THIS IS is a day of space travel, supersonic speeds, and numerous marvels of man's inventive genius. It is a day of unusual sights and sounds; of flying saucers and strange voices from outer space. It is also a day of war preparation and horrible weapons of destruction. It is a "grand and awful time." "In these perilous times we should leave untried no means of warning the people."—Evangelism, p. 63.
The cities of earth are facing destruction in the immediate future, and we must heed the call to "act our part in warning these cities. The warning message must come to the people who are ready to perish, unwarned, unsaved. How can we delay?"— Ibid., p. 62. The great urgency of the work to be done is indicated in the following words: "Night after night I am unable to sleep, because of this burden resting upon me in behalf of the unwarned cities."— Ibid.
In writing about the closing work and the terrible judgments of God that are about to fall upon the cities, Ellen G. White said, "We must plan to place in these cities capable men who can present the third angel's message in a manner so forcible that it will strike home to the heart."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 99.
In doing evangelistic work in the large cities it is imperative that we work out of the common order of things. With numerous attractions holding the interest of the people, with multitudes infatuated by television, movies, and other exciting pleasures, the evangelist is challenged to proclaim a message that will startle the hearers and break the tie that so strongly binds them to the world.
The first and foremost key to success in gaining and holding the attention of the people is to be endued with the power of the Holy Spirit and to "present the third angel's message in a manner so forcible that it will strike home to the heart." There should be a power attending the preaching that will cause the people to cry, "Men and brethren, what must we do?" When such God-given power is in the ministry of the Word, there will be no problem in gaining and holding an audience.
The second key to success in gaining and holding the interest is to have a well-organized program. The people who attend should first of all be aware of the presence of God, and second, should sense the fact that the program has been well planned. They should never have to see the preacher and his assistants rushing about, harum-scarum, doing things that could have been done previously. There should be nothing that appears ludicrous, scattered, or ill-planned. Everything should be in order, and the atmosphere should lend itself to feelings of sacredness.
The third key to success in holding up the attendance is found in the use of a variety of methods. We are told, "From Christ's methods of labor we may learn many valuable lessons. He did not follow merely one method."—Evangelism, p. 123. Evangelists would do well to exert themselves to overcome the monotonous and the humdrum. Overdoing any one thing, regardless of how good it is, will result in a loss of interest. The people should always be kept in an attitude of anticipation. The evangelist should vary his methods from night to night and enlist the element of surprise. If he is in a rut and has only one way of doing things, the people will have a good idea of what is going to happen in the next meeting and will stay at home. The expression "Variety is the spice of life" is apropos in this case.
Evangelists may well consider the following counsel: "In the cities of today, where there is so much to attract and please, the people can be interested by no ordinary efforts. Ministers of God's appointment will find it necessary to put forth extraordinary efforts in order to arrest the attention of the multitudes. . . . They must make use of every means that can possibly be devised for causing the truth to stand out clearly and distinctly."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 109. (Italics supplied.)
While there is no substitute for good Spirit-filled preaching to keep the people coming, there are some attendance aids that help to stimulate regularity in attendance to some degree. We would not, of course, use all possible aids in one campaign, but vary them according to circumstances. The following are a few such aids.
1. Free-Offer Plans
a. Awards for faithfulness in attendance. This includes Bibles, religious books, Bible games, religious pictures, and religious plaques. The latter can easily be manufactured in quantity at small cost, and they are one of the most effective and enticing means to keep people coming. Molds can be made with liquid rubber or plastic. The plaques themselves are made by pouring molding plaster into the molds.
b. Awards for bringing others to the meetings. A lovely white Bible can be offered to those who bring ten adults. A large book may be given to those who bring five, and a small book to those who bring two. It is also a nice gesture to give a small book such as Steps to Christ or a picture of Christ to those who come by invitation. Those who invite them can tell them that they will receive a lovely gift at the meeting.
2. Special Preliminary Features to Create Interest in Attendance
a. Motion pictures.
b. Scenic travelogue with color slides.
c. Question box.
d. Quiz program. This is done with roving microphone carried into the audience by assistants. The speaker asks very simple questions of those who volunteer, and gives them a book if they answer correctly. If they miss the question they still receive a gift.
e. Musical features. Guest artists.
f. Health talks and demonstrations.
3. Special Nights
a. Temperance. On this night a temperance speech by a winner of a temperance speech-making contest can be used. This would be a good night to use the film One in Twenty Thousand.
b. Religious Liberty. On this night we could honor the flag and use some other patriotic items.
c. Youth nights. The sermon should appeal to youth. Have youth for some musical specials and also let them give testimonies from the desk. They can do other things on this night such as ushering, offering the prayer, et cetera.
d. Family nights. Special recognition and gifts for the aged, for the largest family, the youngest married couple, et cetera.
4. Use of Nightly Awards
a. For the first ones at the meeting. On the opening night the offer of a picture of Christ or some other attractive gift can be made to the first five hundred, more or less, who enter the doors.
b. For those sitting in certain seats. Different seats are picked before each meeting.
c. For oldest or youngest mother.
d. For mother of largest family.
e. For the one who traveled farthest to attend the meeting.
f. For all who brought their Bibles.
5. Free Offers for Attendance at Special Classes
a. Baptismal class. This is usually called a special Bible class. There are various ways to start such a class, but one of the finest inducements for getting enrollments is to offer an attractive certificate to those who enroll and complete the course. Everybody likes to get a diploma, and they are inexpensive to print.
b. Evangelistic Sabbath school class. It is very important for the evangelist to get the people to attend Sabbath school and church after he has preached on Sabbath-keeping. He should teach a Sabbath school class and call it a special Bible class for visitors. When he invites the people to come to his class he can offer the book The Desire of Ages as an inducement.
In conclusion I should say that proper advertising is also important to stimulate the people to attend the meetings. But this is a subject in itself. However, we can readily declare unequivocally that the best advertising is by word of mouth. If the people who attend your meetings are impressed they will want to bring others. If the people who come are not impressed, all the advertising in the world will profit you nothing.