Combining the Advantages of Short and Long Term Campaigns

Here is an attempt to present a plan for combining the best in both the long and the short evangelistic campaigns. If there is one field where we need the best of everything, and above all the divine infilling, it is in the field of public evangelism.

GEORGE E. KNOWLES, Evangelist, Oregon Conference

In the story of a dream recorded in the book Gos­pel Workers, pages 136 to 139, I found the inspiration for a plan of evangelism that works well. It combines the advan­tages of the long campaign and the short campaign. It is practical for use either by a full-time evangelist or by a pastor-evangelist.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. It allows more time for those naturally slow in acting to make a decision for the truth.
  2. There is also more opportunity for new interests to develop over the longer period of time.
  3. 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.

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GEORGE E. KNOWLES, Evangelist, Oregon Conference

November 1963

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