A Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic preaching campaign, whether it is conducted for a few weeks or for several months, will prove effective in proportion to proper preparation before the first sermon and the thorough follow-through after the last sermon by the evangelist. This is a principle that needs to be "graven with an iron pen" in the rock forever.
Oftentimes we are so concerned about getting the preaching started that we fail to plan for these vital precampaign features. We face the peril of being more concerned about the immediate count in baptisms than about the final count around the throne of God. The only souls for which any of us will have an eternal award are those whom we gather out and who prove true to the end and will be in heaven forever.
Paul, the greatest evangelist next to the Lord Jesus, did all his work with an appropriate thoroughness for having as many of his converts as possible around the throne of God at the end. See how he sets forth this real goal of evangelism in writing to his converts at Thessalonica: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (1 Thess. 2:19, 20).
Statistical reports are necessary and helpful, but the one that will really count forever is how many of those we have led into baptism will be around the throne when Jesus comes. Let us ever keep our eye on this as our true goal.
Notice again how Paul stresses this point in writing to the Philippians:
"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain" (Phil. 2:15, 16).
The minister and the Bible instructor who are possessed of the supreme desire to have as many souls as possible around the throne will do their work with appropriate thoroughness in keeping with this goal. They will not hold back anything that any soul needs for a full experience in Christ. They will not let down a little here and there on the essential standards for baptism in order to have a larger report for the union conference weekly.
In this day of the half-done job in so many worldly lines, we need to read and heed the following counsel on "Thoroughness" in Gospel Workers:
Ministers should not feel that their work is finished until those who have accepted the theory of the truth realize indeed the influence of its sanctifying power, and are truly converted. . .
Too often the work is left in an unfinished state, and in many such cases it amounts to nothing.—Page 367.
Unless those who receive the truth are thoroughly converted, unless there is a radical change in the life and character, unless the soul is riveted to the eternal Rock, they will not endure the test of trial.—Pages 368, 369.
How much better it would have been if the first messenger of truth had faithfully and thoroughly educated these converts in regard to all essential matters, even if fewer had been added to the church under his labors. God would be better pleased to have six thoroughly converted to the truth than to have sixty make a profession and yet not be truly converted.—Page 370.
This does not mean that any man who brings in sixty is not doing his work in a thorough manner. Under God men can bring in sixty or three times this number and do it with the essential thoroughness. But the statement should help us to make the right evaluation for thoroughness in our endeavors. The odds are ten to one in favor of him who does his work this way.
The San Bernardino Sun of July 28, 1958, contained an editorial entitled "Day of the Goof-off," which scored our day as the day of the half-done job along many lines:
"This period of great scientific achievement is being described with such high-sounding appellations as the Age of the Atom, the Space Age, the Era of Interstellar Conquest.
"Future historians may have another name for it: the Age of the Goof-off.
"The term was coined by an advertising executive who said: 'This is the great era of the goof-off, the age of the half-done job. The land is populated by laundrymen who won't iron shirts, with waiters who won't serve, with carpenters who will come around someday, maybe, with executives whose minds are on the golf course, with students who take cinch courses because the hard ones make them think, and salesmen who won't sell.'
"Singular thing about this accusation is that half the American people go along with it."
The editor might have added—and preachers who don't preach, ministers who don't win a soul, and pastors who don't do personal work. No real Adventist will do a half-done job. We who present people for baptism need to be careful that this spirit of the half-done job does not enter into our work.
Not long ago I heard an Adventist minister declare before a group of ministerial students that he could go into a town where people knew nothing about the Adventist faith, where no preparation of the field had been made, and raise up a new Adventist church by an every-night three-week preaching campaign. As I heard his statement I said to myself, "Yes, he might raise up a church in three weeks, but it certainly would not be a real Seventh-day Adventist church."
We all know that there is such a large body of doctrines and practices in the Adventist way of life that it is really impossible in any every-night three-week meeting to expound them adequately for intelligent acceptance on the part of those who have no Adventist background. An every-night three-week campaign, or even eight or ten sermons, may be ample to bring to decision and prepare for baptism those who have been taught our doctrines by reading our books, or who have taken the Bible correspondence courses, or have had Bible studies in their home or the films of It Is Written and the Take His Word lessons. But this is not the case generally with those who have no previous acquaintance with Adventist beliefs and practices.
There are some good, honest souls who have no background of the Adventist faith and yet may be made ready for baptism very quickly. But generally no solid, substantial person without any background of Adventist knowledge can be ready for baptism in an every-night three-week campaign.
We have been advised that "it requires a vast amount of time and labor to convince one soul in regard to the special truths for this time" (Gospel Workers, pp. 496, 497). We must not lose sight of the fact that an evangelistic campaign of the everlasting gospel of God's threefold message is altogether different from the revival campaign by the evangelists of other churches. It is different not only in the numerous Christ-centered doctrines and practices which must be presented but in the length of time required for an adequate understanding of the full gospel of Christ, and for the full acceptance of its principles in Sabbath-keeping, eating, drinking, dress, associations, music, reading, and conversation.
After having conducted short campaigns of two, three, and four weeks' duration for the past ten years, and evaluating what has been accomplished, it is our conviction that much more would be gained if we extended the three- and four-week campaign into six weeks. A four-week campaign leaves much undone—not in the declaration of every essential of our faith, but in the personal work which is tailored for leading the hearers into harmony with these essentials so that they are truly prepared to go all the way with Jesus. Let it not be forgotten—No one has the power to help the interested people like the man who is doing the preaching.
It is good for the evangelist to get groups to come forward for full surrender near the end of his campaign. But to leave them in the hands of the pastor, or pastors, at this juncture often involves a difficult task which they are unable to handle in many cases. The experienced man knows there is still a decided gap to be bridged from getting a person to come to the front and getting him lined up on all the essentials and bringing him into the church. We have found that often only about half who come forward on a call to accept God's message actually will harmonize with all the essentials so that they may be baptized. If we hold to the standards, consistent with thoroughness, it is possible that only 50 per cent who respond to the calls will go through to church membership. It would be better for the evangelist to hold fewer campaigns in a year and stay longer, and work with the pastor or pastors to see the people anchored in the church. If it pays to build solidly for erecting a "skyscraper," how much more in building for eternity in evangelism! How often is heard the cry of the pastors, where these three-week campaigns are held, "Not long enough!"
Every evangelist must decide for himself what plan to follow. But he needs to be alert for getting hold of plans for increasing his fruitage. When we arrange the schedule for the campaign we should keep in mind that there will be interested men and women who work during the day and can be reached in their homes only at night. If the evangelist has meetings every night for three weeks and then leaves, these people will not get the personal help they need for making a full surrender. In view of this, we think it is wise to run every night for two weeks, in which sufficient instruction is given for a person to make his decision. Then continue for two, three, or four additional weeks for only four nights a week, and use these open nights for visiting in the homes of those who work during the day to help them get into line with all the essentials so that they can be baptized.