The minister who is contemplating a campaign, whether it be a church effort or a medium-sized or large hall effort, ought to study first of all the philosophy of the people, their habits, and their religious beliefs. After having ascertained these he should think carefully to find an adequate approach to the minds of those he expects to listen to him. This will tax his mental resources, but with much prayer and meditation he will find the best subject for the introductory sermon, one that will meet the longings of the human heart.
Every item of the campaign should be thought through carefully, and plans made for the most attractive and the most ideal advertising for the meetings. Everything ought to be seen through the eyes of the people he wants to win. He should be able to sense their favorable or unfavorable reactions and to proceed accordingly. This study may force him to a method of approach in his public or personal work that may not have been used before. However, the evangelist need not be afraid of originality, because counsel is given that in some places we may need to use new and untried methods.
Revivalism and evangelism should not be confused. Both are indispensable, but they ought to be distinct in method of approach, in purpose, and in the type of sermons presented.
Revivalism, in reality, means to revive again the indifferent, those who have grown cold in the faith, to rekindle a new love in their hearts for the Lord Jesus and to inspire to a new allegiance to His church. This is the time for the children and the young people who have grown up in the message to make a definite decision for baptism.
Evangelism is the church stretching out with the gospel to those who know it not. It means meeting the modern man of the world—the man prejudiced against our faith, with doubts and indifference toward God, the Bible, and religion. The recent changes in the attitude of men to religious beliefs has come about chiefly because of an increasingly diluted form of Christianity that does not satisfy the needs and the longings of the human heart. As a result, men and women live according to their personal inclinations and thus become indifferent.
With very few exceptions evangelism must be recognized as being unpopular. The evangelist's approach should be geared to win a sympathetic understanding toward his church. This requires that a series of evangelistic meetings continue much longer than a series of revival meetings.
In revival meetings the minister is usually talking to people who know much of God's Word but do not live according to it, whereas, in evangelism one has to take the necessary time to build a sure foundation for people of various religions and philosophies of life. They must be brought little by little to a real conversion and acceptance of the gospel.
Pondering on this thought makes one humble, and we can only exclaim, "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:16) . Ellen G. White says, "For the conversion of one soul we should tax our resources to the utmost."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 22.
Two Successful Twentieth-Century Religious Movements
There are two religious organizations of opposite convictions, the Roman Catholic Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses, who today are gaining more new members than any other religious group. Strange to say, they have in common one cardinal doctrine of their own making. The Roman Catholic Church asserts that there is no salvation outside of that church. The Jehovah's Witnesses state that among all religions, sects, and cults, they are the only ones who are the sole depository of truth, which has come to them from God for this time of the end, and they admonish the people to join their ranks if they want to be saved.
This common belief, each asserting they are the only true saving church, or movement, on earth, is the element that has somewhat contributed to their astounding growth. You may ask why. Millions of sincere Christians are looking for more light because they do not find help, strength, or security in the diluted Christian teachings of their liberal-minded churches today, and they are therefore driven to the people who boldly affirm, "We are the only true church that can save!" Sad to say, these bold statements are accepted without adherents' questioning whether these claims can be vindicated.
Is it not true that both of these religions make a claim that can be refuted by the Word of God? And, in contrast, is it not true that according to the prophecies of Daniel 9 and Revelation 14 a movement was to begin (and did begin in 1844) that was to restore the "truth cast down to the ground" and prepare a people throughout the world to meet the Lord at His second coming? Is it not true that as Noah was the representative of the only true church on earth in the antediluvian world and as John the Baptist heralded Christ's first appearing, the Advent Movement, which began according to prophecy, is to carry Christ's last message of hope to a dying world?
As we preach the three angels' messages of Revelation 14 many will be convicted by the Spirit of God. Let there be no diluting of the gospel of Christ because we do not want to appear bigoted and narrow before others. We are not to seek popularity, but to present an authoritative message of truth in all its fullness. People want security. So let us take the Word of God and give them a solid foundation of "Thus saith the Lord."
One Great Obstacle in Modern Soul Winning
Years ago people opened the Bible asking, What do the Scriptures teach? They accepted the Bible as the Word of God and the deciding factor of authority. But today we find that many say the Bible is not the Word of God but only the best source of knowledge about God and His truth. They affirm that the comprehension of truth is only relative. Others state that reason is the chief authority of religious belief, and not the Bible alone. Still others say that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit in man is the last word of truth, and not the Scriptures. Some accept the New Testament and reject the Old Testament.
There are those who say the Bible is so filled with scientific and historical errors that it cannot be considered in its entirety as a book written by men through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They deny the divinity of Christ and His miracles. Atheists believe the Bible is just a man-made book and that the Christian religion is just as much a business as were the former pagan religions. Still others say the Bible cannot be taken literally, but only in the allegorical sense.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Bible is not the only source of truth. Tradition also is truth, they say, and tradition explains the Bible. They also claim that only that Church can interpret the meaning of the .Bible, and they teach that the faithful must accept no other interpretation but that given by the Roman Catholic Church. They also say Protestants have an incomplete Bible because the apocryphal books do not appear in the Authorized Version.
Now, imagine a public evangelistic meeting with an audience holding such a variety of opinions concerning the validity of the Bible. After the service many would return to their homes rejecting what they had heard because of their erroneous concept regarding the authority of the Holy Scriptures from which the speaker took his message.
There are thousands today who are perplexed as to who has the right to interpret the Bible and as to how it should be interpreted. Truth is rejected as error because of a wrong understanding concerning the authority of the Scriptures. Therefore, in our ministry would it not be wise to deal first with subjects on which the majority of the listeners can agree and which they will understand, such as "The Secret of Happiness," "Health," and "The Home"? Other subjects that help to solve personal problems such as fear, anxiety, and insecurity are also well accepted and win confidence. Next, let the minister build faith in the Bible—prove that it is the only infallible source of truth and salvation; present logical, historical, scientific, and archeological proofs that God has revealed Himself to the world through the medium of His Holy Spirit to the prophets and apostles, who were instructed to put these revelations into writing.
The following subjects could be presented in an expository manner: tradition and reason; the history of the formation of the canon; the debated apocryphal books; the question of Bible interpretation; the erroneous accusation of the existence of adulterated Bibles; the power of the Bible. Once having established a living faith in the Bible as the only source of infallible gospel truth, then the minister can proceed as he thinks best to preach the different phases of the message for these last days.
As a result of laying a foundation on which the people can build their faith, more will be willing to listen, to weigh the value of the messages, and soon thereafter to accept the truth of God. A minimum of three lectures is required to cast out doubts and build the faith of the hearers on a solid and permanent foundation—the Bible.
In the next article we shall consider the value and sig nificance of teamwork in evangelism.