What Influences Lead to Decision?

The Theme for the Assembly of the World Council of Churches Other Voices Augment Swelling Advent Chorus (Part II)

What Influences Lead to Decision? The Theme for the Assembly of the World Council of Churches Other Voices Augment Swelling Advent Chorus (Part II)

President, Central Union Conference

For years our denomination has been using many agencies in an endeavor to win souls, and has ever been eager to find some new method that may be still more effective. As far as we are aware, no one before 1950 has ever tried in a systematic way, over a large territory, and by questioning hundreds of people, to learn just what force was most telling in leading people to the decision to be baptized and join the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The Central Union Conference decided to make this type of survey, and then gave study to the problem of what group of people would be best qualified to give the correct information. Some suggested that a questionnaire be sent to all members in the union asking for the deciding influence that led to their baptism. It was pointed out by others that quite a few years had elapsed since the baptism of many of our members, and that the accuracy of their memory of all influences brought to bear on them so long ago might now be open to question. It was therefore decided to seek information only from those who had very recently been baptized, for in their minds there would still be a vivid memory of all factors contributing to their personal decisions. It was also decided to send a questionnaire to each individual personally by mail rather than have the minister officiating at the baptismal service ask the questions, and in this way avoid the possibility that the answers might be suggested by the ministers.

1950 Questionnaire

Those chosen to receive the questionnaire were the people to be baptized during the year 1950 in each of the six conferences of the Central Union. Shortly after his baptism each new member received a letter from me welcoming him into the church and enclosing the questionnaire.

The questions were prepared by the union committee, and were designed to secure information regarding the background of each new member as well as the influences that led to his baptism. The questions regarding background, in addition to inquiry regarding age, were as follows:

Was your father a Seventh-day Adventist?  Yes/No

Was your mother a Seventh-day Adventist? Yes/No

Was your husband a Seventh-day Adventist? Yes/No

Was your wife a Seventh-day Adventist? Yes/No

Did you attend an Adventist church school? Yes/No

Did you attend an Adventist academy? Yes/No

Did you attend an Adventist college? Yes/No

Did you take a Bible correspondence course? Yes/No

If you took a Bible correspondence course, to what city did you send your lessons?

Next the questionnaire dealt with the influences that culminated in church membership, and read as follows:

To learn the comparative value of various methods of soul-winning work, and recognizing that most people accept the truth as a result of more than one influence, we would appreciate it if you would read the list below, and if only one influence was responsible for your becoming a Seventh-day Adventist, check it. However, if several of these agencies were responsible for your decision, designate the order of importance in your case by placing the figure 1 in front of the most important factor, and 2, 3, 4, et cetera in front of the others in their proper order.

_____ Influence of a conference minister or Bible instructor

Name of the worker ________________

Check means the worker used:

__Personal influence

__ Evangelistic campaign

__ Bible studies

__ Sermons in church on Sabbath

__ Influence of lay church member

Name of member ___________

Check means which member used:

__ Personal influence

__ Lay evangelistic meetings

__Bible studies

__Use of film projector

____ Influence of your mother

____ Influence of your father

____ Influence of your husband

____ Influence of your wife

____Influence of some other relative

____Influence of church school

____ Influence of academy

____Influence of college

____ Influence of a sanitarium

Name of sanitarium __________________________

____Influence of Missionary Volunteer Society 

____Influence of youth's camp

____Influence of Sabbath school

____ Through reading a book

Name of book _______________

____Through reading a magazine Name of magazine

____Through reading a tract

Name of tract ________________

Through taking a Bible correspondence course

To what city did you send your lessons? ___________

Through radio sermons Who was the preacher? ______________

The replies to these questions gave accurate, up-to-date information on the back ground of the people who were baptized, and for perhaps the first time the denomination has been furnished with information, given by the people themselves, regarding just which influences led them to conversion and baptism.

The replies were compiled for each conference separately, and then united into a grand total for the union. It is interesting to note that the percentages for the union total were almost identical with those of the individual conferences. It was made evident that the effective means for soul winning in Missouri, in the southeast part of the union, were also of the same value in Wyoming, in the northwest.

The results were also compiled according to the three age groups: juniors (up to 15 years), youth (16-30 years), and adults (over 30 years). A fourth column was of course added, combining the replies of all ages.

Background

Since this article is not intended to deal primarily with the background of the people baptized, the information gleaned from that section of the questionnaire will be passed over except for a few observations.

Age at Baptism

Adults    51.1% 

Juniors  28.5% 

Youth     20.4%

 A graph showing the age at baptism was prepared. It revealed the high point by a wide margin to be age 12. The lowest point of all was 20 years of age. The line rises during the ages of 25 to 35 and dips again at 40, remaining low for the following 25 years. The line rises again at 65 and remains relatively high during old age. The three periods of life when people seem most susceptible to the truth would appear to be (1)ages 12 and 13, (2) during the age of marriage and the rearing of a family, (3) in old age 65 years and older. The two periods when people seem least likely to experience conversion are the ages from 17 to 24 and also during the whole period of middle age.

Percentage From Adventist Homes

Those having Adventist fathers 25.0%

Those having Adventist mothers 41.5%

Those having Adventist husbands 5.7%

Those having Adventist wives 6.7%

Christian Education

Those who attended a Seventh-day Adventist church school '9.1%

Those who attended a Seventh-day Adventist academy 5.5%

Those who attended a Seventh-day Adventist college 2.2%

Bible Correspondence Schools

Perhaps the greatest surprise of all comes in observing the important place the Bible correspondence schools hold. Nearly half of all the people baptized had taken either the Voice of Prophecy course or the course supplied by our local conferences.

Percentage Taking Correspondence Course

From Voice of Prophecy  26.9% 

From local conference  16.1%

Total taking Bible courses   43.0%

Influences Leading to Baptism

When the information gleaned from the answered questionnaires was compiled and the percentages worked out, most interesting facts were apparent. As would be expected, it was found that the strength of the various agencies depended in considerable measure upon the age of the individual. In junior age the mother and father, the church school, and the Voice of Prophecy Junior Bible Correspondence Course were the major influences. In this comparatively brief article, however, I will not attempt to point out further variations caused by age, but will confine the study to the percentages resulting from the replies from all ages.

The majority of people checked four or five influences as having a bearing on their decision. A few checked only one, and a few others as many as ten. All indicated the predominant influence by placing the figure 1 in front of it on the questionnaire. We will examine the replies first by giving equal value to all influences checked by each individual without reference to where the figures 1, 2, 3, 4, et cetera were placed. We might term these as supplementary influences, for they are taken into account if the person checked them as having any value whatever in his case. Afterward we will deal only with the influences checked by the figure 1 indicating them to be decisive.

Supplementary Influences

It should be borne in mind that the percentages in this group show the proportion of people checking each influence. These percentages will always total more than 100 because many people checked several influences.

Percentage of People Who Checked the Following Influences

Relatives 69.8%

Mother 33.6%

Father 14.1%

Wife 4.7%

Husband 3.5%

Some other relative 13.9%

Conference Workers 68.6%

Reading 25.6%

Books 12.4%

Magazines11.2%

Tracts 2.0%

Bible Correspondence

Schools 25.5%

Voice of Prophecy 16.3%

Conference schools 9-2%

Laymen 25.5%

Sabbath School 18.9%

Christian Education 18-5%

Church schools 13-9%

Academy 2.4%

College .2%

Missionary Volunteer 7.6%

MV camp 4.5%

MV meetings 3.1%

Sanitariums -2%

It is apparent from this information that the two most potent influences are those of relatives and of conference workers. It is very interesting, however, to notice the influence of laymen. There were 25.5 per cent who credited laymen who were not relatives, and 69.8 per cent credited relatives who were quite likely also laymen. If the two are combined, nearly every person (95.3 % of all) credited a layman with some part in his conversion! It is also interesting to notice that more than one quarter of the people baptized gave credit to reading, or to Bible correspondence schools. The other departments also made a valuable contribution.

The Predominant Influence

Under this heading let us observe only the influences checked as decisive or predominant. These are the ones in front of which the figure 1 was placed by those answering the questionnaire. In this list three influences were checked as decisive by more than 90 per cent of all the people as follows:

Conference   40.3% 

Relatives       36.9% 

Laymen         13.1%

Total workers  90.3%

All the other numerous influences drop to a place in the remaining 9.7 per cent, or else were not checked at all. These three influences that stand out so prominently can be still further reduced to two by considering relatives as laymen. This would seem proper, for a member is as much a lay worker if he wins a son or daughter or sister or parent, as though he won his non-relative neighbor. If the results of our lay men who worked for their relatives and those who worked for non-relatives are united, exactly half the people baptized indicated that the one who exerted the decisive influence was a layman as follows:

Those crediting relatives (probably laymen) 36.9%

Those crediting laymen 13.1%

Total 50.0%

Thus we have all factors stated as follows:

Laymen credited 50.0%

Conference workers credited 40.3%

All other influences 9.7%

Total 100.0%

It is interesting to notice that the two groups that bring to bear more than 90 per cent of the force resulting in decision are living people ministers, Bible instructors, relatives, and church members. Only 9.7 per cent of those baptized gave primary credit to institutions, organizations, publications, et cetera. Apparently it requires a living, Spirit-filled person to bring another person into the truth. Institutions, departments, and reading matter rank high as supplementary influences; but apparently it requires some living Adventist to make the decisive appeal after the person has become interested through a Bible correspondence course, through reading, or through some other avenue. God still works most effectively through living people.

It is also interesting to notice that although many people checked the Voice of Prophecy Bible Correspondence Course as important in their decision (it most frequently appeared in second place), yet they named some person, a minister or layman, giving him first credit for making the decisive appeal. In many cases they gave the credit personally to H. M. S. Richards, indicating that his radio sermons had been of vital importance and had kept them faithful in the study of the correspondence course. In the States of Colorado and Missouri, H. M. S. Richards was named by more people as the one who brought them into the truth than was any evangelist in either conference. In Kansas only one evangelist was named by more people than named Elder Richards.

Results of the Survey

After the information disclosed by the survey had been carefully studied by the Central Union committee, it was decided to try more fully to follow up every interest with personal attention by a minister or layman. Even agencies that did not appear to great advantage in the survey will continue to be employed and perhaps enlarged, but as far as possible the personal labor of our ministers and laymen will be united with them to make them more productive in the future.

It was, however, decided to place much greater stress than in the past on the work of the two most successful instrumental ties, that of our ministers and laymen. If, as seems to be the case, 90 per cent of all converts owe their decision chiefly to these godly men and women, surely their influence should be multiplied manyfold. This means a program of greater evangelism with more and larger evangelistic campaigns.

The feature that we have added to our program is in recognition of the part laymen play in winning souls. Recognizing now that fully half our converts accept the truth through the Bible studies and cottage meetings of our laymen, and by the loving influence of fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives, surely we should do something to organize this great group for more effective service.

To accomplish this, the union committee recommended that each local conference employ a minister whose only duty would be to foster lay evangelistic work. He is known as "lay evangelist secretary." This man becomes an associate secretary of the home missionary department, and devotes his entire time to recruiting, training, and supervising lay evangelists in their soul-winning work. These lay evangelist secretaries who are now on active duty enter one district at a time, recruiting members who will devote at least one evening each week in giving Bible studies. In cooperation with the pastor he helps them begin this work and keeps in touch with them through correspondence. They report to him each week, and a weekly statement of the work of each of these laymen is sent out to the lay workers themselves and to the conference workers.

This plan has not been in operation long enough to report results except that every week scores of new laymen are entering the ranks as active lay evangelists. We are working toward the goal of at least 10 per cent of all laymen becoming active soul winners. We believe that by uniting their strength with that of our ministers and evangelists, they can take the message to our territory more quickly and more effectively.

The Theme for the Assembly of the World Council of Churches

D. E. REBOK, General Conference Secretary

For a convocation of so great a body as the World Council of Churches, it would seem the part of wisdom to select a theme that would challenge Protestant Christians, and select it well in advance so that every message and every service might set forth that theme.

Already the Protestant world has been set astir by the theme proposed for the assembly scheduled for Evanston, Illinois, in August, 1954. Many approve, and some strongly disapprove, for there is a sort of sting in the words that strike across the evolutionary concepts of the most liberal wing of Christian thought.

"Jesus Christ our Lord, the only hope of the church and the world," carries with it an inference that the world of today has tried many panaceas for its ills and misfortunes, only to find that they have not worked, and as a last resort they must return to the Lord Jesus as the one and only hope of a world in dire need and great distress.

This theme for the second assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1954 is closely related to that of the first assembly, held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in September, 1948, when the theme was "Man's Disorder and God's Design." That theme was considered under four aspects:

"1. The Universal Church in God's Design.

"2. The Church's Witness to God's Design.

"3. The Church and the Disorder of Society.

"4. The Church and the International Disorder."

All of these dealt with the question that was found in every Christian leader's mind, "What has the church to contribute to society in its present extremity?" Dr. Henry P. Van Dusen, president of Union Theological Seminary and chairman of the Study Department Commission of the council, said in his introduction to the Amsterdam report:

"The World Council of Churches has come into being at a moment of peril for all mankind which is without precedent in the whole of human history. Frustration and fear grip the minds of men and women." (Italics supplied.)

This sounds a great deal like the words of Luke 21:26-28:

"Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."

Thus the World Council of Churches is fulfilling prophecy, for the fear and concern of the first assembly held in 1948 are leading to the next and only natural step a turning to Jesus Christ as the only hope of the church and the world in the face of the present extremity of society.

The Christian Century of December 31, 1952, printed the full text of the first chapter of the "Second Report," and later published important sections of the four other chapters. Early in the first chapter we find these interesting statements:

"It [the first report] caused people in effect to say, 'We do not altogether like the commission's attempt to define the Christian hope: but what that hope is and how it can be expressed in word and act, these are vitally important questions.' The first section of the report was received with mixed feelings. While it was admitted that no treatment of the Christian hope could omit the hope that Christ will in the words of the creed come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead,' there were doubts, and even a certain alarm, expressed at the idea of launching in the Assembly such a discussion of the Last Things. These doubts arise from the actual situation in the churches. For many the hope of Christ's coming is vague, remote and somewhat problematical, with little bearing on daily Christian life and prayer. They point with concern to certain groups both within and outside the churches, actively at work in nearly every country and especially among the younger churches, for whom the final hope of Christ's coming in glory is of such overwhelming concern that speculation about its date and manner is a major preoccupation, to the neglect and even denial of Christian responsibilities in society. We have been asked whether the language vised in our report would not, if it were accepted, increase the number of those for whom the Christian hope is an apocalyptic hope.

"The fact must be faced that one reason for the rise of extreme apocalyptic and millenarian beliefs is the virtual disappearance among many Christians and in the preaching of many churches of the distinctly Christian hope in Christ's coming again. Those who preach, apocalyptic views are right in pointing out that the New Testament is full of references to a salvation yet to be revealed, a Kingdom yet to come. The response which they evoke among many who are poor, wretched and despised or disillusioned and frustrated is a reminder to us that many hearts long for some mighty change in things as they are, some great deliverance from their lot."

True it is that the church in less-favored lands is perhaps more sensitive to the needs of the masses than is the church in smug, complacent, comfortable, and too-well-satisfied North America. Those living in foreign lands have every reason to look for and wait for the coming of a Deliverer, while we are here living in a sort of fool's paradise. While churchmen everywhere are discussing the pros and cons of the proposed theme for the 1954 assembly, it might be wise to turn once again and read Van Dusen's general introduction to the report of the 1948 World Council meeting. It will be found that the two themes are closely related in a sequential way.

Other Voices Augment Swelling Advent Chorus

LEROY EDWIN FROOM General Conference Field Secretary

PART II

That the return of Christ and the approaching end of the age are now being proclaimed by men of power and influence is most heartening. This was constantly impressed upon us during the recent Congress on Bible Prophecy that we reported last month. The reality of sin and of the conflict with a real, personal devil, together with the hopelessness of the world situation, the bleakness of its prospects, and the futility of man's wisdom and his plans for peace and righteousness, was constantly stressed. Men of all ranks are coming to recognize that the sole solution for earth's enigma is our Lord's return. They are baffled over the future, and are seeking for light. No, brethren! We no longer stand alone.

And what is more, these men are doing an undeniably important work in guarding and defending the outer ramparts of the evangelical faith in a way that we perhaps cannot do. Listening as we did day after day to those forceful speakers and highly trained scholars stressing over and over again that the major foes of the Christian faith today are the modernists, not simply the sects or cults from whom they differ, we became aware of a changed attitude. Whereas in earlier years our doctrines have been held up to ridicule at such conferences, today orthodox Christianity finds it self facing, not mere differences of interpretation on minor points, but the possible destruction of the very fundamentals of the faith, and they are coming to recognize that Adventists are among the truly fundamental teachers. This change is one of the most encouraging signs that we are nearing that time when under the power of the latter rain many who have hesitated to accept God's full revelation, and others who have vigorously opposed the truth for this time, will take their places with us in proclaiming the message and will ultimately stand with God's remnant church in the great final conflict.

Augmenting Voices in the Closing Crisis

Christ's own testimony during His sojourn on earth is an earnest of the latter days, when He said, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." John 10:16. These coming recruits are not likely to step out from modernist ranks. Men who have emasculated the Bible and denied the deity and divine authority of Christ and the verities of His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, priestly ministry, and speedy return are not likely to be attracted by our message. No, those who respond will obviously be men who are ardent defenders of the Christian faith, un compromising upholders of the Bible, and effective teachers and preachers of a saving gospel.

As has already been said, they will doubt less include many who have strenuously opposed us, because they have not known us and what we really stand for, and have misunderstood our teachings and our fundamental soundness in the evangelical faith. These are the men for whom we should pray, whose acquaintance we should carefully cultivate, whose respect and confidence we should win, and whose backing we should somehow secure.

There will be some tremendous surprises one of these days. There are going to be some amazing accessions to the Advent faith. We must prepare for such eleventh hour recruits. Brethren, we must enlarge our hearts, our vision, and our plans. God is going to do great things for us in the windup of this message. Ours should be the attitude of definite, daring expectancy, and ours the spirit of sincere receptivity. There may be some prominent Pauls, who will cast in their lot with the remnant faith, whose influence will be profoundly felt in high circles, as well as in touching the masses of earth. (Read Acts 9:1-22.) Are our hearts and minds big enough to take them in? Some of us may have to slip more into the background as these one-hour laborers come into the forefront. Will we be willing, as was John the Baptist for Christ's sake? is a serious question.

Widening Gulf Brings New Alignments

The insistence with which these men up lift Christ in sermon and song, making Him foremost in everything, is especially sobering to those of us who are familiar with the blueprint, wherein we are told, "Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ be fore the world." Gospel Workers, p. 156. The truth is ever to be presented "as it is in Jesus." He is to be the constant "center of attraction."This is to be "the burden of every sermon, the theme of every song" (Ibid., p. 160), or, as variantly stated, our "science" and our "song" (The Desire of Ages, p. 20). Christ is to be presented in His fullness. We are to "uplift the cross of Christ higher and still higher" in our ministry. (Acts of the Apostles, p. 209.)

This, be it noted, will not diminish or obscure our specific message one whit, but will illuminate, magnify, and surcharge it with magnetic power and irresistible appeal. Thus, "we are not to make less prominent the special truths" we have for the world, but the uplifting of Christ will give "force and power" to their presentation.(Gospel Workers, p. 288.) Righteousness by faith will be the dominant overtone. "One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other, CHRIST OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." Review and Herald Extra, Dec. 23, 1890. And this is to increase "as long as time shall last." (Gospel Workers, p. 251.) It is all there, brethren, repeated and reiterated "Christ crucified talk it; pray it, sing it, and it will break and win hearts." Review and Herald, June 2, 1903. And Christ's return is henceforth to be "the keynote of every message." (Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 406.) Have we not neglected it? It is well for us to be jarred out of our complacency, for "Jesus is the living center of everything. Put Christ into every sermon." Evangelism, p. 186.

Not to Close in a Corner

This movement will not close in a corner, in obscurity, but in the open blaze of publicity. It is destined to become a world issue. Mankind must soon make choice concerning us and the truths we hold. The vast majority will be against us. But a goodly number, surpassing anything we have as yet envisioned, will take their stand with us before the close of probation.

Again it should be stressed that the last scene in the great controversy will see many who have fought us come over and take their stand by our side. (Evangelism, p. 306.) We are therefore to "treat every man as honest." (Ibid.) In the last crisis, as the gulf widens between loyal conservatives and apostatizing modernists, the chasm between the two groups will become so deep and. wide that they and we will be drawn more and more to recognize that on the great Christian fundamentals we stand with them on essentially common ground. And glorious things will happen.

The sobering question that confronts us is: What would we do with some of these men if they were to join us now? Are we prepared to receive them and to utilize their talents? Would we have a place for such forceful personalities? This poses a challenge for us, and calls for most serious thinking. Perhaps it will come in the time when men will have to labor more or less on their own, because of world complications and organizational breakdown. In the meantime let us guard against any attitude that would give these men cause to question our sincerity or the spirit of our service. O God, give us hearts like Thine!


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President, Central Union Conference

March 1953

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