fishing for Souls
OSCAR B. GERHART: District Pastor, West Virginia Conference
May I invite you to come with me to some deep lake. Let us sit down together beside it, and observe a typical fisherman at his work. Perhaps we may each learn something of interest to us as "fishers of men." Out in a boat among the lily pads we see a man standing with a fishing spear. He should be successful in taking a few, but he will never catch all the fish in that lake with this method. Yonder on the dock sit other fishermen, fishing with worms. They too will doubtless catch some fish, yet they will never get them all. Out on the lake we see others, casting flies and artificial lures. They also should catch some, and those they land could perhaps never have been taken with worms or the spear. Still other fishermen will catch with the net certain kinds that could be caught in no other way. Although that lake might never be "fished out" by any one style of fishing, it must be granted that in time all types together could exhaust the supply there.
Now let us go back to the cities where our Master has commanded us to fish for souls. Let us practice the wisdom of these fishermen. Perhaps a widely publicized series of evangelistic meetings has been recently concluded there, and we are sure that city has now been well warned. Do you suppose still other interested people might be found if we called at every home where some faithful colporteur sold a book? Now, if we should offer to show a beautifully colored Bible picture film of our message to each home as part of the service to which the customer is entitled, do you think some might respond? Do you not believe some of these could be won for the kingdom of God?
Then suppose another spiritual fisherman goes from door to door along the very streets canvassed by the literature evangelist, but his bait is different. He says, "We are receiving contributions from those who wish to give to the welfare work carried on throughout the world by Seventh-day Adventists. Your gift will be much appreciated." Then as the individual returns to the door with his offering, this worker may ask, "Are you acquainted with Adventists and the work they are doing?" It is truly surprising how many potential interests may be located by this approach, interests that the colporteur with his appeal perhaps did not discover.
Suppose, for example, a third "fisherman" takes a valuable "live bait" in the form of a smiling Junior to each of those homes. "Billy is planning to attend a Junior camp next summer, and we're encouraging him to earn his way by doing something that will be appreciated by many of his neighbors." A copy of Our Times or Life and Health is placed in the prospective customer's hands at that point, while Billy's chaperon explains that this is a five- month plan, that the child will deliver the paper to the door if. the neighbor agrees to pay him twenty-five cents each month for the five deliveries. Experience proves that about half the homes thus approached will take the paper for that short period to encourage Billy.
During the third month let that church member call back on these homes "to be sure that Billy is keeping his part of the bargain." But let him take occasion to ask whether the customer has noticed the advertisement for the free Bible correspondence course, then show a copy of the lessons, and have the neighbor sign an enrollment card then and there if an interest is manifested. Perhaps three months later this church member might make a third call. This time he will mention our picture films and offer to "show one sometime if you would like to see it." The response to this offer would be the clue whether to make a definite appointment for Bible studies in that home. It is amazing how many unsuspected interests may be uncovered with these various methods in cities that have been supposedly thoroughly warned by our public meetings.
But as every fisherman knows, the time element is almost as important as the bait. No matter what the lure may be, the fish will nibble the bait only when hungry. So in our spiritual fishing, when death snatches a loved one, then the bereaved are hungry for consolation. Why not appoint to those earnest church members whose physical infirmities prevent their doing house-to-house work, the responsibility of writing to these sorrowing ones whose names appear in the obituary columns of our newspapers? Give these members a pattern of a letter they may use, letting the church supply an appropriate tract on the resurrection to enclose with the letter. Those who manifest sincere gratitude for this interest in their grief may now become the recipients of other literature, and better yet would be a personal visit from the writer or another member. If that member has been instructed how to interest such persons in enrolling in the Bible course, preparatory to receiving Bible studies in the home later, some souls will be won to Christ who might not have responded to other missionary methods.
Illness is another timely occasion for approaching a non-Adventist. Why not appoint to the youth of the church, as their weekly missionary effort, the fracture wards or convalescent patients of some hospital? Our pocket edition booklets Heaven and From Rags to Riches and other noncontroversial themes might be placed in an attractive box. A small note with the words "So sorry you are ill. May I visit with you for a while?" would be a proper introduction. If the names of these patients are tact fully secured during the first visit, these missionary workers will be able to follow up the interest when the patient leaves the hospital. If all this work is done with the conscious aim of inspiring interest to the point of wanting personal Bible studies in the home, will we not enjoy much greater success from our various missionary contacts than has often been the case? So again returning to our illustration, what fisherman throws his bait upon the water without hook and line attached?
Preparing Our Churches for the Latter Rain
But beyond all these observations:
"When we have entire, wholehearted consecration to the service of Christ, God will recognize the fact by an outpouring of His Spirit without measure; but this will not be while the largest portion of the church are not laborers together with Cod."—Evangelism, p. 699. (Italics supplied.)
Does not this explain, then, why---
"The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers"? Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 117. (Italics sup plied.)
Have we unconsciously misread that familiar quotation as if it said, We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and we went forth and proclaimed the Sabbath more fully? Does it not read this way, "We were filled with the Holy Ghost as we went forth and proclaimed the Sabbath more fully"? Early Writings, p. 85. (Italics supplied.)
Are we as leaders devising soul-winning plans that will take in every member? Then we will be preparing our churches for the promised visitation of divine power that will "finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness."
It Can Be Done!
C. C. WEIS: Newly Appointed Home Missionary and Sabbath School Secretary, Australasian Inter-Union
Sooner or later every pastor-evangelist may be writing to his conference president requesting the help of a Bible instructor. Undoubtedly there will be times when he will receive a reply saying that the conference can neither find nor afford a Bible instructor. That has been my disappointing experience again and again.
One year the conference sent me to a small town in which lived only two Adventists, an old brother and his wife. They were very faithful people, however, and how happy they both were to learn that I had been sent to conduct a series of meetings. How much I wanted a Bible instructor, but there was none to be had! I soon learned of a young man who had just finished college, but who had not found his way into the organized work. I called him up long distance and asked whether he would like to join me in this effort as a lay worker. I made it clear to him that he would receive no salary. He joined me, and took charge of the singing, also helping with the Bible studies as well as the meetings. With God's blessing, much praying, and a tremendous amount of hard work, in nine months we organized a church of thirty adults and forty-seven youth. This resulted in buying the building owned by the Catholic church, and later building a church school.
We then moved on to hold some meetings in a new district where there was a church of more than two hundred members. The young man whom I had trained was now needed elsewhere by the conference! (He is now an ordained minister.) So again I found myself without a Bible instructor.
One day while I was reading in the Spirit of prophecy my eyes caught this statement:
"The best help that ministers can give the members of our churches is not sermonizing, but planning work for them. Give each one something to do for others. Help all to see that as receivers of the grace of Christ they are under obligation to work for Him. And let all be taught how to work. Especially should those who are newly come to the faith be educated to become laborers together with God. If set to work, the despondent will soon forget their despondency; the weak will become strong, the' ignorant intelligent, and all will be prepared to present the truth as it is in Jesus." Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 82.
I suddenly caught a new vision. Since the conference could not supply me with a Bible instructor, I would endeavor to train my own. One Sabbath at the close of my sermon I asked my congregation, "May I see the hands of those who would like to join a training class for the purpose of learning how to reach neighbors and friends with the message and bring them to the place where they will decide for the truth?" Sixty-five hands went up. I then asked these members to remain after the services, when I explained to them that we would con duct a training class every Monday evening at 7:30 in the classroom, and I would be the teacher. We would take for our textbook Training Light Bearers (Review and Herald, $1.00 and f 1.50). The first Monday night thirteen of the sixty-five turned out. The class met for forty-five minutes, after which fifteen minutes was given for questions. The second evening fifteen were out.
By this time I was in the midst of an evangelistic effort. In our fourth class session I asked, "How many of you would be willing to put into practice out in the field what is being taught here in the classroom?" I then promised that I would accompany each one from door to door, teaching them how to make contacts. Fourteen of the fifteen responded for field work. I explained that I did not want these lay workers to visit any homes where the people were already attending our meetings. I wanted them to search out honesthearted people in that city who were not already attending our meetings. Most of the fourteen lay workers volunteered to work until they found three or four interested families with whom they could hold Bible studies. They were given the choice of finding their own names or letting us provide the names of twenty Bible school enrollees. Our plan was that of the circulating library, when each lay worker takes the little book Your Bible Speaks to the homes the first week. They were to visit with the family, pray with them, inquire whether they had read the book, and then tell them that next week on the same evening and at the same hour they would be back to pick up Your Bible Speaks, leaving another book in its place. When the family got to the fourth book, which deals with the Sab bath, the lay Bible instructor would explain to the family that their evangelist was holding a series of Sunday night meetings in the Adventist church, and they were invited to attend. From then on they were urged to attend the Sunday night meetings, and as soon as they had completed reading the fourth book, dealing with the Sabbath truth, they were urged to join a Bible class (a special Sabbath school class) on Sabbath morning in our church.
Fifteen Consecrated Bible Instructors
You ask, "What were the results of such a program?" Twenty-two were added to the church who had been studied with by our lay Bible teachers.
One of our sisters who seemed to be growing somewhat cold to the message and seldom at tended Sabbath school became one of these lay Bible instructors. She chose to work with a neighbor who had never attended any of our services. This woman was later baptized and brought six of her children with her to Sabbath school. We began this program with fourteen lay Bible instructors, but we closed it with fifteen. One young man who attended the classes did not at first respond to field work. He felt incapable of giving Bible studies in the home. I kept urging him to join us, and promised that I would go with him to the doors. I finally succeeded in getting him out, and he soon became very enthusiastic. He worked with four families, using the projector and films. One evening he called me by telephone and urgently requested me to come to the home where he was conducting studies. Thirty people had turned out to his Bible study. I encouraged him to go ahead and give his study, and asked him to announce to his people that next week at the same hour his pastor would accompany him to the study. Later I baptized four people into the message as a result of this young man's work. Today he is in college training for the ministry.
As a pastor I never enjoyed my evangelistic work more than I did that winter. Just think of it, I had fifteen consecrated Bible instructors, and I didn't have to ask the conference for help! I became convinced that this experience might be repeated in many of our churches if every pastor-evangelist trained his own church members to become Bible instructors. He would then be surrounding himself with dependable, consecrated workers, and that might mean hundreds of baptisms each year. Is this not the reason the Spirit of prophecy tells us that "the best help that ministers can give the members of our churches is not sermonizing, but planning work for them"? It may mean an extra load for the worker for a few weeks while he is giving class instruction and getting each one started personally and the secret of the success of the plan is to get them started right personally— but in the end the results will be well worth the effort. Try it, my fellow workers!
District Leaders Can Cooperate
DANIEL R. GUILD: Pastor-Evangelist, Southern California Conference
San Pedro is a town with a population of sixty thousand, within the city limits of Los Angeles, California. It is the port of Los Angeles, and has a cross section of foreign population, nearly all of which are members of its several large Catholic churches. Being a port town, it is a very strong union town, as well as having strong atheistic tendencies. A poll taken of the longshoremen revealed that 90 per cent of them do not believe that there is a God.
With these points in mind preparation was made for a public evangelistic campaign to be held in the Masonic Temple, beginning October 22, 1950. Meetings were held on Sunday and Friday evenings. The church in San Pedro had approximately thirty-five active members at the time the campaign began. The Wilmington church, about four miles away and in the same district, consented to help with the campaign. Their membership was about 105.
During the first ten weeks of the campaign Lester Patterson in the adjoining district worked with me on the advertising and other mechanical details of the meeting, in exchange for help given in the evangelistic meetings that he was conducting on Saturday and Wednesday nights. We found this to be a workable plan for those who wish to conduct an evangelistic meeting without other conference helpers. Where both workers lead out in music they can exchange help in this way also. We were most fortunate in having Henry de Fluiter, a retired song evangelist of long experience, lead the music for both campaigns.
The field was prepared by the distribution of fourteen thousand Bible course enrollment cards by the laymen. However, a very small response was received from these cards. There were only twenty-three requests for the Bible course.
In our advertising we played up the political prophecies with a desire to attract the irreligious as well as the Catholic population. Our main advertising agency was the newspaper. Other means were the direct-mail cards addressed and sent out by the laymen, telephone invitations given by them, and another mailing-list project for casually interested people, which had been building up in the district for about two years. [More about this cumulative mailing-list plan next month. EDITORS.]
For the opening meeting 175 tickets were re quested. On our opening night the hall, which seats 250, was almost filled.
Change of Plans
The meetings were planned to continue ten weeks, until Christmas, but it became apparent by visiting the interested Catholics who were attending that it would be unwise to go into the testing truths as rapidly as had been planned. It was therefore decided to lengthen the series of subjects to assure a better Bible background before taking up the Sabbath, life after death, and other testing truths.
It was not until the thirteenth Sunday night that the sermon on the change of the Sabbath was given. Previous to this time the idea of accepting Christ instead of the teachings of man had been stressed. Sermons on Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 were then presented as remark able fulfillments of Bible prophecy, with a strong appeal to follow Christ and not Antichrist. The name of the Papacy was never mentioned in public, but questions were aroused in the minds of the interested, and were answered in private without arousing antagonism and causing offense.
Laymen Help in Many Ways
To follow up the interest we found that help was needed with the personal work. A soul-winning class for our church members was then organized early in the campaign. Several lay Bible instructor groups were organized for studying our doctrines. As the interest in our public meetings developed, members of these classes were chosen to give Bible readings in homes that were in need of Bible background. This was especially true in these Catholic homes. Others of the class were called upon to make personal visits on those who were intermittent in attendance or who had stopped at tending, leaving only the most promising names for the evangelist to visit.
As a result of these cottage meetings held by our more qualified laymen, and the visits by missionary-minded church members, at least ten who were baptized were riot followed up by the evangelist; these may be credited to a helping church.
To relieve the pressure of the work, we even chose a responsible layman to conduct a baptismal class for the juniors, and four of them were baptized as a result of this work. Mayse Studio filmstrips were screened and narrated by a layman before each evening's song service, thus giving additional instruction in the message for those attending.
The second Sunday night of the campaign a Bible course was.begun. Each evening the interested would pick up a lesson at the Bible course desk. Then at home the test questions would be answered and returned at the next meeting. The Home Bible Course lessons were used. This was a great help in relieving the necessity for giving many Bible readings in the homes. Instead, the people studied the subjects for themselves with these Bible lessons as a guide. With fewer Bible readings to give there is more time for personal visiting in the homes. The Bible course plan also makes it very easy for an ordinary layman to visit a home. A Bible reading is conducted by studying the lessons with these interested people.
When our evangelistic meetings closed the middle of March, thirty-one had been baptized, nine of whom had a Catholic background. We praised God for the quiet workings of His Holy Spirit and for consecrated laymen who were willing to cooperate with Him in this wonderful work of winning souls. This experience strengthened the church in every respect, and made it possible for the pastor-evangelist to accomplish what would have been impossible without the help of his church members.