With a population of but 7,500,000 in Australia, one might think there would be little scope for city evangelism in this large territory. However, approximately four million of this total are found in six of the state capitals. The years 1947 to 1949 are marking a series of successful evangelistic campaigns in the country's three largest cities—Brisbane. Melbourne, and Sydney. These efforts are under the leadership of Clifford A. Reeves, who has been loaned to the Australasian Inter-Union Conference from North America for the specific purpose of stimulating large-scale evangelism and introducing new methods that will bring greater success in working these large centers of population.
Splendid results are coming from these campaigns. No less than 387 have been baptized in the last fourteen months. The recent Melbourne effort opened with an attendance of 3,100 with some souls being turned away. So great was the public response that two large services were used each Sunday afternoon and evening for many weeks to accommodate the crowds. At the close of the effort the theater was still packed with 1,500 people each Sunday night.
One of the chief reasons why a large and enthusiastic audience continues to come throughout an effort is to be found in the fresh and gripping manner of the evangelist's presentation. Every evening he presents an attractive and interesting program, which holds the attention of the people. He knows how to use the element of surprise, and his lecture topics keep the audience constantly expectant. Success in this effort, as well as in others, comes from a thoroughly organized campaign, well planned and wisely conducted.
Careful preparations, covering two months, guaranteed the excellent opening attendances when a reserved-seat system was used. With up to 1,270 requests for literature coming in at one meeting, more than 3,000 names were soon in the files and presented the working team with full visiting programs.
An outstanding feature of these meetings has been the unusually large attendances at the week-night meetings, which have been remarkably well maintained throughout the series. A Sabbath afternoon question-and-answer period, or Bible Quiz Hour, is introduced about the sixth week of the effort, and continues for six more weeks. This is then transferred to a Sabbath morning Bible school and divine services. The audience is thus changed into a church congregation twelve weeks after the beginning of the meetings. Elder Reeves requires all new converts to attend morning Sabbath school and preaching service for about two or three months before baptism. Although this may delay the initial baptisms by some weeks, he feels it is worthwhile, for it gives prospective members more time to develop the Adventist philosophy. These congregations have formed the basis of the central city churches that have eventually been established.
Two interesting points in the arrangement of subjects have been the early introduction (for Australia, at least) of the Sabbath truth and tithing. The effectiveness of this procedure has been evident. Large numbers have proved the consistency of their Sabbathkeeping for a considerable time before baptism, and a large amount of tithe has been received. In Melbourne the budget voted by the conference for this effort was more than repaid in tithes and offerings from the new members before the effort closed.
Particular emphasis has been placed on personal evangelism in house-to-house visitation. Elder Reeves has worked early and late in the homes of the people, demonstrating to us the art of securing decisions. From his example we have realized more fully the truth of the Spirit of prophecy statement that "he who does faithful work outside of the pulpit, will accomplish tenfold more than he who confines his labors to the desk."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 124.
Elder Reeves has used his fine equipment to fullest advantage. Powerful preaching aided by slides, motion films, cutouts, and charts has always kept up increasing interest by the audience. Although local conditions have prevented some forms of advertising being exploited to their fullest extent, the newspapers, radio, handbills, billboards, and streetcar advertisements, have all been utilized in publicity. A particularly successful feature has been the personal invitations mailed out in connection with the open meetings. Name lists have been prepared from all possible sources of interest—the Voice of Prophecy, Signs of the Times, colporteur contacts, sanitarium patients, and so forth.
In Brisbane the first baptism of eighty-nine candidates, which was conducted before a capacity crowd in the spacious city hall, received particularly good attention from the press. The morning paper made a half-length, three-column, front-page feature of it with a picture. This gave the campaign free publicity through a paper having the largest circulation in the state. This same daily had previously allowed us no more than a one-inch, double-column advertisement.
Music has been used in every way possible in these efforts. Seventy-voice, .eight-part a cappella choirs have been featured in each campaign. These choirs have given untiring service in preparation and presentation, and are able to sing without the use of music copies. The leading radio station of Melbourne recently presented our choir in a fifty-minute feature program. So well was it received that the program director requested further performances. Noted Adventist talent, vocal and instrumental, is being used in each city in addition to the choirs.
In connection with each city effort a school of evangelism is conducted, where workers can study various soul-winning techniques and methods as they are being put into operation in the local effort. As a result of this work new inspiration for a larger evangelism has gripped the whole field, and young men are going out with enlarged vision and stronger courage to attempt and achieve greater things for God.