PHILIP W. DUNHAM Pastor-Evangelist, Southeastern California Conference
In the light of this statement Seventh-day Adventist teachers, Bible instructors, ministers, and laity stand in a tremendously unique position in the world today. Why? Be cause we have within our grasp the key that unlocks the future the understanding of the prophetic revelations of God's Word. We may take this key to the next neighborhood into which we move, to our next pastorate, or to our next series of meetings, and use it to bring relief, satisfaction, comfort, and hope to all those with whom we come in contact. God has graciously revealed to us the great final scenes in the history of the world. I wonder whether we appreciate the certainty that this fact brings. I wonder whether we are aware of the terrible responsibility that rests upon us to share this light with others. This may be a trite statement, but it is true: If ever there was a time for the preaching of prophecy, it is now! It is time to refocus our thinking as to why we should be preaching prophecy.
Reasons for Preaching Prophecy
1. We should preach prophecy because of its importance and place in the past. It is certainly impossible to separate prophecy from the fabric of the earth's history. We think of many prophetic pictures: Genesis 3:15, the Flood, sojourn in Egypt, Messianic prophecies, captivity of Jewish nation, the 2300 days, Daniel 2, 7, 8, 9, 11, Matthew 24, then the prophecies of Revelation, including the churches, the seals, the trumpets, the plagues, the true church, the United States, the three angels' messages, and the new earth. And certainly these prophetic teachings have made a profound impression upon different individuals in the past, and have shaped the course of nations. As an out standing example of this fact we could think of the high priest Jaddua, coming out of the city to meet Alexander and explaining to him the prophecy of Daniel 8. Further than this, there have been men in every century who were searching for and teaching the prophetic truths.
2. We should preach prophecy because of its convincing power. "Yet convincing as was this evidence of the certainty of the believers' hope, there was another still more convincing in the witness of prophecy, through which the faith of all might be confirmed and securely anchored." The Acts of the Apostles, p. 534.
3. The preaching of prophecy will help people to have an entirely different religious experience. "When the books of Daniel and Revelation are better understood, believers will have an entirely different religious experience. They will be given such glimpses of the open gates of heaven that heart and mind will be impressed with the character that all must develop in order to realize the blessedness which is to be the reward of the pure in heart." Testimonies to Ministers, p. 114.
4. We should preach prophecy because it will bring a reformation in the church. "If our people were half awake, if they realized the nearness of the events portrayed in the Revelation, a reformation would be wrought in our churches, and many more would believe the mes sage." Ibid., p. 118.
5. We must preach prophecy because of the direct admonition of the servant of God. "The followers of Christ are to combine in a strong effort to call the attention of the world to the fast-fulfilling prophecies of the Word of God." Evangelism, p. 193. "Prophecy is fast fulfilling. More, much more, should be said about these tremendously important subjects." Fundamentals of Education, p. 335.
6. We should preach prophecy because it will help people to place a true value on eternity. "A careful study of the working out of God's purpose in the history of nations and in the revelation of things to come, will help us to estimate at their true value things seen and things unseen, and to learn what is the true aim of life. Thus, viewing the things of time in the light of eternity, we may, like Daniel and his followers, live for that which is true and noble and enduring." Prophets and Kings, p. 548.
7. We should preach prophecy because all of the prophecies are reaching their fulfillment. "We are standing on the threshold of great and solemn events. Many of the prophecies are about to be fulfilled in quick succession." Testimonies to Ministers, p. 116.
8. We must preach prophecy because it is the foundation of the faith of Seventh-day Adventists. "Ministers should present the sure word of prophecy as the foundation of the faith of Seventh-day Adventists." Evangelism, p. 196.
9. We should present the prophecies because of Satan's interest in them. "When God's written word was given, Satan studied the prophecies of the Saviour's advent. From generation to generation he worked to blind the people to these prophecies, that they might reject Christ at His coming." The Desire of Ages, p. 115.
10. We should preach prophecy because of the example of Paul. "Paul's habit was to dwell upon the prophecies when with the Jewish people, and bring them down step by step, and then after some time open the subject of Christ as the true Messiah." Evangelism, p. 246.
11. We should preach prophecy because of our Lord's example. "The hope of national greatness was dwelt upon with kindling enthusiasm. Jesus knew that this hope was to be disappointed, for it was founded on a misinterpretation of the Scriptures. With deep earnestness He explained the prophecies, and tried to arouse the people to a closer study of God's word." The Desire of Ages, p. 154. "The burden of Christ's preaching was, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.' " Ibid., p. 233. Certainly in these important considerations is found sufficient drive for placing a new emphasis upon prophecy in our preaching.
Actual Presentation of Prophecy
There are several points that force themselves upon our attention when we consider the actual presentation of prophetic truths.
1. We might consider briefly the question, "What should be the order of the presentation of the prophecies?" I have never heard two men present the prophecies at exactly the same point in their meetings. However, we do have a suggestion in the book Evangelism as to when they should come. "I told him that the best and wisest plan would be to dwell upon subjects that would arouse the conscience. He could talk to them upon practical godliness; devotion and piety; and present the selfdenial, self-sacrificing life of Jesus as our example until they will see the contrast in their self-indulgent life, and become dissatisfied with their un christian lives. Then present to them the prophecies." Page 226.
2. We must remember to make the preaching of prophecy practical. There is a mighty challenge along this line of thought, because often the prophecies are presented in a very dry, historical, and uninteresting manner. They are almost distasteful. We must not present the skeleton alone, but also the flesh, so that our preaching will be alive. "There should be interspersed with the prophecies practical lessons of the teachings of Christ." Evangelism, p. 172. There are endless possibilities for doing this. For one example, I remember an evangelist's using Revelation 17, where the picture is given of the woman arrayed in scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones, et cetera, as a basis for our teaching on dress reform. In fact, this same evangelist felt that he could feature the book of Revelation and weave the whole message into it. "The truths of prophecy are bound up together, and as we study them, they form a beautiful cluster of practical Christian truth." Ibid., p. 220.
3. Above all, we must learn to uplift Christ in our prophetic preaching. "The prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation should be carefully studied, and in connection with them the words, 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' " Ibid., p. 196. Christ explained the prophecies with deep earnestness, and you will remember that we are told that the burden of Christ's preaching was, "The time is fulfilled." But we must learn how to center our preaching on the last part of the statement, which says, "and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Prophecy is a vehicle, and constitutes a means whereby we can present the larger truth of the grace of Christ to all men. Tell what is truth. But whatever phase of the subject is presented, uplift Jesus as the center of all hope, 'the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright and morning Star.' " Ibid., p. 195. The evangelist who handles the great themes of Revelation without placing his emphasis upon the fact that the Lamb is mentioned twenty-seven times is missing the mark completely. We must uplift Christ!
4. Do not be a prophet. Surely this caution does not need much comment. Sometimes there are men who feel that the preaching of prophecy makes them the prophet, and prognostications come forth that are fearful and wonderful. At times some of our men have been left out on a limb without any tree to support them.
5. Closely related to this is the caution to avoid pet theories. There is enough that we can give to the people that is solid and profitable without going into fanciful flights of imagination.
6. Lastly, present the prophecies in a fresh manner. "Do not let the teaching be done in a dry, abstract way, which has been the manner of teaching in too many cases, but present the truths of God's Word in a fresh, impressive way. . . ." Ibid., p. 195. "Increased light will shine upon all the grand truths of prophecy, and they will be seen in freshness and brilliancy, because the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness will illuminate the whole." —Ibid., p. 198. God has given us the light today that will help us in doing this, and the material is found in the volumes of The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers. When we realize the part that prophecy has played in history; when we see the high caliber of the men who have dealt with the prophetic subjects; when we see that we can point to many, many people of all faiths, who at one time believed as we do Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Jews, Catholics, et cetera and when we are impressed anew that today the Seventh-day Adventist Church holds every correct major prophetic truth that has ever been held by any church down through the centuries, then we are going to have some fire kindled in our prophetic preaching that will command attention. We are coming to a great day! We are coming to a day when the preaching of prophecy will become more and more important. "Those who eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God will bring from the books of Daniel and Revelation truth that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. They will start into action forces that can not be repressed. The lips of children will be opened to proclaim the mysteries that have been hidden from the minds of men." Testimonies to Ministers, p. 116.
Let us fill our minds with the importance of prophecy, let us claim God's promises for the understanding of prophecy, let us make sure that prophecy receives the proper emphasis in our meetings, let us avoid extremes, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, let us preach propecy with power.
How Does Billy Graham Do It?
M. CAROL HETZELL General Conference Bureau of Public Relations
Ministers who have cast inquiring eyes upon the outstanding success of Billy Graham in his evangelistic meetings would do well to give consideration to the background of this success. It is true that Billy Graham is usually successful in getting a large percentage of the churches in a city and in neighboring cities to back his campaign.
It is true that he emphasizes the great power of prayer, and certainly God must honor those prayers when they ascend from sincere hearts. For instance, in the dead of winter in London, according to Mrs. Billy Graham, one night "in one cold, unheated building eight hundred people prayed all night long on their knees" for the meetings.
It is true that Graham is a powerful speaker and can put into his public appearances and private the additional factor of a dynamic personality. But this is not sufficient reason to make the name Billy Graham a household word throughout America and even overseas. Power of speech, current application of subject matter, spiritual and even personal appeal, are primary factors in the success of an evangelist, but there is still one other ingredient necessary sound public relations. Not by any means is all the contact with the public made from the pulpit, or even through personal visitation. In fact, the first public contact is made through the press. And in order for this to be a telling contact, careful thought and long-range planning are required. Jerry Beavan is public relations director for the Billy Graham evangelistic team, and Graham himself says, "
Jerry Beavan is my right arm." It is Beavan who precedes the evangelist and arranges appointments, contracts for the physical setup, and in general lays the ground work for each series of meetings. This advance type of activity is not new in the field of evangelism. Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and others employed similar agents for their campaigns. Advance work for a Billy Graham series of meetings begins several months before the opening date. First the churches are prepared spiritually and physically. Cooperation of clergy and parishioners is solicited. Prayer groups are established, ushers organized, and a choir is assembled and trained. Arrangements are completed for the auditorium and hotel accommodations. The comfort of both the evangelistic team and the public that will be attend ing the meetings receives minute attention. Then the publicity work begins.
Two weeks ahead of the opening date Beavan pays a friendly visit to the radio stations and newspapers of the area involved. These personal contacts, he feels, are vital to the success of his campaign. The contacts do not, however, stop with the top men. Reporters are also vital to his success story, and are not considered as impersonal relay agents. The results of such a program stand revealed in the hearty support given Billy Graham in every major city visited. An additional note of interest lies in the fact that reporters actually are listed among those converted through Graham evangelistic campaigns.
Watching for News Angles
What goes into the public press must be news. It cannot be simply publicity as such; the advertising program handles that field. There fore Beavan maintains a constant vigil for "pegs," or angles upon which to pin stories about the campaign and thereby keep it alive in the public mind.
Current events are never overlooked. Graham seizes upon the interest of the moment by releasing a statement or encouraging some action. Local issues, projects, and occurrences become subjects of his opinion with the wisdom of caution well blended with the courage of conviction. Local landmarks seemingly capture his attention and continually provide food for thoughtful remarks and grist for the press.
Another angle of Beavan's publicity program is his approach through community organizations. He identifies evangelistic associates, musicians, and soloists in the minds of the people by personal appearances. Bookings are made for them with schools, service clubs, and women's meetings in conjunction with the campaign. This creates a closer contact with well-established local organizations and encourages their attendance at the regular evangelistic meetings.
Fundamental in all planning for the program is the foresighted approach preparation in advance, proper introduction of the evangelist through long-range, planned publicity, and an understanding of the community that is host to the evangelistic campaign. More than money, these features require thought and time.
Therefore they can be a part of every evangelist's packet of publicity. The evangelist who is limited as to budget need not necessarily be limited as to publicity if he will take advantage of the opportunities about him. The public press is one of the best mediums for reaching the multitudes. And it is free. Free, that is, if one can develop good news sense and is willing to take the time to produce the kind of news that editors want.
The evangelist who can open his campaign in a community with which he has become familiar will find a closer cooperation, a readier understanding of his mission, and a warmer reception than will the man who starts out "cold" with merely a few paid ads and some briefly glimpsed handbills to announce his coming.
A little long-range planning goes a long way in the field of public relations and evangelism.