Soul winning is the supreme objective of the evangelistic center. Good will and pleasing public relations should be maintained, but the center is not primarily a religious cinema, sacred concert hall, Better Health Club, or a Food Demonstration Society, or any of the host of other worthy projects that come within the scope of its program.
Evangelistic centers, as their name implies, have as their objective the reaching of the masses populating the world's great cities. They should be known for their powerful prophetic preaching, and for their presentation of Jesus Christ as man's only hope. They are to be places where men find God. Evangelism ever remains their sole reason for existence. The success of these centers depends largely on the quality and effectiveness of their respective evangelistic programs Results are measured by conversions and baptisms, by the number of men and women won for God.
The need for active evangelism by capable, consecrated men to be the all-absorbing aim of our work in the large cities is stressed by the servant of the Lord:Everywhere there are men who should be out in active ministry, giving the last message of warning to a fallen world. . . .
At the present time there is not a thousandth part being done in working the cities, that should be done.—Evangelism, p. 29.
God is now calling upon His messengers in no uncertain terms, to warn the cities while mercy still lingers, and while multitudes are yet susceptible to the converting influence of Bible truth.ibid., pp. 25, 26.
In New York, and in many other cities, there are multitudes of people unwarned. . . We must set about this work in earnestness, and do it. Laying aside our peculiarities, and our own ideas, we are to preach Bible truth.—Ibid., p. 34.
Urgency is upon us! We have little time in which to warn the -metropolitan masses. If terrible calamities striking these cities were near fifty years ago, how near must they be now in this hydrogen and satellite age!
The London Center
Here in London, one of the greatest cities on earth, ten million people live within a radius of twenty miles from our Evangelistic Center. I think of the thousands who seventeen years ago died in nights of terror.
Many, no doubt, who had never heard of the message of the soon-corning Christ, met death within yards of where the center now stands. Now the horrible possibility, in the event of war, of an enemy exploding a hydrogen blast over this great city, killing millions in seconds, adds to the urgency of these times. With our knowledge of the prophecies we know there is a very short time in which to warn the multitudes around us.
This staggering fact helps us to view all aspects of the Center's evangelistic program in proper perspective. Our work must be done quickly. Our message must be direct, complete, with the one object of securing results that will last in the kingdom of God. Extra activities that do not contribute quickly and effectively to soul winning are best kept at a minimum. Our main energies must be focused on active evangelism. Quickly and surely strong evangelistic series, presenting our distinctive truths in Christ, win souls for the kingdom. One hundred or more baptisms from an audience of one thousand is probably a higher productive result ratio than is found in any other sphere of missionary activity.
The Center program will reflect this thinking. All other activities will be regarded as subsidiaries to the public evangelistic effort. Popular features, such as daily film worship services, monthly youth presentations, and sacred concerts, will all be of a soul-winning nature, designed to strengthen and enhance the interest in, and attendance at, the evangelistic meetings.Such other activities as Bible classes, question-and-answer services, health lectures, food demonstrations, youth fellowships, youth clubs, church programs, and lending library facilities, will be directed from the evangelistic meetings, and will be used entirely as a means of further instruction and encouragement for those seeking deeper fellowship with Christ.
This same thinking will be evidenced in proportioning the Center work program. Every available skilled worker will be freed from daily duties at the Center to enable him to work in the field—visiting in the homes, giving Bible studies, and tying the interests into the soul-winning program of the Center.
This thinking will also govern the proportioning of the budget. The operating costs of the Center will, as far as it is advisable without jeopardizing the effectiveness of the building and its facilities, be kept to the minimum, to enable the largest portion of money to be spent on advertising, literature, sermon aids, and the production costs of the evangelistic meetings. God will bless such wholehearted efforts directed to winning men and women to Christ. One must not yield to the temptation to stress the special-feature nonevangelistic meetings. The ratio of interest they produce per cost of advertising is nowhere near comparable to money directly spent on advertising the evangelistic meetings.
No wide-awake, informed Seventh-day Adventist evangelist would ask: "Is it possible to constantly preach the same doctrines from the same platform year in and year out?" Such a query, however, has led some to think that it would be better to preach general topics in Center evangelism and then feed the interests into indoctrination classes. This type of evangelism would certainly considerably lower the ratio of results. The power of our message is largely due to its uniqueness, its timeliness, and its reasonable and spiritual appeal. To present the message to one thousand each week will naturally produce more results than to present it to classes of from two hundred to three hundred people.
The evangelistic center does not primarily serve an established congregation as does a church. In a sense it is similar to a production line, receiving and instructing new audiences at regular intervals. These new interests are fully instructed in the truths of the Word of God and finally baptized and united with the church. There is no staleness in such a constant evangelistic program. New people are periodically hearing what to them is new truth.
The core of the New Gallery program is its evangelistic series. Under the powerful preaching of E. J. Folkenberg we are currently presenting two such series each year —one beginning in February and continuing until May, and the other beginning in September and continuing till February. The fruitage and interest of the first effort is consolidated during the summer months, and strengthened during the second series.
London's size, its dense population, and prohibitive advertising costs, have made it impossible for us to advertise on a citywide scale. In each series of meetings we concentrate on an area comprising from 200,000 to 300,000 people. The area is blanketed with every form of advertising available. We have endeavored to saturate the area with handbills, subway posters, bus and trolley advertising, and from one-quarter-page to full-page advertisements in newspapers with large circulations. An additional direct-mail invitation is sent to 30,000 to 40,000 people. Such an approach has consistently filled our auditorium with new interests. Elder Folkenberg's timely presentations and his full use of eye-catching audio-visual aids have enabled us to hold particularly large audiences throughout each series. Between three and four hundred remain for the aftermeetings. There were 108 baptisms at the Center in 1957. The audience, since the presentation of the Sabbath question, continues to hold at more than 1,200. As our conference-employed evangelistic staff comprises only six trained workers, laymen assist these workers in their visitation program.
Such sectional evangelism has the advantage of securing constant interests, while maintaining the interests already obtained. A certain amount of the advertising, of course, reaches beyond the specific area concentration. In a city of nine million it would take at least thirty-six similar series to cover the population.
New Gallery Features
The following evangelistic center features at the New Gallery help to stimulate interest:
1. Weekly Film Programs. These comprise twice daily film showings of Faith for Today telecast films, supported by various religious story films. Normally we do not spend money advertising these film worship services but rely on passer-by interest. Attendances are not large but average 1,000 weekly.
2. Planned Film Features. Occasional films of special interest capable of drawing large attendances are advertised widely and shown five or six times daily. Last summer the film One in 20,000 was presented hourly from 1:00-8:00 P.M. each day. More than 50,000 people attended these viewings in four weeks.
Recently we featured the Jan Hus film as a climax to our previous week's presentation of Daniel 7. At this program for our regular evangelistic audience plus friends, 2,000 packed the auditorium, which seats only 1,400. Another 500 were turned away.
3. "The Best Saturday Night in Town" is a sparkling monthly religious variety program for youth. It is purely evangelistic in nature and has proved a tremendous drawing card. With little or no advertising the large auditorium is always packed full. Most seats are booked weeks in advance.
4. Music and Meditation. A midday one-june, hour recital features the finest stereophonic recordings and a short devotional talk.
5. Sacred Music Programs. These include annual performances of Christmas, Easter, and other oratorios, and musical recitals by the New Gallery singers.
6. Midweek Evangelistic Meetings. Subsidiary Activities
The following supporting meetings and projects further serve to strengthen the over-all evangelistic program:
1. Sabbath Afternoon Question-and-Answer Service.
2. Food Demonstrations and Health Lectures. A course of at least six such lectures are conducted in connection with each evangelistic series.
3. Lending Library. We operate a large library well stocked with all our denominational books. New interests are especially encouraged to make free use of this library.
4. Youth Fellowship Organization. This offers a monthly devotional program for young people.
5. The Youth Club. A club that meets weekly under the chairmanship of the New Gallery youth leader. Club activities include socials, sports, and various types of cultural evenings. These activities establish a close fellowship with the young people attending our evangelistic meetings. Admission to the club is by subscription.
6. Sabbath Morning Worship Service. After the presentation of the Sabbath truth Elder Folkenberg continues his evangelistic program during the church hour. This procedure is featured until those brought in during the current series are baptized.
The church pastor works closely with him in this part of the program and follows through after the baptisms.
7. New Gallery Choirs. Singers are encouraged to join the various groups. Invariably many of these take their stand for the truth.
We are grateful to the Lord for-His blessing on the work in London's New Gallery Center. We are more than mindful that human effort and planning is of no avail unless accompanied by the power of His Holy Spirit. Fifty years ago the Lord's messenger said: "There is a great work to be done in England. The light radiating from London should beam forth in clear, distinct rays to regions beyond."—Evangelism, p. 415.
Our prayer is that the New Gallery Center might continue to be used in greater measure to radiate that light.