Six Million Dollars' Worth

A look at a ten-night youth series in Southern California.

Hundreds of youth in the Southern California Conference were thrilled by the news that E. L. Minchin, associate secretary of the Gen­eral Conference Missionary Volunteer Department, was coming. The plan called for him to hold a ten-night youth series in the beautiful White Memorial Evangelistic Center. All of the MV leaders and youth pastors met to lay plans for the first Youth Crusade in southern California.

The constant appeal was, "How can we actively involve our youth in this evangelis­tic campaign?" After much study and prayer, the Friendship Team plank was presented. This youth-for-youth evangelistic plan was to wage war against the "take care to self," and "form small cliques" phi­losophy the world so selfishly follows. Be­cause this insidious attitude has infiltrated into the lives of Christians, many in the world and others who are new or are growing up in the church, have not found real, warm Christian fellowship, have be­come discouraged and at last lost their way.

Success in this venture for Christ was based upon admonition from the Spirit of Prophecy. The following are two of the many statements that gave encouragement:

If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one.—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 189.

The world is dying for the warmth of Christian love. It is up to Seventh-day Ad­ventist youth to take the initiative and through Christian love and fellowship swing wide the doors of the church and by a spirit of friendliness invite the lonely, the discouraged, and those who know not Jesus to come and experience the radiance of Christ-inspired fellowship.

Love [or friendship] will gain the victory when argument and authority are powerless. . . It is dif­fusive in its nature and quiet in its operation, yet strong and mighty in its purpose to overcome great evils. It is melting and transforming in its influence, and will take hold of the lives of the sinful and af­fect their hearts when every other means has proved unsuccessful.--Ibid., vol. 2, p. 135.

Thrilled with the possibilities of this type of evangelism, the ministers and MV leaders returned to their churches. Lists of the names of youth and adults who were once members of the church and of those who had shown an interest in any way, were presented to the MV Society. Care was taken to explain that the Friendship Team plan is so simple that anyone who can smile and be friendly can effectively participate. Youth were not asked to give Bible studies, preach a sermon, hand out literature, or to enter into the discussion of doctrines. This indeed was an entirely new approach that was so natural and easy that no one could give a valid excuse for not participating.

To make this effective form of witness­ing even more enjoyable, the youth were encouraged to choose their closest friend as their teammate. These teams were then to choose whom they would like to visit or be assigned a name by the MV executive committee if they had no preference. When the decision was made as to whom the team would visit, they pledged to take that name to God in prayer each morning and eve­ning, pleading for his conversion. As the youth met, the following approach was sug­gested for the first visit. The team could explain, "The youth of our church have decided that the world is too cold and indifferent to the welfare of others. There­fore, we have launched out on a friendship program, and every youth in our church is asked to visit someone. We chose to visit you because we know you." Or the team might not state the reason for the visit other than "We just decided that we would like to visit you." It was stressed that the ap­proach did not make much difference if the team was praying for the person, was relaxed and sincerely friendly.

An important step before the visit came to a close was to let the individual know how much the team had enjoyed the visit and that they would be back the next week. This caused the person to expect them, and at the same time the team was giving a promise that they must keep.

Each society gave demonstrations of how to make a friendship visit. The Friendship Teams were urged not to take more than two names, and preferably just one. The reason for this was that the youth are busy with school studies or work, and this first experience in youth-for-youth evangelism was to be a joy and not a burden. The visit was never to be more than thirty minutes in length, and twenty minutes was preferred. The team members were urged to be good listeners and to discuss whatever interests the person being visited had. It was surprising how soon the one being visited brought the conversation around to spiritual things. Even then the team must remember that their work was not to give a Bible study but by kindness, sincere interest and friendship, create a warmth that would ignite a desire to come to the Youth Crusade.

The results of each visit were reported to a captain who was in charge of four teams. He in turn reported to the MV leader and pastor. If a Friendship Team failed to make their weekly visit, it was the captain's re­sponsibility to find out why. If the team was discouraged, it was up to the captain to volunteer to go with them on the next visit, thereby encouraging the team and making sure the visits were continued in the proper manner. A portion of the MV Society meetings were used for the Friend­ship Teams to relate their visitation ex­periences. Prayer bands were formed, and every youth was thrilled to have someone specifically to pray and work for.

After several visits the Friendship Teams mentioned in their conversation that a Youth Crusade was being planned for all of the youth in the area. At a later visit a handbill announcing the Youth Crusade and introducing the speaker was enthusias­tically presented to the one visited with this friendly appeal, "We have all been asked to bring a friend with us to this youth rally. We want you to come as our special friend." And then with a very solicitous spirit, ar­rangements were made as to transportation and the exact time that they would pick up their friend to go to the meeting.

At last the long-awaited hour had ar­rived. It was Friday evening. The seven-fifteen song service had already started. Hundreds of youth were surging into the beautiful White Memorial Evangelistic Center. Chartered buses were unloading their excited cargoes, and still hundreds more pushed their way into the great audi­torium. At seven-fifty sharp those in charge of the meeting came onto the platform. The Crusade was under way.

At the close of a thrilling message, Pastor Minchin invited the youth who would like to join him in praying for the success of the meetings to come across the patio to Olivet Chapel. To our great joy and sur­prise hundreds of youth came. Of course, they could not all be seated. They stood around the wall and gathered at the en­trances to enjoy a beautiful prayer season. It was a glorious week for the youth of the Southern California Conference. How our hearts thrilled to see youth work for youth during these meetings. Young people by the score would excitedly rush up to the dif­ferent pastors and say, "Meet the friend I brought to the meetings!" Then during the altar call these youth Friendship Teams were quietly but actively working with their friends, moving about and appealing to fellow youth and finally going to the altar with them. One young lady brought her friend forward, and the visitor happily gave her life to Christ. Our visiting leader asked, "Now what are you girls going to do?" "Do? Why, we are going to go out and work for others," was the immediate answer. They did, and three young women are now at­tending La Sierra College because of the witness of that Friendship Team.

The Crusade motto, "Christ—First, Last, and Best," became a living reality in the hearts of hundreds, yes, thousands, of young people. This beautiful week closed with a glorious praise meeting on the final Sab­bath evening. Hundreds of youth immedi­ately came forward to bear their testimony for Christ and to thank God for the Friend­ship Team plan and for the persons who were willing to witness for Christ and bring them to the Youth Crusade meetings. Min­isters and youth joined in a great chorus, requesting that we have another Youth Cru­sade like this next year. R. R. Bietz, the conference president, stated several times that "this is the greatest thing that has ever happened to our youth. We must make it an annual campaign."

Now, one year later, the Youth Crusade witnessed even greater results from this simple youth-for-youth evangelistic plan. Pastor James Chase of the General Con­ference Radio and Television Department and Charles Keymer, pastor of the Battle Creek, Michigan, church, served as our evangelistic team.

Friendship Teams were organized in each of the academies as well as in the churches. Each evening scores of young people came early so that they might stop by Olivet Chapel and there silently kneel in prayer, praying for God's blessing, praying for the young people whom they had invited to come to the meeting. God heard and an­swered their prayers, and hundreds of young people accepted Christ. Literally thousands of victories were won. One student put into words the experience hundreds of young people felt by saying, "The friend­ship plan has helped us to understand that witnessing for Christ is a way of life, not something that is a duty-bound burden."

The closing praise meeting the last Satur­day night, was something we will not soon forget. Time and again these young people declared that the Friendship Team plan had made it the popular thing to be a Chris­tian in our school. The combined results of these two campaigns will never be known until Christ shall come, but according to our records here in the Southern California Conference MV department, 255 young peo­ple accepted Christ for the first time, 189 youth requested baptism, and 306 young people are counseling with their pastors concerning rebaptism. This year the acad­emy principals and faculty have joined the ministers in Friendship Team follow-up. Once a week, with the Bible department head in charge, each of the academies con­ducts a class in the art of personal witness­ing. In this class opportunities are given for testimonies and for sharing experiences. Scores of youth voluntarily give up a class meeting or social function that they may attend these classes.

The Friendship Team plan can be used with excellent success in several different avenues of evangelism. Many evangelists and pastors have involved the entire church membership in this plan with the MV and home missionary leaders working together as coordinators. After several visits a special Sabbath service, such as a home-coming Sabbath, is planned by the pastor, mission­ary leader, MV leader, and Sabbath school superintendent. The Friendship Teams an­nounce a special program by telling those they visit that "everyone is to bring a friend, and we want you to be our guest." This is an excellent time to announce a series of evangelistic meetings to start perhaps the next Sunday evening.

The Friendship Team plan guarantees good attendance at evangelistic meetings by the church members and their friends, because every team member has a per­sonal concern and interest in a definite per­son's conversion. Pastors who have had very moderate success previously have been thrilled by the loyalty of church members, by the attendance of nonbelievers, and by the increased number of baptisms. The church has experienced a revival of primi­tive godliness, witnessing has become a way of life, and souls are saved for the kingdom because the ministry and the laity have joined together by the grace of Christ to finish the work.

The work of God in this earth can never be fin­ished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers.—Gospel Workers, p. 352.

The Friendship Team plan has been used with great success to bring backsliders and nonbelievers, young and old, to Sab­bath school and to other Bible classes, and has proved to be a constant source of bap­tismal candidates. Voice of Youth evangelist meetings have been very fruitful wherever this simple plan has been employed. This climactic hour of history demands that we revive and make personal for every Seventh day Adventist youth the evangelistic ap­peal found in the MV aim, The Advent Message to All the World in This Genera­tion. Too long this denomination has given the majority of its attentions to the way­ward youth, to the neglect of our loyal, con­secrated young people. Now is the time for these consecrated youth to receive our full attention and to be inspired and challenged to meet the task that is before them, helping them experience the eternal thrill of ef­fectively witnessing for Jesus Christ, that they in turn may through the friendship plan win many that would not be otherwise won.

Preachers, or laymen advanced in years, cannot have one-half the influence upon the young that the youth, devoted to God, can have upon their as­sociates.—Messages to Young People, p. 204.

You can do a work that those who minister in word and doctrine cannot do. You can reach a class whom the minister cannot affect.—/bid., p. 207.

When given proper leadership and a worthy cause, youth have always measured up to the task before them. Youth have won victories for warring nations. Youth such as Ellen and James White, Stephen N. Haskell, Charles Fitch, Josiah Litch, J. N. Andrews, Luther Warren, and many others victoriously waged war against the evil thrust of overwhelming discouragement. Consecrated youth inspired with a vision for souls have carried the third angel's message to almost every tongue and peo­ple. Youth began this work. Youth today must be challenged to take a leading part in this work, for it is the youth who will, by the grace of Christ, finish this glorious work.

The church is languishing for the help of young men who will bear a courageous testimony, who will with their ardent zeal stir up the sluggish ener­gies of God's people, and so increase the power of the church in the world.—Ibid., p. 25.

May God grant pastors and all church leaders the wisdom and leadership that will organize and challenge our young people and exploit for God this tremendous source of consecrated energy. What a powerful force will be our army of youth dedicated to God.

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March 1959

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