We come now to the question, How shall we prepare the field? As to the means we should use to prepare the field for the preaching, the Spirit of prophecy furnishes the answer in Life Sketches, page 304:
"Let the publications, the papers, the pamphlets, be working among the people, and preparing the minds of the reading class for the preaching of the truth. Let no stinted efforts be made in this line, and the work if begun wisely and prosecuted wisely, will result in success."
The distribution of literature arouses interest. It helps to search out some who are ready to receive the truth. The reading of the printed truth kindles a desire to hear the spoken truth from the evangelist.
There are many different methods of using literature to prepare the field. The method used should be in keeping with the location and dimensions of the projected campaign. The methods used in rural territory would differ from those in the small cities, and those used in the small cities must of necessity differ from those used in the metropolitan areas.
Three Good Methods of Labor
(I) There is one method which may be applied in every place, including the rural areas. This consists in having colporteurs canvass the territory a few months before the opening date of the campaign. Our colporteurs are the John the Baptists of the Adventist evangelism, the preparers of the way for our evangelists.
Our literature has been the forerunner of the living preacher and missionary in every community and country in the world. One of our leaders has said, "So far as I know our literature has pioneered the way into every country where the third angel's message has gone." The preparatory work of the colporteur will help increase the results of the preaching.
"There are many, who, because of prejudice, will never know the truth unless it is brought to their homes. The canvasser may find these souls and minister to them."—Testimonies., vol. 6, p. 314. "Some will be reached by our literature who could not be reached in any other way."—Ibid., vol. 8, p. 87.
We would see greater results in evangelism if the work of the colporteur were coordinated and timed with the work of the evangelist. We need more teamwork between the conference publishing secretary and colporteur and the evangelist. If there were proper coordination between them, the colporteur would see more results from his work, and the evangelist would reap more from his preaching.
As the colporteur goes to every house in the city and surrounding country, he will locate interested people. The books he sells will prepare some to hear the evangelist and to accept the message. He can take the names of those who do not buy books, yet appear to be interested in the Bible, and turn all these names and addresses over to the evangelist. The evangelist can then send them a special letter about his opening meeting.
(2) There is a second method which will prove helpful in cities up to about ioo,000 population. This consists in a systematic, house-tohouse distribution of appropriate tracts or papers to the entire city, or to a large area around the place of meeting. For example, a series of four papers or tracts is carried to every house in the area by laymen at the rate of one a week. The distribution is so timed that the fourth paper is distributed on the Sabbath afternoon preceding the opening Sunday night of the evangelistic mission, and with the fourth paper the laymen personally present the opening handbill to the people.
The meetings are not mentioned until this fourth visit to the homes. Then the layman says, "You have enjoyed reading about these great truths ; now it is my pleasure to bring you a personal invitation to hear some interesting and helpful lectures on these truths. Sunday night Evangelist ________ will preach at_________ on the subject of _____________ . I hope you will plan to be present. Here is an announcement which tells about the meeting."
In using this plan, we should leave a card with the people on the third visit for the purpose of gathering the names of those who are interested in receiving further free reading matter. This card has a place where the individual may indicate whether he has enjoyed reading the first three papers and would like to receive additional free reading matter. Then there is a place for him to fill in his address.
It is well to have the card state that the fourth paper, which the distributor will bring on his next visit, is the last paper, and that those who desire to receive further free reading matter should fill out this card and either hand it to the distributor when he comes with the next paper, or mail it to the address given. These names are given to the evangelist, and by further contacts many of these become good prospects for accepting God's message in connection with the work of the evangelistic campaign.
A series of four Good News (A, B, C, D) are available through our Book and Bible Houses, which have been expressly designed for house-to-house distribution by laymen to prepare a given field for a public evangelistic campaign. Appropriate notices and application blanks are published within the articles, expressly designed to search out those who are interested in learning more about the Bible. The distributors gather the names of those who desire additional free reading matter, when they make the fourth call at the home with Good News D, on the Saturday afternoon preceding the opening Sunday night meeting of the campaign. Although not all would concur with the wisdom of this method, I have found it successful.
(3) There is a third method which is especially adapted to the preparation of the field in metropolitan centers. This consists of getting a large number of people to enroll in a Bible correspondence course, so that they will have two or three lessons before the opening meeting. These lessons will arouse their interest in God's message. Then about one week before the opening meeting a circular letter is sent to these people for the purpose of tying in their interest in the Bible lessons with the projected meetings. The opening handbill is enclosed with this circular, and also a postal card on which they may indicate how many reserved seat tickets they desire for the first Bible lecture.
The Bible course offer seems especially appropriate for preparing the field in the large cities. It serves as an excellent means of gathering out those people who love the Word of God, and desire to know more about its truths. Such people are good prospects for attending the meetings. Many will ask for the Bible course who would not ordinarily attend the meetings. Getting them to take the Bible course by mail will fill in the gaps of doctrinal instruction, in case they attend only a few of the meetings.
There are two principal ways of using the Bible course offer in the preparation of the field : (a) The distribution from house-to-house or through the mails of a double postal card, one half of which is a business reply card on which the people can enroll for the Bible correspondence course. (b) Newspaper advertisements about the Bible course on the Saturday church page for three Saturdays, beginning about five weeks before the opening meeting. Or a few short paid articles on the Bible course.