[Most men who believe in short campaigns agree that they should be linked up with continuous church campaigns. No one believes in a short campaign divorced from strong preparatory and follow-up work. The writer expresses views based on his own successful experience.—Editors.]
I AM A STRONG believer in short-campaign evangelism. That does not mean I do not believe in long campaigns; it simply means that I am very much in favor of the short ones. I think they are our greatest tool in enabling us to obtain decisions.
For the past twenty years the Voice of Prophecy has been circling the world with its weekly messages and Bible courses. Later, Faith for Today came along, and now in accompaniment with its Bible courses it covers most of North America. More recently the It is Written program was introduced, with its excellent adaptation for preaching right in the home. We're not getting too many of these agencies. Some people think they duplicate one another. If they do, it is only in the same way that our books duplicate one another. It seems to me that we need more of them rather than less. I like to think of these programs as being the air force, the bombing squadron, of our denominational army. And as we believe God has given us these agencies of the airways, we of the ground forces need to gear ourselves to keep up with the advances they make.
Today literally millions of people are acquainted with the message through the programs we are sending over the air and their accompanying Bible courses. But what are we doing to keep up with them? Are we still plodding along, thinking the only way to conduct an evangelistic campaign is to spend three months, six months, or a year in one place? I grant there may still be places where this is necessary, but it certainly isn't necessary everywhere. Such a program takes a corps of workers who are trained in the art of getting decisions; it ties them up for six months in one place. By applying the technique of the short campaign, that same corps of workers could conduct a full-scale effort in four or five different cities in the same amount of time.
This isn't just theory. It actually works. In fact, it has been working for the past seven years. It is working so successfully that it seems to me we ought to be taking another more serious look at this plan, with the thought of getting more of our men into this kind of work.
Many a pastor across the nation whose busy program has caused him to shrink from holding a long effort has found that by using the technique of the short campaign he can hold two or three and sometimes even four campaigns in a single year.
Those of us engaged in full-time evangelism have also found the short campaign a tremendous tool in covering the conference, to help our pastors draw in the net and reap a harvest in their district. It also enables us to encourage our smaller churches by giving them the benefit of a full-scale evangelistic effort. Many of these smaller churches have been waiting for ten or fifteen years for an effort, ever hoping that maybe "next year" one would come their way. But a shortage of finances, a small membership in the church, a small population in the city, all combine to cause the smaller churches to be bypassed. The natural feeling is that an evangelistic team can make better use of its time in a city where the population is greater and where the prospects for baptism are also greater. As a result, the little churches in the smaller areas are kept waiting. Yet in these areas the radio and television Bible schools have been doing their work, and there is a harvest to be gathered in. It should be pointed out also that in addition to the Bible schools, the accumulated seed sowing of our normal church program—colporteurs, missionary paper distribution, Bible studies, the normal witnessing power of our own faithful people—all give us a potential harvest in these smaller places.
By using the short-campaign approach we have been able to hold a major effort in many of our smaller cities that would have taken us years to get to with the long-campaign approach.
For instance, since coming to the Ohio Conference two years ago our two-family team has conducted a major effort in eighteen different cities. Three of these efforts were held outside of Ohio, when we were loaned to neighboring conferences to make way in our own conference for the Ingathering campaign or camp meeting. A few of these meetings were held in good-sized cities, such as Akron, Columbus, and Youngstown, but the majority were held in smaller places where our church membership has ranged from forty-five to a little more than a hundred. During these two years 425 people have been baptized. In these smaller places the number baptized has been as high as thirty, and never less than fourteen, during a three-week series. Of course, in the larger places it has been more—sometimes forty, sometimes sixty-five. But even fourteen people is quite a lift to a little church, to say nothing of what an evangelistic effort does for our own people.
I have mentioned that these meetings are a full-scale evangelistic effort. They are not just a group of meetings that are sawed off at the end of three weeks. They are a well-rounded and well-planned series in which we present the full message during the three weeks—the state of the dead, conversion, baptism, the victorious life, the Sabbath, health reform, the mark of the beast, et cetera—we put it all in and do not tone down any part of it.
We recognize, of course, that there are a great many people who are unprepared to accept our message and all that it stands for in only three weeks. Yet it would surprise you to know how many people do accept it who have never had any previous contact with Seventh-day Adventists. However, it is true that there are a great many people for whom three weeks is too short a time to accept the message. We try to help such people by enrolling them in one of our national Bible courses and we try to inspire them during the meetings with a desire to study further. In addition, they also receive during the meetings the free book awards—Daniel and the Revelation, The Great Controversy, The Desire of Ages, God Speaks to Modern Man, or our newest one, Planet in Rebellion. Many of these people will make excellent prospects for another series the following year.
Aside from the people for whom the three-week period is too quick, we must remember that there are a great many people walking about today who have already had a background of Seventh-day Adventist teachings and for whom three weeks is not too short a time.
I am always surprised at the number of people we meet in our visiting who believe essentially the same as Seventh-day Adventists and don't know it. I am not speaking of former members; they are automatically prospects, and we work for them. I am speaking of people in other churches who, through various channels they are hardly aware of, have heard of the doctrines and believe essentially the same as we do.
One woman comes to my mind right now. She was wary when she first met me at the door. She let me in but made it clear she was a Methodist. She had always been a Methodist and expected to die one. I found she had never attended Adventist meetings and had no Adventist relatives, but she had taken the Voice of Prophecy Bible Correspondence Course—in fact, she had taken two of them. I said to her, "You studied the Sabbath in the Bible courses. That is the major difference between the Adventists and the Methodists. Wasn't it made clear to you in the Bible courses that the seventh-day, Saturday, is the true Sabbath of the Bible?"
"Yes," she said, "I really believe you people are right on the Sabbath." Then she threw up her guard again. "But I'm not a candidate to join your church. I'm a Methodist."
"That's all right," I said. "You don't have to join our church just because I call on you. We all want to be ready to meet Jesus whether we're Methodist or Adventist or Baptist, don't we? Have you ever been baptized by immersion?"
"No," and her face grew a little sad. "I was sprinkled in my church, but I don't believe that is right. I believe a person should be put clear under the water."
"How do you feel about the state of the dead? Do you think that when people die they go directly to heaven or hell and receive their reward immediately at death?"
"Oh, no!" she said. "People don't know anything when they're dead. They're asleep in their graves until Jesus comes and wakes them up in the resurrection."
Well, it was a real pleasure for me to be able to tell that woman that she was a good Seventh-day Adventist and didn't know it. Yes, she came to the meetings, took her stand, and is now a member of our church.
When we move into a town for meetings we don't advertise in the usual way, using newspapers, billboards, radio, and television. We'd like to use all these means of advertising, but the cost would be prohibitive, and it would bankrupt the conference if we were to use them all and hold eight or nine efforts a year. We rely almost entirely on the leads given us by the Voice of Prophecy and Faith for Today and the names supplied us by our church members. All the people whose names we receive are sent a formal invitation with tickets and a handbill enclosed, inviting them to the opening meeting. In addition, the offices of Faith for Today and the Voice of Prophecy send out a special letter from Pastor W. A. Fagal and Pastor H. M. S. Richards to their respective students, urging them to attend the meetings and asking them to bring the letter to me as an introduction. When they do this, I keep the envelope with the address, and then visit them. The leads we get from these Bible schools are wonderful, and we find them all over the country.
One woman in Columbus, Ohio, was sick one Sunday some months ago and couldn't go to church. She dialed her television set, looking for a religious program, and stumbled onto Faith for Today. She loved it and immediately sent in for the Bible course. The lessons were just as thrilling as the program had been, and she wrote enthusiastic affirmative responses to the questions. Her name was sent to Larry Kagels, pastor of our church in Columbus.
Pastor Kagels believes in following these names up as soon as they come to him, and he went immediately to the woman's home. The husband met him at the door, and when Pastor Kagels introduced himself as being from Faith for Today, the man bristled.
"What denomination puts that program on?"
"It's the Seventh-day Adventist."
"I thought so. We don't want anything to do with it. I told my wife not to enroll in that course or you people would be hanging around here and bothering us."
Pastor Kagels assured him that we would not be hanging around or bothering them, but that we just wanted to help. In the meantime, the wife, an elderly person, came to the door. When she learned who Pastor Kagels was, she was very friendly and wanted to talk. The husband retired in disgust to the adjoining room. But he kept making caustic comments from the other room to correct the friendly impression his wife was making. Finally, Pastor Kagels stepped over to where he could see the man and said, "Mr.---------, you shouldn't feel about us the way you do. We're not your enemies, we're your friends."
The man shot back, "Well, I'm not your friend. I'm your enemy."
Pastor Kagels laughed. "Well, anyway, that doesn't keep us from loving you. You know the Bible says we should love our enemies."
The man opened his mouth for a quick retort, but he didn't know exactly what to say. He finally said, "Well, you got me that time, didn't you?" Elder Kagels had prayer with them both and left.
Soon after this the wife received a letter from Pastor Fagal of Faith for Today, telling her of our coming meetings that were to be conducted in the Hartman Theater across the street from the State Capitol.
"I'm going to those meetings. Will you take me?" she said to her husband.
"No, I won't," he said.
"Well, I'm going to attend even if I have to go on the bus." So the night of the opening meeting she prepared to go. She wasn't too well, and he felt ashamed to make her go on the bus, so finally he relented and took her to the meeting and even came inside with her. He evidently liked the meeting, for when it was over and he passed Pastor Kagels in the hall, he put his arm around him and said, "Mr. Kagels, I'm sorry for the way I treated you the other day at my home. My wife wants to come to all the meetings, and I expect I'll be bringing her most of the time."
He did bring her, too, and he became very friendly. On the first call for surrender, at the end of the second week, the wife came forward and took her stand for baptism, to become a part of the commandment-keeping church. The following weekend, on the last night of the series, this man, who had gone through a real struggle in his own soul, came down the aisle and took his stand. It was a real thrill for Pastor Kagels to baptize this lovely couple—just a little more than a month from the time he was almost pushed off their front porch.
We baptized a young mother last week who had been keeping the Sabbath for three years before we called on her. She did not attend church because, as she explained, she smoked and she didn't think she should expose herself to our church until she had the victory over tobacco. However, she had stopped eating pork, and she paid tithe and did her shopping and house cleaning on Friday to be ready for the Sabbath. She had learned all this in the Bible course. She came to our meetings, took her stand, and stopped her smoking immediately.
How many more are there like this? Who can say? All I know is that in every community we visit we find them. There must be others just like them in communities we don't visit. Yet, with this tremendous potential harvest awaiting us, we have only five of these short-campaign teams operating in all of North America. Surely the times demand that there should be more.
Brethren, in all the history of the Advent Movement, the words of Jesus never have been more true—"The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few."