Evangelistic Opportunities in Small Fairs
S. B. OLNEY: Home Missionary Secretary, Northern New England Conference
The small community fair, whether county or State, presents an ideal opportunity for evangelism to any district pastor. I am aware that others have taken advantage of the occasion to reach large numbers of people at such gatherings, but our experience in the Northern New England Conference last summer was somewhat experimentally different and may be of interest to our MINISTRY readers.
The following significant statement from the Spirit of prophecy clearly indicates great soul- winning possibilities in this type of ministry:
"I was given instruction that as we approach the end, there will be large gatherings in our cities, as there has recently been in St. Louis, and that preparations must be made to present the truth at these gatherings. . . .
"At every large gathering some of our ministers should be in attendance. They should work wisely to obtain a hearing and to get the light of the truth before as many as possible. . . .
"We should improve every such opportunity as that presented by the St. Louis Fair. At all such gatherings there should be present men whom God can use. Leaflets containing the light of present truth should be scattered among the people like the leaves of autumn. To many who attend these gatherings these leaflets would be as the leaves of the tree of life, which are for the healing of the nations." Evangelism, pp. 35, 36.
In our three-State conference area more than thirty-five fairs are held during the three summer months. Most of these are small fairs of one, three, and six days' duration. The attendance will range anywhere from five thousand to over thirty-five thousand. For our initial experiment we chose to place exhibits in six of these fairs, selecting locations in places that would represent a large share of the field. Three of these were full-week concessions, and the other three each covered only a three-day period.
The first step was to provide the exhibit material from the viewpoint of the conference. This made possible a uniform plan whereby all materials could be transferred from one fair to another. The Admatic projector, showing thirty Kodachrome pictures of our world work, was used. These scenes portrayed our educational, medical, publishing, welfare, and mission work. An endeavor was made to highlight particularly the New England Sanitarium, Atlantic Union College, and our local welfare activities.
In order to give the people a better idea of the extent of our work, we had a large illuminated map made, about 40 by 60 inches, similar to the center map spread in the 1951 Ingathering magazine. The flickering map lights and the automatic change of pictures every six seconds gave the action that is so essential in such types of publicity.
Organizing the Plan
Our plan of procedure called for a division of responsibility. The churches in the one or two districts where the exhibit was to be shown were asked to finance the cost of the booth. This amounted to about twenty dollars per space, except for two instances where sixty and seventy-five dollars had to be paid. The cost of the booth, however, in no case amounted to more than twelve dollars per church. The local pastor of the district made the arrangements and organized his church members to take their places as attendants at the booth at specified hours. It was a heavy assignment for the individual who assumed direction of the project. It is very important, however, that some one person be in charge during the entire time.
It did not seem right to burden the district churches with the responsibility of supplying all the literature for their particular fair. In such a project it is very important that sufficient literature be provided, and in case of an emergency there is no time to look to the church board for help. For this reason the churches in the conference as a whole were asked to sponsor a "Fair Literature Plan." This gave opportunity for individuals as well as churches to pay for specified quantities of tracts and books on a pooling plan, the material to be held by the conference home missionary secretary and distributed as needed.
The literature used consisted of a two-page tract, "Interesting Facts Concerning Seventh- day Adventists," as prepared in the Southern New England Conference for use at the Eastern States Exposition at Springfield, Massachusetts; our own Bible correspondence course enrollment card; a tract bearing a spiritual message; and an Ingathering paper. This material was given to every person who would accept it. We felt that it would not be best to hand out doc trinal tracts, lest some individuals should feel that we were forcing upon them our own peculiar views of religion. However, we gave the people an opportunity to secure doctrinal material of all kinds by placing twenty-five numbers of the Know Your Bible series on a table where those interested could look them over. A card indicated that they were free and suggested that the individual help himself.
Little effort was made to sell our books, although we presented a display of our larger books and the eye-catching color of Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories.
When this project was planned I did not expect that immediate results would be reaped, because the contact is too short and the people are not in a serious mood. The purpose for such an effort, I believe, should be primarily to impress the multitudes with the extent of the message and enlarge their concept of our work as a whole. I believe that in our forth coming visitation program we shall find the people far more favorable to our message. In fact, already our laymen have reported numerous instances of favorable comment by individuals whom they have approached since the close of the fairs.
Many times people would stop a moment and look at the exhibit, accept the literature offered, and go on their way, only to return a while later to learn more about our work. Whenever an individual showed any particular interest a complimentary copy of our fine booklet, Your Friends the Adventists, was offered him. At one of these fairs 1,950 people stopped at our booth during the week. To persons particularly interested 149 books were given. I talked personally with many of these people, and believe that the local pastor could readily have turned these contacts into personal visits at their homes.
One fact stood out in clear significance: Literally hundreds of people expressed themselves as knowing little if anything about our work and message. Those who were associated in this work realized as never before that "there are many souls yearning unutterably for light, for assurance and strength beyond what they have been able to grasp. They need to be sought out and labored for." Ibid., p. 442. As an experiment one hundred copies of the booklet Belief and Work of Seventh-day Adventists were placed on the table with the doctrinal material. We were amazed how eagerly people reached for those books. Before the day was half over every one of those copies had dis appeared.
Looking back over the project as a whole, we feel well repaid for the summer's effort. Our count showed that 11,711 persons had stopped to see the exhibits, while other thousands passed by with perhaps only a glance our way. We feel encouraged as we think ^of the 45,012 tracts and pieces of literature that were carried away by burdened hearts to become to many "as the leaves of the tree of life." In addition to this, 861 persons expressed a desire to know more fully about our beliefs and carried back to their homes 861 books filled with the message of Christ's soon return. We have faith to believe that the effort will not be in vain. The seed has been sown, and someday we shall see a harvest of souls.
A Special Opportunity for Evangelism
CARL P. ANDERSON: Home Missionary Secretary, Southern New England Conference
When New England feel a mighty challenge to give the message to the millions. Every means possible should be used to give these judgment-bound souls an opportunity to hear God's call. In southern New England alone there are approximately forty different types of county and State Fairs. But the one main fair in the East is the Eastern States Exposition. This Fair takes in twelve of the northeastern States. For the past two years the Southern New England Conference has had a booth in the large three-acre Industrial Arts Building. Our booth had 225 square feet.
We were the only church organization that had a booth in this building. There were other churches active on the grounds, but they had tents equipped as restaurants. They were feeding the physical man while we were doing all possible to feed the souls of men with spiritual food. We received from the Fair officials and visitors words of commendation and congratulations for the fine display.
In following the counsel of Sister White concerning the scattering of our literature like the leaves of autumn, we put our literature in specially prepared containers. These were clasp envelopes 5i^" x Si/9". On the outside of the envelope we had printed in large bold type "With the Compliments of the Seventh-day Adventist Church." Inside this envelope we placed a Voice of Prophecy radio log, a small calendar from the Review and Herald with our statistics on the back, a nondoctrinal leaflet, a temperance tract, a folder for the Children's Hour, and an enrollment card for the 20th Century Bible Course. This plan proved to be very successful, and more people kept the literature this year because it was all in one neat package. Many of the 425,000 people who attended the Fair came past our booth.
The Fair was open for seven days. During that time we made approximately 15,000 contacts and gave away 100,000 pieces of literature. Many will come into the truth who will trace their first connections to literature they have read. We feel that this plan is a wonderful way to put literature into the hands of the people.
We had many wonderful experiences during the week and a very few unfavorable ones, though it is true there were many who refused our literature. A number of individuals stopped to ask questions and secure further information concerning Seventh-day Adventists.
A woman from a cattle farm stopped at the booth with her husband to inquire about our work. She told us that she and her husband had been studying with another group, but both felt unsatisfied and were still searching for the truth. We mentioned the Bible correspondence course, and they readily signed up for it.
Another woman stopped and wanted to know more about us, saying she had been studying with a very aggressive group for two years but wasn't satisfied. She wanted to know what we had to offer. "I am searching for something, but I can't find it," she said. We told her that we would pray for her and that the Bible course would help her.
A Greek Catholic sailor came in and said that his religion didn't satisfy his hungry soul. He is now taking our Bible course also.
There are many such individuals who are looking and longing for the better way. We feel that through the Fair we can reach many whom we could not reach in any other way. There are now seventy-three persons studying this message through the 20th Century Bible Course who were interested through this Fair.
"The time has come when, as never before, Seventh-day Adventists are to arise and shine, because their light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon them." Evangelism, p. 36.
Drive-in Evangelism in Keene
REINHOLD R. PATZE: Pastor-Evangelist, Texas Conference
After studying the question of evangelism at Keene, Texas, where the truth has been presented for the last fifty years, where public evangelistic campaigns have been held, where college students conduct Bible studies, where literature has been distributed on no small scale, where one meets the old story, "You can't do much here in public evangelism; the non-Adventists won't come, for they have heard the truth over and over and are prejudiced," and knowing that I could not "sing like David" or "preach like Paul" or surpass any of my predecessors at Keene, I felt that the best chance of reaching the non-Adventists would be through an altogether new method a "drive-in" effort.
To be sure, this "drive-in" effort was, and still is, an experiment; however, I believe that in our drive-in age this method of evangelism has definite possibilities.
Some of the workers have asked about the size of the screen, parking arrangements, amplifying facilities, audience con tact, and results in general. I shall be happy to explain the methods in the preparations for as well as in the carrying on of these meetings.
Although it was generally known that the meetings were conducted by Seventh- day Adventists, an effort was made not to create any undue antagonism; therefore, for example, the screen was placed one- half mile from the college on the opposite side of the main highway. It is very important to erect the screen by a well-traveled highway.
The grove of trees near which the screen was placed added beauty, protection from strong winds, and a natural means of anchoring the screen. In areas with strong prevailing winds it is important to erect the screen so that the buffeting winds will by-pass it.
The screen, made of plas-wood (4' x 8' sheets), twenty-four feet wide and twenty feet high, is erected on three telephone poles each thirty-two feet long (twenty-foot screen, eight feet above the ground, four feet in the ground). The top of the screen tilts forward about twenty inches. This helps in the focusing of the pictures. The plas-wood, comparable to plywood, resists moisture and generally is very durable. Each of the stands to the sides of the screen may be built to whatever size is needed. Ours, as shown in the picture, are about 10'x 12'. Each of the stands is built at an angle facing slightly toward the screen. The speaker's platform projects about four feet, giving opportunity for the speaker to move about, and also aiding him in reading texts on the screen. The light illuminating the singer's stand may easily be placed so as not to reflect on the screen; however, the light upon the speaker, who stands slightly ahead of the screen, works best overhead, slightly to the side near the screen (observe picture). We have discovered that if the speaker's platform were eight feet high instead of six feet the audience could see the speaker much better. The border around the large screen is a plain I"x4" trimming painted black.
Visibility for the audience in the cars has proved best with the screen slightly uphill. Our first experience with the screen downhill and the cars on a slight incline was quite a problem for cars with sun visors, and the audience in the rear seats of all cars had poor visibility. With the front of each car slightly elevated, people can relax in their seats more easily.
Our parking area is a court 250' x 250' accommodating two hundred cars. What a thrill it was to see our court overflowing, cars parking along the sides of the high way, and seven hundred people in attendance! More than 50 per cent of these were non-Adventists. The court is illuminated with bulbs placed every fifty feet around the edge of the court. We found it best to have the first row of cars about sixty-five feet from the screen in a slightly circular formation, with each succeeding car in a staggered position.
A public-address system with two twenty-four-inch speakers provides sufficient amplification. Most people could hear with all windows in the cars closed in case of rain or other inclement weather.
Music is provided with recording and live special numbers, since congregational singing is not practical.
Names of non-Adventists are secured by literature cards that the usherettes offer to the occupants of the cars at the beginning of the evening service. The interested individuals return these cards at the gates as they leave. The response is equally as good as in any other form of evangelism.
Public offerings were not taken in the early stages of the drive-in. The local church assumed the current expenses.
Our control room (not any higher than a car) was sixty-five feet from the screen. From there we operated the turntable, public-address system, and projector. I have a 750-watt dissolving projector with four- inch lenses, which produces a very clear picture. Pictures were constantly on the screen from seven to nine o'clock. The first half hour was scenic and religious pictures with sacred recordings. The next half hour was live special music with appropriate pictures on the screen. At eight o'clock we had our theme song "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" with a beautiful picture of Christ. After brief announcements the il lustrated sermon was given.
Because of the enthusiasm on the part of our own people and the favorable comments on the part of nonAdventists, we feel that the "drive-in" effort, under God, has its place in the proclamation of the message.
Sending Out the "120"
ROLAND K. CEMER: Evangelist, Greater New York Conference
The admonition of the Lord through His servant is that laymen should unite with ministers and church officers to finish the work. The success of this kind of teamwork in an all- out, island-wide evangelistic campaign has been witnessed in beautiful Bermuda. I had the privilege of coming into the field three months before the campaign began, for a ten-day revival meeting with the churches. At this time scores of laymen pledged not only their money and usual help but also active soul-winning work.
When the campaign started, more than 120 laymen volunteered to take names. Since there were crowds of 1,500 to 2,000, it can be readily seen that three conference workers the music director, the mission superintendent, and the evangelist could not possibly begin to encompass all the visiting that should be done. Each layman took as many names as he could visit in his spare time. Then armed with a copy of Sunday night's sermon, our own home study Bible course, announcements, and reserved- seat tickets, they went forth. Our Bible studies are made up in simple form to follow the sermons that have been given. Thus the people hear the oral sermon, and then the lay worker takes them a mimeographed copy of it and also a Bible study on the same subject.
The lay workers meet in a class for instructions every Sabbath after church, to get their current sermons and the Bible studies for the week. They are instructed how to start the people on the studies. After getting the student started, instead of leaving him and sending the rest by mail, the lay worker calls each week with the lessons (even though the individual may no longer be coming to the meetings), picks up the ones finished, and leaves new ones, generally two a week. Thus the student gets the message through the studies, whether or not he is a regular attendant at the meetings. The lay worker grades the lessons and returns them, and at the end of the course the lay worker takes the student a certificate, with his own signature on it as the instructor.
The conference workers, only three in number, visit the people as a real interest develops and supplement the work of the laymen. When the time comes they are invited to attend church and to join the baptismal classes. The three conference workers conduct these classes in the churches at each end of the islands and in Hamilton. Both lay and conference workers are constantly laboring to feed these baptismal classes. This method has proved to be a great blessing. With the campaign not yet finished, a checkup showed that more than one hundred of the people baptized so far have been visited and labored with by lay workers. [A later report states that 243 persons have been baptized.] The lay workers persuaded more than six hundred people to take the Bible studies, and instead of only a small percentage continuing and a smaller percentage finishing, already nearly two hundred certificates have been given out, and many more will finish.
It is a thrilling sight to travel through the little colony and find our lay workers out visiting the people. Every Sabbath afternoon you will find them in every section of the islands, some walking, some on- motor bikes and in trucks. Very few have cars. Added to this, thirty to fifty lay workers come each Monday morning of the campaign to address cards and envelopes, fold thousands of announcements, letters, and sermons, stuff envelopes, and sort the mail. There have been several days of fasting and prayer, and some of the laymen have had all-night prayer bands.
God has promised to bless this method of work, and He is doing so in an abundant way. I have never before witnessed the Holy Spirit working in such power as in this place. By God's help the laymen and ministry have set their hand to finish the work in these beautiful islands.