I have divided my portion of this panel discussion into three sections: the objectives of total church service and outreach, the methods used, and the results.
The church at Hinsdale is a wonderful church to be associated with, and it has had a large growth in the past seven or eight years. The crowding factor in the church has been very difficult. For nearly five years, double services have been held. We have increased the size of our school physical plant several times. The Sabbath school facilities are crowded, and we have been improvising to the point where this must cease. We have, therefore, felt it wise to approach these problems from two angles: First, to deal with the actual physical expansion of our facilities, and second, to establish new congregations in areas where we have some people living and where the Bible study interests are good. Five principles have been followed, affecting particularly the matter of organizing new churches:
- We wish to follow the Biblical injunction of evangelism as found in Isaiah 54 and also to follow carefully the general thread of Spirit of Prophecy thought which tells us to avoid centralization.
- To establish new groups would encourage new leadership and missionary activity of the e now "benched" in the large home church.
- We felt that to "hard sell" the Adventist Church in some of these high-level communities would tend to repel at the present time. Rather, we would present the Adventist work by trying to approach the right people at the right time with our requests.
- We found that to organize new congregations would cut down on the physical expansion requirements of the mother church.
- This idea, if carried through properly, would make real a dream come true for some people living in other communities than Hinsdale, who for years have hoped for the establishment of a new light in their particular area.
Now, what are some of the methods used to attain these objectives?
d. Finally, after much canvassing, several refusals, and some disappointments, we seem to arrive at the place of worship the Lord has in mind. Proper arrangements for time and rental are made with the pastor, vestrymen, or board of trustees of the church. Our project now comes to the church board and the church in business session of the mother church. The sponsoring church now votes the project and sometimes helps to the point of guaranteeing its budget for the first year. All this gives those interested in pioneering this group much courage to go ahead, and influences many who are sitting on the fence. The home missionary committee swings into action and a literature program and visitation program, done without much fanfare, is organized for the community where the church will be established. A preorganization sermon is given, and a meeting of those interested is held approximately two weeks before the actual organization of the new group. A large offering is taken at this preorganization service, to give the new group operating monies. By this time the interest of the several hundred members in the mother church is at the right pitch and on the day of official organization, there are more ready to be charter members of the new group than was anticipated.
e. Last, but far from least, is the relationship of the new group to the church school. We have found it best not to penalize this group by raising their tuition rates simply because they are not members of the mother church any longer. Rather, they are given the same rate for at least two years, the matter to come up for review at the end of that time. This has all been previously voted by the church board and church in business session, so that the charter members of the new group know exactly where they stand before committing themselves.
Finally, what have been the results of this program? On November 5, 1960, a new church was organized eight miles west of Hinsdale in the village of Downers Grove, with a population of 20,000. The group began with a charter membership of 72 and has shown a net gain of 20 in the 20 months of their organization. The church has turned over $61,000 for all purposes during this period and now owns a tract of four acres, which is nearly two thirds paid for. The church has had a series of evangelistic services, and several people have been baptized. One man came to our Hinsdale church sporadically for years, but never joined. When the new group was established, he never missed a Sabbath, and he was baptized, because of the warm feeling among this group. Everyone comes to communion services. The church has a Sabbath school per capita of 72 cents and an excellent church expense balance. It was a vanguard church in its first full Ingathering campaign. A young father of four joined the church through baptism last month as a result of the fine efforts of our young pastors who have worked with this church.
Bible study interests are good. People who once just sat in the pews in the mother church are now leading, and leading well, in this new organization.
We are happy to report that we are now presently following the same pattern in establishing another new group in the beautiful city of Elmshurst, eight miles north of Hinsdale and with a population of 40,000. Several new converts have come from this area in the past few years, and together with older members living in the area, they will probably form their church on November 3, 1962, just two years from the time of the organization of Downers Grove. We will rent a Congregational chapel, which seats about 170 people, plus some small classrooms for Sabbath school use. These are the methods we have found to be successful in having our people find total church service and in forming new lights in the densely populated suburban area of Chicago.
And just recently, without promotion, a group of our youth from the youth Sabbath school division have begun a weekly visitation program of the village of Lisle, a small community of about 5,000 directly west of Downers Grove. There are about 40 involved in this project. Several Bible studies are being given. It is a tightly knit group that has been joined by many student nurses from the Hinsdale Sanitarium. I believe these youth caught a vision of what some of the older folks were doing, and were simply not going to be left out of the program! They have found, along with the rest of us, that when the Scriptures and outlines of the Spirit of Prophecy instructions are followed, there is a steadily burning fire of evangelism that is evident in the church and that results are sure to follow.