through years of evangelistic efforts, Elder Richards was very urgent in his request that the Potomac Conference include Brother and Sister Curran in the budget for the Sligo effort. It requires a great deal of equipment at considerable outlay of means to conduct such meetings, but the results always justify the expense. Hundreds of people came regularly every night, principally because of the interest created by this means. And long after much that they heard is forgotten many of them will retain in their memories the truths they saw illustrated.
It is a well-recognized fact that the two most effective channels through which knowledge is conveyed to the mind are the eye and the ear, and of the two, the eye is by far the more effective. Impressions received through the eye are quicker, more vivid, and more lasting than those that enter the mind through the avenue of the ear. But by combining both, we have the very best method of presenting truth to the minds of the people. This was recognized by the greatest Teacher this world has ever seen, and the remnant people will do well to make use of the same method.
The Master Teacher spoke of known things to teach the unknown, but more than that, His audience often saw the things while He was drawing His lessons from them. To illustrate, take the parable of the ten virgins. When Christ gave this parable He and His disciples were actually looking upon a wedding scene. We read from Christ's Object Lessons: "As Christ sat looking upon the party that waited for the bridegroom, He told His disciples the story of the ten virgins, by their experiences illustrating the experience of the church that shall live just before His second coming."—Page 406.
In the parable of the sower recorded in Matthew 13, the multitude had another pictured-truth lesson. (See Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 27, 28.)
One more incident of how Christ used the parable, or illustrated, method for more effectually presenting divine truth is found in Matthew 5:14, where Jesus said to His disciples, "Ye are the light of the world," and the Spirit of prophecy describing the scene that prompted this statement says, as found on page 63 of the book Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing:
"The people had come together while it was yet morning. The glorious sun, climbing higher and higher in the blue sky, was chasing away the shadows that lurked in the valleys and among the narrow defiles of the mountains...Nature smiled under the benediction of a new day, and the birds sang sweetly among the trees. The Saviour looked upon the company before Him, and then to the rising sun, and said to His disciples, 'Ye are the light of the world.' As the sun goes forth on its errand of love, dispelling the shades of night and awakening the world to life, so the followers of Christ are to go forth on their mission, diffusing the light of heaven upon those who are in the darkness of error and sin.
"In the brilliant light of the morning, the towns and villages upon the surrounding hills stood forth clearly, making an attractive feature of the scene. Pointing to them, Jesus said, 'A city set on a hill cannot be hid.' And, he added, 'Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under a bushel, but on the stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house.' Most of those who listened to the words of Jesus were peasants and fishermen, whose lowly dwellings contained but one room, in which the single lamp, on its stand, shone to all in the house. Even so, said Jesus, 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' "—Page 63.
Thus we see how effectually Christ used the pictured-truth method in commanding the attention and arousing the interest of His hearers. Commenting upon this method as employed by Christ, Mrs. White says : "By connecting His teaching with scenes of life, experience, or nature, He secured their attention and impressed their hearts. No more effective method of instruction could He have employed." (Italics mine.)
If that was the best method the Prince of teachers could employ, surely it is the best His servants could use in presenting the message for this time. It is timely that our evangelists, teachers, and Bible instructors are today making more and more extensive use of visual aids in presenting divine truth.
Many instances could be cited of how God has made use of the fact that men are attracted more by what they see than by what they hear. When the Lord would attract the attention of the man whom He would use to deliver His captive people from Egypt, He set a bush afire by the side of his path. And Moses said, "I will now turn aside, and see this great sight."
In order to impress the haughty monarch who refused to let Israel go, He drew an impenetrable curtain across the face of the sun so that for three days no one in Egypt went out of his house.
E. W. Dunbar relates the following experience in using visual aids for evangelism. A young man in his early teens in one of our conferences assumed the burden of visiting every home in the block in which he lived. He went around the square, knocking at every door and offering to come in for an evening to show Bible pictures on the screen. As a result of his solicitation, this junior boy found over a dozen homes where he was welcomed. He started holding meetings in each home, and the work he was doing grew to such proportions that he called for help from the conference office. Elder Dunbar went to assist him one night, and found eight or nine mothers and fathers from neighboring homes who had come to hear this boy and see his "Bible pictures." A very fine harvest of souls resulted from his work.
This story was being told in a youth rally in another part of the country, when a fourteenyear-old son of one of our doctors heard it and said to his mother, "Why couldn't I do something like that?" His mother being a real missionary-minded person, said, "Son, I believe you could do it. Why not try?" "Where shall I begin?" asked the boy. The mother suggested that he endeavor to work with a pharmacist who was a friend of the family. This pharmacist opened his home to the boy every Sabbath afternoon for Bible studies. I attended one of these meetings, and this fourteen-year-old lad gave an inspiring presentation of "The Millennium." Later on I met this pharmacist, his wife, and their child, who had been baptized through the efforts of this youth.
In the Northwest, one of our young men who was not of the promising type, but who was a very earnest Christian boy, decided to do a little crusading for Christ and win some souls for the Lord. He secured the support of his M.V. Society. They put out literature, rented a ground-floor hall, and decorated it attractively. The meetings were advertised to begin on Sunday night, and the young man went to the hall Saturday night to practice his sermon for the next night. He turned off the lights, took his position in the center of the hall, and threw the various Bible texts and pictures on the screen, drilling himself and preparing to preach the next evening. People going by knew the meetings were not scheduled to open then, but they heard a voice and saw the flickering light on the screen. So they came in and found their way to seats in the darkness. More came in. The boy was so intent in practicing his sermon that he did not notice the people as they gathered. When he finished practicing, he felt his way over to the light switch, and was surprised to find quite a sizable congregation there. Of this number who were present before the meetings officially opened, five were baptized and united with God's people.