IN ONE of his sermons Pastor F. W. Detamore tells about a funeral service over in China in which the pallbearers were greatly excited and frightened to discover that the man they were about to bury was not dead at all but very much alive.
Several years ago some ministers loudly proclaimed the death of public evangelism. They told their fellow ministers and their people that circumstances now made it impossible to hold meetings and have results. The following will prove to these prophets of doom that evangelism is not dead but very much alive!
Plans were laid more than a year and a half ago to invite F. W. Detamore and his team, 0. H. Bentzinger and R. G. Collar, to hold four series of decision meetings in the Southeastern California Conference. As the vigorous coordinated soul-winning program initiated a little more than two years ago gained momentum, the need for a reaping program became evident. Florida Conference generously lent this energetic evangelistic team to the Southeastern California Conference.
The first campaign was held in a tent in Anaheim, which is located in Orange County. The attendance was good for August, and an excellent interest was evident from the first meeting. Many wondered whether the "good old evangelistic messages" would strike a responsive chord in the hearts of these sophisticated listeners. When Pastor Detamore made his first call for surrender and church membership 94 streamed down the aisles to register their decision for Christ.
In the first few weeks of baptisms 170 had united with the churches of Orange County. To this writing the total for this one campaign is more than 200.
The next three-week series was held in Swing Auditorium, which is the main building of the Orange Show Grounds. This is in San Bernardino, about five miles from Loma Linda. The question in many minds was, "Can a successful series of meetings be held so close to one of our universities?" After the first meeting there was no question in most minds that this series would be one of the most successful. The cooperation from Prof. Elmer Digneo, the principal of Loma Linda Union Academy, and his staff was unique. The Bible teachers allowed special credit to students who attended the meetings and made a written report on what they saw and heard. This spirit of cooperation was seen in the ministers of the area who worked so faithfully in visitation for the meetings. Thousands of people from San Bernardino County were blessed as they came night after night to hear the third angel's message loudly proclaimed.
When the last call had been made 230 had registered their decision to be baptized. The local pastors have faithfully followed up the interest aroused by the meetings. Many calls and Bible studies have been given since the meetings ended. To date 253 have been baptized from the San Bernardino area.
More Than 700 Baptisms in Three Series
The next campaign began October 13 in San Diego. This is a naval city, and some were fearful that this might militate against a successful series of meetings. It was necessary to change meeting places after the first eight nights and to move to a less desirable building where the acoustics were poor. In spite of all the obstacles, the Holy Spirit moved upon hearts as never before. In the first invitation 182 people moved down the aisles to the front to accept Christ and prepare for baptism. In the succeeding calls more registered their determination to walk with the Lord.
By the end of December more than 250 had been baptized in the San Diego area. More are receiving added help in preparing for baptism. This tremendous harvest brought the total of baptisms to some 700 for three three-week series of meetings. At the same time that this was happening, Harmon Brownlow, another Southeastern evangelist, was holding two-week decision meetings. In 11 months 298 had made their decision to unite with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Reaping Depends on Sowing
The total number of baptisms for the year in the Southeastern California Conference was 1,808. This number is not the result of one man or one team, but the result of all the ministers working together in a great sowing, cultivating, reaping program. Evangelism is not dead in Southern California, but it has changed greatly in the past few years. Thorough preparation is an absolute necessity. We will not reap unless we sow.
The final series of meetings for the Detamore team began on January 8 in the Riverside Memorial Auditorium. The attendance has been excellent. More than 2,000 crowded into the auditorium on the first Friday night. Many have already expressed their desire to unite with the church. An excellent harvest is indicated.
A Major Effort Every Year in Every Church
Plans are being laid for a continuous evangelistic program in which a major effort will be held in connection with every church each year. The pastor and congregation will do the sowing and cultivating by the use of Southeastern's Bible study program. The evangelists will help in the reaping program. We believe that the greatest days of soul winning are just before us.