You Can't Baptize Them by Mail

We are simply not keeping up with the increase in population. We need to adjust to the jet age.

Don Gray, It Is Written Coordinator, Southeastern California Conference. 

Let's face the facts. Considering the population explosion and the present rate at which we are spreading our message, there will be more unwarned people living ten years from now than there are at the present time. We are simply not keeping up with the increase in population. We need to adjust to the jet age.

It Is Written offers one answer to the need for speeding this gos­pel to the teeming millions with­out Christ. It has been my privilege to work with this program for the past four years. And during this time I have seen thousands of doors opened to our message that have been nailed shut in the past. Never have we had a tool that did so much to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the total message.

The television program alone, however, without a thoroughly organized and care­fully executed follow-up program, will ac­complish little in the way of tangible re­sults. In the It Is Written plan of evange­lism, the personal contact is the nucleus of the entire endeavor. For without the lay­men visiting and cultivating the seed of truth sown by the telecast, most of the effectiveness of the entire venture is lost. We have merely favorably impressed thou­sands with a well-presented television pro­gram, helped them to understand their Bible a little better, and created a degree of conviction that, if left to itself, may soon grow cold.

What a thrill it was this last autumn to observe the response of television viewers as they jammed twenty incoming lines at our Broadway church here in San Diego with their requests for the book Planet in Rebellion. The en­thusiasm of the women who an­swered the telephones and en­rolled the callers in Take His Word was wonderful to behold. Many of those who called in seemed almost ready to become members of the Seventh-day Ad­ventist Church.

Names! A multitude of names! Thousands of enrollments arrived by mail and by telephone. Thousands were ready to receive a book or a series of Bible study guides.

But it is only where the interest is faithfully cultivated by the personal con­tact that results have been realized. We now know that you can't baptize them by mail!

It is for this reason that a year ago we began a thorough program of training the laymen to visit the homes of those who would enroll in Take His Word. Never have I seen our laymen more eager to visit their neighbors. Pastors in this field conducted four training classes in which the art of effective visiting was explained.

The plan calls for the first six numbers of Take His Word to be sent out by mail, two at a time. The next two numbers are delivered personally by a layman, thus establishing an early personal contact. In all, the enrollee receives four calls during the series from this same layman.

The first call is a casual visit, simply de­livering the lessons and gaining the con­fidence of the enrollee. The second call is to become better acquainted and to gather information as to the depth of the interest. The third is to encourage the interested person and to answer any questions he may have. By the time the fourth call is made the interest should have developed to the place that the enrollee is ready to attend a decision meeting or the church service.

It has been most interesting to watch the progress of our lay visitors. Some who have never given Bible studies before have be­come most effective in this work.

It is significant that the amount of in­terest, tact, and perseverance that the visi­tor brings to his work will soon be evident by a reading of the reports he submits of the visits he has made. On some reports every enrollee visited will be evaluated as having no interest. It is then time to move that visitor into the inactive file, or to give him some help.

On the other hand, one woman who has developed into an effective visitor reports enthusiastically about every one of her in­terests. She has seen three of her contacts baptized, and two more are planning this step in the near future. This is just one out of hundreds of such experiences that could be cited.

One of the chief objectives of the visitor is to encourage the enrollee to study the lessons and to fill in the work sheets. For with few exceptions those who finish the course find their way into the church through baptism. A number of persons who enrolled this past year later decided to can­cel out. But because a faithful visitor persuaded them to continue in their study they are now church members.

The pastor, too, is a vital part of this united effort. There are times when the visi­tors will need encouragement or help in answering questions. This is when the wise pastor will step in to give the needed as­sistance. An effective report system has been worked out so that the pastor is alerted immediately to any interest need­ing his personal attention. One pastor in this field had only two people enrolled in Take His Ward. Yet as he and the visitors worked together it was possible to baptize both.

When the enrollee has completed the study course, the role of the lay visitor becomes even more important. The friend­ship gained in the four visits must be built upon to invite the prospect to a decision meeting held by Elder Vandeman, to at­tend a Pastor's Bible Marking class, or to listen to the new long-playing records that present Elder Vandeman's decision mes­sages. We have discovered that wherever the visitor has continued to encourage the enrollee, progress has been thrilling. Wher­ever the visitor has simply completed the four visits and stopped, the interest was soon lost.

Years ago we were told that "the work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers."—Gospel Workers, p. 352.

The It Is Written program will be no more effective than pastor and laymen are willing to make it. You can't baptize people by mail. But where there is careful cooperation between pastor and laymen in thor­ough follow-up, results are assured. In fact, so potently rewarding has this plan proved in our own conference that during the first nine months of 1963, to the time of this writing, there have been 1,200 baptisms, largely resulting from the It Is Written plan.

Our laymen have become weary of proj­ects that bring little or no results. But the thrill that comes to them as It Is Written visitors is one that brings a true revival of the missionary spirit in their own hearts and in turn to the church as the inspira­tion of this unique soul-winning venture is enthusiastically shared.

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Don Gray, It Is Written Coordinator, Southeastern California Conference. 

January 1964

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