Evangelism: Shall I Use Visual Aids? Rural Evangelism Pays

For the last six years I have been seriously pondering the questions: Do visual aids belong or do they not? Are they in or out? Are they cumbersome to the evangelist or are they effective? Do visual aids weaken the impact of this message or do they strengthen it? Is there a danger that they might put the evangelist in slavery to the visual aids, or does their use still leave him their master? And further, are some visual aids taboo and others a fetish?

Minister, South Dakota Conference

Pastor-Evangelist, Upper Columbia Conference

For the last six years I have been seriously pondering the questions: Do visual aids be long or do they not? Are they in or out? Are they cumbersome to the evangelist or are they effective? Do visual aids weaken the impact of this message or do they strengthen it? Is there a danger that they might put the evangelist in slavery to the visual aids, or does their use still leave him their master? And further, are some visual aids taboo and others a fetish?

What might be called manual aids visual devices made up of charts, cutouts, structures, et cetera are just the thing to those brave enough to venture into this particular field of visual aids. But filmstrips? Slides? Never! Not those you can't see the audience (as though that made any difference to the audience). And besides, they are a crutch. So says the enthusiast for manual aids.

Then we hear from the film slide enthusiast: "Films are the only thing in the world. I use them in every lecture." And so I've wondered, Should both, neither, or one or the other be utilized by a young minister eager for the best methods in soul winning? And in what balance with "just plain preaching" should they be used?

I have observed that almost all who do not use visual aids have much to say against them; or failing to be against their use, they at least minimize their value. Perhaps the reason might be that they themselves, having developed a successful evangelistic ministry, subconsciously wish to defend the methods of their success (as though success needed defending).

But my question is, Shall / use visual aids? I believe that in Christ's method and approach, He being the perfect evangelist above us all, the real answer can be found as to whether or not I should utilize the entire field of visual aids in proper balance to my speaking ministry. What decision would Christ make regarding the use of visual aids if His first advent had fallen in this century? The answer, I believe, is found in the methods used in His advent in the first century.

Christ and Visual Aids

The answer? Christ made use of every visual aid of His day! Christ lived in a time, in an environment, and under climatic conditions in which men lived, thought, taught, and prayed outdoors, in the streets and fields. He and John the Baptist met the people in the open and illustrated their sermons with something their hearers could see. "Without a parable spake he not unto them." Matt. 13:34. That is visual aids, for Scripture and Spirit of prophecy agree that most of these parables were based on scenes taking place before the eyes of those who heard.

To follow Christ's method, we must bring into use every visual aid made possible by the places of assembly which the time, the environment, and climatic conditions of our age and our area dictate.

In this age and with today's environment we cannot take men into the fields and streets in many parts of the world to see the visual aids that Christ used. Therefore the best method for us is to bring the visual aids that Christ used into the halls and tents where we preach His message.

Christ could direct the attention of His hearers to scenes before them the fowl of the air, the beasts of the field, the reaches of space, the glories of heavenly bodies, the mountains lifting the horizon into the blue. But these scenes of beauty and reality we must capture on magic paper and project upon a screen in order to bring them to the eyes and ears of our hearers in today's places of assembly.

Christ went beyond the limits of imagery of speech to illustrate His messages. This we may also do today in the form of pictures, sculpture, cutouts, stage scenery, and pictures projected on the screen. In the field of illustration by visual aids it has been my observation that of all the devices, film slides offer the greatest advantage in arrangement, economy, variety, convenience, artistry, and color. I say this to encourage myself to use the more difficult method of projection, rather than for the purpose of minimizing other visual aids, for I have come to believe that all visual aids should be used in proper balance for the variety they afford, for their realism, and for other considerations. How can the use of any device that effectively visualizes truth be minimized?

It is marvelous to note how practically all of Christ's parables were visually illustrated. To teach dependence upon God, Christ plucked the lily in its beautiful garb. (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 19.) In Christ's living discourse on peace He used for illustration a real storm on the Sea of Galilee. The nearest we can approach to that, inside four walls, is to illustrate our address on peace with a picture of Christ calming the storm.

In His discourse on prayer Christ pointed out a Pharisee praying on the street; on humility, He washed His disciples' feet; on sacrifice, He turned the eyes of His hearers upon the widow as she cast in her two mites. In the spring Christ pointed out the sowers in the field; in the autumn He swept His hand toward the fields of grain ready to be harvested. All this His hearers could see. Only by picture or portrayal can men today see these things in places where we must preach. To portray these scenes on screen or stage is as near as we can approach to the methods of Christ in the use of visual aids.

The people of Christ's day lived outdoors; the people of this day live largely indoors. His visual aids were outside; if we are to have any at all, ours must be inside. In His day Christ used every visual aid afforded by the outside in a great out-of-doors approach. In this day those who stand in Christ's stead most nearly follow His methods by using every visual aid afforded for the inside. And we have the materials avail able for a truly great indoor approach.

Surely if we master the field of visual aids available today as Christ did in His day, if we become artful in their use as Christ did, and if we hold them in proper balance as did He, we shall arouse more of the interest that He aroused; we shall make more of the impression that He made; and we shall more nearly approach His attainment of clearly planting truth in the minds of those who hear and see.

Christ avoided any tendency to permit His visual aids to take the place of prayer and preparation, or to serve as a crutch in place of the power of preaching. Nor did He permit them to substitute for the presence of the Holy Spirit in His ministry. His individuality and personality were not restricted by His use of visual aids. Surely by His grace we may successfully follow His example.

Rural Evangelism Pays

BILL LOVELESS, JR. Pastor-Evangelist, Upper Columbia Conference

Christ's last words to His disciples were:

"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations." These words clearly indicate that the out-of-the-way places must have the last warning message as well as the cities and great centers of population.

There are many problems that face the rural evangelist or district pastor as he plans for the work, especially in small towns where there are no Adventists at all. There are hundreds of such towns and farming communities in rural America today that are hungering for the bread of life, and the opportunity must be given them to obtain it.

Too much stress cannot be laid on the importance of preparing the field before any public work is done, especially if there are no Adventists in the community. The evangelist should visit the community often, so that the people will know who he is. Have no fear, he will be well known in a short time in a small town. If one is friendly and cordial, the word will soon get around that the "Advent preacher" is a pretty good fellow and this alone will accomplish more than a thousand handbills when the opening night rolls around. His goal should be to meet the most people in the shortest possible time, and give them a favorable impression of himself and the nature of his work.

One of the best ways to do this is through the door-to-door literature campaign. A five-week series will pretty well tell the temperature of the people; and if the evangelist can insert a handbill announcing his meeting on the fifth week, many will come just because they feel that, after five weeks, they know him.

If there is a church member who is highly respected in town, an effective way to create pre-effort interest is to visit each home in town in company with this layman inviting the people to the meetings personally. In my last campaign I was fortunate enough to go to a little town of 250 population where the only Adventist within several miles was a highly respected Adventist doctor. In company with the doctor I visited each home in town and invited the people to attend the meetings. Needless to say, most of the town was out, not only on opening night, but for thirteen weeks thereafter.

There is always much work connected with getting the hall or tent ready for meetings. There are also many small articles to buy. One should, as far as possible, buy what he needs for this work from local businessmen. This will not only make them happy from a business standpoint but will greatly help when Ingathering time arrives. The little local printer might not have the latest in printing, but he should be asked to do the work. If he is on the evangelist's side, he can give a lot of help and he might be the means of giving our message to someone who would not come to a meeting.

Before the meetings even begin, our minister should visit the local pastors in their churches and show himself friendly, not only once or twice, but at least occasionally. There is much to be gained from a friendly association with ministers of other churches. Perhaps our evangelist may be asked to offer prayer, or his song leader be invited to sing for a Sunday morning service. Not long ago Sunny Liu, my song leader, was asked to sing in the local community church, which he did to the enjoyment of all. A few weeks later the Sabbath presentation caused several to take their stand for truth. Our friend, the local pastor, was upset and understandably so but he could not say much about us from the pulpit because Sunny had appeared there only a few weeks before, and one of the workers tried to be present in his congregation at least twice a month.

A very important thing to keep in mind when one begins his meetings is to start on time, and likewise to be prompt in bringing the meeting to a conclusion. For farmers, the day usually begins at 5:00 A.M., and if the meeting lasts much past nine these rural people will not come regularly. I have found that in the fall and early spring, from 7:30 P.M. to 7:45 P.M. is a good time to begin, concluding the program at 8:30 P.M. or 8:45 P.M. just one hour later.

"Children's Night"

A very popular feature that can be worked in anywhere during the series is a children's night. If it is properly advertised, one can be sure of having a houseful of juniors along with daddy and mamma. There is no sermon, but rather several good lively stories with an obvious lesson. A sure attention-getter is "The Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace." For a few cents one can get some lycopodium powder at the drugstore, which helps in illustrating the story. Pour a little powder in the palm of the hand and run a burning match through it. Then suddenly hold the match under your hand and let the powder drop out in a blaze of harmless fire. As long as the powder is in the palm of your hand (the care of Jesus), the match (the fire of the devil) will not burn; but when the powder is released into the air and contacts the flame it immediately ignites.

I have taken several color pictures of junior camps that are very popular with the juniors after the story. These pictures quiet the children and are good publicity for junior camp. A short story or two about camp life plus a few remarks about the camp will let the parents present know that Adventists believe in taking care of their juniors. The local MV secretary will be pleased to help in such a program. We have found that a favorable impression on children's night will bring the parents again to our meetings.

In visiting these rural people, keep in mind that normally you are expected to stay longer than you would if the call were being made in the city. Often they expect you to come in time for a meal I have found that this is usually not too hard to take. After a pleasant visit prayer should be offered, asking God to bless the home and any of its members who are not present.

I have found that having a social evening now and then is another wonderful way of reaching some who will not come to meetings. In spite of the fact that some of our small towns are quite a distance from a large city, they usually have their share of ladies' clubs and activities. In one little town of not quite two hundred population there were four ladies' clubs plus the P.T.A., Lions' Club, Chamber of Commerce, Masonic Lodge, and the Grange. If the evangelist can provide a wholesome social evening for non-church members, and show them it is possible to have a good time without playing cards or dancing, their estimation of our message will rise immeasurably.

Yes, this takes planning and effort, but it is worth as much as our best sermon. May God lead us by His Spirit as we try to reach these solid citizens of rural America, for, by the way, they make solid Adventists.

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Minister, South Dakota Conference

Pastor-Evangelist, Upper Columbia Conference

January 1953

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