In many places it is becoming extremely difficult to attract the public to a series of evening meetings. Some ministers are heard to say that through Bible studies in the homes, and not through preaching, the work must be finished. No one will dispute the importance of Bible studies in the home. This certainly has an important place in the winning of souls for Christ, as do also radio broadcasting and telecasting, medical evangelism, and literature evangelism. But preaching can be and still is the most effective means of spreading the Advent message. All other things are aids.
Sabbath services afford an opportunity that all too often is not taken advantage of. Presenting the cardinal doctrines of the Advent message calls for special preparation, if one would keep the service in a definitely worshipful mood. But when well done, such a plan does much to establish our own people in these vital fundamental truths. Many who formerly heard these truths presented forcefully by enthusiastic evangelists have through the years become hazy in their understanding of the message, and often quite casual in their attitude toward it.
A few months ago one of our brethren said to me that he felt very weak on Adventist doctrines. "Six years ago," he said, "I joined the Adventist Church, coming from another church. There we heard doctrines; but good though the sermons have been in the Adventist Church, they have been no different from sermons I could hear on Sundays in other Protestant churches. I feel starved for the Adventist sermons that brought me into the Adventist Church." Such may not be the general condition of the members, but all too many are somewhat lukewarm.
When the great preacher and writer, Harry Rimmer, was pastor of a large Presbyterian church in Duluth, Minnesota, he preached a series of Sunday morning sermons on "The High Lights of the Westminster Confession." These were advertised in the newspapers, this general subject being given. I attended one of these services and found the church filled to capacity. I learned that each Sunday the meeting was equally well attended. The subject presented that day was "Baptism."
Could we not in our churches advertise a series of sermons under a general subject such as "The High Lights of the Protestant Reformation," and present the great doctrines that have made us a people, showing how each truth was emphasized by some leader and how its rediscovery led to the rise of a new religious movement? The subject could be "The High Lights of Adventist Belief." If such a series of messages was advertised, it could well create an unusual interest on the part of some who have never heard our message, and at the same time help to warm the hearts of our own dear people. Where such a program has been followed there have been gratifying results.
Nothing so stirs our people as to hear "the good old Advent message" as they sometimes say. But special care must be exercised in planning such a program. One large church doubled its membership in three years, largely by this method of what might be regarded as Sabbath morning evangelism. At the close of practically every Sabbath sermon an altar call was made, and the invitation was given for those to come forward who knew God was calling them, and thus signify their desire to serve and obey Him. Those who responded were placed in the baptismal class. And without exception every such call for surrender brought some response.
Not every pastor could work in this way. But the plan has real possibilities. It takes much thought and preparation to preserve the spirit of deep devotion and at the same time to preach an inspiring evangelistic sermon. A program of this kind presents a real challenge, but such a challenge accepted will bring real blessings to the preacher and the congregation. The spirit of true worship does not need to be destroyed because some great doctrine is being unfolded. On the contrary, if we rightly understand our doctrines, we will see them all in their relation to our exalted Lord and Saviour and radiating from Him, and our hearers will be led to worship Him who is Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.