Recently there has been a widespread interest in our ranks concerning "spearhead" evangelism. We use this term spearhead for the want of another word that would adequately express the purposes and objectives of this type of evangelism. This term is used widely in Protestant circles in discussing a type of evangelism employed to reach the people in a brief, yet greatly accelerated, program.
Of course, spearhead evangelism assumes an entirely different perspective to Seventh-day Adventists from what it does to other evangelical bodies. By this type of evangelism we are attempting to measure up to a certain need existing in one aspect of evangelism. This is not a full answer to our evangelistic problem. Neither is it a program that will eventually supplant the other accepted forms of evangelism which we now employ. But spearhead evangelism does meet a certain specific need, and under certain conditions can prove to be most practical in solving evangelistic problems in localities and communities.
The purpose of such an evangelistic approach is to produce a method whereby in a short time the greatest number of people can be reached most effectively for later follow-through work. Spearhead evangelism is primarily designed to attract an audience, and interest them in further study of the Word of God. The full purpose and objective is to secure the names and the addresses of people who would later become candidates for church fellowship after adequate instruction and follow-up work. By presenting an appealing message, we can attract the masses in large numbers to hear our message, and thus become interested in knowing more about it. The time has come when we need to restudy the evangelistic needs not only of our large metropolitan areas but also of rural and smaller communities.
"There was spread out before me city after city in need of evangelistic labors. If diligent effort had been given to the work of making known the truth for this time in the cities that are unwarned, they would not now be as impenitent as they are. From the light that has been given me I know that we might have had today thousands more rejoicing in the truth if the work had been carried forward as the situation demands, in many aggressive lines."—Evangelism, p. 21.
From this statement we learn that we must use many aggressive lines of approach. Time is too short to wait until conditions are so ordered that we can have a regular, large evangelistic staff in each place. Because we are financially unable to put into the field large evangelistic companies, many are inclined to think that we must not attempt evangelism at all, but that we should wait until such a time when the availability of finance and personnel will permit such an extensive program. In order to meet a specific need the plan of spearhead evangelism has been used with great success in many places.
We are free to admit that this type of evangelism has its handicaps. In order to set before our readers the benefits and handicaps of this sort of program, we therefore are undertaking to discuss the matter frankly. At the outset we need to bear in mind the counsel given by the messenger of the Lord in Evangelism:
"A great work is to be done. I am moved by the Spirit of God to say to those engaged in the Lord's work, that the favorable time for our message to be carried to the cities has passed by, and this work has not been done. I feel a heavy burden that we shall now redeem the time."—Page 31.
By recognizing this truth in this trying hour of the world's history, we are endeavoring to redeem the time and let not another day pass by ere we make at least some attempt to reach the masses. We believe that we can open the way very successfully by using the spearhead technique.
The very nature of a spearhead meeting would infer that the campaign would be short and very intensive. Usually a spearhead meeting continues for approximately two weeks, with three Sunday night meetings during the campaign.
Shorter campaigns prove to be successful commensurate to the effort put forth. For instance, in places where spearhead meetings have been held over one week end, beginning Friday evening and ending Sunday night, the meeting proved to be successful in the securing of names, but only to a certain proportion. Such a program is better than none, but it did not prove to be as fruitful as the next experiment, where meetings were held five nights—Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, and the following Sunday night. This was more successful in the securing of names and the obtaining of enrollments in the Bible course than was the meeting held on three nights.
But the most successful method that was used was when we had opportunity to reach the people on three Sunday nights. By beginning on Sunday night of one week, we had the meetings on each night of the week except Monday, and continued on until the third Sunday night. Thus we had a total of thirteen meetings. During these nights we were able to present subjects of vital interest, yet did not touch upon controversial doctrinal points. Thus curiosity was aroused for a greater understanding of the prophecies and the doctrines of the Bible, and the people were encouraged to enroll in the Bible correspondence course.
As a church we are peculiarly blessed by the development of various Bible correspondence courses. This idea has radically altered previous approaches to evangelism on a mass scale. The Bible correspondence school method of teaching people has proved its merit, and many conferences and fields have accepted this type of evangelism as a very essential part of the entire evangelistic picture. Numerous conferences and fields have set up schools under the administration of the conference committee. Hundreds and thousands of people have enrolled in these courses through the years. Sensing the limitations of the Bible correspondence courses does not lead us to presume that it ought to be abandoned, but rather, we feel that the Bible correspondence method fulfills a real need, and that we can utilize it in a most practical way. We believe that by combining the Bible correspondence school idea with the spearhead public effort, we will be able to do a type of evangelism that will be most effective and productive.
During these initial meeetings we need not be anxious to present the heavier and weightier doctrines, for if we do this, we will of necessity cripple our long-range program. Experiments have shown that by first preaching subjects as set forth in the Spirit of prophecy we are able to break down prejudice, create good will, and at the same time secure enrollments in the Bible correspondence courses, and then later we can follow through in a personal follow-up program.
"We need to break up the monotony of our religious labor. We are doing a work in the world, but we are not showing enough activity and zeal. If we were more in earnest, men would be convinced of the truth of our message. The tameness and monotony of our service for God repels many who are looking to see in us a deep, earnest, sanctified zeal. Legal religion will not answer this age. . . . Here is the secret of success, in preaching a living personal Saviour in so simple and earnest a manner that the people may be able to lay hold by faith of the power of the Word of life."— Ibid., pp. 169, 170.
"If we wish to convince unbelievers that we have the truth that sanctifies the soul and transforms the character, we must not vehemently charge them with their errors. Thus we force them to the conclusion that the truth does not make us kind and courteous, but coarse and rough."—Ibid., p. 173.
"He will be able to speak right words, and to speak them in love. He will not try to drive home God's message of truth. He will deal tenderly with every heart, realizing that the Spirit will impress the truth on those who are susceptible to divine impressions. Never will he be vehement in his manner. Every word spoken will have a softening, subduing influence."—Ibid., p. 174.
"The preacher should endeavor to carry the understanding and sympathies of the people with him. Do not soar too high, where they cannot follow, but give the truth point after point, slowly and distinctly, making a few essential points, then it will be as a nail fastened in a sure place by the Master of assemblies. If you stop when you should, giving them no more at once than they can comprehend and profit by, they will be eager to hear more, and thus the interest will be sustained."—Ibid., p. 177.
"In order to break down the barriers of prejudice and impenitence, the love of Christ must have a part in every discourse. Make men to know how much Jesus loves them, and what evidences He has given them of His love. What love can equal that which God has manifested for man, by the death of Christ on the cross ? When the heart is filled with the love of Jesus, this can be presented to the people, and it will affect hearts."—/bid., pp. 189, too.
"More people than we think are longing to find the way to Christ. Those who preach the last message of mercy should bear in mind that Christ is to be exalted as the sinner's refuge. Some ministers think that it is not necessary to preach repentance and faith ; they take it for granted that their hearers are acquainted with the gospel, and that matters of a different nature must be presented in order to hold their attention. But many people are sadly ignorant in regard to the plan of salvation ; they need more instruction upon this allportant subject than upon any other."—Ibid., pp. 185, 186.
"These are our themes—Christ crucified for our sins, Christ risen from the dead, Christ our intercessor before God; and closely connected with these is the office work of the Holy Spirit, the representative of Christ, sent forth with divine power and gifts for men.
"His pre-existence, His coming the second time in glory and power, His personal dignity, His holy law uplifted, are the themes that have been dwelt upon with simplicity and power."—/bid., p. 187.
After reading these few statements, of which many, many more could be cited, we will discover the one salient truth emphasized by the messenger of the Lord, namely, that we spend more time on a thorough preparation of one field, and build solidly for later work. The statement is climaxed by these words:
"Speak to them, as you have opportunity, upon points of doctrine on which you can agree. Dwell on the necessity of practical godliness. . . . Thus you will gain their confidence ; and there will be time enough for doctrines. Let the heart be won, the soil prepared, and then sow the seed, presenting in love the truth as it is in Jesus."—Ibid., p. 200.
In view of this clear instruction, many of our successful evangelists are today following this blueprint and are reaping rich harvests of souls.
In the spearhead evangelistic campaign we speak of such themes as "Jesus Christ the Hope of the Race," "The Christ of Prophecy," "The Christ of the Bible," "The Christ of Our Time," "The Coming of Christ," "The Redeeming Christ," and so forth. Here is a wealth of opportunity to speak eloquently and fervently in behalf of our Saviour; here is an opportunity to challenge men with an application of Christ's principles as the only answer to our present world problems.
Details of the Organization
A spearhead effort requires thorough organiization. We meet with the church board and lay the plan before our brethren, explaining that we want to hold this brief and intensive public meeting to invite the people to enroll in the Bible correspondence courses. We use every legitimate method to advertise the meeting in order to make it one big thing in the community in which the meeting is held. After the matter has been presented to the board, and their questions answered, the plan is explained to the church in a Sabbath morning evangelistic meeting. A call is made for consecration, followed by an appeal for visitors and helpers to contact personally those who have been to the meetings. Thus the laymen are mobilized to assist the preacher in following through the interest.
Literature is taken by laymen to the people who have attended the spearhead meeting, and when an interest is discovered, Bible studies can be planned for and community schools organized. Furthermore, during the public meetings enrollment cards are distributed to the people every night, inviting them to enroll in the Bible correspondence course. Thus each evening new enrollees are secured. When those people who are taking the Bible course have been enrolled, the laymen, as well as any other conference workers who may be associated with the meeting, call upon the enrollees, encouraging them to go through with the course and assisting them in filling out the various questionnaires. This process of visiting is maintained week by week.
After the spearhead meeting has closed its public phase, these interests are encouraged to come together for a weekly Bible class; and all efforts of the workers are bent to follow through the interest secured in these few nights of public meetings. Quite naturally there is no financial outlay required for this follow-through work, except for the cost of the literature and the Bible courses. By this intensified follow-through procedure over a period of months many interests are brought together and prepared for baptism. The Bible class meets each week on a certain stated night. Tuesday has been found to be a good night for this.
Occasionally the pastor wishes to follow the interest through with meetings on Sunday evenings, either in the church or in some smaller hall. All the interested people whose names have been secured in the spearhead meeting are visited, or reached by letter, and encouraged to come to the Bible class and to the Sunday night meetings, if such meetings are held. In the Sunday night meetings that follow there is no particular attempt made to advertise other than to reach by direct mail those people whose names we have secured during the larger spearhead public meeting.
The importance of the Bible class and the Sunday night meetings cannot be overemphasized, but of equal importance is concerted faithfulness in following through this interest by personal work. By organizing the laymen, we find it possible to reach most of the people whose names have been received during the spearhead meeting. Thus, systematic personal contacts, such as distributing additional literature, assisting the interested in preparing the questionnaire of the Bible course, a friendly chat and a word of prayer in the homes—all contribute toward the upbuilding of good will and the awakening of interest for further Bible study.
The spearhead effort does not involve a large outlay of money. A financial obligation is involved for advertising the public meetings, of course, but much of this expense can be met by the local church and by the offerings received from the public. Even if the program needs to be financed entirely from the conference treasury, this type of evangelism is bound to succeed provided it is faithfully followed through by the people who are left to make the personal contacts and conduct the Bible classes.
The usual advertising methods are used preceding the meeting. Before the meetings we advertise several weeks in advance, so that the people might prepare for the meeting. We announce on all our advertising:
"This forthcoming series of Bible addresses by -----------------(evangelist) is one unit of a great world-wide program to carry the name of Christ to all the nations in one generation. Already working in 860 languages and 400 countries and islands the------------------(city) church of Seventh-day Adventists is very happy to bring you---------------------- (evangelist) in this series of addresses, which we believe you will greatly appreciate. Hundreds of thousands of Christians throughout the world are uniting together in carrying this gospel of the kingdom to all the earth in this generation."
A statement such as this appearing by way of preadvertising disarms our enemies and prepares the way for us. We believe that the spearhead method of evangelism is able to fulfill a great need at this time, and that many results will come from the seed thus sown.
In brief, where this plan has been tried and faithfully followed through, there have been scores and scores of baptisms at a low minimum cost to the conference. It might be noted, however, that unless the work is diligently followed through in a personal way, a spearhead effort will not prove nearly as successful as it could be. The importance of personal work cannot be overemphasized, but that is quite another subject that can be presented at some future time.
Many conferences and some unions have adopted this type of evangelism as the most likely to assist them in meeting the challenge of entering towns and communities that have never heard this message. Surely we cannot wait until we are able to secure large financial reserves and sufficient personnel before we attempt evangelism in these unentered places.
Spearhead evangelism will be a natural supplement to the evangelistic program we are now carrying. A district leader may conduct a whole series of these meetings throughout his district and have a continually developing interest from the Bible correspondence course. The possibilities are unlimited. District men within conferences could exchange pulpits for a week or two at a time, and thus mutually help each other in securing names for later personal work. When one gives thought to the possibilities of the spearhead meeting, he can see before him new vistas and new opportunities to work for the Lord in this hour when we must make haste to redeem the time.