We are living in a day when it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw men, women, and youth away from the bright lights of worldly entertainment. As a result some have thought that possibly the days of larger evangelism are over. This is not necessarily true. Instead, it presents a real challenge to our evangelists to find a way of drawing people to hear the most vital message God ever had for men regardless of tremendous worldly competition. To do this properly we must be completely up-to-date in our thinking, in our methods of advertising and work. We must find the interest of those we are seeking to save.
It is generally conceded by our preachers that they can get good Sunday night crowds, but have difficulty in building crowds on week nights. I believe I have found at least a partial answer to this problem. One of the subjects in which almost everyone is interested is health. People are getting more health conscious. Then why not capitalize on this, especially since the Spirit of prophecy has instructed us very definitely that our health work is the right arm of the message? In volume 9 of the Testimonies we find this important passage :
"As a people we have been given the work of making known the principles of health reform. There are some who think that the question of diet is not of sufficient importance to be included in their evangelistic work. But such make a great mistake."—Page 112.
"We should educate ourselves not only to live in harmony with the laws of health, but to teach others the better way. . . . Our ministers should become intelligent upon this question. . . . At our large gatherings, instruction should be given upon health and temperance. . . 'Educate, educate, educate,' is the message that has been impressed upon me."—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 451.
Much success has certainly been attained in our work in the foreign fields where medical evangelism has been used to open the way for the preaching of the entire message. I sincerely believe we have come to the time in America when our evangelists should be using the health message to open the hearts of the people to the truths of the full gospel, preparing them both physically and spiritually for the coming of our beloved Saviour.
Instead of giving one health sermon (usually on temperance) some rainy Tuesday near the end of the evangelistic campaign in which part of the principles of health are dealt with in a very general way, why not use our great health message to draw the interest of the people? Then educate them little by little how to live and take care of their bodies. This will ensure better health and greater service for the Master when they embrace the full truth.
In our evangelistic services I use Friday night for this very important work. Starting the very first week, I give a lively ten- to fifteen-minute health talk at the close of a short song service, preceding the main service. Many will come for the health talk, remain for the sermon, and become interested in the full message, when otherwise they might never come to your meetings.
Some of the subjects used are: "The World's Greatest Temple" (your body), "Why Millions Are Sick" (improper diet), "How to Balance Your Diet" (with this talk we give a chart to each family), "The Mother of t,000 Ills" (constipation), "Vitamins, the Spark of Life," "Public Enemy No. t" (alcohol). In this way of giving the health message, the people are led step by step into a better way of living physically as well as spiritually.
Some will say, "But you must be a doctor or a dietitian to present these health talks." Not at all. We do no diagnosing or prescribing for people who are really sick, but every qualified minister of the denomination ought to know the simple principles of healthful living, understand how to live according to these principles, and be able to tell others how. I fear too many of our ministers do not themselves understand out health principles, and how to select a balanced diet. For example, I saw one worker's tray recently, which contained macaroni, white rice, mashed potatoes, white bread, and dessert. A rather impoverished meal!
"The ministers have work to do here. When they take a right position on this subject, muck will be gained. In their own lives and homes they should obey the laws of life, practicing right principles and living healthfully."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 376.
Of course, it will take time and require stony to get our health talks organized so as to give them in an interesting, concise way. They should not be dull, but alive, and right to the point. This requires real effort, but if we are to do effective and lasting work for Christ and His kingdom, we must be willing to throw ourselves into the task wholeheartedly.
Many times I have made visits to people wha were quite prejudiced against the Sabbath and other truths of our message. These same people were not feeling up to par physically. Instead of going right into a discussion of the Sabbath, we would talk about their physical welfare and what could be done to help them enjoy better health. Almost without exception, other doctrinal subjects can then be approached with a greater chance of successful decisions. The health work is truly the opening wedge. Try it.
At the close of our evangelistic series, I present to those who have attended the Friday night health talks some material that I have prepared in mimeographed form. This gives down-to-earth facts about how to have better health. It includes charts showing how to balance the diet, discusses acid and alkaline foods, simple balanced meals, how to properly combine foods, gives suggestions and recipes for salads, meat substitutes, whole-wheat breads, and other healthful foods.
As we bring our compaign to a close, we like to have a short series of cooking demonstrations, teaching the people how to change their way of cooking and preparing foods, and actually demonstrating how really superior health foods are, both from the standpoint of taste and as an aid for better health. At the end of the cooking classes we serve a delicious balanced meal. These health classes always draw capacity audiences and are of great aid to the people and to the cause of God, in that it helps to make them staunch Seventh-day- Adventists. We have just closed an evangelistic campaign in the city of Fort Wayne, conducting the health classes at the close of the effort. Many attended from as far as fifty miles away. It seems the more we use the health message in our work, the more the Lord blesses in the reaping of souls into the church. Note one more statement from the Spirit of prophecy:
"The gospel of health has able advocates, but their work has been made very hard because so many ministers, presidents of conferences, and others in positions of influence, have failed to give the question of health reform its proper attention. They have not recognized it in its relation to the work of the message as the right arm of the body. . . . When properly conducted, the health work is an entering wedge, making a way for other truths to reach the heart."—Ibid., p. 327.
Fellow evangelists and pastors, let us take advantage of all the light God has given us. Give the health work its proper place in your ministry for mankind, and the Lord will more richly bless your labors. Remember, the right arm of the message is also the right arm of evangelism. Let's use it to the glory of God.