[EDITORIAL NOTE. John D. Rhodes, of the East Los Angeles church, recently submitted a copy of some valuable information used in his church revival and visitation program. In his training of established church members to help the pastor in looking after the flock, Elder Rhodes provides them with help on twenty points rather excuses by members who may be irregular or delinquent in attending the various services of the church. Some who have recognized the truth of our message may be procrastinating in becoming church members. Since our ministers must continue dealing with these very problems, we are sharing Elder Rhodes' suggestions with the field. If you appreciate this practical service through THE MINISTRY, please let us hear from you. Perhaps you have plans you should be sharing with your fellow workers. We would be happy to learn of these. R. A. A.]
Meet frankly all excuses and objections. You should assume that your prospect is sincere, however flimsy and weak his excuse or reasons may be. Because he may honestly believe them, they should be dealt with fairly and fully. Encourage him to express himself freely, in order that you may gain all the facts. You can easily distinguish between alibis, or excuses, and reasons. "I live far from the church and have no means of transportation" is a reason. "We are often out of town on Sab bath" is an excuse. Most of these can be readily dissolved by tactful, friendly guidance. There is usually, however, one crucial factor that, like a key log in a log jam, delays or blocks a favor able decision. Discover this, and you are well on the road to success. Do your utmost to dis solve it without arguing or spending an undue amount of time on it. State winsomely your own judgment concerning the problem, remember ing always that your personal witness is a potent solvent for objections and difficulties.
You should be prepared to answer these twenty common objections and excuses.
1. "I am not sure how long I am going to live here." If you are definitely planning to move soon, it will be wise to leave your membership where it is until you settle in your new home. If your plans are indefinite, and you may be here one, two, or three years, then by all means you should transfer your membership here. It should be where you live, and you may live here several years. Our church has provided a simple method of transfer. Our church clerk will be very happy to write for it; and if you move to another community, you can arrange with the church clerk there to write us for it, and we will be glad to forward it there.
2. "/ want to keep my church membership in my old home church." Your home church played an important role in your religious life at one time, and I am glad to hear you speak of it with esteem and affection. Your membership there, however, is doing no good, and probably it costs the church something relative to the church goals because you leave it there. Since you do not expect to return, and since you expect to live here, your affiliation should be where you are. An absentee membership usually becomes a dead letter, soon forgotten and easily lost. If nobody transferred his membership, all churches, including your home church, would in time have to close their doors, and none of us would want that.
3. "We always send our children to Sabbath school." You are doing a part of your Christian duty toward your lovely children in sending them regularly to the Sabbath school. Don't you feel, however, that you are neglecting the rest of your duty to them, as well as to your selves, by not going with them? You are right in feeling that good religious training is indispensable to their character and ideals. While they are small you can require them to go; but when they become thirteen or fourteen years of age, your example will be more influential than anything you can say. You would be willing to do almost anything to ensure their physical health. Why not come with them for the sake of the Christian welfare of your whole family?
4. "There are too many hypocrites in the church; I don't like some people who go there." There are imperfect people in the church as there are in every association. Christians are not perfect people, but rather they are going "on to perfection." No one remains out of a social group because there are hypocrites in it. You wouldn't stop buying groceries just because some hypocrites are selling groceries that is, people who are not interested in sup plying good food to the public, but rather are interested only in what they can get out of the public. You have a personal responsibility to God that is your very own. You should never permit a few imperfect folks to keep you out of the fellowship of God's people. To be really consistent, you should join the church to set an example to help improve those who are not sincere. (The wrong answer to this excuse is, "Come on in, brother; there's always room for one more," however appropriate such a comment might be.)
5. "I'm just as good as many people in the church." It is extremely difficult to judge the goodness or badness of anyone, for under the same circumstances we might have done no better. The Bible says that we "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"; and "judge not, that ye be not judged." You, however, are too big a man to compare yourself with some rather imperfect people. Christ is the one by whom we should measure our lives. When we do, He challenges us to measure up to the highest and to work with the best. I'm sure you would like to do that, and as a Christian to come into our fellowship.
6. "/ do things of which the church does not approve; I would have to give them up." Whatever it is that stands between you and God, whether it be sin or evil or wrongdoing, should be given up whether you join the church or not. Your conscience and the church ask you to give up only those things that are harming you or hurting someone else. By your decision to surrender them, and by your commitment to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, you can put them all out of your life. God will give you joy, peace, happiness, power, and a score of other blessings worth infinitely more than the things renounced.
7. "I'll do it sometime, but not now." We are glad that you have determined that you will sometime become a Christian and unite with the church. You have taken the first step in promising yourself that you will do what God wants you to do about your commitment to Christ sometime. Is there really any reason why you should not make your decision now this evening? If there is, I'll be glad to help you with it. If you think you ought to wait until you "know more about Christ" or are "good enough," you'll have to wait a long, long time. Accepting Christ will help you know Him better and will aid you in living a more Christ- like life. Your decision is an act of your will a promise you make to Jesus Christ that you will be a Christian. That doesn't take long just a moment. You have probably postponed this decision for a long time, and it has done no good to put it off. "Now is the accepted time." You should become a Christian this very evening.
8. "/ was compelled to go to church when I was young." I was too, and I have been deeply grateful to my parents for requiring me to do so. We were compelled to go to school, to learn to work, to keep clean, and to do a dozen other necessary things that we considered extremely burdensome at the time. One needs God at every age as his religion expands with his growing life. On the foundation laid in your boy hood you can build a strong faith and a rich life through Christ and the church. In the old days services were too long and sermons too dull. I am sure you will greatly enjoy and be helped by those we have in our church now.
9. "I'll join when my husband (wife) does." The ideal situation, of course, is where you both unite with the church at the same time. You worship together, and the spirit of your home is Christian. (Where the refusal to join on the part of husband or wife has extended across the years, it becomes the clear duty of the one who desires to unite with the church to do so. Each one owes a personal obligation to God, which one must discharge regardless of the refusal of anyone else. Often such an individual commitment causes others in the family circle to make a favorable decision.)
10. "I can't believe everything the church teaches." Probably no two Christians in the church would completely agree concerning the meaning and importance of all the beliefs of the church. Perhaps my teammate or I can ex plain the one or two beliefs that are perplexing you. If we cannot, our pastor can. You will find that as you worship with us, enjoy the sermons, and share in the class discussions, these things will be much clearer to you. You remember when Jesus called His disciples He did not ask them about their theological beliefs. He said only, "Follow me"; and as they did so, they understood. That will be your experience too, I am sure.
11. "I can't give to the church what I should like to." None of us can. Each one of us returns to God the tithe and then gifts "according to his ability," and that is all God wishes us to do. Give to the church only what you think God would have you give. The largest contribution you can make is, not your money, but your life. You can give that, and God will pros per you so richly that other things will care for themselves.
12. "I don't like the preacher." We who work with Elder, and who know him well, feel that he is a devoted, hard-working minister who does his best to serve his church. In a church the size of ours we of course cannot secure the greatest preacher in America. We do have one who does his best, and we laymen do our utmost to help him. I'm sure you will like him, as we do, when you come to know him. One does not join the preacher, you know, but rather the church. Ministers come and go, but the church goes on forever.
13. "I work so hard during the week that I have to rest on Sabbath." Our service is set late in the morning for folks just like you, instead of at six, seven, or eight o'clock as the Roman Catholic services are. Even though one stays up until midnight, he is still able to get a good eight hours' sleep and arrive at church in ample time. We all have Sabbath afternoon in which to relax. I find that coming to church every Sabbath refreshes and strengthens me. It is a tonic to my mind and spirit, and I always leave the service with renewed personal power. I'm sure God will give this to you also as you worship each Sabbath with us.
14. "I have just become careless and got out of the habit." That is one of the bad habits that all of us are sometimes tempted to form. Sickness comes, or we are out of the city, but we faithfully promise ourselves that next Sab bath we shall, without fail, be in church. When we are absent we disappoint God and our fellow members. When we are present God richly blesses us. Every-Sabbath church attendance as a matter of conscience and duty is a must in every Christian's schedule. God gives us 168 hours in every week, and we can all surely set aside one for worship.
15. "I live so far from the church and have no means of transportation." That is a difficult problem, but perhaps we can help you find a way to solve it. If you have a car and drive it, you might agree with the other members of the family that you are always to have it Sabbath morning. It may be that one of our families living near you would sometimes bring you. Even though it would be impossible for you to attend every Sabbath, you should still be a Christian and a member of Christ's church, at tending every Sabbath that you possibly can.
16. "I want to think it over; I'll decide later." (This excuse is often a device for dismissing you or for entirely evading the question. Do not be misled by it, but return to the question of a decision by using words such as these, which have been found highly effective:) I appreciate your willingness to give the matter further consideration, but isn't it already clear what you should do? It becomes harder every time you put off the decision; no question is settled until it is settled right. You will have to face it again unless you settle it today. There is no easier or better time than now, and you will be glad you have made your decision.
17. "I have tried being a Christian once and failed." No Christian ever becomes perfect the moment he makes his decision to follow Christ. His acceptance of Christ is only the beginning of a lifelong pilgrimage toward perfection. Old habits and patterns of thought and action must be replaced by new, Christian ones. All Christians sometimes fail, but with God's help they try again and again and again. You must try again with faith that this time you will succeed. We believe you will, and shall help you all we possibly can.
18. "I'm out of the city so often on Sabbath." Even though we would like to have you with us in our services every Sabbath, you should, as a Christian, worship in some church in the community where you are. Most loyal Christians make it a point of conscience to worship in some church on Sabbath wherever they are. You could do this, could you not? Then you could be with us in your own church the rest of the time.
19. "When I go to church no one speaks to me." Although that is often true of other organizations, I am extremely sorry that it hap pens in our church. I apologize for it. Sometimes we are so eager to see our close friends that we fail to speak to the strangers. I invite you now to come and sit with me next Sabbath, so that I may introduce you to a number of my friends. When you become a member of our church you will feel much more at home. You will join one of our Sabbath school classes, where so much of the social life of the church is carried on, and will yourself begin greeting the strangers who worship near you.
20. "I have a physical disability that keeps me from church." (This is probably the most difficult of all church attendance problems. Deafness can often be partially relieved if the person occupies a pew near the front of the church, where the music will not seem a con fused roar of sounds and the minister's voice a faint, faraway echo. The installation of hearing aids has been found helpful by thousands of churches. Nervousness, which is often heightened to the point of distress when one is in a crowd, can be somewhat alleviated if the person sits in the rear of the church. Spinal conditions, which make it impossible for one to sit in one place for any length of time, make church attendance almost impossible. Such unfortunate people need Christ and the church even though they are prevented from regular attendance by conditions beyond their control.)