We are in danger of applying the prophecy of Christ in Matthew 24:14 to personal witnessing only. When Christ was here on earth that was the only way of carrying the message. It is true the Bible indicates the gospel message was carried by this method to all parts of the then-known world. However, the world then was small compared to the vast stretches of discovered land since then, and the great multitudes which now in habit these lands. If we depended solely on this method today, people would be born many times more rapidly than we could possibly reach them.
Jesus must have had in mind the great advance in the dissemination of knowledge that would take place in the last days when He made His prophecy that the gospel would go to all the world for a witness. John the revelator, when speaking of the gospel message going in the last days, speaks of it flying "in the midst of heaven," and being spoken "with a loud voice." In these last days great discoveries and developments for the dissemination of knowledge have placed the world at our very door. I am thinking particularly of the press, the radio, and the universal postal system. We can now sit in an office and reach the masses of humanity over a whole continent. Marvelous indeed has been the unfolding of God's plan to fulfill the prophecy made by the Saviour on the Mount of Olives just before His crucifixion.
Some of us have had long and varied experiences of evangelism in the larger cities of the world. We know that it has never been possible to influence more than a few thousand people at the most through the work of the largest evangelistic effort. How often have we longed for a way to reach the masses of the reading public. Many years ago the Lord gave us plain instruction as to how this would be accomplished.
"I have been shown that our publications should be printed in different languages and sent to every civilized country, at any cost."—Life Sketches, p. 214. "In a large degree through our publishing houses is to be accomplished the work of that other angel who comes down from heaven with great power, and who lightens the earth with his glory."—Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 140.
These significant statements indicate that we should not be satisfied with the selling of large books only, but inexpensive literature must be gotten out to scatter the message like the leaves of autumn. We should have done this work in the manner described by the Spirit of prophecy fifty years ago. Others are ahead of us in doing this, and they have made progress in carrying a false message. As a result, millions of people have been wrongly influenced by false teaching.
Effective Way of Influencing the Masses
Only in the past six or seven years have we seized upon a method which has in it all the characteristics of a work which was forseen both in the Bible and in the Spirit of prophecy, by which the gospel and the Advent message could be quickly carried to every part of the world. This new method of evangelism is known among us as the Voice of Prophecy, with its radio broadcasts and Bible schools in different parts of the world field. This method of teaching the Bible through the correspondence school is a very effective way of influencing the masses of mankind.
With- the powerful means of molding public opinion in the world today, the Bible school becomes almost a natural to fit into the program God has outlined for these last days. The Bible lessons come from the modern printing presses by the thousands and millions of pages. For a small cost they are placed in the hands of the postal authorities, and the clerks and mail car riers become the messengers of the gospel to carry the Bible lessons to the homes of the people.
Then the radio comes in with its mighty appeal, touching the hearts of millions in their homes, not only calling their attention to the Bible lessons and asking them to send for them-, but bringing them messages of hope and cheer, and winning their hearts to a line of investigation which only the Adventist believer can impart. We believe God has given us this present method of the Bible correspondence school as a means of finishing the work in all the world quickly. If ever an institution was ordained of God to carry on evangelism, this institution is.
It may be asked why the former method of .scattering Present Truth and the old Family Bible Teacher leaflets was not of the same nature and order as the Bible school of today. The difference may be well illustrated by the work of a fisherman. One might go out and scatter the fish bait over the water, and the fish would enjoy the bait thus thrown out, but the fisherman would get no results from his efforts. The bait must be fastened to a hook and a line; then results will come.
Thus it has been with the scattering of our literature. People may enjoy it, and some re quests are made for more reading matter, but the Bible school method is like the fisherman who puts his bait on a hook. The plan of asking the people to answer the test questions and keep in correspondence with the head office makes it possible for the gospel fisherman to hold onto the interested souls, and keep up their interest until they are brought to a decision on the whole message. This is why our new method of evangelism is so effective. When people begin studying and writing personal letters to the main office, definite results and decisions may be obtained. We firmly believe that it is quite as effective to have a thousand people studying the message and answering questions in this manner, as it is to have a thousand people sitting in an audience listening to the spoken word. We believe that the correspondence method will bring just as large results, if properly followed up. Of course, ultimately the personal contact must be made, preparatory for baptism.
Bringing People to Decision
We say this after years of testing both plans of evangelism. If the same methods are used in obtaining decisions in the Bible correspondence school as are used in the public effort, similar results will be obtained in both cases. People must be brought to a decision, and they can be brought to a decision in many cases quite as definitely through correspondence and study as through personal contact.
We have now been operating the Voice of Prophecy Bible School in Africa for about seven years. During this time nearly a quarter of a million persons have been registered with us to receive our free Bible lessons. Also during this period nearly eight thousand people have signed Sabbath decision cards, and thousands of these have asked for baptism. Many of these have been baptized, and there are many thousands waiting the call of a personal worker. Surely this is evangelism on a mass scale. But the work is to be judged not only by the results seen. Eternity alone will reveal the outcome of this wide seed sowing. You cannot scatter mil lions of pages of truth-filled tracts in the homes of hundreds and thousands of people without these having an effect for good on their lives. We believe that the greater harvest of this kind of evangelism will be seen in the very end of time when the Holy Spirit is poured upon the world, and persecution overtakes the church. Then we shall see a large number arranging themselves under the banner of Prince Emmanuel. They will have learned the truth and will then step over on the side of those who "keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
Financing the Bible School
Some may ask, "Is it not a very expensive method of evangelism to carry on a Bible school?" Yes, like all evangelism on a large scale, it does take money; but the total expense of our large school in Africa, compared with the donations received from students in relation to the appropriations received from denominational sources, compares most favorably with any large city effort of which we have record. Our financial returns from our students are very large; and, of course, after they begin paying their tithe into the churches, like an evangelistic effort, it soon pays for itself. Month by month the result is a clear profit to denominational progress. The big thing about this sort of evangelism is that a comparatively small number of workers can deal with a larger number of people than we could possibly deal with in an evangelistic effort. Here we preach to the millions by the radio, and deal with hun dreds of thousands through the Bible schools.
In our school an average of twenty-five workers, including stenographers and the routine workers who have to do with sending out literature, have been able to deal with fifty thou sand students at a time. That means we are taking care of an audience equal to fifty thousand, week after week and month after month. We say again, Has any church at any time, or any movement, seen evangelism on this scale? God has placed in the hands of Seventh-day Adventists this mighty weapon of righteous ness, and we believe we should go forward with renewed courage and larger plans to fill the world with our literature, not so much by scattering the printed page hither and yon, but by this new evangelism of following up by correspondence the interests which develop from reading.
Other religious movements have been trying to follow our new method of evangelism by the Bible school plan. So far as we know they have largely failed. We have a message to give to the world which appeals to the masses who may not be induced to enter our churches or hall meetings. A harvest of souls is soon to be reaped from places and fields where we little believed that grain was growing. The messenger of the Lord wrote many years ago, "The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 300.