A New Approach to Personal Evangelism

The monthly evangelism column.

L. R. VAN DOLSON, Instructor in Bible and Evangelism/ Pacific Union Colleg

During the current school year Pacific Union Col­lege students have enrolled 285 persons in the commu­nities surrounding the col­lege in a new type of Bible study plan. About half of those enrolled have completed the Bible course.

Typical of these contacts is the experi­ence of Ralph Tones and Dorothy Simle. They were working a district in the city of Napa and were not having as good success as some of the other teams in securing en­rollments. In fact, they had approached fourteen homes without securing a definite interest, and Ralph said he was getting dis­gusted with people for not wanting what he considered to be so worthwhile.

At the fifteenth home a teen-age girl came to the door, and as they began to ex­plain the course, she said, "Wait a moment. I'll call my mother." When her mother came to talk to Ralph and Dorothy she ap­peared to be very disinterested and finally said, "You're wasting your time and mine too."

Ralph was so discouraged by this time that he blurted out, "I've been wondering just why it is that people aren't interested." You can imagine his surprise when she an­swered, "Well, I'm not interested in a study program, but I am interested in your church. I have been wanting to attend your church, but I'm afraid to because I don't know anyone."

She invited them into the house and told them that she had become acquainted with Seventh-day Adventists through her Ad­ventist doctor and through the books and magazines she had been reading in his office. They left the Bible course with her to look over carefully, to see if she might be inter­ested in the study program after all.

When they returned the following Sab­bath afternoon she had completed the first two lessons and seemed thrilled with the study plan. She told Ralph and Dorothy that she worked on the lessons each eve­ning just before going to sleep, and she apologized to them for having been so rude the week before. One Sabbath afternoon as they were checking the answers to her completed lessons they noticed that she had missed two or three blanks. Ralph began to fill them in when she exclaimed, "No, please don't do that. I want to fill them in myself."

This woman and her youngest daughter completed the Faith course and came to the graduation service; then they faithfully attended the subsequent Hope course les­sons. After the first Bible class she said, "I'm going to have to bring my son to these. He's really interested in history and ought to enjoy the study of prophecies." Not only did her son attend, but also her oldest daughter came with her fiance. Within a few weeks they began to attend the Sabbath services regularly and will soon become members of the Napa church. Ralph and Dorothy also had the happy ex­perience of enrolling another woman in Napa who completed the Bible course.

The first series of ten lessons in the Faith, Hope, and Love Bible courses we have prepared is a Bible chain-class type of les­son to be studied by the student in his home. The suggested approach is to divide the community into districts of from thirty to fifty homes and to organize two-by-two visitation teams, placing one team in each district. These teams have the goal of en­rolling at least three Faith course students in each district. An enrollment card record is kept by the visitation team, and the stu­dent is encouraged to complete two lessons a week, thus completing the entire course in a five-week period.

Our plan is to offer the World Bible, which is supplied by our Book and Bible House, to all who complete the course. In Napa we even had the name of the one who completed the course stamped on the cover in gold and gave this to the student at a graduation service held about eight weeks after enrollment day. During this five-week study period the visitation team called back at the house once a week to check the completed lessons against the answer sheet and to answer questions that may have arisen. We also suggest to them that, if opportunity arises, they help those who have not completed the lessons to find the answers and to complete them at the time of the visit.

The value of this plan is that any lay­man, without special training in the giving of Bible studies, can participate fully in this type of contact, and thus the entire church can be employed in the program.

The Hope and Love courses used in the follow-up program also contain ten lessons each and are made up of simple Bible study outlines that can be used either for personal or class study. Our suggestion is to introduce these as Bible marking studies at the night of the graduation service for those completing the Faith course, actually marking the first lesson in the Bibles that night while everyone who has completed the Faith course is present. This introduc­tion to the course is then followed by one or two Bible marking classes a week, con­ducted in the same building where the graduation service was held (church or hall). These lessons fit into the folder pre­pared for the Faith course and we distrib­ute these at the beginning of the class, so that it is easier for the student to follow the texts. An attendance record is kept by the punch-card system, and we offer the mis­sionary book of the year as an incentive to complete the course.

The visitation teams organized for the Faith course distribution assist by attend­ing the Bible marking lessons and by help­ing those who are attending from their districts to find the texts and mark their Bibles. In case a student misses a lesson, they also take the lesson to his home and help him make up the work there.

The entire message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is covered in the thirty lessons that make up the Faith, Hope, and Love courses. Our suggestion for the use of the Love course lessons is for the pastor to use them as a baptismal preparation series. 

It is not announced as such, but it obvi­ously fulfills this purpose. Thus the entire plan leads step by step to the final goal of baptism. These lessons also fit into the Faith course folder, and at the last session of the Hope course classes, a special appeal based on 1 Corinthians 13:13 can be made to demonstrate the necessity for studying the Love course lessons.

As mentioned, the special advantage of this approach is that it is an avenue of service that can be used by every church member without special training. Of course, the member has to study the lessons carefully himself before going to the home with the answer sheet provided, in order to be able to answer any questions that might arise concerning the lesson or lessons the person has completed. This also sharpens the member's knowledge of our message.

We are now putting the Hope and Love lessons in the Bible chain-class form so the lay member, if he chooses, can assist the person he is studying with to complete the entire series in his home. It is best, we believe, to organize follow-up Bible classes as here suggested, but sometimes those who wish the rest of the lessons cannot attend on the night of the Bible class and desire to continue them in their homes.

A sample of the first lesson of the course follows:

Faith Course I

FAITH IN A WORLD OF FEAR I. Faith Necessary to Overcome Fear:

I. Luke 21:26—In the prophetic outline that Jesus Himself gives concerning those signs which will characterize the world just before His second coming, He indicates that the age in which we are living will be especially a time when men's hearts will be "failing them for and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth."

B.Mark 4:40—Read verses 35 to 41 to get the background for this text. What is it that verse 40 indicates as Christ's answer to fear?

II. What Is Faith?

A. Hebrews 11:1—Write below the Bible definition of faith found in this verse:

B. Hebrews 11:6—This text lists two items that make up the kind of faith that pleases God. Indicate what these are by completing the following sentences:

  1. "Must ---------------------  that he ---------
  2. and that he is a ------------  of them that -------  seek him"

C. Matthew 9:29—The experience recorded here in verses 27 to 29 demonstrates that all God's gifts to us are dependent upon our -----------

III. How Can We Have Faith?

A. Romans 12:3—Notice particularly the thought in the last phrase of this verse:

God has given to--------------- man a---------- of faith. This indicates that we all have the possibility of a strong faith. God has planted a seed of faith in every person's heart, and this will grow if we encourage it.

B. Hebrews 12:2—Jesus is here referred to as the "author and finisher of our faith." In harmony with this thought, indicate whether the following statements are false or true by circling F for false and T for true:

F    T     The work of developing faith is entirely our responsibility.

F    T      Christ not only helps us begin the work of faith but helps us perfect it.

C. Romans 10:17—Must we have faith be­fore we can study the Bible, or does Bible study develop faith? ---------------------

IV. The Rewards of Faith:

A. Galatians 2:20—By faith Christ ---------------  in us.

B. 1 John 5:4—By faith we -------------------  the  world.

C. 1 Peter 1:9—By faith we obtain the ---------  of our souls.

D.Compare Romans 15:13 and John 14:27 —By faith we obtain ------------------  even in  times of trouble and fear.

Thought Question:

Is it your desire to have this kind of faith? -----------

God wants you to have it, and He does everything He can to help you develop such faith. Ask Him especially to help you build strong faith this week.

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L. R. VAN DOLSON, Instructor in Bible and Evangelism/ Pacific Union Colleg

November 1963

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