Public evangelism in the British Isles has seldom brought such large returns as it has in other parts of the world field. Even evangelistic techniques that have proved highly successful elsewhere have not always succeeded here. The reason for this reticence on the part of the British public to attend evangelistic meetings is largely due to the historic background of over a thousand years of entrenched Catholicism which England shares with most of the European countries. The Anglican Church with its many links with Rome is still regarded by most people as the "norm" of Christianity, and anything which deviates from this norm is regarded with great caution, if not with open suspicion.
Certain Areas More Productive
There are, however, certain parts of Great Britain that have a reputation among national workers of being more productive than others. Interestingly enough, these areas appear to correspond with the parts of the country that were prominent in the Puritan movement of the early seventeenth century, and thus have a traditional background of nonconformity. Among these areas, the industrial West Midlands ranks high. Through the years our evangelists have usually been able to draw good crowds here and have generally produced larger baptisms than in many other parts of the British field.
When we were invited by the North England Conference committee in 1961 to move into the Midlands area to conduct public evangelism, we naturally wondered if it would live up to its reputation! We are thankful to be able to report that it has, and that during the past four years "the Lord has added to the church such as should be saved," exactly one hundred souls to date. We give praise to God for these accessions to His church because many times during these four years we have seen positive evidence of the Lord's working in a wonderful way to bring men and women to a knowledge of the truth.
In the early autumn of 1961 we moved into the busy industrial area of Wolverhampton, situated some fifteen miles north of Birmingham, England's second city, and containing a population of approximately 200,000. The plan was for an evangelistic campaign to be held in that center, which at the time had a fine new church only three months old. It soon became apparent that perhaps God had other plans, for no public halls were available to us that season (and indeed it was not for three more years that we were able to evangelize that town). We eventually opened a series that first winter in the neighboring town of Dudley, where a small church was already established. The advertising here reached about 100,000 people.
A New Approach
At this time we decided to try a new approach to evangelism. Prior to this I had followed the customary method of holding the main evangelistic meeting on a Sunday night, and then introducing a weekly meeting much later in the series, usually on Sabbath afternoon after the presentation of the Sabbath truth. But in Dudley the only halls we could use were not available on Sunday evening. We had no alternative but to plan the main meeting for a Wednesday evening. Would people come out to a religious meeting after a hard day's work? However, one or two other men in the field had reported good attendances on a week night, so we laid careful plans and trusted that God would direct.
Due to the fact that the meetings were to be on a week night, we felt led to plan for a different from usual opening night. Instead of announcing a speaker and a subject, perhaps with the backing of some attractive musical feature, we planned to introduce the series by showing a religious film. This was to be followed by a brief epilogue, giving opportunity to press home the message of the film. We chose the film Martin Luther, partly because of its excellent advertising possibilities, and also because of its truth-filled story which would be a good foundation for the presentation of the message later. This approach gave us an attendance of more than 800 on the opening night and we had a good attendance throughout the series. The local newspaper gave free advertising space, in spite of the fact that a well-known clergyman approached the advertising manager and demanded that he withdraw his support of our meetings.
They Did Not Fail
It was the combination of circumstances and the encouraging initial response which led us in succeeding years to develop this midweek film approach in neighboring towns. In the years following the series in Dudley we attempted to improve these methods and found that they never once failed to work. For five winters now I have opened every evangelistic program with a religious film, and there has always been an excellent attendance. From these beginnings we have moved gradually into illustrated lectures supported by shorter films, and the people have kept attending.
Each year since 1961 we have tried to get a hall in Wolverhampton but failed consistently, until this past winter. Then the way was opened for us to run our long-awaited series in this town—again on a week night. We found a very fine and well-appointed hall in the center of the town, and by continuing the same approach, we were able to gather a capacity audience on the opening night, the attendances keeping up remarkably thereafter for many weeks. To date, thirty-four persons have been baptized from that series, and several others are in preparation for baptism. At the time of writing a second series is being conducted in Wolverhampton, and another good interest is developing.
The Continuous Program
The word "continuous" in the title of this report deserves some explanation. The type of approach used and described above definitely brings to our meetings a higher percentage of people who are attached to some other church or religious group. These people feel free to come to our meetings on a week night when they have nothing to support in their own church. Quite understandably, however, such people often take longer to be convinced of the truth and won to the message than do people with no particular religious affiliation. They are probably believing Christians already, and they usually want to be absolutely sure of their ground before making their decision. Taking this into account, each of the series of meetings has been extended for nine or ten months, thus allowing for solid work to be done with the people, not only in the meetings but also in the homes.
During the four-year period a baptismal service has been held, on the average, every three or four months. These regular baptisms have all been held in our own church, which has not been large enough on many occasions to accommodate the people who have attended. Many times there have been well over 100 nonmembers at these services. These regular baptisms have helped many of the interested people to take their stand for the truth.
Many Seeking Enlightenment
Two things have been impressed again on my mind during these years of evangelism. One is that there are many people in other churches who are dissatisfied and seeking for enlightenment, and the other is that God is leading such men and women to a knowledge of the message we have to give. Wherever we may be called to engage in public evangelistic ministry, we surely have a solemn responsibility to think and pray our way through to methods which will reach these people, methods which the Holy Spirit can use to impart this saving truth to all who are earnestly seeking.
Of these one hundred men, women, and young people who have accepted Christ and the message, many have had truly remarkable experiences indicating the direct guidance of God in their lives. Space forbids the recounting of them all, but the following testimonies prove that the Lord is working today for the salvation of spiritually hungry men and women, and also that the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy is taking place before our eyes.
One young man who attended that first series in Dudley was deeply involved in the Church of England. He was a Sunday school teacher and a member of the parish council. In his heart, however, there was a thirst for truth, and the sequel to his hearing the message in these meetings was that not only was he baptized himself but also his wife, his brother, and his sister-in-law. He writes:
Like many other Seventh-day Adventists I was originally an Anglican, and like many Anglicans, I did not really believe all of the Bible to be true. Accordingly, I did not bother overmuch with doctrines or on what they were founded. Therefore my first contact with Seventh-day Adventists, through a series of meetings conducted by Pastor B. W. Ball, came as a shock insomuch as they made me look for proof of my beliefs. Having been convinced of the inspiration of the Bible, I tried to find evidence for my beliefs. Of course, I could not find infant baptism, Sunday observance, etc., in the Bible.
This made me realize I was not following God's ways, but the ways of men. I became a Seventh-day Adventist because of a new-found faith in the Lord, proven facts in the Bible, and lasting, firm friendship in the church.
Pilate once asked Christ "What is truth?" I know the answer to this question, because I have found it.
The lady whose testimony follows first began to attend the meetings when she was working as the sister (supervisor) in charge of the operating theater in one of the large hospitals in the district. There, amid the tragedies and heartaches of life, the Lord was seeking to make known His will to her.
"I know not why God's wondrous grace to me He hath made known," but I do know that since hearing the message of the gospel I have been almost 100 per cent happier.
The film Martin Luther first led me to attend an evangelistic campaign. As week by week the real meaning of Bible prophecy was unfolded to me, I became more and more convinced that I had missed a lot in life by not knowing these things sooner. The desire to know and understand more of the Bible compelled me to attend every meeting.
During the course of these meetings and later by attending the church, I met many Seventh-day Adventists, and the friendliness and good will of these people together with their obvious happiness in their faith convinced me that theirs was the only true and satisfying way to serve Jesus.
I can truthfully say that I have been physically, mentally, and spiritually a fitter person.
My greatest desire is that all men would learn of the love of Jesus and accept Him as their Saviour.
For 43 years I was a member of the Church of England, but never did I feel as much at home. or get so much satisfaction from attending services as I have done since being baptized and becoming a Seventh-day Adventist.
I thank God that I heard the message before it was too late.
K. E. HIGHFIELD
The Holy Spirit was at work in another hospital too. One of the teachers in the school of physiotherapy at the Royal Hospital, Wolverhampton, was also a lifelong Christian and an active member of the Anglican Church. Six members of his family were eventually baptized. He tells how, under the guidance of God, he and his wife accepted the truth:
Paul claimed to be a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and I was an Anglican of the Anglicans. I had been through from low to middle to high church. I had been choirboy and choirman, Sunday school teacher and Sunday school superintendent, organist and choirmaster, member of the Parochial Church Council and church warden, and, lastly, member of an Anglican brotherhood order with a view to ordination at a later date. My wife had been in the choir, taught in the Sunday school, and was a member of the Parochial Church Council. And then something happened to us!
My wife's sister, with her fiancé, attended a campaign in Bilston Town Hall, and passed the literature on to us. Intrigued, I inquired of a colleague at work if he knew who the speaker was. "Yes," he said, "he is our minister; would you like to meet him?" So began a series of Bible studies in our home which my brother and his wife later attended. We learned the real truths of the Bible, and we also learned the truth about the origins and falsity of the practices of the Church of England, until we could stand it no longer. We left the Anglican Church with all that it had meant to us, and two months later were baptized.
And now? The thirst is unquenchable, the hunger insatiable for truth and righteousness. Never before has our faith been so strong or so sure, There are not enough hours in the day to do enough to hasten the coming of our Lord.
PAMELA AND NEVILLE GREAVES
No man accepts the truth of his own volition, but only through the unseen influence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was evidently at work here, for through careful Bible study the following couple also realized the truthfulness of the Adventist position.
I've never had much spare time, but now it seems that I've even less leisure. And its because I'm now a member of the church I didn't want to join! But. having been convinced of the truth, I'm now experiencing the joy of "being involved."
How can one compare the pleasure that comes from really studying the Bible with that of just reading it? This makes the Sabbath a specially pleasurable day for us. By studying in the Bible class and then hearing a Biblical sermon, we are continuing to understand the Bible more and more.
Somehow, spending four times as many hours in Bible study and services, contributing eight times as much money to the Lord's work, does not seem burdensome. Indeed, some of the things, like my wife's costly, beautiful jewelry, without which she did not feel dressed, now look and seem cheap and vulgar. She used to hate Sundays, but now loves the Sabbath. We are determined, God giving us patience and understanding, to bring the children up in the faith that we have now embraced.
COLIN AND BARBARA GREAVES
Another wonderful witness to God's grace and the new life in Christ through accepting the truth comes from three people who learned the message through the combined influence of the Voice of Prophecy and public evangelism.
Somebody put a Voice of Prophecy card through my father's door, and as a result he studied the lessons and found a new interest in life. When invited to submit the names of friends who might be interested, he sent our names in.
Each lesson made the Bible the most absorbing Book, and eventually I came to the lesson on baptism. I was deeply conscious of my need of Christ, and the lesson convicted me of the necessity of baptism.
About this time, a campaign started in Wolverhampton, and my husband, father, and I went eagerly to the meetings. We discovered that the Voice of Prophecy and the campaign were conducted by the same wonderful band of people, all willing to help and explain the plan of salvation.
I have many times felt the hand of the Lord on my life, and know beyond doubt that He was showing us the way to a fuller and deeper life.
The three of us were baptized in April, 1965, and our outlook on life is completely changed. We are new beings, trusting in Him and knowing that "all things work together for good to those who love God."
EILEEN AND DENISS BEECHEY
One of the most amazing transformations of life we have witnessed in these campaigns was that of a man and wife whose testimony concludes this report. Every week of the series they traveled more than fifty miles to attend the meetings. If the husband had been asked three years ago about becoming a Christian and going to church he would most probably have laughed. At that time he had no interest in religion of any kind. But the Spirit of God began to work in his life and also in the heart of his wife. Through the ensuing months they had many experiences that were indications of the direct guidance of God.
"The God of Space and Time"—this was the advertisement which led us to the series of meetings held in the Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton.
The sincerity of the speaker and the wonderment of the message he unfolded completely captivated us, and we longed to know more. After each meeting we returned home filled with joy and happiness. Nothing had made us feel like this before.
But wait! What did Jesus say about counting the cost?
As qualified dancing teachers we ran a prominent and successful school and licensed club, which was the result of fifteen years' hard work. Had we to give all this up? Yet how could we earn our living from the very things Jesus wanted us to leave behind?
After weeks of earnest prayer and talking with Pastor Ball, we felt led by God to sell our business in order to walk in the way we had learned to be right.
November 6, 1965, was the happiest day of our lives, for on this day we were baptized. Words fail to express what this meant to us, especially as our daughter Rosemary was baptized with us.
What the future holds we do not know, but we do know what the present holds. This joy, this abundance of life which came just as Jesus promised, surely is beyond price. Whatever the cost we must not lose this wonderful gift.
F. AND G. REDGATE
We pay tribute to the many workers who have been associated with these campaigns and who have labored untiringly in the homes of the people, and also to the faithfulness of many church members who have given of their time and means to help forward the Lord's cause. But most of all we praise God, "whose arm is not shortened that it cannot save," for the one hundred men and women who have been added to the ever-growing ranks of His church.