Small-Town Evangelism

Translated from Seroir, French-language bulletin of the Ministerial Association of the Southern European Division.

E. H. WILCOX, Pastor-Evangelist, Oregon Conference

After serving the cause of Gocr in a num­ber of different ways and for the past twelve years serving as district leader and pastor, working in territory where there were both large and small churches, I have seen more and more the need for two distinctive types of evangelism.

Along with my other work I have held at least one evangelistic effort each year. A number of these have been in the smaller places. These are often overlooked by many and left with­out help. I have always had a burden for the hard places, and so have tried not to overlook them. In a number of these small efforts there has been no help provided other than my wife. We have done the best we could. My wife has been my helper in playing for the meetings, doing much visiting, and giving out literature. She has enjoyed doing all this and also putting on chalk drawings on different occasions. All of this has helped greatly.

Our mode of procedure has been simple. We have endeavored to get the few members living in the town to working before the meetings started. This we have done by assigning terri­tory to them for distribution of literature and giving the kind of literature to them that we desired to have distributed. Thus they have found people who were sympathetic or inter­ested, and by taking an intereSt in them they have secured their attendance at the meetings. In places where there were no Adventists we have secured the help of younger people, or older, to go from a larger church to that town and distribute literature for three or four weeks before beginning the meetings, and have made that a little mission field for them to work in.

After preparing the territory in this simple way we have printed our handbills and rented a vacant store building or some hall, and after cleaning and decorating as best we could, we have announced our meetings to the public. In some cases we have found that the best way to send out the handbills was by mail. In other places this has been done by personal helpers.

In our meetings we have tried to make the first half hour as attractive as possible, with special music from some larger church, and wholesome educational or religious moving pic­tures. I have several reels of moving pictures that I took while working in South America, and these, carefully advertised, seem to interest the people quite well.

We have generally held three meetings a week, and each handbill has listed these three meet­ings. After putting out a new handbill and after holding the first meeting of that new week, if the crowd was small we have found it helpful before the next meeting to go from door to door leaving a good, attractive tract and asking if they had attended the meetings as yet, and giv­ing personal invitations. This has generally in­creased our attendance. Personal work, after all, is the larger part of the program. My wife and I usually spend from a half day to a whole day twice a week doing personal work. The re­sults have been according to the time and effort given.

Such efforts have cost a very small amount of money. Our advertising has not been expensive, but neat and attractive. We have had the local newspaper do our printing and have put the handbill into the paper. This gives us the priv­ilege of getting write-ups in the paper without extra cost. We have won from five to fifteen converts in little efforts of that kind.

I believe we should not forget these smaller places, for God has those there that "have not bowed" the knee "unto Baal," men and women who are looking for the truth. I visited a little place of three hundred inhabitants recently where I would enjoy holding an evangelistic series of this kind. I feel sure that ten or twelve souls could be started on the heavenly way, and perhaps more, at very little expense. It is time for this gospel to be preached in every village.

Preparation for the Evangelistic Campaign

G. CUPERTINO, Associate Secretary, Ministerial Association, Southern European Division

There is a difference between a simple winter series of meetings in a routine at­mosphere and the beginning of an evangelistic campaign in which all the members of the church are called to participate.

Well before beginning any public activity, the evangelist will recall the counsel of the psalmist- "Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore" (Ps. 105:4). How to preach Christ, the prophets, the apostles—that will be the subject of his meditations, with­out forgetting to reread the instructions of the Spirit of prophecy on the way to present Biblical truths to our contemporaries. A sort of explosive charge should thus accumulate in the depths of his soul, so that he will say to himself, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16). Only a profound con­viction of the extreme urgency of the message of salvation can suggest to the evangelist the words capable of awakening the listeners and moving them to be concerned about their eter­nal destiny.

He who has the advantage of having co-work­ers will reinforce the foundations of cooperative action, trying to communicate to his associates the enthusiasm and the vision of service. To appreciate talents wherever they are found means to win esteem and confidence, and thus to facilitate the work of others. Unity, har­mony, prayer—these are powerful factors of suc­cess in teamwork.

Choice of Subjects

The evangelist finds himself between two necessities: on the one hand, to proclaim the message that God has entrusted to him; on the other hand, to take account of the mentality of his audience. The central theme always remains the same—to preach the gospel, that is, good news; therefore to avoid the negative side and show that religion brings happiness and true life. Before taking unwholesome food away from people one must give them good food. Thus the great truths about Jesus and salvation, the judgment, and the soon return of Christ should be announced with titles and pictures that attract, and not as theological dis­cussions reserved for a small class of people.

"In the cities of today, where there is so much to attract and please, the people can be interested by no ordinary efforts. Ministers of God's appoint­ment will find it necessary to put forth extraor­dinary efforts in order to arrest the attention of the multitudes. And when they succeed in bring­ing together a large number of people, they must bear messages of a character so out of the usual order that the people will be aroused and warned. They must make use of every means that can possibly be devised for causing the truth to stand out clearly and distinctly."—Evangelism, p. 40.

These lines were written before the inven­tion of moving pictures, radio, and television.

The first subjects should be of a nature to awaken interest while at the same time estab­lishing or stimulating faith. The situation in the world, the marvels of creation, the mys­teries of life and death, Biblical prophecies, and many other topics can serve to win confidence. The evangelist should be sensitive to the great problems that haunt men, and he should "hang" his message upon them. Let him make clear to his listeners the way to come to God and to live with Him. In order to become acquainted with the methods of his colleagues and be inspired by them, the worker should read such publications as THE MINISTRY and local min­isterial bulletins. The basis of his subjects does not change; it is the everlasting gospel. The form, on the contrary, must be original, at­tractive, and new. All must be permeated by the Spirit of God.

Preparation of the Church

Far enough in advance, the evangelist should awaken the church and recall its responsibil­ities and the chief reason for its existence—mis­sionary work. If the church member is not a missionary within the limits of his possibilities, he is nothing. Many brief and direct statements from the Spirit of prophecy can be used to stimulate service. Each member should be in­vited to prayer and action. A week before the Sabbath preceding the opening of the cam­paign, each one should be given a certain number of invitations to distribute according to an established plan, and the announcement made that on the following Sabbath they will be asked to relate a few of the experiences they have had during the week. The evangelis­tic campaign should be the subject of prayer and of conversation for the whole church. Visits to discouraged members, and even to those who have left the truth, can be helpful. "Come, for all is ready," is the joyful note that should ring out in each Adventist church at the beginning of a new series of public meetings. On the eve of the "attack," the angels should be able to say of each member, "He prayeth" (Acts 9:11).

Preparation of the Publicity

"The Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man's pen" (Isa. 8:1). That is, so that it can be read by all. There should be grammatical correctness as well as aesthetic quality. We live in an age of publicity. Our "merchandise" merits the best of advertisements, and even if we must work within the limits of a modest budget, we should announce our meetings with appeal and dignity. Advertisements prepared without taste, on cheap paper, and placed at the• doors of our halls, are not to our advantage. As for posters, there are certain places where they are very visible and others where they disappear. Money should not be spent for small, ordinary posters that are often submerged by others much larger and more visible. One should be sure that the text is well balanced, brief, and con­cise. Heavy letters on a light background are easily read from a distance. The press proof should be carefully read, and the address and the dates checked with special care.

The press offers various possibilities. In cer­tain countries, paid publicity is at times the most efficacious means of announcing the meet­ings. Besides that there is the free press, that is, the page for church news, on which can appear either simple announcements, concisely framed, or more extended publicity, such as résumés of lectures. One must be careful not to ask for too much or to ask in the wrong way. It is easy to close doors if, instead of offering the editor news that interests the public, one proposes material that is nothing else than church propaganda, something in which the press is often not interested.

In some places invitations constitute good publicity because of the discretion suggested by the circumstances, and also because our members can invite the people. Here again the text must be well studied. Sometimes these invitations represent either a simple announce­ment of religious meetings without any attrac­tion for the masses, or else a discussion that even ten leagues away smells of polemics. It happens sometimes that the paper is cheap, and several errors in the text demonstrate that the evangelist did not proofread carefully. For­tunately, however, we do see evangelistic ad­vertising prepared with taste, and find the ini­tiative needed to circulate among the workers invitations that can be used successfully and thus contribute efficaciously to the spreading of good ideas. By all means an invitation should be good looking, interesting, and contain some­thing that moves the reader to attend the meet­ing.

In the matter of publicity the possibilities vary a great deal from one country to another, and the worker's spirit of initiative should grasp all the means at hand to announce his evangelistic work. A well-kept little library at the back of the hall, open to the public, where books can be loaned or sold, will help to spread our literature and establish fruitful contacts with the public.

Preparation of the Hall

On the outside of our places of meeting the advertising should be easily visible and exe­cuted with dignity. Negligence in this matter is without excuse. It is true that our limited budgets force us to bear some painful situa­tions, but as far as possible everything should be harmonious and appealing.

In the interior we should attempt to create an agreeable atmosphere, appropriate and fa­vorable to meditation. People tell us that our places of worship are cold and bare. That may seem so when contrasted with Catholic churches especially. Might it not be that, anxious to do away with the luxury and idolatry that mark other churches, we have gone too far, and have eliminated even legitimate aids to worship?

And why not remember the charm that some flowers and a little greenery can give to a place of worship? Is it not sad at times to see our halls or churches without a single flower or even a small plant on the Sabbath day? Such added beauty is all the more important when we invite strangers to our meetings.

There are other things also to claim the attention of the evangelist. The music, which is very important, should be suitably prepared and executed. Here too the sensitivity of the worker will be exercised to avoid the cheap or the theatrical.

Let the taking of the offering and the securing of names and addresses for the ser­mon resumes be organized with care. Negli­gence in the unfolding of the program creates confusion, diminishes the esteem of those who observe, and hinders the success of the effort. "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). That will be the motto of the successful evangelist. The bearing, gestures, and entire conduct of the preacher should re­flect the dignity and humility of an ambassador of the heavenly kingdom. Everything must be set in motion to facilitate the decision of souls in favor of the truth, in order that the human instrument that God is using may not incur any reproach. The preacher must be able to say conscientiously, "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?" (Isa. 5:4.)

It is true that it is the power of God that produces growth, and that we are powerless to bear fruit alone. But it is also true that the laborer must prepare the soil, sow the good seed, and gather up the weeds. All of this de­mands time and work. But what joy there is for the worker when he sees the whole church at work, partaking of his happiness, the public flocking to the meetings, and the interest awakening! And even if the results in partic­ularly difficult fields do not seem proportionate to the efforts put forth, let us remember the faithfulness of those seed sowers sent by God who persisted in their tasks with faith and per­severance. A testimony must be borne, and we ourselves need to learn lessons of patience, always remembering that success as God meas­ures it will be given the faithful laborer in the cause of truth. Eternity will reveal the total result.


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E. H. WILCOX, Pastor-Evangelist, Oregon Conference

April 1955

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