In the year 1962, our church calendar showed there were twenty-one special-offering days to which Seventh-day Adventists must direct their efforts. But when one considers that an additional five Sabbaths were required to complete the Ingathering goal, three Sabbaths to secure subscriptions to our official church paper (the Review and Herald), four Sabbaths for the campaigns devoted to our missionary journals (The Message Magazine, Signs of the Times, and These Times), two Sabbaths dedicated to religious liberty, and one Sabbath for The Christian Record, there was actually a total of thirty-six Sabbaths required by the General Conference for special offering and promotional days. These projects are usually presented during the eleven-o'clock service.
In addition to this, there are four thirteenth Sabbath programs (presented during Sabbath school), making a total of forty Sabbaths set aside by the church for special offerings and special promotional drives.
The additional twelve Sabbaths must be used to put into effect the local church fund-raising projects. These involve the church expense, the church school expenses (with teachers' salaries and the various obligations connected with the school operation), the church building fund or church remodeling fund, and mortgages that might be outstanding. Hence one could easily see how the entire fifty-two Sabbaths of the year might be devoted to major financial programs. It is obvious that something must be done to find a way to fill the need other than by taking time from the preaching of the gospel.
Certainly we must find a way to evangelize through the departments of our church, otherwise we might find ourselves saying bitterly, as did Solomon of old, "They made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept." We do have ways of winning souls through the organizations of the church. Many of these auxiliaries have sprung into being because of a desire on the part of the laymen to become active in the program. We have ample authorization for this type of activity in the Spirit of Prophecy writings. The book Evangelism, page 111, has this advice:
God is pleased by efforts to set them [church members' at work. He desires every church member to labor as His helping hand, seeking by loving ministry to win souls to Christ.
And on page 113 there is this statement:
Our ordained ministers must do what they can, but it must not be expected that one man can do the work of all. The Master has appointed unto every man his work. There are visits to be made, there is praying to be done, there is sympathy to be imparted; and the piety—the heart and hand—of the whole church is to be employed if the work is to be accomplished.
In New York we have tried to broaden our evangelistic ministry by making every organization of the church a soul-winning agency and by transforming many of these special days in the church calendar to soul-winning days.
As an example of the organizations, I might point to our New Believers' Choir. About five years ago Mrs. Rosa L. Jones, our Bible instructor, organized this group in our church with the view toward putting newly baptized members to work. It is the type of organization to which non-Adventists might be properly invited. A Bible study is conducted prior to each rehearsal. I can safely report that I have baptized no less than thirty people during the five years as a direct result of the work of this choir. People simply join the choir, they hear the Bible studies, they sit through to listen to sermons, and they take their stand to be identified with the remnant people. The choir makes a remarkable contribution in holding new believers. It makes them feel that they are a part of the church program and they in turn render very acceptable music. They sing every fifth Sabbath and at other times throughout the year. There are more than 100 people presently singing in this group.
The Friendly Gleaners is another of our organizations. This one was established by Brother Sidney Dash, a godly man in our congregation (now deceased). The burden of his heart was to do something to hold those who have been newly baptized into the faith. As soon as a person is baptized the Friendly Gleaners make it their responsibility to secure his name and address and to visit him immediately. They urge the new member to attend Sabbath school, they see that he is present for the morning service, they urge him to attend the midweek prayer meeting, and they take an interest in his being properly introduced and enlisted in the work of the various church organizations. The Friendly Gleaners give a report about twice a year on the newly baptized members to assure us that they are following through on their decisions to be firm, loyal Seventh-day Adventists. When this group renders its report, we check it over and those whom we note as being weak or who are drifting away from the church or who are having some special difficulty, we visit, and attempt to revive and strengthen.
Then there is our usher board, which is also evangelical. We try to instruct our ushers that their work is primarily soul winning. Before the visitor has an opportunity to know whether the minister is preaching truth or not he meets the usher. Therefore, we instruct our ushers that before they go on the floor they should spend much time in prayer, that they might know how to give a handshake that will impress individuals with the warmth of Christian hospitality. We want no one to leave our church feeling that they have been received in an unfriendly manner. If our ushers are consecrated, dedicated, and on the job, visitors will know by their contact with the usher that they have discovered a truly Christian body of believers. We try to seek out ushers who will dedicate themselves to this task and make people feel at home in the church of God. In a similar manner we attempt to impress on all of our church auxiliaries the importance of making their work evangelical. We believe that it pays in souls soundly converted to the church.
Regarding the special days, there are sixteen of these set aside in the calendar year by the General Conference for special events in our church program. These are the Home Missionary Day, Religious Liberty Day, Christian Home and Family Altar Day, Temperance Commitment Day, Sabbath School Rally Day, Missionary Volunteer Week of Prayer, Fall Week of Prayer, Spirit of Prophecy Day, Literature Evangelism Day, Sabbath School Visitation Day, and Witnessing Laymen's Day. These occasions can also be real soul-winning adventures.
For the Spring and Fall Weeks of Prayer, we usually invite an outstanding evangelist to conduct these meetings. The entire church rallies to the occasion, and they support the meetings by attending in large numbers each night. We have seen many people make decisions to be baptized as a result of these meetings.
In the Home Missionary Visitation Day we encourage our members to take the literature that has been prepared and to go out into the surrounding neighborhood and invite people to read the tracts they are delivering. Invariably we have found individuals who have once been Adventists but who have fallen away from the church. We have found others who have known of the Adventist church but did not know exactly where it was. There were others who knew nothing of Adventists, but they were glad to receive us. Through these contacts we have been able to win many people to Christ. These special days are real opportunities either to win men and women to the church or greatly to confirm present members in their faith and loyalty to it.