[In this article a number of questions have been put to Elder Neil on the unique plan that he has been discussing in this series.]
How do you lay the groundwork for the "prayer-and-perspiration" plan, and what technique do you use in approaching a businessman for a donation of material help, equipment, or money?
Every project has begun from some contact influenced by medical missionary or benevolent work. In Burlingame, California [see page 24, May MINISTRY], we had no welfare center, but had found a needy family during Ingathering, and the church helped them. This contact grew into many others. Usually we get an introduction to a prospective donor by letter or telephone or in person from someone who has already helped. One will send us to another. It is difficult if you have no introductions, and it is difficult to obtain effective introductions without some background of benevolent experience in the life of the local church that has been felt in the community. As you visit the "sons of strangers," simply relate how others have been impressed to help and have received a blessing.
How do you open an interview with a prospective donor?
We make a direct, "plain statement of our plan of labor" and mention a specific need with a spirit of expectation that may shock them a little. For instance, asking for a carload of material is a little shocking, but after they get over the shock they consider, "Well, why not?" And they give.
We use no set approach or technique, but gather inspiration and direction from the immediate surroundings, the atmosphere, the look in a man's eye. Sometimes a more gradual approach is used; with others we place the issue squarely before them immediately. To get men's attention you sometimes have to startle them a bit.
"Our workers should present before these men a plain statement of our plan of labor, telling them what we need in order to help the poor and needy and to establish this work on a firm basis. Some of these will be impressed by the Holy Spirit to invest the Lord's means in a way that will advance His cause. They will fulfil His purpose by helping to create centers of influence in the large cities. Interested workers will be led to offer themselves for various lines of missionary effort,"—Gospel Workers, p. 361.
Do you use a prospectus?
Yes, a sort of informal "scrapbook" prospectus, not printed—a notebook with a limp-leather back. If possible, we get a letter from the mayor or some person of influence who is willing to write a letter of encouragement on our project. Once we were able to secure a letter from a State governor for Ingathering. We use a picture of the elevation and floor plan to interest local businessmen. The site should be in a prominent location. The more you can show of local interest in your prospectus, up to a certain point, the better. Letters of commitment from firms, bills of sale marked "contribution" or "donation" are all helpful. We sometimes have laymen work business houses door-to-door. A layman's prospectus can be made up of either actual letters or photostatic copies from the pastor's prospectus.
What counsel on conducting interviews would you give to one who is inexperienced in this plan?
If possible take someone with you. Give a brief representation of the objective, using the prospectus. Remember the man is busy. Don't plan to take much of his time unless he shows an interest to suggest a longer stay. Make the visit as informal as possible, explaining how you are working, telling experiences of what others have done, then what you expect or hope he will do.
It varies quite a little with the atmosphere you help to create. You can't succeed with something you don't believe in 100 per cent yourself. Much depends on how much you believe in it.
We have the firmest confidence in the fact that as we can get that man to recognize the claims of God upon him, we have done him, a great favor, that he will be blessed. We come with no apology. We are offering him an opportunity to be blessed and to be a blessing. If he doesn't recognize it, that is beside the point—we feel sorry for him.
All men are in debt to their Creator and Redeemer more than they can ever pay. Any payment we get from them on that debt is for their good and will bring a blessing to them.
This confident approach is based on a quotation from The Desire of Ages, page 103. Speaking of John the Baptist, it states:
"He was ready to go forth as Heaven's messenger, unawed by the human, because he had looked upon the Divine. He could stand erect and fearless in the presence of earthly monarchs, because he had bowed low before the King of kings."
God is a great God. This man is one of His creatures. He is just another human. No matter what his position is, he still has to go to the table for daily food, and God furnishes this food and all his other blessings.
Do members of other denominations sometimes hesitate to give to an Adventist project?
When an Episcopalian man saw the names of two members of his church on our list of donors he asked, "How is it that you are getting the Episcopalians to build an Adventist church?"
We replied that we didn't know that they were exactly, but that we had a job to do in the city at the moment and could not mortgage the future to do it. Ours is a "pay-as-you-go" policy, and we are willing to work hard with our hands so that we can get on with the task of a wider mission to the world. We restated the fact that those who take part usually receive a blessing. We emphasized that we do not expect the Lord to impress others to help us unless we are helping others. He decided he wanted to have a part too, and gave us fifty yards of ready-mixed concrete at half price.
How do you arrange for non-Adventist help from individuals such as carpenters, bricklayers, et cetera?
These are usually neighbors of some church member who have been favorably impressed by Adventists, or they may be fellow workers on a job or in a factory.
In an individual interview do you follow any sequence in your requests? Do you ask for money first, then labor, then equipment, or do you give them a choice?
We usually ask a man for one specific item or service, depending on what business he is in.
Do you sometimes meet resistance or questions on the matter of the propriety of asking someone to work on a project without remuneration?
Yes, but the question is easily answered. For non-Adventists it is easy to get them to see that the man who donates money gets no direct remuneration in return, but he does get the blessing of God if he gives in the right spirit.
For our own people, who frequently raise the same question, it has been nicely answered by the Spirit of prophecy:
"Some may ask, 'How are such schools to be established?' We are not a rich people, but if we pray in faith and let the Lord work in our behalf, He will open ways before us to establish small schools in retired places for the education of our youth not only in the Scriptures and in book learning, but in many lines of manual labor. . . . IVi11 you not take an interest in the erection of this school building in which the Word of God is to be taught? One man, when asked how much he was willing to give to the school in labor, said that if we would give him three dollars a day and his board and lodging, he would help us. But we do not want offers of this kind. Help will come to us. . . . Let those who have spare time give a few days in helping to build this schoolhouse. . . . Let everyone do something. Some may have to get up as early as four o'clock in the morning in order to help. Usually I begin my work before that time. As soon as it is daylight, some could begin work on the building, putting in an hour or two before breakfast. Others could not do this, perhaps, but all can do something. . . Let us catch the spirit of the work, saying, We will arise and build."—Child Guidance, pp. 314317.
How does this plan affect Ingathering? Is the pastor apt to get less Ingathering after non-Adventist friends have given to a building project of this kind?
On the Owyhee range in Idaho we learned that sheep properly cared for can be sheared every year to their profit as well as that of the owners.
In New Orleans [see page 25, May MINISTRY] after our building project there, a leading businessman, who had contributed and told his superintendent to "lean over backward" to help us, regularly contributed twenty-five dollars to the Ingathering fund in succeeding years, whereas he had not given to Ingathering before. As far as we know, in any place where we have had such relationships, we have had far better results in Ingathering after such a building project than we had before. One man gave us many personal favors in addition to helping the church, and is continuing them toward others of our ministers in that place. In one church the Ingathering campaign had never been completed in less than six weeks. After a week of prayer and prayer-band experience, it was done in two weeks' time. There was a deep spiritual experience throughout that campaign.
In Trenton, New Jersey, we used a slogan that became known throughout almost the entire city—"The Church Everybody Is Building." [See July MINISTRY, page 14.] If businessmen and others have helped to build a church, they will in a sense feel it is theirs, and will certainly continue to have more than a casual interest in the organization behind the church; especially as they are aware that there is a continuing work of benevolence by Adventists in the local community as well as in heathen fields.
What is the greatest problem in working on this plan?
The greatest problem is to get the support of all concerned in working along these lines because so many of the resources are developed as the work progresses. It takes faith and patience, both of which are requisite to translation.
Our people need to be educated to the concept that the indirect result of sowing seeds of benevolence has a greater economic return than the direct result of conventional fund-raising campaigns.
"I was shown that should professed Christians cultivate more affection and kind regard in caring for others, they would be repaid fourfold." —Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 329.
How do you organize a church for such a project?
It is done by cultivating benevolent activity among members within the church, and an expectation of fruitage based on the promises in the Bible and Spirit of prophecy. It is not just prayer—we must divide our time between the mountain and the multitude. Work is what gives life to our prayers; it gives us something to pray about.
Committees can be appointed and plans can be studied, and the voluntary services of an architect secured, if possible, if the church is going to work on the principle of benevolence.
What is the greatest need in the life of a pastor and of church members in this program?
The greatest need is faith, and both pastor and people have an abundant opportunity in such a project to increase their faith. If faith is to be developed, it has to be tested, and God knows just how to test and how much to test, even as a good physiotherapist will show the patient how to develop a weak muscle by knowing how to give just the right amount of resistance to pressure.
"In the providence of God, every good and great enterprise is subjected to trials, to test the purity and the strength of the principles of those who are standing in positions of responsibility, and to mold and substantiate the individual human character after God's model. This is the highest order of education.
"Perfection of character is attained through exercise of the faculties of the mind, in times of supreme test, by obedience to every requirement of God's law. Men in positions of trust are to be instrumentalities in the hands of God for promoting His glory, and in performing their duties with the utmost faithfulness, they may attain perfection of character."—Notebook Leaflets, No. 7, p. 2.
The exercising of faith will come through watching for and following the opening providences of God on a day-to-day basis. One of the early pioneers of this movement used to counsel young workers to watch for the daily providences of God in the smallest circumstances, "as a cat watches a mouse." We must also have a sense of urgency and a sense of mission for God.
"God has given us ability, to think and to act, and it is by acting with carefulness, looking to Him for wisdom, that you will become capable of bearing burdens. Stand in your God-given personality. Be no other person's shadow. Expect that the Lord will work in and by and through you."—The Ministry of Healing, pp. 498, 499. (Italics supplied.)
Finally, there must be constant prayer. This plan is no "bed of roses." It is a "prayer-andperspiration" plan. Unless we are ready to be tested and tried, and are willing to go through a pruning and a growing process, the plan should not be tried. But the opportunity for rich blessing is there, and heaven awaits our demand in faith.
"We do not value the power and efficacy of prayer as we should. Prayer and faith will do what no power on earth can accomplish."—Ibid., p. 509.
A real prayer life must be constant:
"We, too, must have times set apart for meditation and prayer and for receiving spiritual refreshing."—Ibid. (Italics supplied.)
How do you organize the church to develop faith in the lives of individual members for the forthcoming project?
The basis of all Christian effort is a small-unit prayer band. We cannot hope to develop or maintain a high degree of faith and spiritual desire without utilizing this principle.
"The formation of small companies as a basis of Christian effort has been presented to me by One who cannot err. If there is a large number in the church, let the members be formed into small companies, to work not only for the church members, but for unbelievers. If in one place there are only two or three who know the truth, let them form themselves into a band of workers. Let them keep their bond of union unbroken, pressing together in love and unity, encouraging one another to advance, each gaining courage and strength from the assistance of the others."—Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 21, 22.
We never undertake a project, whether in soul-winning effort or building effort, without promoting the small-prayer-unit principle throughout the church. The way we do this is to have individuals praying with someone for someone. Each seeks his own partner, basing his choice on various mutual factors, such as age, location, situations—like young mothers—that naturally suggest fellowship. Usually they go outside the family to seek a prayer partner. The group should have two or three to start with; then as they gain someone they finally grow enough to cell-divide into small units again. In our Trenton project we probably had twenty prayer units—twenty powerhouses operating within the church.
Do you sometimes begin to foster this work of benevolence and the prayer-band approach before the congregation knows it may lead to a building project?
Yes, in one place we found that a church had been planning to build for a number of years and still had accumulated only some four hundred dollars in the treasury for the fund. We prayed about the matter, and when we took over the pastorate, dropped all mention of building, but set about in work of benevolence, carrying out the Lord's instruction in Isaiah 58; and thus the church was revived spiritually and in time had a fine new building.
What have you found are some of the by-products of the benevolent program in the lives of the individual church members and the life of the church as a whole?
In the church as a whole it brings about a binding unity that relieves the pastor of a lot of other problems. If a church is working and pulling together, there is no time for trifles and petty bickering. A pulling mule can't kick, you know.
Another thing is that when the preacher is manifestly working and busy with the program, there is obvious reason for not "tending weak lambs that ought to be sheep." The weak lambs often go to work for others, forget themselves, and soon grow into sheep. The members will get under the burden of running the church while the pastor is busy doing progressive work. Getting busy for others brings the pattern of life into the church.
And we would say that there is at least 400 per cent greater efficiency in fund raising as compared with the more direct methods that are not along this line of benevolence. We get dollars where we would otherwise get dimes. God rewards us with gifts as "friends" instead of mere pittances as "servants." "Henceforth I call you not servants; . . . but I have called you friends" (John 15:15).
After a building has been completed on this "prayer-and-perspiration" plan, how do you keep this element of faith alive in the church?
Our part in this hasn't been very great, for there always has been a call to take us away to another project.
If you were to remain, what would be your plan?
I would focus on an effort or lay soul-winning endeavor, with the benevolent approach, sowing and reaping, with small-unit prayer bands and companies for personal evangelism.
Have any of the non-Adventists who have participated in these projects ever become Adventists?
Yes, there have been some who have accepted Christ and His truth, and there are many others who have become lifelong friends of the church, ever ready to lend a helping hand on other worthy projects.
Do you have a closing statment you would like to make?
I would like to emphasize just once more that as workers, as leaders, as a people, as a church, it is imperative that we have the blessing of God in our work; and we cannot have that blessing without doing the work outlined in Isaiah 58. That is the work Christ did.
"In the synagogue at Nazareth He said, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He bath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.' This was the work He commissioned His disciples to do. . . . This is the work which the prophet Isaiah describes."—Prophets and Kings, p. 718.
And this is the work we, His disciples today, should be doing.
"The experience of apostolic days will come to us if men will be worked by the Holy Spirit. The Lord will withdraw His blessing where selfish interests are indulged; but He will put His people in possession of good throughout the world, if they will unselfishly use their ability for the uplifting of humanity. His work is to be a sign of His benevolence, a sign that will win the confidence of the world and bring in resources for the advancement of the gospel."—A Call to Medical Evangelism, p. 22.
"In the future our work is to be carried forward in self-denial and self-sacrifice even beyond that which we have seen in past years. God desires us to commit our souls to Him, that He may work through us in manifold ways. I feel intensely over these matters. Brethren, let us walk in meekness and lowliness of mind and put before our associates an example of self-sacrifice. If we do our part in faith, God will open ways before us now undreamed of."—Ibid., p. 13.
(Concluded next month)