Many years ago Daniel Webster ex pressed a thought that we should keep before us continually: "If the power of the gospel is not felt in the length and breadth of the earth, anarchy and disorder, degradation and misery, corruption and obscurity, will reign everywhere without remedy nor end."
How much truth these words enclose! The reason for the "cold," "warm," and "hot" wars at present so much in vogue is the fact that men have rebelled against God and His commandments. What the world needs in this era in which all moral and spiritual forces are declining is the gospel in all its forms. The servant of the Lord says: "Evangelistic work, opening the Scriptures to others, warning men and women of what is coming upon the world, is to occupy more and still more of the time o£ God's servants." Evangelism, p. 17.
In this decisive hour of history, when the promise of the second coming of Christ is about to be fulfilled, the proclamation of the gospel to a world that does not know the solution of its problems should be the first task, the first duty, of every Adventist pastor.
Considering the preaching of the gospel as a warfare directed against evil, the apostle Paul says: " (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4, 5).
The minister who appropriates to himself the power of God can snatch souls away from sin and bring them to the obedience of the truth. Besides, a soul that is won for Christ can mark a decisive point in the life of the pastor himself, and also in that of his church. Mrs. E. G. White states: "Churches are to be organized and plans laid for work to be done by the members of the newly organized churches. This gospel missionary work is to keep reaching out and annexing new territory, enlarging the cultivated portions of the vineyard. The circle is to extend until it belts the world." Ibid., p. 19.
Each pastor who has charge of a large church or a district can hold a public effort in harmony with the available resources and with the help of the members, in order to fulfill the divine command to annex new territories and organize new churches.
Study of the Territory
To be able to carry out this plan practically, the pastor must first of all study his district and then select the place in which there is the largest number of possible interests, for that' is where it would be best for him to hold his meetings. In undertaking public work, the pas tor should give preference to the places that offer greatest possibilities for success, places that have been cultivated through our literature ministry or any of our many other missionary endeavors.
God wants this line of action to be followed in the selection of a village or town for public meetings. But it is discouraging to note that at times we by-pass cities where almost certainly there would be a good harvest of souls, only to turn elsewhere to a place that promises almost nothing.
The Meeting Hall
The place once decided upon, one should proceed to search for an adequate hall. This should be presentable and of a good reputation, for the cultured public will never attend a hall where, between the days of the meetings, parties of doubtful morality are celebrated. In some lands one should also turn away from halls used by political parties, in order not to run the risk of being identified with them.
On the other hand, one should not rent too large a hall if one wishes all who attend the meetings to receive ample attention in the form of visits and Bible studies. If an appropriate hall cannot be secured, one may rent a house whose construction is such that by taking out two or three partitions one can have a good hall for meetings. In such a case it should be specified in the rental contract that at the expiration of the term the house will be returned to the condition in which it was received. This has been done in some countries.
Colporteurs May Prepare the Way
Experience has demonstrated time after time that if the pastor of a church or district, looking forward to holding a public effort in a certain place, will make arrangements with the colporteur leader of the local field for him to send to that territory two or three successful, consecrated colporteurs of good appearance, who feel a passion for souls and have a spirit of perseverance in the work, with the assignment of preparing the field with the printed page, he has practically assured the success of the meetings.
The colporteurs should begin their activities some two months before the opening of the effort; and make their deliveries one month before the beginning. They should carefully re cord the name and address of all who have bought ; books, making special notations of the persons who may have shown interest in the gospel, and send this list to the pastor. Thus when the effort is about to begin special invitations can be sent to these people. In this way the interest awakened by the colporteurs can be guided, and the danger avoided of its drifting away toward one of the evangelical sects. Further along, during the course of the meetings, it will be necessary to visit these interested ones in order to establish direct con tact with them. Only thus can the fruits of the work of the faithful colporteurs be harvested.
Colaborers With the Pastor-Evangelist
The servant of the Lord declares that in the evangelistic work no one should labor alone. Perhaps the pastor can persuade the local field to send a worker to accompany him at least during the first three months of the effort, or perhaps he can obtain the assistance of a Bible instructor for from six to nine months.
If the local field cannot cooperate in this way for lack of funds, and if the pastor cannot count on the help of a Bible instructor, there always remains to him the recourse of choosing from among the members of the church, colaborers who will act as ushers or distributors of publications or helpers in the Bible classes and even give Bible studies in the homes.
In the selection of these co-workers it is well to keep in mind that they should be responsible persons who have agreeable personalities and are persevering. Thus they will be- able to help the pastor to the end of the effort. No church lacks these members willing to help in the meetings of a pastor who is resolved to go out in search of the lost sheep. It is essential that the evangelist hold weekly meetings with his voluntary colaborers, beginning to do this at least two months before the opening of the effort, for the purpose of fa miliarizing them with the activities that are to develop, in order that when the meetings begin they may put forth intelligent work for souls.
Music and Song in the Evangelistic Effort
Sometimes it is difficult to secure a choir whose members can attend the meetings night after night, but there will never be lacking a group of members who can form duets, quartets, and trios, and there may even be a soloist. If those who form this group lack the means to pay their travel expenses in a case where the meetings are held in a distant part of the district the church members should provide for these expenses.
Those who help in the singing should have a weekly practice period, which can well begin about two months before the effort, in order to avoid last-minute pressures. It is to be recommended, in addition, that the evangelist find out who of the church members know how to play some instrument, for the purpose of alternating singing with instrumental music. It would be superfluous to say that a good pianist is necessary.
Where it is absolutely impossible to find instrumental or vocal musical talent, in the last resort one can use good recordings over a loud speaker for the transmission of carefully chosen recorded music. But it is preferable not to re sort to mechanical music, since it does not reach the hearts of the people in the same measure as does live vocal or instrumental music.
In case it is impossible to use recordings, the meetings can be held without any music; this will not greatly influence the mood of the audience, provided the speaker presents his mes sage in a captivating and persuasive way, under the direction of the Holy Spirit.