La Crosse is a city of approximately fifty thousand people. It is a city of diversified industries, surrounded by a rich agricultural region. The population is largely Scandinavian, German, and Bohemian. Nearly all faiths have churches, the Lutheran being first in popularity, and the Roman Catholic second.
After passing through various stages ,of church housing, we now have a well-equipped building containing an auditorium seating more than three hundred. The location is ideal for holding public meetings.
At the time the church was dedicated, in October, 1946, it was arranged for Carlyle B. Haynes to preach the dedicatory sermon. In connection with this service Elder Haynes held meetings for two weeks for the public. The daily newspaper was friendly, and accepted the gist of the sermons for the whole series. This free publicity amounted to a book the size of Our Lord's Return.
The pastor, J. H. Meier, arranged to hold a Bible school in the church building every Tuesday night, to which the general public were invited. The Bible school was a decided success. Many also enrolled in the correspondence course. As a result a large number were baptized.
Since this first spearhead effolt, others have followed every six months, with a new speaker from out of town each time. The method of procedure in all these spearhead efforts has been the same. Briefly it is as follows: The subjects presented are of general interest, dealing with present-day conditions in the light of Bible prophecy. An effort is made to convince the public that the Bible has a message for the people of this day, and to arouse a desire to study the Bible further. Different methods are used to get the names and addresses of those in attendance who are interested in studying the Bible. The pastor and his wife visit all those who have left their names and addresses for literature. In this way personal contacts are made which many times develop into Bible studies.
During the spearhead efforts mention is made of the Bible school. When topics of a controversial nature come up the public are directed to come to the Bible school, where such topics are studied. And if they have any questions, that is where they will be answered.
Every effort has been followed by a Bible school, with a good attendance.
The results of this-method of work have been gratifying. During the three years this method has been used at La Crosse the church membership has tripled. There are members in the church today who had never heard of Seventh-day Adventists before attending these meetings. They were attracted mostly by the advertising in the newspaper.
It is gratifying to see the change of attitude among influential people in the city, as well as among the general public, toward the denomination. Formerly Seventh-day Adventists were considered to be one of those fanatical and unimportant sects, to be smiled at tolerantly, but not to be thought of as having anything worthwhile to offer to the world. Now this feeling has changed. Where once we were held in ridicule, we are now held in highest esteem and respect. The public recognize that Seventh-day Adventists have big caliber men with education and ability, and an understanding of the Bible as few men have. People who do not come to the Bible school are profoundly impressed by the lectures and the men who bring the messages. One woman attended nearly all the six spearhead efforts, and just now comes to the Bible school. This shows that people are thinking and that they appreciate these meetings, or else they would not come time and again. Many ask when the next meetings will be held, and request that they be notified so that they will not miss them.
Another visible result of spearhead efforts is the increase of spirituality of the church membership and the creation of a greater desire for soul winning. Even those who have been long in the way ,cannot but feel a new enthusiasm after hearing such a series of messages. From close observation of this method of work over a number of years, one cannot help seeing many advantages in it. Let me state them briefly:
1. Spearhead efforts create respect for and interest in this message.
2. They do not arouse antagonism on the part of other churches. Controversial subjects such as the mark of the beast or the Sabbath, et cetera, are presented in the Bible school or in the homes of the people or through the correspondence course.
3. They serve to keep the pastor supplied with opportunities for work. He never is at a loss to know what to do or where to work. There is always an open field of labor.
4. They keep up a spiritual interest rather than discourage it. The attendance at the sixth spearhead effort was better on the average than that at the first one, three years ago. Indications are that the interest increases over the years rather than diminishes.
5. They provide excellent opportunities for the lay members to do soul winning. A church busy in soul winning has no time for quarrels, gossip, or church trials.
6. They are inexpensive. The cost is a trifle in proportion to the workers involved and the number of souls won.
7. Above all, the results are souls won, and this is the purpose for which this denomination exists.
Some make the mistake of considering the spearhead effort the final goal and the achievement of the total aim. But the truth is that it is just the preliminary move. It unlocks the door to opportunity. It is the local pastor who will largely determine the success or failure of the effort. In order to do this the pastor must possess certain qualifications. Among them may be listed as follows:
8. The ability to work wholeheartedly with the evangelist, free from petty jealousy that may creep in because a bigger man occupies the platform. He must be willing and able to direct the publicity for the effort and do all the promotion before the effort starts. The pastor must be willing to work as an assistant while the effort goes on.
9. The pastor's ability to do personal work. This calls for long hours and devotion to the cause. The pastor and his wife must have a burden for souls. They must be on the alert to see opportunities to do personal work and be willing to give themselves unreservedly.
10. The pastor's tact. If he is tactful he can carry on his work of winning souls without creating undue antagonism on the part of other organizations. If such antagonism is aroused, the effectiveness of this wofk is seriously injured.