Since the last General Conference session the Publishing Department of the General Conference has been emphasizing the important place that the colporteur occupies in a great forward, aggressive, evangelistic program. Our colporteur evangelists are spending practically all their time meeting the public. Their ministry is right in the homes of the people, where they can make strong spiritual appeals. They can take advantage of many opportunities to pray with the people, and find many interested people who can be enrolled in radio, television, and Bible correspondence schools. Many names of interested people can then be turned over to district leaders, pastors, and church leaders for follow-up work. Already we have seen far-reaching results in many places as we emphasize this closer collaboration with our evangelistic forces.
An example of this closer tie-in and some concrete examples of how a colporteur will help to "double the membership" come to us from C. G. Cross, the publishing department secretary of the Central Union. After a recent council of the publishing department men with the administrative leaders of that field, the following recommendation was voted and ratified by the Central Union Committee:
"That we wholeheartedly approve of the plan of colporteur evangelists acting as scouts and re porting to their district leaders regarding the openings they have created or developed for profitable follow-up contacts by the minister, Bible instructor, or appropriate laymen. That these reports be made at the end of each day or not later than the end of each week. That useful written information about each opening be given to the minister at the time of the report, whenever this is possible."
To illustrate, here are five family contacts made by a colporteur working in a certain territory which we consider would be exceedingly valuable to any pastor or minister for direct follow-up work:
1. The Marshalls in the pretty new white house with green shutters in the block on Elm Street have been listening to your radio programs and are thrilled with them.
2. Mrs. Johnson's husband, living in the same block, died yesterday, and of course she is all broken up and doesn't know what to do.
3. The Thompson family moved into the big brown house on the corner; they are total strangers in the community; they have no church affiliations; they have two little daughters; the colporteur sold a Bible Readings and a Life and Health subscription to them and had prayer with them.
4. The Prescott family at ———— Elm Street have read two of our religious books, but have a serious question about the Sabbath truth. They seem well grounded in other parts of our message, and would welcome a private study on the subject of the Sabbath.
5. The Clark family at ———— Elm Street went through an entire series of Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic meetings in another State and have a very high regard for our doc trines. They did not know there was a Seventh- day Adventist church in the city until the colporteur informed them of it. Then they promised to attend Sabbath services next week end when the colporteur calls for them in his car.
Brother Cross continues:
"This means that if all of the five contacts numbered and listed above were made, the colporteur would visit the minister and tell him about these people. He would supply the minister with a card history of each of them. The minister could then decide how to take advantage of all these preferred interests. He might want to visit numbers 4 and 5 himself, have, his Bible instructor or trained lay man handle number 1, ask his young people's leader to arrange for a call on number 3, and re quest his Dorcas Society leader to arrange for aid to number 2. But whatever follow-up is conducted, the minister will decide. He can put his church, Sabbath school, MV, Dorcas, and other organization officers in touch with real, live, needy people who certainly are prospects for the different kinds of missionary work for which the church is or can be geared.
"These souls who need help do not have to be found! The colporteur who is your evangelistic scout finds them every day. He will furnish the names and valuable information. After that the minister takes over. This whole process is based upon the proposition that the minister is, in a sense, a spiritual adviser in his territory. He ought to know how the colporteur evangelist is faring, what unusual contacts he is making, what individuals and families would profit by missionary calls, and what vital information would be useful to those making the calls.
"If a minister wants to know who has bought our books in a given area, the colporteur, through his publishing department secretary, will be able to supply a complete, up-to-date list, which will indicate the date of sale, titles of literature, the particular interests, and other exceedingly important information.
"A long time ago it was written by the messenger of the Lord that 'God will soon do great things for us. ... More than one thousand will soon be converted in one day, most of whom will trace their first convictions to the reading of our publications.' This does not indicate that they will give full credit for their conversion to the literature. But it most certainly does indicate that they will have been greatly influenced by the literature. Thus the colporteurs these evangelistic scouts are powerful and effective spearheads. Then our ministers make an organized invasion of the territory by strong personal efforts and by the use of many, many laymen in the churches."
Many of our leading evangelists can testify to bringing into the message those who received their first impression of the truth through some form of the printed page. Perhaps much has been lost in the past because there has not been the closest possible collaboration between the minister and the colporteur.
Within the last few weeks we have received from the publishing department secretary of the Central Union three experiences that bear directly on this subject:
1. In one of our conferences ten individuals who bought books from our colporteurs some time ago were visited again this year by our colporteurs and found to be now keeping the Sabbath. The publishing department secretary has visited the district superintendent, and he plans to hold meetings with these people. One of the families has offered a sizable amount of money to erect a church for the new company.
2. Three individuals of one family were baptized on December 15 in another conference. This family purchased books from one of our colporteur evangelists several years ago. This was the first contact they had ever had with Seventh-day Adventists. Our minister studied with these people, and they were baptized together by the minister and the publishing department secretary.
3. From one of the district ministers in a third conference came the word that a number of people who purchased books last year had indicated an interest in public meetings, and he expected to baptize several either at the end of 1951 or in the early part of 1952.
In the past a tremendous amount of energy has been expended by our colporteur evangelists, leaving results largely to the interest created by the reading of the literature they have placed in the hands of the people. But today, through these practical suggestions and others being put into operation in various fields, we can easily forecast a great ingathering of souls as a direct result of this closer collaboration between our ministers and the colporteur evangelists in their work. The colporteurs are ready to give up-to-date information, which can surely be followed up to good advantage. It is useful information, and if intelligently handled, will greatly increase the soul-winning results of many public workers. A genuine interest in the truth is already awakened, and we expect to see many quick conversions. The link between our ministers and their colporteur scouts is now being strongly forged, and present results envision more encouragement for our colporteurs. This again will mean large dividends in more baptisms for our evangelists.