A NEW day is dawning for public evangelism! The idea that the day of the public meeting is past is being forgotten and the vision of true evangelism is dawning again. Thank God for it! We must arise together and strengthen our bands before the end comes. We are told that "the agencies of evil are combining their forces and consolidating. They are strengthening for the last great crisis. . . . The final movements will be rapid ones."— Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 11. Further urgency is revealed when we read: "For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth" (Rom. 9:28).
Recognizing these things, what a challenge, what an hour to live in, what a time to be dedicated for the task ahead! However, in executing the command of Jesus to "Go . . . preach . . . teach," we must ever keep in mind that "thoroughness, should characterize all our work" (Messages to Young People, p. 230). We are constantly reminded, and rightly so, that "the highest of all sciences is the science of soul saving" (The Ministry of Healing, p. 398). Sometimes in our frustrated attempt to report baptisms, we have approached this challenge as something less than a science. In this scientific age, when man's mind has leaped in advance of all restrictions, the science of soul winning must keep pace. The spectrum of evangelism covers many phases of this science, but I would like to comment on just three of these phases: (1) The precampaign and public service, (2) the baptismal class, (3) the guardianship service. This article will deal only with the first phase mentioned.
The public evangelistic campaign is still the strongest method for reaching the mind. The public crusade is made even more of a necessity with the introduction of the many aids that have been put into operation, such as television presentation, radio sermons, the Bible school lessons, and literature evangelism. With all of these wonderful agencies working for one and the same goal—the enlightenment of the mind to God's message for today—the public service is a must as a reaping agency. As yet our public meetings are still great teaching agencies, but if we understand the forecast right, it would appear that there will yet be a tremendous harvest as the result of the great amount of seed sown; then our meetings will be primarily reaping agencies. One of the areas where we might want to make some definite changes is in the coordination of our sowing and reaping activities. Gone are the days when camouflage might have been necessary! The time has come when our sowing work must be identified so that when the "reapers" come along their identification will provide a source of appeal to those in whom the seeds of truth have been sown. Let us go forth properly identified!
In this age, when modern man wants to be liberated from the past, many of us refuse him this privilege in the evangelistic service. We want to appeal to him with the same format, the same props and pictures, that were a sensation a generation ago. Even to dip back into our methods of ten years ago is failing to keep up with ever-changing times and methods. Our message will never change, but our methods of presenting that message must be subject to change. Our stereopticons and slides, our travelogues and twenty-minute announcements, are things we could well leave behind. The mind of modern man has been hardened to these now tame devices by the constant bombardment of the television screen, motion pictures, et cetera.
As we review our methods and approaches we will all agree that there is no one certain way in which the work must be done. It is recognized that different methods work in different places and must be tailored to the place and to the man who is using them. But it is also recognized that certain fundamental practices appeal to a great cross section of people. A combination of these various tried and tested approaches can be used by any man with the assurance of success. Here are a few ideas I have gleaned by working with different men in various parts of the United States and Canada. These ideas are not new or radically different, but perhaps a review and re-evaluation of them might be worth while.
A prepared church is a soul-winning church. This might easily be reversed and still be true. How important, then, that our church members be prepared for the coming campaign. Each church member should be visited prior to a campaign. In a large church the local elders can be enlisted to help. A burden for the coming meetings should be shared by every church member. Those members who are living compromising lives should be encouraged to come up to the standard. The entire church can be spiritually lifted to a higher plane if a week is spent in actual church revival, with nightly messages for the church members and a visitation program during the day. The importance of this phase of the work can be realized when we consider that the results of the crusade will be in direct proportion to the spiritual readiness of the church family. We are told that "the Lord does not now work to bring many souls into the truth, because of the church members who have never been converted and those who were once converted but who have backslidden."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 371. How much better to have made proper preparation—spiritually— and receive in its fullness the measure of Heaven's blessing.
1. Church Membership Participation.— How often have we spent vast sums of money on advertising, with very disappointing results. Perhaps we have, by example, removed the burden from our members and relied on the mediums of advertising to bring out those whom we want to hear the message. We must advertise, but let us not with our advertising create the impression that this medium will bring the results. Our people need the enriching experience of inviting their friends; and we, as evangelists, need the backing of the membership. Much instruction has been given showing that not until we enlist the help of the church membership will the work be finished. If proper preparation in the church revival has been done, we can expect the members to rally. Let us use our people in every conceivable way, recognizing that the personal invitation is still the most powerful medium of advertising. The more they do, the greater will be their interest in the crusade.
2. The Handbill.—A simple, well-laid-out handbill announcing the subjects for the entire crusade should be sufficient. It need not be extravagant. Its purpose is to announce the meetings. Make the titles say what they are intended to say. People have had to deduct our clever thinking. Instead of sending out thousands of handbills to mere addresses, send them to known interests, Bible school enrollees, et cetera. Distribute them in the vicinity of the place of meeting, giving the remainder to the church members to give to their friends with a personal invitation. Wholesale distribution is not only expensive but often wasteful. In smaller towns where people think as a unit on public activities, wholesale distribution is often effective.
3. Identification.—Let's identify ourselves—and not in the smallest type made! How tragic to leave ourselves open for criticism because of a failure to identify ourselves. We are God's remnant church— something to be proud of!
4. Communications.—Newspaper, radio, and television advertising will work in some places, but it is very expensive and will not always bring warranted returns. The individual situation will demand evaluation.
1. Ushers.—These are the oil of the evangelistic machinery. Use as much local help as possible without overdoing it, with one person in charge. Time spent in instructing the ushers will be well rewarded. Remember, the more people that are working in the meeting, the greater the attendance will be. The youth do a very admirable job, and should be given specific nights when they can take full charge.
2. Parking Attendants.—This is another extra that makes a good first impression. With a neat-appearing person to help in the parking problem, our guests will be given the impression that we are ready for them. This is not a necessity, but just an extra that brings big returns.
3. The Nursery.—This is not always practical or necessary. However, if the church is spiritually prepared, we can expect that it will be necessary! One or two of the women can be invited to make a big contribution to the meetings through this avenue.
1. The Music.—Start on time! The angels are present at the appointed hour. While the people are coming into the meeting place, have some activity going on. Wherever possible, have a choir singing. It will relax the guests. They think we are odd people, and if all is quiet when they walk in, or talking and noise is heard, it only makes them feel that everyone is looking at them. Where choir music is not possible, have live organ and piano music playing for twenty minutes before the announced hour. The song service should start exactly at the announced hour, and should last no longer than fifteen minutes as a rule. Let the people sing during this time and save the special music for special feature nights. Make it lively, but sacred. People love to sing—as is evidenced by the community sing conducted by a popular TV group. The music should not be a filler but a part of the organized program. The evangelist and all others who take part in the program should come out on the platform at the beginning of the song service— and sing!
2. The Announcements.—These should be short and to the point. People will forget in two minutes your announcement of the meeting two or three nights in advance. This is merely time consuming. Tell them about tomorrow night's service, and if there is a special service in the future, tell them about it—but make it short!
3. The Message.—This is the meat of the entire service. This is what everything else has complemented. Let us give the people what they came for. When we review our structure of truth we find there are approximately eight doctrines in which we differ from the majority: (1) The Sabbath, (2) the prophetic gift, (3) the sanctuary and the judgment, (4) healthful living, (5) Christian dress and deportment, (6) the nature of man and eternal destruction, (7) foot washing, (8) the Second Coming and the millennium. We must begin on com-mon ground, but these are the doctrines that need explaining before a decision to join the church is called for. These are the doctrines that make us a unique people. Regardless of the reason for putting these topics at a later time other than the public service—this is our message! It has convicting power. Let's be bold and present these doctrines as a part of the structure of truth in the public service, trusting God to bring the results. The time has come for us to present the whole truth publicly!
4. The Appeal.—Some kind of an appeal should be made every night on the subject presented. If it is not worthy of an appeal the subject might as well be left out! The appeal should be plain and easily understood. If people have been making decisions throughout the series, when the final appeal is made results will be forthcoming. Remember, "in every congregation there are souls who are hesitating, almost decided to be wholly for God."—Gospel Workers, p. 151. How important, then, that an appeal be made after every message. The appeal must be simply worded so that all can understand what they are deciding for. These souls will respond with the aid of the Holy Spirit and the power of the message.
In the final services of the campaign, the appeal should not be ambiguous. Let them know they are coming forward to prepare to become a part of the Seventh-day Ad-ventist Church. Otherwise the results will be disappointing. We must never leave any room for doubt in the minds of those who come forward as to our intentions. We must be plain and straightforward.
5. Let Them Go Home on Time.—An hour-long service is ideal. Repeat attendance will be more likely if they can put their children to bed on time.
All of these observations can only be aids. The personal devotion of the workers and prayer for Heaven's guidance are of prime importance. Without these preparations no amount of "things" will suffice.