In this dream the Lord's messenger saw a party on a berry-picking expedition. The ripening of the berry crop provides a lesson for the worker gathering fruit in the vineyard of the Lord. The point of the lesson is that all the fruit does not ripen at the same time. The counsel based on the dream is this: "You should be diligent, first to pick the berries nearest you, and then to search for those farther away; after that you can return and work nearby again, and thus you will be successful."—Gospel Workers, p. 139.
The promise of success in the above quotation will certainly arouse the interest of all those who are constantly seeking for better methods to advance the cause of God. Let us consider this inspired counsel against the background of a comparison of the advantages peculiar to the long effort and the short effort.
Three advantages of the short campaign:
- The limited time factor produces in the mind of both the worker and the prospect a sense of urgency in deciding for the truth. There is less time for Satan to bring in doubt and discouragement.
- The regular soul-winning activities of the church are not interrupted over an extended period of time in order to clear the way for the visiting evangelistic team.
- The evangelistic team can present the message to more people in more communities in a given length of time. Note: The Spirit of Prophecy writings warn of the danger involved in leaving a field of labor too soon after a soul-winning endeavor. It must be remembered, however, that in the early days of our work, as in Paul's time, when the evangelistic workers left a city there were no pastors to take over. In our day we have church buildings, established congregations to provide leadership for new believers, and capable pastors. Where the pastor has worked closely with the evangelistic team he should be able to assume responsibility for the new converts and interested people, thus leaving the team free to let out the gospel net for a fresh harvest.
Three advantages of the long campaign:
- It allows more time for those naturally slow in acting to make a decision for the truth.
- There is also more opportunity for new interests to develop over the longer period of time.
- It affords more opportunity to train the new members and to lead them into active soul-winning work.
In order for either the long or the short campaign to be most effective, careful preparation is necessary. It is ideal if several weeks before the public meetings begin it can be arranged for every family in the church to be visited in their home. In large churches a group of laymen working in teams of two can be trained to assist in this visiting. The purpose of the visit is twofold: 1. To briefly share with the member the evangelistic plans and to help him find some service that he can perform to contribute toward the success of the meetings. "'The best help that ministers can give the members of our churches is not sermonizing, but planning work for them. Give each one something to do for others.' "—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 82. 2. To obtain from the church members the names of those in the community who have had some contact with, or shown some interest in, the message. By taking the interest information blank with you on your visit to our members you will get more names than by simply passing the blanks out in church.
The visit should be short. At the close of the visit prayer should be offered, asking God's blessing upon the soul-winning endeavor. Often it is well to have the one being visited offer this prayer for the success of the meetings and for the specific names that he submits for the interest list.
The names obtained through this visitation program go into the interest file. The backsliders might well be assigned to friendship teams for loving visitation. The training of the church members for service is a part of the church revival preceding the meetings.
When the groundwork has been carefully laid before the public meetings begin with the laymen trained to participate in various phases of the work, the meetings can be entered into with the assurance of success. The thorough preparation and building of an interest file cuts down the duration of the public phase of the campaign. We work on the basis of twenty-three consecutive nights of public meetings. When the church members understand that the evening meetings will continue just three weeks, they support the program enthusiastically.
A baptismal class meets during the final week of the meetings and during the week following the public effort. Some will be ready for baptism on the last Sabbath of the campaign, especially those who have had some previous knowledge of our teaching. Another group should be ready the following Sabbath as a result of the week of follow-up.
The remainder of the non-Adventist attendance can usually be divided into two classes: 1. Those who enjoy the atmosphere of evangelism, but who have no serious thoughts of uniting with the church and accepting the responsibilities of church membership. 2. Those who are seriously interested, but who are not quite ready to unite with the church for various reasons.
The second group, made up of those who are interested and who want to study further, is organized into a pastor's Sabbath morning Bible class. This serves to establish the habit of Sabbath church attendance. In areas where evangelistic meetings are held at quite frequent intervals it provides an opportunity for indoctrinating the interested ones as a group without the entire church sitting in. The public meetings end with attendance still at its peak and the attendance at the Sabbath morning class usually grows steadily. This has a good effect on the morale of the church.
It often happens that young parents who do not attend many of the evening meetings because of small children will faithfully attend the Sabbath morning Bible class. Their children can attend Sabbath school at the same time. This eliminates the baby-sitting problem that often arises in connection with evening meetings. Once the children fall in love with the Sabbath school their enthusiasm will ensure the parents' attending the Bible class.
We aim at covering the doctrines in a three-month period. This Sabbath morning class can be taught by the pastor, one of the members of the evangelistic team, or by a carefully chosen layman. In any event it is absolutely essential that the one teaching the class faithfully and regularly visit the members of the class in order to maintain attendance. Whenever a member misses a class the teacher should visit in the home during the following week and cover the material in the home.
Three weeks after the close of the public series a similar three-week series is begun in a nearby town, where the procedure outlined above is repeated. The groundwork has been done under the direction of the pastor or one of the members of the evangelistic team. If the second location is within fifteen miles of the first meeting, it may be desirable to vary the presentation of the message. We find that many folks follow us from one series to the next. Among those who follow are some who are almost persuaded who take their stand in a second or third series, and others newly baptized who come and bring their friends to hear the message of truth that has come to mean so much to them.