THE Oregon Conference released the first in a new series of Bible studies by television on its TV Bible Class program from Portland, Oregon, on September 19, 1965. Each of the twenty-four programs in the series covers one of the twenty-four lessons of "The Bible Speaks" course authored by Pastor Don Gray of the Southeastern California Conference.
Church members living in the viewing area were encouraged to give a Bible and the next two lessons to be covered on the telecast to a friend or neighbor as an inducement to watch the program and do the lessons. The Bible, identical in page numbering to the one used by the television speaker, was given with the provision that the recipient of the Bible would fill out the answers to at least ten of the lessons.
This offer met with such enthusiastic response that by January, 1966, 7,000 Friendship Bibles had been distributed, with church members who had placed the Bibles returning every two weeks to deliver the current lessons and to pick up completed lessons to be corrected. Corrected lessons are returned to the student at the time of the regular biweekly visit.
Each visitor has a card on which to record the progress and response of his students to the lessons. The pastor is supplied with a duplicate copy of this card. Since the records of students participating are kept by the local church and the lessons are corrected by the individual members who deliver the lessons, it has not been necessary to add any additional workers to the conference office staff.
The simplicity of the program encourages maximum participation from, church members. The general feeling seems to be, "Here is something I can do." To coordinate the program in the local churches the speaker on the television program has been made available to circulate among the churches conducting rallies and workshops. Members who do not volunteer to participate in the program are visited by the pastor and the television instructor to personally solicit their support of the program.
Requests for Bibles and lessons that come in by mail in response to the offer made weekly on the television program are mailed to the pastor of the nearest church, who is responsible through the missionary committee of his church to find a layman to deliver the Bible and return every two weeks with the two current lessons.
"The Bible Speaks" lessons are so tactfully prepared that they have lent themselves well to use on a cycle basis with students beginning on whatever lesson is current on the telecast schedule and finishing whenever the cycle gets back to the place where they began. Since the student finds all his answers right in the Bible we have experienced no difficulty with students beginning with such subjects as the Sabbath, the state of the dead, and tithing.
Because of the ever-growing interest in the program it has been decided to rerun the entire series on television. Also four additional TV outlets have been arranged which will provide maximum television coverage for the entire Oregon Conference. Three of these four outlets have accepted the program on a public service basis.
The format of the program is simple. Each question is read from the lesson by the instructor, who gives the text and page number where the answer may be found in the Bible. As the speaker reads the text from the Bible, the words are projected on the screen by rear-screen projection using 2 by 2 slides in a Bell and Howell Tandematic projector. Then the assistant speaker writes on a blackboard device the specific words from the text that answer the question. Every effort has been made to hold the interest of those viewers who do not have the Bible and the lessons in their hand as well as to appeal to those who are following the lessons.
Plans for gathering the interest created by the combination of the telecast and the visitation program include either of the following: pastor's Sabbath morning Bible class, cottage meetings, or decision meetings. The last two efforts conducted by the conference evangelistic team resulted in 48 and 53 baptisms, respectively, the former in a church of 300 members, the latter in a church of 140 members. Both efforts were conducted nightly for three weeks in our own church building. The evangelist conducting the meetings had not appeared on the telecast. As well as the increased baptisms in our public meetings we notice the results of the program as we see new faces each week in our regular Sabbath services.
It is a thrill to see the joy in the faces of our members as they bring those whom they have been calling on biweekly with the lessons to evangelistic meetings or to church and Sabbath school. Then comes the greater joy as our members see "their people" take the final step of baptism. Each month more contacts are climaxing in just this way. We thank God that He is able to use such a simple means to spread the message and at the same time give our members an opportunity of working for others in a way that brings results.