TESTIMONY COUNTDOWN is sweeping across North America, and when the materials in preparation are ready, will reach around the world. January and early February afford the most favorable beginning times for this ten-week program. To begin later throws the closing date too late in the spring. Order your supplies early from your Book and Bible House. You will need:
1. Testimony Countdown guidebook— one to a family. (This contains a quiz that will serve one member of the family.)
2. Testimony Countdown quiz reviews —sufficient to supply other members of the family. (A good rule is to order an equal number of the guidebooks and the quiz reviews.)
3. Enrollment cards.
4. Attendance record cards.
5. Completion certificates.
6. Gift award books—Christ in His Sanctuary is recommended.
7. Pastor's kit. (Supplied through the Book and Bible House at no charge.)
Tapes, if desired, are available from the White Estate at S9 for the set of six. They present: 1. A complete sample program for the pastor's use. 2. The five- by eight-minute story as told at the pilot run in Takoma Park by Paul Gordon and Arthur White.
As the program is getting under way we are led to offer some observations and suggestions that may prove helpful:
1. This Is a Study Program.—A major secret for success of this program is that it leads our church members into an individual study in their own homes of the volumes of the Testimonies for the Church. They are now doing what for years they have felt they should do—reading the Testimonies, but following a plan that embodies a sense of visual accomplishment. One volume a week is studied, with two or three hours spent in thoughtful reading each week by the students. They are turning the pages in a quest for truth. It is a sampling reading program, but it yields a good over-all picture of what the Testimonies are and what they can do for the reader.
2. Don't Preach.—The Wednesday night Countdown programs must carry into them this same element of searching and finding—discovering what God would say to His people. It is not a time for preaching or efforts to drive the truths home in hortatory messages. It is a time to expand on the points studied by not only reviewing the work done but also by bringing in supplementary related materials or lines of information which make the counsels studied more meaningful. The pastors are seeking as are the members, and they pool their findings.
3. Answer the Questions That Are Being Asked.—Have a question box before the people and invite their questions. The question and answer materials furnished in the pastor's kit are only suggestive. There is no thought of imposing these upon each church. Get the questions your members have in their minds and answer the questions being asked. Don't try to answer them the night they come in, but deal with them the next week or later. Don't guess. Be accurate. Don't depend on hearsay—it is strangely misleading. Look up materials that will help in giving good answers. Have solid and accurate sources for what you present. The Index will be of great service. In questions involving history, the SDA Encyclopedia is an excellent source of information. If you do not have the answer, a letter to the White Estate is not out of place.
Some questions are better associated with the study of a particular Testimony volume. Bring them in then. Explain early that the limited time precludes an attempt to answer all questions, and reserve your time for those of most value, dealing with the others privately if desired. The pastor may wish to drop in a question or two on some points that seem appropriate. If the materials furnished in the kit are helpful, well and good, but go beyond them.
4. Watch the Clock.—An hour and fifteen minutes is a long time for a night meeting when people are tired from the day's work. To run over will be fatal. A well-organized fast-moving program holds the interest of all. Begin on the precise minute for the opening of the meeting. Furnish each participant with a card carrying the schedule you are working to. Let it be known that if one feature runs over, those that follow will be cut. Limit all announcements to a bare necessity.
If the lesson review period runs more than eight minutes, cut the time out of the question-and-answer period. If the people know that the meeting will close precisely on time, they are at ease. In the pilot program in Takoma Park we arrived at the following schedule, which we would strongly recommend:
7:30 Enter on theme song.
7:30 Welcome, prayer, and special song.
7:40 Lesson review, but with the story included at some point.
8:25 Questions and answers (regardless of beginning, close at eight-forty).
8:40 Lesson assignment and very brief preview.
8:45 People leaving church.
5. Has the Prayer Meeting Been Forgot- -The Countdown is a class program, with a minimum of song and only the opening prayer and benediction. The materials studied are the biddings of the Spirit of God and a prayerful devotional atmosphere pervades the entire service. But there is not time for a special prayer service as such. In many churches those members who wish to do so, and can, assemble at seven-ten in another room for a ten- or fifteen-minute season of prayer, asking God's special blessing on the study of the evening and bringing before the Lord other appropriate requests.
6. In Book Sales, Use the Soft-Sell Approach.—Books are made available to our members in the foyer of the church, the basement, or some other appropriate place as a service to those who wish to secure them. It is best not to stress book sales. The emphasis is on study, and this must not be blurred. Just let the people know where they can secure the Testimonies, the Index, and the SDA Encyclopedia at the special price, and have these available each evening. Buying interest increases as the program proceeds.
7. Talk It Over.—In churches where there are several participating in the pro gram—and it is well to have the same per son take the same feature straight through —spend a few minutes after each session talking over the features of the evening. It may be that some adjustments or changes will be helpful in sustaining interest and in making the class periods most instructive. This is a good time to take a look at the questions that have come in and lay plans for answering them. It is a time, too, to pray.
8. God Is in This.—Over and over again there will be clear evidences that God is in this. To this point we have repeatedly seen it. As we enter on the study of the messages given to succor, guide, and guard the church, lives are changed. This can well be an important factor in the revival and reformation for which we all long and pray.