For eight exciting years of experimentation and growth it has been my privilege to lean at one time or another on the help and counsel of our coordinators and pastors in practically every conference across North America. And now an action has been taken providing an associate for me in the work of It Is Written. His choice has been no easy matter, for the enthusiastic, loyal dedication of many men flooded my mind and became the object of conversations with the officers of the General Conference.
Nor will his work be easy. For tailoring the proclamation of the third angel to a fast-moving, cosmic age, and reaching the heart of an awakened, troubled, but discriminating public, is a task not only challenging but exhausting.
The basic premise upon which this plan has been built makes its development extremely difficult. For It Is Written is in no way to resemble the structure of our established radio and television groups. Rather it is to be a plan of reaping, an evangelistic mission by way of mass communication, to be employed only when a field is able and willing to take full responsibility for its success. We do not administer it from Washington. We only assist and share with the field the best plans that grow out of each area.
This plan of organization is It Is Writ-ten's basic secret of success or failure. For if the plan is assumed as a local responsibility and is worked to the limit, that field will be happy with the results. If, however, a conference sits by waiting for miracles from a few months of unsupported telecasting, there will be genuine disappointment.
It Is Written, most fields have learned, is not simply a set of films to be released. It is rather a total plan of reaping evangelism, a package of vital steps and procedures leading from screen to harvest, carved out of wide experimentation.
In counsel with the General Conference officers and with presidents across the field, it has been agreed that It Is Written is not a department. The work of this plan of evangelism involves the activities of several departments. Television—yes. Ministerial —of course. Lay activity through the home missionary department—most certainly. Involvement of youth—a failure without it. And the voting and expenditure of budgets involving the direction of workers—always a matter of administration.
The very structure of the plan demands that the local conference administration assume responsibility and assign a coordinator who will work with the president to encourage cooperation of every department in the local conference. For it has been discovered that the It Is Written program has capacities that make it possible unselfishly to unite the distinct interests of our total denominational activity in a reaping program where each group can be assured of its justifiable credit.
How, then, does an interested field begin? What is expected of the field, and what is expected of our office in order to ensure a reasonable chance of success in relation to the expenditure involved?
Experience has revealed the wisdom of holding an exploratory meeting with the president, his committee, and leading pastors before a decision to participate is encouraged. Such a meeting could well consume two hours—explaining the plan, the possibilities, the pitfalls, where it has and where it hasn't succeeded and what we frankly know to be why. Such a candid approach greatly strengthens the committee's hands in launching into so far-reaching an endeavor.
Even prior to the exploratory meeting some contact should be made with the Milton Carlson Company to ascertain release possibilities for the city or cities in question. It is only with such possibilities in mind that it can be determined whether or not the release hour available justifies the expenditure involved in follow-up. It may, in the light of this survey, seem wise to wait for a better release hour to become available. Or it may be that plans should be altered to focus attention on a different city for the present—one where a more productive release time is offered.
No budget or complete activity picture can be formed short of this exploration on the part of the agency. With it, intelligent decisions can be made, and the financial burden weighed in view of the giving potential of our people. It has been found that the challenge of such a program will inspire adequate financial support from our laymen. And this support does not usually adversely affect church building projects and general financial support of the church program.Few fields have been able to adequately reap even the surface interest in a single year's release. To undergird the pastor's evangelistic program with a substantial and growing interest, a minimum of two years should be envisioned, with the second proving to be even more productive than the first.
A good time to begin is the early autumn. This permits the telecast to do its work of arousing interest and deepening conviction during the time that the denominational Ingathering program is under way. The field is then ready for intensive spring reaping at a time when the majority of pastors and all evangelists are most free for this emphasis.
Shortly after the exploratory meeting all pastors should be acquainted with the plan and encouraged with the possibilities. The plan, however simple, naturally becomes complicated to a degree when so many pastors and districts and laymen are involved. In other words, the imposing of fine-tooth-comb reaping techniques of the public evangelistic effort over a large area involving multiples of churches and personnel, means that some system has to be explained, understood, and absorbed by the ministry so that they in turn can intelligently and clearly present the plan to the laymen.
If there is any feature about the plan that inspires me most, and encourages favorable response from the pastors, it is the lay possibilities involved. And it will be discovered that the thoroughness by which plans are relayed to the laymen, and the enthusiasm and earnestness by which they take hold of the idea, are a sure index to their final enthusiasm over the results.
Rallies with our people are planned in order to lead them into a commitment to consecration and service—well-directed service that they can participate in without embarrassment. For doors will be open. And it is this that encourages the heart of the layman.
An office is set up for handling Take His Word enrollments. The personalized follow-through of every response is vital. Every name is a sacred trust.
In order to personalize the contact from the very start, we are now including in the triplicate form—identical copies of which are placed in the office, in the pastor's possession, and in the layman's hand—two blocks of information. Clearly and simply imprinted are these words: "This is what we now know" and "this is what you will discover." In the first block the layman will find carefully typed excerpts from an enthusiastic letter requesting Take His Word„ or an earnest comment made over the telephone when the book or other special offer is requested.
In other words, the layman who makes that first contact carries with him the inspiration that often encourages only the few at the Bible school office. It is not just a cold name and address. It is a living interest to him even before he rings the bell.
Also, simplified and streamlined plans now safeguard that interest for visitation on the part of the same layman. And if that visit is not made, the pastor now knows within forty-eight hours. Earlier participants in the program will scarcely recognize this area of the follow-up because of the tremendous strides of our faithful coordinators, the men who are doing the job. In fact, It Is Written today is the result of just this kind of influence. There are many men across the field who know far more about the execution of the program than I do. We are draining the good things they are doing daily for use in the reaping potential of the plan in other areas.
However difficult it is to chart the inception, rise, growth, and reaping of a program like this, we have included here a brief outline in chart form—a suggested but flexible timing of activities, a grouping of responsibilities that make up a total picture of a year's venture.
Periodic workers' meetings are essential. We have prepared manuals. Almost every idea that has been developed in recent years has been explained in print. Samples, advertising, et cetera, are all available. And where possible, workers from other fields who have gained valuable experience, or myself or my associate, can be called in to further explain the potential and the working of the plan.
When pastors gain a vision of the possibilities of an effective reaping program, and when the burden is rolled upon the laymen, unwise pressures are lifted from their already burdened shoulders as they discover anew the tremendous potential for service that their congregation provides for them.
Brethren, the amount of the counsel in the gift of prophecy writings relating to lay cooperation is simply overwhelming. Which one of us needs to be without assistance when flesh and blood sits before us every Sabbath? These, I sincerely believe, will be the instruments of power when rightly encouraged, trained, and guided to lift the burden that you faithfully carry.
I earnestly believe that the day of the fantastic reach of evangelism involving every church activity lies within our grasp rather than being a thing of the past. This new day, with its new challenges, can, under the blessing of our God, reveal qualities and forces latent within the breast of every eager pastor and evangelist. Such a program as we have here presented should under no circumstances override or eclipse the work of our all-too-few specialists in the field of evangelism. It should simply encourage a larger harvest. For who of us really is concerned about the credit? I sometimes wonder whether I personally will have any. For practically every interest we face has come about through the action of many factors through the years.
My brethren, we are all committed to the same task. Heaven will bless as we meet its claims together. If you feel that It Is Written may be an effective tool for your field, please know that we stand ready to pray and share and lift to the limit.