THE intensity of the Bible prediction, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" indicates an involvement with public evangelism to the end of time—a program directed at the great cities of the nations, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Sydney, the teaming, throbbing centers of civilization.
Despite explicit instructions we sometimes find a hesitancy to implement methods and launch into the unknown. Peter faced that problem by the shores of Gennesaret when Jesus challenged, "'Push out now into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.'" Peter responded by saying, "'Master! We've worked all night and never caught a thing.'" However, a glimmer of faith came through when he said, "'But if you say so I'll let the nets down.'" Then notice the staggering results, "And when they had done this, they caught an enormous shoal of fish—so big that the nets began to tear" (Luke 5:4-6, Phillips).*
Today the pessimist says we have saturated the territory when in reality we have hardly scratched the surface. We must guard against the complacency that the majority of the cities' teaming millions know about Seventh-day Adventists and their teachings. When we examine commercial advertising it is very apparent that millions of dollars are expended to saturate the market with a trade name. It appears that people only become aware of a particular product after a mass-media advertising barrage. It seems apparent that it takes something out of the ordinary to attract them. In our great cities of today, particularly where there are populations of over one million, we need to utilize every legitimate method to reach the conscience of humanity and attract them to the gospel. Only extraordinary methods under the blessing of God can accomplish this.
Prior to 1966 Seventh-day Adventists in Sydney, a city of two and three-quarter million, employed all the orthodox methods of evangelism—central city missions, isolated suburban efforts, radio, Bible correspondence courses, and sporadic lay evangelistic projects. All these met with varying degrees of success, yet it was often felt that more could be accomplished. The dilemma, of course, was how?
With this background officers of the conference were impressed to take a new bold look at the future. Out of their research a new concept developed. Sydney's experiment was dependent upon established methods of evangelism. These did not have to be changed. The key to the new concept was coordination. This was the plan: It Is Written telecast; It Is Written personal lay evangelism; suburban public reaping programs; George E. Vandeman's appearance and decision meetings.
A full-time coordinator and office staff gave personal supervision to the project while total participation by all conference personnel and lay members reinforced the structure.
Looking quickly at the above some may well ask, 'Where is the new pattern?" The answer is to be found in the initial approach, which made provision for long-range planning, close liaison between all sections of the program, and mass-media advertising.
1. Long-range Planning
Months before the telecast was introduced every aspect of the plan was carefully analyzed. This included the financial budget, duration of the telecast, the number of reaping programs and their locations, advanced hall bookings, the staffing of these programs, and the time and place of the Vandeman decision meetings.
2. Close Liaison Between All Sections
After the plan was established at office level and became accepted policy, initial briefing meetings for all conference personnel were arranged. Selected church pastors were trained as instructors for ten regional lay training classes to cover forty-three of the forty-five churches in the conference. These men had the responsibility of organizing rallies for lay activities leaders, It Is Written secretaries, visitors, and survey callers. Fortnightly gatherings of the entire conference staff and similar meetings at church level maintained interest throughout the program.
3. Mass-Media Advertising
Mass-media advertising utilized at every stage major city newspapers, radio stations, TV, postal invitations, and handbills.
The basis for later development was the personal delivery by five hundred lay visitors of the forty-lesson Faith Bible Guides at two-week intervals; each visitor was committed to seventeen visits per student, the first six lessons having been mailed direct from the Bible school. A person-to-person contact has proved the most effective method of establishing rapport between the public and the church. During this time a Bible award was introduced for all those completing all test papers to lesson twenty-five. Such a plan made it possible for the lay visitor to introduce the pastor when the student personally received his award. In many instances Bible studies were arranged at this stage. This award plan has proved so successful that it has been adopted throughout Australia as one of the most effective methods of substantially increasing the return of test papers and introducing Bible studies.
4. Reaping Programs
Coordinated reaping programs were entirely new to this field. This envisaged thirteen evangelistic campaigns to begin simultaneously in strategic centers throughout the metropolitan area. It was necessary for the thirteen evangelists to decide upon a common subject, which in this instance was "Fantastic Finds in Ancient Lands—Remarkable Discoveries Throw New Light on the Bible Story." Having agreed on a topic, the workers found uniformity was possible in handbills, press copy, and radio and TV commercials. The meetings were announced for theaters, halls, and churches, and the smaller programs had the advantage of capitalizing on the high-quality advertising approach, which was standard throughout. City newspapers in connection with TV and radio advertising eclipsed the provincial approach of local suburban papers and limited individual advertising. Of course, it is quite evident that small efforts running independently could not advertise in the city dailies under any circumstances.
A capacity attendance supported all programs, and it was significant that in unpromising territory results were above the highest expectations. This demonstrates the tremendous potential of a coordinated approach where even local church pastors throughout a conference or state can capitalize on the quality approach of the major efforts. This synchronized method may be adapted for use in large or small cities and to any number of evangelistic programs. While uniformity was the keynote to success in the Sydney venture, we were able to allow a degree of individuality in the handbills for each area.
The reaping program coordinated approach as outlined is not dependent upon the support of a telecast. This method of evangelism, emphasizing quality and introducing time-saving factors at a lower over-all expenditure, can be utilized for any multiple evangelistic crusade.
In Sydney, three months after the beginning of the initial reaping campaigns the George E. Vandeman decision meetings were held in an auditorium seating five thousand people. For the third time we utilized the mass media approach in the following manner: seven thousand personal invitations posted from the It Is Written office, ten advertisements in newspapers, eighty-four radio spot ads, TV trailers following the telecast, personal invitations by five hundred visitors to fifty-five hundred enrolled in the Faith Bible Guides. As in the regional campaigns, capacity attendances supported the program.
In every instance the coordinated approach produces superior advertising at lower rates.
While emphasis has been placed on the monetary aspect of coordination and excellence in production that not only appeals but is well-nigh expected by the general public today, we should not overlook the need of spiritual preparation and the maintenance of vital enthusiasm. Coordination helps to produce these results because every man in the field is cognizant of the other man's aims, and prays not only for his own success but for the success of his associates.
Pastor C. D. Judd, president of the Greater Sydney Conference, stated: "I have always believed that evangelism is the vital life line of the church. Every church pastor should be an evangelist to the community. The coordinated plan operating in the Greater Sydney Conference has given our ministers a unique opportunity to conduct or associate in an evangelistic program. We even utilized the services of officers from the Australasian Division and Trans-Tasman Union Conference in this deeply moving experiment.
"When one of the ministers became ill it was my privilege to preach at one of our smaller churches. The story here was typical of the conference-wide approach. Men and women were eager to hear the truth. One man stated: 'I now believe; all I need is a little push to put me in the church.'
"It has been a thrilling year in evangelism, and while we all have much to learn, yet God has wonderfully blessed our united efforts. One of our youngest ministers reported thirty new Sabbathkeepers at one of our churches last week, and there is every indication it will be a record year for baptisms in Sydney."
Advantages of Coordinated Evangelism
T0 INFORM the greatest number of people by using the maximum available means of advertising, with the minimum cost involved, is the desire of every evangelist who conducts a public evangelistic program.
The advertising must be of a quality to arrest the attention of the cultured, the educated, and the churchgoer besides the masses of the population. To do this, whether on TV or radio, or by personal invitation or handbill, newspaper or public sign, is very costly. When one has a limited budget within which to work, careful planning must be given to consider which form or forms of advertising will be successful in informing the people of the meetings and bringing the maximum number along. Usually the evangelist has to settle for something less than desired because of his limited funds. A coordinated evangelistic approach to advertising remedies this situation.
Everything is "Cheaper by the dozen," according to the cliché. This is so when an approach is made to advertising agencies by one who represents ten or twelve evangelists, all planning to open their crusades on the same night, using the same title and employing the same style of advertising.
By comparison, an effort conducted by me in one suburb in a particular city, using a coordinated approach to advertising brought just twice as many people to my opening program as did advertising on my own behalf in a similar suburb in that same city just one year before. By coordinating my efforts with others, the same expenditure increased the avenues of advertising (I was not able to use TV and radio the first time), besides enabling me to improve tremendously the quality of my handbills and invitation cards.
People from adjoining districts who may not have learned by ordinary methods that my meetings were being held were pleased to attend the opening addresses.
I enthusiastically support coordinated evangelism.
ARTHUR J. BATH, Evangelist