In Redding, California, it is 4A. And what is 4A? Adventists Alert for Advanced Action-4A is an organization for Adventists who are alert, eager to finish God's work, to do it the total-evangelism way. It is the organization in Redding that promotes the giving of Bible studies by the church—as nearly as possible, the whole church. Its goal is that two hundred non-Adventists shall study the Bible each week with the members.
Christ's command—"Go ye"—is wrongly interpreted when it is made to read, "Conference worker, evangelize the world." The denominational worker is too often asked, "What is your report?" when he should be asked, "What is your church membership doing?"
Many pastors fail in not knowing how, or in not trying, to get the full membership of the church actively engaged in the carious departments of church work. If pastors would give more attention to getting and keeping their flock actively engaged at work, they would accomplish more good. . . . A working church is a growing church.—Gospel Workers, p. 198.
The discovery, then, of how a church might be activated resulted in 4A. It came with Pastor Waldo Hesseltine's desire to personalize the command "Go ye" in the experience of his Redding church members. It grew out of his earnest endeavor to overcome all barriers that might hinder the layman's cooperation in bringing men and women to Christ and His church.
Beginning with the basic idea that each new member must receive a series of Bible studies before baptism, the plans of 4A center in asking the church membership to give these studies. They are instructed in methods of presenting our doctrines. They are introduced to persons who desire to study the Bible. And they are encouraged to continue perseveringly in their work. All in all, they are invited to become a living part of 4A—Adventists Alert for Advanced ifction.
To prepare the church for the 4A organization, it is essential, first of all, that the pastor pursue one ultimate goal—to indoctrinate the entire congregation with the idea that Bible studies are the best means of advancing the church program. This should be skillfully woven into every sermon, heard in the overtones of the prayer meeting studies, Sabbath school lessons, et cetera—not to the point of monotony, but to the point where Bible studies become the first love! They hold the highest place in the minister's personal ideal for the church. Nothing else is so important as Bible studies! The whole life of the church centers around Bible studies. They are the "one thing I do."
At this point it is discovered that the church members are eager to work for Christ. Deep in the heart of each member is the urge to be doing something for Jesus. But many have an incorrect idea that only the conference worker can successfully win others to Christ. It is the minister's duty, and not theirs, they feel. Perhaps one member has failed to find an interested person to study with. Another may have found a good contact and started studies, only to give up in discouragement. Others hold back because of ignorance as to what should be done and how to do it. Many times it is because they are afraid to begin.
The 4A program is the answer to all these fears and wrong concepts about Bible studies. It answers four basic problems of the individual member: (1) "I will give studies, but with whom?" (2) "I have no training. How do I begin?" (3) "If I start, I know I will become discouraged." (4) "If my study is a failure, what then?"
How to Organize 4A
With these thoughts in mind, it is time to select a 4A committee to act as a governing board. This committee arranges for the weekly services, appoints special leaders, and purchases necessary Bible study equipment. It is best if the pastor-directed committee is composed of laymen who are giving Bible studies or those who are interested in starting them. Its responsibility is to organize and plan each phase of the 4A program.
In preparation for the opening service, three responsibilities should be assumed by committee members: (1) Someone should be responsible to prepare posters to be placed on standards. These posters bear the title Adventists Alert for Advanced Action, and are placed in an appropriate place at each weekly service. (2) A goal device indicating the progress of the Bible study program will be stimulating to the members. A gold crown with a jewel for every individual receiving studies may be used effectively. The jewels are illuminated by a light placed in the center of the rotating crown. (3) You will need to have a sufficient number of 4A pledges mimeographed to be used at the first meeting. These pledges provide the 4A committee with a concise picture of the missionary spirit of the church. They also identify those who are ready to give studies immediately and those who wish to join a class to learn how to give studies.The committee members and the pastor have prayed together and individually in private devotions for the success of the 4A organization. The opening night has been well planned. The guest speaker, the music, the entire program, now move the audience toward a common goal —to inspire and convict everyone present that God needs him in 4A. Tonight decisions must be made. At the conclusion of the guest speaker's sermon, the pledges are distributed and the pastor appeals for each individual to make a personal dedication to service.It is recognized that not every member can join the group actively giving Bible studies. But there is need also of those who make contacts and turn the names over to the ones who can give the studies. And there is a definite need for those who will baby-sit—of course, free of charge—while young parents give studies.It is thrilling to behold, in the days to follow, how this special weekly 4A program stirs the church into new life. It is almost like some winter creature awakening from hibernation. It is wise to select carefully the proper time for the service, for as many of the congregation as possible should be present. This weekly 4A meeting is the hub of the entire program, and is a must!The theme of the weekly meeting is missionary activity. However, to entice church members who are not giving studies to attend the services, the meetings include such features as quizzes, musical programs, Faith for Today films, guest speakers, chalk drawings, panel discussions, book reports, and nature studies. It is thereby possible to inspire the hesitating members to join 4A as they continually hear the inspiring testimonies of what others are accomplishing.Because each week it stresses the need of giving studies, 4A will reach out to include more and more hesitating members. It does this through the short and stimulating period in each week's program called the response, in which selected 4A members report on the progress of their studies. Here those present learn how successful Sister Smith or Brother Jones is, and determine that they too shall be participants in the 4A program. This time thus serves as a training period and an avenue of continual encouragement. It must be varied and practical to maintain interest.New Members Give StudiesOne secret of the success of the program is that new members are encouraged to give Bible studies. Such work is presented to them before baptism as a natural part of their new life. One new member had an appointment to begin giving Bible studies less than a week after she was baptized. And one fine young couple were giving three studies a week, before their baptism. Enthusiasm like that on the part of new converts makes it difficult for any member to say less than "I'll try."With such a beginning, 4A now finds it necessary to discover additional Bible study interests. The best medium of obtaining contacts is the consecrated literature evangelist. He will inform 4A of those keenly interested in understanding the Bible. Yet, if it is impossible to use this avenue of obtaining interests, there are many others, such as the branch Sabbath school, medical interests, These Times and Signs follow-up, Bible correspondence interests gained by radio and TV, or solicitation of the city by 4A members. Add to these the natural result of the 4A meeting—the stimulation of the entire congregation to search for interests among their daily associates.Every possible interest received is given to and recorded by a special 4A leader called the expediter. This leader keeps a record of 4A members that are ready to give studies and of those who could add another study to their program. He is asked to arrange for the 4A member to meet the interested party and plan for a definite Bible study time. Thus the 4A expediter utilizes the full strength of the membership.Christ's parables captured His listeners' attention by connecting eternal truths with nearby scenes, and the 4A program stresses the benefits of visual aids. Whether the instructor prefers the open-Bible method with pictorial aid, the filmstrip alone, or the filmstrip with tape-recorded messages, every instructor is encouraged to combine sight with sound in his teaching. Visual aids have been proved to double the comprehension of the student, and furthermore they allow a larger percentage of the membership—even the least experienced—to give studies immediately.Another 4A member is asked to be in charge of the Bible study equipment. His home is designated Master Supply. Here the instructor can obtain the projector, filmstrip, pictorial aid, or tape recorder necessary for each week's study. The person in charge of Master Supply makes it a duty to have the correct equipment ready when each instructor calls for it. In this way, a bottleneck is eliminated.The 4A BaptismThis personal evangelism has its climax in the baptismal program. Baptism for a 4A church is not just another service in connection with the eleven o'clock Sabbath service. Rather, baptism is a special occasion, which attracts the entire congregation for a Sabbath afternoon service. A sermonette is given, and each candidate's tie with his 4A instructor is explained. At times there is an outstanding story to tell that reveals the special leading of God. Connected with the service is a short challenge to the candidates to become 4A members. Each is supplied with a set of Bible study outlines and the new Memento of Your Baptism. The entire service is beautiful, and planned to be a warm memory for the baptismal candidate.Even with the best instructors, there are some Bible students who may never mature to become Seventh-day Adventists. However, we try to win these through one more avenue—public evangelism. After the 4A program has been operating for a period of time, public meetings are planned, and the conference evangelist is invited to hold a spearhead campaign. Members of 4A cooperate in this also. They either bring interested persons to the evangelistic meeting, or provide baby-sitting service while the parents attend the lectures.Thus 4A brings baptism and new life into the church! That such a program brings results was proved before its initiation in Redding. In Ukiah, California, where a similar program of every-member evangelism was carried out, an almost unbelievable number were baptized.And Pastor Hesseltine confides that the plan offers a perfect solution for internal church problems. Individuals who spend their time trying to win others to Christ have little time —and no inclination—for trouble among themselves.Today the world is waiting for a personal visit. Multitudes of souls—individual souls—hunger for the hope of something better. Christ alone is the answer. The need can be met only by Spirit-filled Christians—your church members and mine. We dare not try to do the work alone. But with a church membership on fire for God, with each doing his part, man's empty void can be filled with Christ, the living Bread.