There is no auditorium, hall, or theater available that is adequate for a city-wide evangelistic campaign," reported our chair man, Calvin Osborn, to the Seventh-day Adventist pastors who had gathered for their regular ministerial association meeting. Our eight churches in San Diego, California, had been faithfully evangelizing their neighborhoods for many years, but we all felt that something should be done in a larger way to reach the 600,000 judgment-bound souls in and near our city. Our message must be heard, but no one church was adequate for such a staggering task. As we counseled and prayed together, somehow the idea came, not from any one person, as I recall, but from our mutual minds bent to the task, "Why not all begin on the same night with the same topic, and pool a certain amount of our budget for advertising on a metropolitan basis?" With this basic idea and many hours of planning and praying together there slowly evolved the following described plan which God has used to bring 185 dear souls into our San Diego churches.
The General Plan
We all used the same Sunday evening topics for the first five weeks of the series. These were advertised on a city-wide scale, using the metropolitan newspapers, television, radio, bus and bumper cards, handbills, and direct mail. Each pastor-evangelist announced his own midweek services at his opening meeting, thus choosing the number of nights per week and the selection of topics. After the first six weeks we worked more independently.
Faith for Today was the name chosen for our city-wide evangelistic crusade. William Fagal cooperated with us and supplied us with short transcribed announcements for our local TV station, inviting his audience to attend the nearest Faith for Today service in San Diego.
The Faith for Today signature was used throughout all our advertising. We counseled with advertising specialists and procured the services of one of the best artists in the city. One week before the meetings were to begin we placed bumper cards on all the automobiles of our members, and placards on the outside of a large share of the city buses. Then we began our radio and TV spot announcements. These increased in frequency until the opening Sun day. All of these media, with the exception of television, simply invited the people to attend Faith for Today and referred them to their Saturday and Sunday newspapers for location. On Saturday large ads were displayed in the metropolitan newspapers. These featured the same signature, and announced the opening topic and suggested eight convenient locations.
Physicians and Laymen Cooperate
Four days before the opening meeting, about 70,000 handbills were distributed by our members and by direct mail to the postal zones immediately surrounding our eight locations. The handbill advertised only our opening topic, "Heaven: Is It Real?" It stated, however, that this was the grand opening meeting of a citywide crusade sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist churches of North America. The eight locations were artistically arranged on the hand bill. Attached to it was a business reply card inviting the people to send for free reserved seats. They were simply requested to check the location most convenient and drop the card in the mail. About five hundred requests were delivered to our Faith for Today post-office box. Perhaps the most fruitful advertising was done by our many Seventh-day Adventist physicians.
The doctors in our area sent the following letter to all their respective patients. Each letter was signed by the individual doctor. It has been my privilege as your physician to become acquainted with you. We have shared together some of your problems, and I trust we have been able to help you enjoy better health. In this confused and turbulent age much illness is brought on by the tensions of modern living. I believe that in order to experience a full measure of health we must have peace of mind. May I ex end to you my personal invitation to meet with us to enjoy an interesting, illustrated lecture on "Faith for Today"? It will be held Sunday evening, September 20, at 7:30, at the National Theater, 930 National Avenue, in National City. Enclosed you will find a folder explaining more in detail the nature of the service. If it is inconvenient for you to attend the National City service, be sure to attend at one of the more convenient locations indicated. Kindly fill in the number of seats you will need, on the enclosed card, and return it as soon as possible. There will be a health feature in connection with these meetings. Sincerely yours.
One doctor sent seventy-five letters to those whom he considered the most promising. At the opening meeting in his church he counted thirty-five present as a result of his invitations. Twelve of his patients have been baptized. Each pastor-evangelist made up his own budget, including in it a sum for the metropolitan advertising pool. This was sent to our treasurer, who in turn paid the bills.
On the opening night, September 20, 1953, there was a total of 2,500 people in attendance, about one half of whom were non-Adventists. The services were conducted in five of our churches, two halls, and one theater. As we look back in retrospect after ten months, we can evaluate the results quite accurately. Four distinct advantages of this plan come sharply into focus.
First, our city became keenly aware that Seventh-day Adventists were active. Our message was indeed a loud cry. As in the days of Joshua, when we all shouted together the walls "fell down flat," and we were able to take the city for God.
Second, the influence of the total program upon us as leaders was very stimulating. Prior to the opening of the evangelistic meetings we met nearly every day at noon. As we ate together, planned and prayed together, a spirit of fellowship infused our gathering. Our ministerial meetings became evangelistic seminars as we exchanged ideas.
Third, our churches were aroused to action. Wherever our members attended, they heard the same call and the same stirring appeals for enlistment. As our people saw Faith for Today advertised on TV, in the newspapers, and on the buses, and heard it over the radio day after day, the enthusiasm mounted. A glorious spirit of evangelism swept over our churches in the area.
Fourth, the new converts were brought into the truth by the evangelist who was to be their pastor. The new believers were easily and naturally integrated into church fellowship. God has many methods that may be used for the winning of souls. Evangelistic centers are very effective if they can be obtained; but I am sure that God does not want us to wait in idle expectancy. Let us bear in mind that "the time is near when large cities will be swept away, and all should be warned of these coming judgments." "We are now living in the closing scenes of this world's history. Let men tremble with the sense of the responsibility of knowing the truth. . . , The weighty obligation of warning the world of its coming doom is upon us." Evangelism, pp. 29, 16. We believe this plan could be worked successfully in many of our larger cities where we have a number of churches.
Public Efforts on a Small Scale
WALTER SCHUBERT Associate Secretary, General Conference Ministerial Association PART II Publications and the Effort
The pastor will notice that the greater the number of publications sold or given away during the effort, the more abundant will be the harvest and the better will be the preparation of those who accept the truth. No evangelistic campaign can be successfully concluded unless our good books and magazines are given the place they deserve. Before the series begins, all the publications have already been ordered and are at hand and well classified. Nervousness and recriminations that might otherwise occur at the last moment are thus avoided. The publications should, without fail, include:
1. A good number of copies of the Holy Scriptures to offer for sale during the effort. It is well to have some of them bound in good leather for persons who desire a better quality.
2. A considerable quantity of tracts such as Good News or Know Your Bible Series, a precious assistant to evangelists, which can be distributed among the people once their addresses have been secured and in proportion as the successive topics of the message are presented. It is wise to have on hand of each one of these tracts a number at least as great as the number of addresses the pastor hopes to secure.
3. A sufficient stock of tracts dealing with the different points of the message, as well as back numbers of our missionary papers that do not - contain articles on doctrines not yet treated in the meeting.
4. A good supply of small books, like Steps to Christ and others that develop doctrinal and health topics, to offer for sale at the opportune time.
If the speaker skillfully presents the books from the pulpit, many will buy them and, reading them in relation to the doctrines discussed, will establish themselves more firmly in the message.
It is not wise to offer publications for sale until the sermon on the Bible has been presented. When this has been done, arrange a display or a little table near the entrance to the hall or in some other visible place, with various copies of the Bible attractively arranged, so that the people can make their purchases. From this time on, in each meeting there can be Bibles for sale.
Further along some other book, such as Steps to Christ, can be added, which discusses a topic already presented to the public, and as the meetings progress more books can be added to those already on display. It is a very good plan for the pastor to meet once a week with all his co-workers. On these occasions there should be present the pastor's assistant, the Bible instructor, the brethren in charge of the music, those in charge of the sale and distribution of publications, the ushers, and the members of the choir or quartet. All these workers, united in one purpose and desire, offer fervent prayers to the Most High, asking for help to reach and surpass, the goal of souls. Besides this, the pastor, as an under standing man, expresses gratitude for the co operation of each one, since he thus inspires all to do a still greater work and contributes to maintaining at a high level the morale of the group. It is likewise necessary that he explain to the group the plans to be developed during the week and indicate to them the measure of collaboration that he expects. The evangelist should take advantage of these meetings to dis tribute the addresses of interested ones, assigning the visits and Bible studies for the week. If this plan is followed there will be harmony in the group and a more intelligent and thus more efficacious work can be carried to completion.
The Weekly Bible Class
From the beginning of the third week it is wise for the pastor-evangelist to organize a Bible class and invite the public to attend. Thus the people can become more familiar with the handling of the Holy Scriptures. We suggest that the first twenty minutes of each of these classes be dedicated to teaching the handling of the Bible, and we add that it is well to begin with the New Testament and take in each class four books, considering the name and the personality of the authors, the approximate year each book was written, and the central thought of each one.
It is to be recommended to ask the public to memorize the order of the books of the Bible as fast as they are presented in the classes. Explain that each book is divided into chapters and these in turn into verses. Many people do not know these facts, and because of pride or timidity do not ask for explanations. If the pastor removes the difficulties, the people will study the Word of God with more enjoyment. The forty remaining minutes can be used for the Bible study itself. It is important that in these classes the pastor-evangelist's co-workers be strategically placed among the people to help those present in finding the verses demanded by the study, so that each one can read them from his own Bible. One can request the whole class to read aloud together the key text of the study, for this practice will help to impress the truth more deeply in the mind and heart of those interested.
Prayer and the Public Effort
Before opening the doors of the hall to the public, it is vital that the pastor-evangelist and his co-workers hold a fervent season of prayer, asking the Lord to bless those who attend the meetings, as well as the speaker, in order that he may be able to present the message in a clear, convincing, and persuasive manner. After the close of each meeting another sea son of prayer should be held to ask God, by the means of His Holy Spirit, to make the mes sage preached bear fruit.
Besides, it is very good to invite all the members of the church to pray three times a day for the goal of souls. On Sabbath mornings the pastor can remind them of the goal and tell them some incident related to the effort, which will serve to keep alive the spirit of cooperation. Length of the Effort The length of the effort as such can vary be tween two and three months, during which two or three meetings should be held weekly, in harmony with the old proverb that says, "Strike while the iron is hot."
In addition, one must not forget the weekly Bible class, which will begin with the third week. After the presentation of the Sabbath truth, the meetings can be reduced to one per week, aside from the Bible class, and continue thus to the close of the year.
Each pastor, no matter how small his oratorical gifts may be, can do something in the field of evangelism, in proportion to his faith in God and the confidence he has in himself and, above all, in the power of the Holy Spirit, who will supply all the necessities of him who places him self unreservedly under His direction. When the minister of God wishes to do some thing for the salvation of souls by means of "the foolishness of preaching," he will always find ways to carry his plans into realization. May there be a greater number of small public efforts.
By this means life will be given to many slumbering churches, more souls will be saved, and the message will triumph more rapidly, and that means that we will be able to go sooner to our eternal home.