One of the pressing questions in public evangelism today is how to capture the attention of people preoccupied with the problems and pleasures of the twentieth century. The plan that follows is one answer to this question.
It Is Written began an eighteen-month run on KTVO-TV, Ottumwa, Iowa, in January, 1962. This station completely covered the area of our five-church district. Because I had previously learned the importance of a good TV hour, we waited until a good hour was available before we signed the contract. The hour was Sunday, 5:30 P.M.
The promotion of the telecast by the local churches followed the outline provided by It Is Written. Each church supported the program vigorously. As a result of our survey work we found both a large audience and a good interest. It was apparent that the time had come for public evangelism.
Two points were clear. First, more than one meeting was needed to develop and harvest the TV interest. Second, because of a crowded schedule it was impossible for Elder Vandeman to be with us, even for one meeting. We would have to do it alone. And this is how we did it.
The conference evangelistic team, including the writer as singer, came into the area. We felt it was imperative that we identify ourselves in the thinking of the people with It Is Written. And evidently we were right in this, for we later found that 98 per cent of our audience were viewers.
The first thing we needed was a name. We chose to identify our work as "It Is Written Television and Bible Lectures." One of our good members in Des Moines designed a letterhead for us.
Besides servicing our mailing list, we used two main methods of advertising—newspaper and television. Across the top of our newspaper ad, measuring six columns by seventeen inches, appeared the words, "Here Now—It Is Written —Prophetic Crusade." Underneath was a picture of the return of Christ and the title of our opening address. The ad also included the hour of the telecast and pictures of the evangelistic team. The same pictures used in the newspaper ad were used in the TV advertising.
The TV advertising helped to reach our telecast friends. A series of spot announcements were used on the opening weekend of our public series. Then the last portion of the Take His Word announcement on the telecast was used to reach It Is Written's established TV audience.
We never appeared on the telecast. Not being professionals in this field, we feared that we might hinder rather than help our own cause. Therefore we used slides, and the local announcer read the script. The opening telecast announcement began, "Now It Is Written is coming to Ottumwa." And we became part of It Is Written.
Before I tell of the results of this plan, may I add one other thought. No meeting was held after It Is Written left the air. We wanted not only to be able to use the telecast to invite people to attend our meetings but also to be a part of a live program —not something that had thrilled viewers in the past.
And now, how did it work? What were the results from doing it alone?
Over a period of one year two series of meetings were held in five towns ranging in size from 4,000 to 35,000. The total baptisms for this period were 175. Others have followed. -Where previously we had a district of two hundred members and no church schools, we now have two districts and three church schools. The teacher of one of these new schools was baptized in March, 1962, with her entire family. The Sabbath attendance in nearly every church has doubled.
We cannot know what may yet materialize from the seed sown in the hearts of 60,000 viewers of It Is Written. But of one thing we are certain—it was It Is Written that first entered the homes of more than 170 new members of the great Advent family.
We didn't choose to do it alone, but we stepped out in faith. And now it is evident that we did not work alone; the Spirit of God was with us all the way!