FULL CHURCH COOPERATION
In preparing for the metropolitan evangelistic campaign in Miami, Florida, at the close of last year, Ben Hassenpflug, the Southern Union evangelist, followed a plan that we believe could well commend itself to evangelists working in any part of the world field. The usual preparatory sermons were preached in all three of the Miami churches, and our members were exhorted to take part in distributing handbills, inviting neighbors and friends, getting names and addresses of interested people, and bringing their friends and neighbors to the meetings.
Then, on the Sabbath before the opening Sunday night, a day of fasting and prayer was declared. This was more than just an ordinary day of this kind. Continuous services were held in all three churches, beginning with the Sabbath school at nine-thirty on Sabbath morning and running right on through the eleven o'clock hour, the noon hour, and all afternoon, climaxing with the vesper service at sunset. The morning service was not closed in the usual way, but rather turned into a testimony meeting. The services were varied each hour, when another pastor or worker from the evangelistic company would come in and present a new set of thoughts, or change the order of service by having a testimony meeting or a short prayer meeting or a service of singing.
Throughout the day our people were free to come and go to the services as they felt impressed. At no time did the attendance drop to less than one half the regular church attendance at the eleven o'clock hour. During some hours the attendance was very high. Members felt free to go home for a short period of rest or to take their small children out for a little food.
A wonderful spirit of fellowship resulted from this plan. It was a refreshing experience to the workers as well as to the people. The day of fellowship and prayer seemed to knit the members into a wonderful spirit of unity. Many requested that such a day be observed again, and this was repeated some two months later, just before the Sabbath truth was presented at the Miami meetings.
This excellent plan is the outgrowth of an emergency that Elder Hassenpflug had to meet in his evangelistic work some years ago. He was planning to open an evangelistic series in a city where a great deal of opposition had always existed toward our work. This opposition was stirred by a minister of another denomination who had formerly been a worker in our ranks. We believe the Lord gave this plan to our evangelist, for after this day of fasting and prayer a successful campaign was conducted and the opposition was negligible.
Evangelism is by no means becoming easier, and a successful campaign needs the full support of our local membership.
Another worth-while plan that has been suggested in the past is for the evangelist to counsel with our church officers in connection with an evangelistic series. Where there are several churches in an area, it is an excellent plan to have a united church officers' meeting of all the church officers in all the departments of the various churches. This plan, when followed carefully, allows the evangelist to lay all his plans before the responsible church officers in the area. They will become enthusiastic about the prospect of the meetings, and in turn they will carry their enthusiasm to the rank and file of the church membership. Adding to this plan an all-day season of fasting and prayer is a wonderful method of harnessing the combined membership of every church down to the last man.
Our General Conference Public Relations Bureau, with its auxiliary organizations in our local and union conferences, is doing a wonderful work. Recently they have introduced two plans that we believe have great possibilities in connection with publicity for our evangelistic campaigns. Last July they introduced a plan of announcing a citywide or community-wide search for the oldest Bible in any given area. This has brought gratifying publicity to the work of Seventh-day Adventists in many parts of the world. We believe it is also a "natural" to help publicize an evangelistic campaign. If such a contest is conducted during the opening weeks of an evangelistic series, the fact that Adventists are carrying on the search would naturally be publicized, and the campaign would be connected with Seventh-day Adventists, but it would be done in a very favorable light.
Last November our Bureau of Public Relations, in connection with the American Bible Society's Bible-reading plan from Thanksgiving to Christmas, announced a plan for conducting a "Survey to Discover the Favorite Bible Passages" in any given community. Not only does such a survey create good will, but it sets in motion a practical soul-winning campaign that could bring new people to the evangelistic series. The survey makes contacting the public for the interests of the evangelistic series so easy and natural that every church member is willing to take part. Newspaper stories about the survey build public interest and pave the way for evangelistic success.
Our evangelists may want to save this last suggestion for use next November, to take advantage of the annual Bible-reading program put on by the American Bible Society. However, it could be conducted at almost any time of the year.
Details and information concerning suggestions, and news releases dealing with both the Bible-passage survey and the oldest-Bible contest, may be obtained from your local conference or union publicity secretary, or directly from the General Conference Bureau of Public Relations.