The preparation of a list of subjects for a public effort is not an easy task. It requires much prayer, study, and mental effort. It calls for a thorough investigation of the beliefs, customs, and modes of thought of the people that are to be drawn to the lectures. A list of attractively worded subjects, in harmony with these principles, should draw a large, interested audience.
We must take into account that in certain countries Protestantism in general is looked upon with much disfavor on account of the continual war and propaganda that the Catholic Church carries on against it. Sometimes, for instance, Protestantism is represented as an agent of Communism.
The majority of the inhabitants of such countries are Catholics from birth, and are prohibited as a mortal sin from attending Protestant lectures or sermons, reading Protestant publications, or even analyzing their own religion in an attempt to judge whether or not it is true.
It must be remembered that the vast majority of the public has no knowledge whatever of the Holy Scriptures, nor any conception of the eternal values they enshrine. The great majority of Catholics have never glanced into the Bible. They believe that this Book does not contain all the truths necessary for salvation, and that tradition is just as good as the Scriptures, if not indeed superior to them.
In preparing a list of subjects, then, all these factors should be taken into account. Subjects should be chosen that break clown prejudice, win the confidence and sympathy of the public, and present the truth step by step in a logical, clear, comprehensive, persuasive manner, so that the people may accept the message of salvation in Christ with rejoicing.
To attract people to the lectures, not only should the subjects chosen be such as to captivate the attention, but the lectures should have the form that the public associates with the term lecture, and not that of an act of worship. When by means of handbills and newspapers a lecture is announced, the public that attends is displeased and feels that it has been deceived when it is found that an evangelical service has been foisted on them. This procedure causes prejudice and to accumulate against our work, and results in lack of confidence in the speaker.
When we proceed on the lecture method, as the public understands the word, the people should not be asked or obliged to cooperate in anything. We should, therefore, avoid having song services prior to the lectures in which the public is expected to take part, and no attempt should be made to have the audience sing during the lecture hour. It would be even prudent to omit public prayers during the first four or five lectures. The only items admissible would be choral or other special vocal music or suitable instrumental numbers. The workers can pray fervently for the blessing of God before the lecture, in some room close to the lecture auditorium. This same principle is applicable also if the lectures are given in a church building.
Violation of this rule is the principal reason why many of the public in Catholic countries do not return after they have attended the first lecture. They stay away from further lectures of the series because they do not wish to be seen participating in evangelical gatherings. But many, even though they realize that the lectures are of a religious character, will attend night after night as long as they are not obliged in any way to participate in an act of worship. Just as we would refuse to participate in an act of Catholic worship because we considered it idolatry, even so we ought to respect their scruples against participating in acts of worship that they consider heresy. I believe that we should apply the golden rule here.
A List of Suitable Themes
With these considerations as a background, let me present herewith a list of suitable topics. These are not, of course, the exact wording of the titles.
I. INTRODUCTORY THEMES.
1. Present-day happenings in light of prophecy.
2. The secret of happiness.
3. Daniel 2.
4. A happy home (courtship, marriage, home).
II. THEMES TO ESTABLISH CONFIDENCE IN HOLY SCRIPTURES.
1. The Bible and prophecy.
2. The Bible, science, and archaeology.
3. The Bible, its origin, and saving power. Tradition and the apocryphal works. (Make a call for acceptance of Holy Bible as rule of life.)
III. THEMES RELATED TO SECOND COMING OF OUR LORD.1. Daniel 7 (without entering into details regarding little horn).
2. Christ's great prophetic sermon.
3. The seven last plagues.
4. The second coming of Christ. (Extend call to those who believe in Christ's second coming and look forward to it.)
5. The millennium.
6. The new earth.
IV. THEMES ON ACCEPTANCE OF CHRIST AS SAVIOUR.
(The Plan of Salvation)
1. The origin of evil.
2. Messianic prophecies.
3. Love of God. Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary; responding to that love with repentance and confession. (Make a call to accept Christ as the only Saviour.)
V. THEMES ON THE THREE ANGELS' MESSAGES.
I. Book of Revelation in this era of revelation.
2. Daniel 8.
3. The 2300 days.
4. The sanctuary.
5. The Advent Movement.
6. The law of God and the judgment.
7. Law and grace.
8. The moral and ceremonial laws.
9. The two covenants. Io. The Sabbath. Sunday texts in the New Testament.
10. Change of Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. (Make call to keep the Sabbath.)
11. Personality of Holy Spirit and the sin against the Holy Ghost.
12. The seven seals.
13. The history of the Christian church. (Revelation 12.)
VI. HEALTH THEMES.
I. Alcohol and tobacco.
2. A healthful diet.
VII. THE STATE OF THE DEAD.
I. The good angels. (They are not the spirits of dead children.)
2. The state of the dead.
3. Spirit, soul, and body.
VIII. VARIOUS THEMES THAT CONFIRM THE FAITH.
2. The seven churches.
4. The seven trumpets.
5. The victorious life.
6. The ordinance of humility and the Lord's supper.
All the other subjects, such as the little horn of Daniel 7, the mark of the beast, with its identifying number, the tithe, and the Spirit of prophecy, are presented during the effort in special weekly Bible classes to the most interested people only.
Notes on the Various Subject Groups
I. INTRODUCTORY THEMES.
The first lectures should be of such character that they win for the speaker the confidence and friendship of the public. They should make the audience feel that the lectures help them to attain their deepest desires, such as that of happiness and a sense of security. For this reason the first subjects should be developed not so much for their logical connection as for their psychological effect. The subjects chosen, therefore, should be such as the public will be in harmony with, at first, and for whose presentation they will be thankful. With this motive in view, it is best to alternate one prophetic subject that deals with the actual situation with another that captivates more profoundly the human heart as the secret of happiness. In this imperceptible and gradual form the audience will little by little appreciate the religious scenes which they before detested.
II. ESTABLISHING CONFIDENCE IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
As soon as the lecturer has won the confidence and friendship of his listeners, he will be able, on the basis of that confidence, to lead them to place their confidence on the Holy Scriptures, in which they did not formerly believe. If we desire the public to accept the different doctrines of the Word of God, such as the second coming of Christ, the plan of salvation, the law of God, and the Sabbath, it is absolutely indispensable that they first recognize the Bible as the Word of God and make it the guide of their life. In the last lecture of Group II, it is well to present the following pledge, printed on a card. When the bearer signs such a card, in which he promises to obey all the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, the way is prepared for Sabbath keeping, a crucial truth in our public efforts.
I accept the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God, and will make them the guide of my life, obeying all their teachings.
Having by this time the confidence of the audience in general and having established their faith in the inspiration of the Bible and accepted it as their guide of life, from now on the lecturer may find it is most appropriate to have short, earnest prayers at the beginning and close of each lecture, thereby giving to each meeting a more spiritual emphasis.
III. THEMES RELATED TO SECOND COMING. Once unlimited confidence is established in the Holy Scriptures, and these are regarded as a love letter sent by God to those who love Him, the lecturer begins to present the easiest Biblical doctrine to accept, that of the second coming of Christ.
After the fourth or fifth lecture of this group is presented, it is well to make the following appeal : "How many believe that the second coming of Christ is near and wish to prepare themselves for it, thus becoming Adventists, that is to say, believers in the second corning of our Lord Jesus Christ? [Do not mention the qualifying phrase Seventh-day at this point.]" Having thus led them to declare themselves Adventists, the lecturer can pass to the next group of subjects.
IV. THEMES ON ACCEPTANCE OF CHRIST AS OUR SAVIOUR.
With the third lecture under this heading an appeal should be made, more or less, as follows: "How many recognize that Jesus is the true Saviour, according to the Messianic prophecies, and that He died on the cross for our sins? How many desire to yield themselves to Him with a contrite and repentant heart, so as to live a victorious life?" The fourth lecture of this group presents a theme that will show the listener how to maintain, from day to day, the experience obtained. With this fourth group of lectures, the speaker should aim at securing true conversion and the acceptance of Christ as the only Saviour. In other words, he should endeavor to lead the hearers to become true Christians. From this point on they will be ready to receive the triple message of Revelation 14. —To be concluded in December