How much public evangelistic work have you done since you have been a minister?
As a student in college many years ago the Lord helped me to raise up a small church and also a company in the Collegedale area. Through the years as a pastor, departmental leader, and administrator I have always tried to hold evangelistic campaigns as frequently as possible.
How is it possible for you as the president of the General Conference to take time out for a series of public meetings?
Actually, Brother Spangler, I haven't "taken time out" for the current evangelistic meetings in Wilmington. By telephone and dictating machine I keep in close touch with my regular duties. But I so arrange my program that I have several hours each day for sermon preparation and personal visitation in the homes of interested persons. I believe it is good for me to make time for such a series. As an ordained minister I never want to lose my firsthand contact with souls who need Christ and with the workers and members in the field whose problems I need to understand firsthand.
Are you afraid of some claiming that you conducted this public meeting for publicity?
I do not believe anyone will feel this way. As an administrator I have been holding evangelistic efforts for many years. It is not something new or novel for me. I think the best answer to this question is a statement found in Testimonies, volume 3, page 217: "The eternal welfare of sinners regulated the conduct of Jesus." I have only one desire in life, and that is to be a soul winner myself and to lead this church into the grandest work ever assigned to man—that of pointing sinners to the Lamb of God.
Do you feel that times have changed and that public evangelism is a thing of the past?
In answer to the first part of your question, I certainly agree that times have changed! Probationary time is far shorter than it ever has been since the beginning of the Advent Movement. What we do we must do quickly. In answer to the second part of your question, I feel that as long as we can publicly proclaim the gospel, we must take advantage of every opportunity to do so. In some instances it may be more difficult to get a hearing than in the past, but this fact in no way should keep us from preaching publicly. It should only make us redouble our efforts to get our message before the world. I firmly believe the council given on page 17 of the book Evangelism, which states: "Evangelistic work, opening the Scriptures to others, warning men and women of what is coming upon the world, is to occupy more and still more of the time of God's servants."
How did you happen to pick Wilmington, Delaware, as the place to conduct a series of public meetings?
At the General Conference session Bill May, evangelism coordinator for the Chesapeake Conference, was the first one to invite me to his field to conduct an effort. I accepted the first invitation. I am happy to have a part in the strong evangelistic program of the Chesapeake Conference.
Don't you think you could have picked an easier spot than Wilmington?
It is not a matter of picking an easy or a hard spot. I will leave that matter entirely with God. He has souls everywhere and it is our job to preach the message regardless of the results. The gospel commission says, "Go" and I think it's a minister's business to obey this command, believing that the Lord is always with him, even unto the end.
Did you have any fears about failure in your campaign?
We are all human, and Satan does everything possible to bring fear to our hearts with thoughts of failure. But we must rise above these feelings. Remember the world ventures lives and money on projects that could fail. Surely the element of fear is involved, but this shouldn't deter us. It was my determination to come here and win souls. I leave the results with God. I have never known of the Lord letting a leader down who ventured something for Him.
What results did you have?
We do not have a spectacular report, but we are thankful for the 41 decisions for the message the Lord gave us. Thirteen persons who had been in touch with the message for some time were baptized Sabbath afternoon, and two more joined the church upon profession of faith. The others will be going forward in baptism as they are ready. We were happy to have several Regional friends in the baptismal service and more will follow their Lord soon.
Did you have an evangelistic team?
We had a fine team. Charles Griffin, pastor of the Wilmington district and his associate pastor, Michael Miller, and their church members worked untiringly to prepare the ground for the effort. They rendered outstanding service. Their work, under God, was the greatest determining factor in the outcome of the crusade. During the meetings R. E. Adams, associate secretary of the General Conference Temperance Department, joined us to lead the music and to present the Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking. Both of these features added a great deal to the success of the meetings. W. L. Cheatham, pastor of the Sharon Wilmington and the Chester, Pennsylvania, Regional churches and Mrs. Josephine Flowers joined effectively in the program and we appreciated their help. I must not forget the fine church members who worked so faithfully to care for many phases of the program. We all joined in the program of visitation.
You mean you actually went out and visited people?
I surely did! After all, the most important part of a public meeting is not the public meeting itself, but the visitation from home to home. Here is where we get acquainted with the people and share in their sorrows and joys, their problems and victories. In fact, the visitation part of the program is the most thrilling part of all to me.
I noticed your wife was with you and helped take care of the names of the interested ones. Was she a part of the team?
Yes, all our wives helped a great deal! They visited interested persons, held women's meetings, played the organ, sold books, served as greeters, and in many other ways really helped the program! Our wives are indispensable team members and we would be greatly crippled without their aid.
Does your wife enjoy this type of work?
She surely does. In all of my evangelistic labors she has always stood beside me, faithfully helping in every way possible to make the program a success and to encourage souls to take their stand for Christ. Nothing makes her happier than to be engaged in a public evangelistic campaign
Do you plan to do this every year?
If at all possible, it is my desire to conduct another short series of public meetings next year. I do not know what the future will be thereafter. As I stated before, I feel that to actively engage in a soul-winning program not only brings a blessing to those who accept the truth but it keeps the minister's spiritual wits sharpened. The very reason we have been called to the ministry is to help men and women find the Lord Jesus Christ and prepare for the days of decision just ahead. I am sure you have read the statement that says, "The conversion of sinners and their sanctification to the truth is the strongest proof a minister can have that God has called him to the ministry. The evidence of his apostleship is written upon the hearts of those converted, and is witnessed to by their renewed lives. Christ is formed within, the hope of glory. A minister is greatly strengthened by these seals of his ministry."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 328. If the minister can see souls won and edified through his work he surely can have confidence that God's seal is upon his call to the gospel ministry.
Do you plan to hold your next series of meetings in the United States?
That has not been settled yet. I have received a number of invitations. What I have really hoped for is to see as many of our General Conference leaders as possible fan out over the world and hold efforts in the countries they will be visiting on their regular business. We want to help other divisions in 1968 as we have tried to help North America. in 1967. I hope I can be in one of these efforts, too, if at all possible.
Are other men in the General Conference involved in public evangelism?
I am proud of our General Conference leaders. Approximately forty of our men from Washington have had a part in public efforts already this year, or will have before 1967 has slipped into history. Our Men, without exception, believe in evangelism and they are not only emphasizing soul winning in their regular duties but this number have also gotten right into the front line and public evangelism. Reports of these efforts will be given from time to time both in THE MINISTRY and the Review and Herald.
J. R. S.