One of the provisions in Ministerial Association service to the field is for an occasional field school of evangelism to be conducted by one of the secretaries, in connection with a city evangelistic effort. This is part of their multiple responsibilities designed to stimulate increasingly effective ministerial training in our colleges, and to encourage strong, successful evangelism.
Last fall plans were laid for such a field school in the city of Pittsburgh in connection with a metropolitan campaign. As one of our great Eastern cities, Pittsburgh presents a rather unique challenge. The city itself embraces nearly a million in population. However, it is the shopping center for nearly three and one-half million people, living within a radius of thirty miles. As the steel and electrical heart of the Western Hemisphere, it would doubtless be one of the most conspicuous military targets in America. And in case of an atomic war these millions would stand helpless before the attacks of the opposing force.
Early last fall reliable information was brought to our attention that a certain foreign power had marked a hugh red X on the map at Pittsburgh, to focus all-out attention upon that great city. Naturally, this stirred the hearts of the conference officials and the workers. It was felt that a representative evangelistic appeal ought to be made to that city immediately. Other plans were canceled, and in an almost incredibly short period of time the meetings were in progress.
Preparation, Operation, and Results
The respected old Carnegie Music Hall was engaged, and the group of workers who were to participate and attend the field school gathered for the pre-effort planning and assignment of responsibility. The churches rallied, adequate financial support was assured, and the first meeting opened with a double session in this beautiful auditorium, on October 20.
One week before the meetings convened 1,076,000 newspapers carried the opening announcement with a tactfully worded paragraph identifying the entire program as sponsored by Seventh-day Adventists, the people of prophecy. Thirteen hundred streetcars and busses carried attractive advertisements for the first month. Thousands of mailing cards were sent to the leading people of the city ; and in spite of an unusual downpour of rain, both sessions that first Sunday night were well attended. At this writing, some twenty weeks later, the average Sunday-night attendance is still approximately one thousand. As a result of the blessing of God, 153 have been added to the church. Much credit can be given to the faithful efforts of the young men and women in training, the helpful assistance of Ben Glanzer, singing evangelist from the Voice of Prophecy, and Mary Walsh, leading Bible instructor from the Columbia Union.
The people responded by giving over 1,000 during the first eleven weeks. In one offering, with very little promotion aside from a deeply spiritual appeal, the audience placed $1,800 on the altar. On another night they gave $1,300. We believe there will be a substantial amount left to the conference, after six months of evangelism, to carry on a continuous follow-up program.
Safeguarding Against Public Opposition
Surely we cannot measure the results of any evangelistic approach to a city of this nature by the comparatively few who step out and immediately take their stand with God's remnant people. I firmly believe that our attitude expressed in public utterances and in our relationship to business people, the ministry, the press, and the radio, virtually assures the success of continued reaping.
Pittsburgh is nearly so percent Catholic. The Protestant element is predominantly Presbyterian, with the usual combination of Fundamentalist Bible-student groups. As yet there has been no open break in opposition, after five months, and we have no reason to believe that there will be any public attacks. It should be made quite clear, in this connection, that there has been no compromise in the teaching of the message, even to the public presentation of the Spirit of prophecy on several occasions.
We have sought to guard the reputation of Seventh-day Adventists in the city through several means: (x) by carrying on the work in such a way as to represent the dignity of the message; (2) by securing the very finest halls and attempting to combine taste and earnest appeal in all advertising; (3) by making no open or public attacks; (4) by advertising controversial subjects privately through the mails to the families already interested; and (5) by attempting under God to bring men and women face to face with sound and abiding conversion before, during, and after the presentation of the testing truths. The abundant counsel in the Spirit of prophecy leads one to the conviction that if souls are genuinely converted, if they understand the steps requisite in giving their hearts to God, if they have experienced a work of grace, then there will be little argument when pointed testing truths are presented.
Speaking of this unobtrusive, yet highly effective, method of advertising controversial subjects to interested people privately through the mails, I should like to point out that there are many possibilities under such a plan. For some years I have followed the plan of sending a weekly printed post card to every interested name, in addition to other forms of advertising. The results have been gratifying. Here are the four objectives:
Advantages of Post Card Reminder
(I) As a weekly reminder, prepared in an appealing and striking manner, the post card reaches the home of the interested person on the week end, just in time to re-emphasize announcements made in public services during the week or on the previous Sunday night. Thus it tends to build a regular attendance, which, of course, is of paramount importance.
(2) Many casually interested people will be kept coming for weeks until their interest grows to the extent that they have determined to hear the message through.
(3) It brings a weekly reminder to the many people who have come but once or twice, and whose interest was not sufficiently arrested to bring them back. Thus every week there is one attempt to recapture that interest. When one checks back through such a plan, he finds that many people finally do notice on these post cards a subject in which they are interested, and are thereby reclaimed to the effort interest.
(4) To the few who become discouraged following the presentation of the testing truths, such a card plan brings before them a continual reminder of the original blessings enjoyed during the time of their early attendance. It brings them face to face with their apparent rejection of truth. If such post-card announcements can be attractively and strikingly worded, without the slightest evidence of harshness or unkindness, there is likelihood that these individuals will be induced to return.
Greater Results Per Dollar Expenditure
Financially speaking, such a plan produced more results per dollar in advertising than any other plan we have tried. At present writing, near the close of the Pittsburgh series these post cards are faithfully going to the homes of all interested persons. With the exception of one individual, there has been no refusal on the part of the people to accept these weekly reminders.
Newspaper advertising has been cut to a minimum of five column inches, and that in only one of the three leading papers. This "token" advertising is merely to keep before the people that the meetings are still in progress. However, for the small sum of less than $20 weekly, the crowd comes faithfully back every week for more. We shall discuss this plan in future articles, with more details as to how we operate the mailing list and prepare the cards. The brethren who have followed such a plan are quite enthusiastic about it, not only from the results secured, but from the almost surprisingly low financial expenditure.
All the baptisms have been held in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial auditorium. We built a sectional frame and placed a light sheet-metal lining inside it. We found this to be perfectly satisfactory, and quite an inexpensive way to build a portable baptistry. We covered the floors of the auditorium with rubber sheeting over the path where the candidates walk as they go to and from the baptistry. Thus it is possible to carry on a baptism week after week without a drop of water touching the floor.
There are a number of safeguards in the preparation of baptismal candidates which I believe will relieve much of the aftereffort concern over poorly instructed converts. We shall discuss in future articles plans for various approaches and a careful personal review, and then the final check with church boards and local workers before an individual is baptized.
And when he is baptized, an attendance record is made at every Sabbath school, church service, prayer meeting night, and evangelistic services for at least three months following. Then there are occasional visits to discuss new problems that arise, placing complimentary copies of the Review and Herald in every home for a period of weeks, building the Spirit of prophecy library in the homes of the people, and the many other plans which build strong converts for the message, and help to hold them.
I have been deeply impressed with one unusual feature of this series of meetings, and that is the large number from the Church of Rome who have attended and been baptized. One secretary to a Catholic priest was baptized in the very first baptism. She shared her newfound faith with her parish priest. He in turn. became deeply interested, but was immediately transferred when it became known. Other men and. women have taken down their crucifixes and are now rejoicing in the third angel's message.
There is a source of genuine satisfaction in converting men and women of other churches, as well as in leading our own church members into further light. If the ministerial brethren in these other congregations could see evidence that we are sincerely interested in reaching the lost with our message, then there would be less basis for the oft-repeated accusation of proselyting. There is danger that our sense of duty to warn all peoples leads us to ride roughshod over the feelings and rights of ministers of other faiths. Is there not a way to accomplish our purpose of bringing the last warning message to every heart without alienating many of the good men who stand between their people and God?
My plan is to report in the columns of THE MINISTRY several of the features of this city campaign in some detail during the next few months. I have experimented along several lines, and feel that I should share the results of these plans with the readers of the ministers' own monthly. Here are some of the features: new and economical methods of advertising; careful, fine-tooth combing of the interest; plans for establishing the new converts ; methods of inspiring substantial offerings in as dignified and spiritual manner as possible; sustaining the interest after many months of labor; methods of reaching the better classes and of influencing responsible men and women; methods of holding to the affirmative, and leading men into abiding conversion, while presenting the last warning message with forceful clarity. I hope to discuss all these and other features, which I believe stem from the Spirit of prophecy pattern for latter-day evangelism.