THE conference president was speaking to the ministers, challenging us to keep uppermost in our minds the main work of every minister, that of inviting men and women to come to Jesus Christ. During the course of his presentation he made this statement, "Ye have not, because ye ask not!" Although this challenge was given several years ago, its thrust still rings over and over in our minds, "Ye have not, because ye ask not!"
With the new emphasis on evangelism coming from the General Conference, I have planned more often to ask people to decide for Christ. It has been suggested that
I share some of the ideas used in the program for what help and encouragement they might be to others. While all the ideas are not new, yet the plan has been a real blessing to the church here in Madison.
The idea centers in the baptismal service held during the worship hour, with careful attention being given to the appeal factors of the baptismal service itself. The plan is not to have two or three large baptisms a year, but to schedule and announce a baptismal service every month or six weeks. Briefly, the program runs as follows:
Announcement Period Precedes the 11:00 Worship Hour. During this time the baptismal vow is taken and the candidates are voted into the church subject to baptism.
(The candidates retire to prepare for baptism, while the elders and the congregation proceed with worship.)
Organ Prelude; Call to Worship; Hymn of Praise, Invocation. By this time the candidates are ready and the minister enters to conduct the baptism, after which the congregation again proceeds with worship.
Scripture Reading; Presentation of Tithes and Offerings; Offertory Prayer; Choir Anthem. During the foregoing proceedings sufficient time has elapsed to allow the minister and newly baptized members to return to the sanctuary.
The Sermon is presented, followed by the Closing Song and Benediction.
Several important points should now be observed that result in the program.
- Because baptisms are frequent, they are not large and the whole service can be conducted within the hour of worship. This is very important, as many visitors are involved on the baptism Sabbath.
- At the close of each baptism the next baptismal date is announced and an appeal is made for decisions. This appeal is made by the minister from the baptistry, while the congregation has been invited to bow their heads in prayer.
- As the practice is followed of a baptism every four to six weeks the congregation becomes familiar with the fact that a special sermon will be given that appeals to visitors. The members will rally to invite their friends to this type of program when they know that the service will close on time and the sermon will be appropriate.
- Some may be wondering what happens if a baptism is announced and no one is ready for that particular service. This will not happen often, for when we ask, God gives responses. There has been as low a number as one in a baptism, but thus far this year only one baptismal date has been passed. In this case it was merely announced that the baptism planned for today has been postponed to such and such a date.
- Because the congregation seems to catch the spirit of asking, I have found it easy to organize special visiting programs for the deacons and elders. The only time the Sabbath service ran over was after the
deacons had carried on an ambitious program of inviting backsliders to attend' church church for the baptismal Sabbath services. There were about twenty-five backsliders and an equal number of visitors. The service was delayed while seats were found for all.
6. The baptismal date many times is announced on faith, with no real assurance of who will actually be in the baptism, but the fact that the date has been set keeps the minister and congregation about their most important work—asking people to decide for Christ.
Although these ideas are simple they do work. One decision leads to others. A woman approached me and said, "I have seen two baptisms and I wish to be in the next." A man sees another baptized and God speaks to his heart and he too is baptized. The fruits of soul winning multiply.
This plan is now being carried out in a one-church program, but I have worked it on a smaller scale in a district of churches, with baptismal dates being set and announced quarterly. The biggest problem to be overcome is the fear that if a date is announced, there may not be someone to baptize. We must remember, however, that God wants to see us succeed. In John 15:8 we are told, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." We will have a fruitage of souls if we are faithful and courageous in our part—that of asking for decisions. There is nothing stronger to use in asking than the baptismal service itself.