The All-Day Bible Seminar

TAKE about two hundred people on a Sabbath morning, place them in a cozy lecture theater, subject them to about ten hours of practically nonstop Bible study, charge them a dollar or two for the privilege of being in attendance, and you have what we like to call a Bible seminar. Interestingly enough, this novel approach is effective in gaining decisions for truth. . .

TAKE about two hundred people on a Sabbath morning, place them in a cozy lecture theater, subject them to about ten hours of practically nonstop Bible study, charge them a dollar or two for the privilege of being in attendance, and you have what we like to call a Bible seminar. Interestingly enough, this novel approach is effective in gaining decisions for truth.

The idea was conceived in answer to a problem that we faced in Australia some years ago. At the time I was running long campaigns (forty weeks), touching the Sabbath question about the tenth and succeeding weeks. Many times people who were convinced of the Sabbath at the meetings and in home Bible studies would within a week or two be swayed by a visit from family friends or their minister. (The clergy visit assiduously in that country.) Often some puerile argument centered on Colossians 2:14-16 or the covenants or the church fathers and sometimes some dis honest exposition "don't go out of your house on the Sabbath day," Exodus 16:29 was enough to cause people to stumble. Quite often a little time would elapse before the team discovered the problem, and by then it was too late.

It seemed then that if we could get together all our deeply interested folk at a strategic time in the campaign and under pin them with truth, they would have something to answer when faced with such situations. But would the people come out to a marathon session beginning Friday night from seven until nine o'clock and running on Sabbath from 10:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M.? I chatted with loyal supporter and then conference president, Wilfred Rudge, and we decided that we should give it a try. It worked wonderfully well and has also continued to do so in the lands of Northern Europe.

From Poland, Pastor P. Cieslar writes, "The idea of one-day Bible seminars was introduced to the Polish workers for the first time in 1968 by Pastor J. F. Coltheart. As a result of that, three Bible seminars were held in the following churches: Warszawa, Lodz, and Cieszyn. The all-day seminar has been proved to be one of the most powerful instruments in bringing people to Christ and rooting them in the Advent message. The warm Christian fellowship helps them to gain more confidence and faith in our truth."

Pastor G. Bryan, of Britain, writes, "I have found the seminar method of Sabbath presentation the best I have ever used in sixteen years of campaigning. Very sincerely I thank God for this new method and breakthrough."

Norwegian evangelist Rolf Kvinge says, "We are so grateful for the Bible seminar you have brought to us. It seems that all our men can use this approach even in little places where they do not have meetings. Especially do we find it valuable in our public campaigns for here we see large numbers beginning to keep Sabbath together."

From Finland, Pckka Pohjola writes, "The idea of the Bible seminar has proved a wonderful blessing in our land. Now we see people being fed with God's Word and taking their stand for the Advent message."

Let me answer some questions:

What Takes Place?

Through the day Bible topics with presentations ranging in length from ten minutes to half an hour are considered with the help of blackboard, charts, and much duplicated hand-out material, which is read in unison. No slides are used (although in my normal evangelistic pro gram I use thousands) for these people have been previously warned that they are coming together for hard study of Scripture, and I do not want to draw partly-interested people. Subjects cover almost any aspect of the Bible with no particular effort to study doctrines, although several are included. We want to make people thrill to the study of Scripture and to get the feeling that they are being fed better than heretofore.

Has the Plan Been Modified Since Its Inception?

Yes. Whereas the original seminars were introduced on the twelfth Sabbath of the two-meeting-a-week campaign (after several Sabbath subjects had been presented) and were largely devoted to the Sabbath question with suitable interspersions, the seminar is now introduced in the fifth week of meetings, a few days before the Sabbath presentation. The first seminar now does not even touch the Sabbath question. In Northern Europe it is practically unheard of for the clergy of the popular churches to visit their flocks, consequently, people are not so easily disrupted doctrinally at a difficult time. There is not the urgent need to underpin in a short time. Some papers that I used to present, for example, "The Church Fathers." can be left out altogether, as the matter has no relevance here. In some countries, of course, the conditions that originally inspired the seminar will obtain and then the format can be adapted.

Ingredients for Success

A friendly, informal approach is absolutely essential, and no stiffness is allowed to come into the program. No effort is made to preach, but rather the conversational approach is used throughout. The choice of hall is a first consideration, and we prefer a modern lecture theater contained within a building and thus having no distracting windows. An indefinable sixth sense that only evangelists will under stand, will cause us to choose one venue but reject another. Meals are supplied in a cafeteria in the same building, the cater ing usually being done by sisters of the church. We do not want people to go home for meals but to stay with us for the whole day. During the meal breaks members of the team move around from table to table for informal chats.

How Many People?

Because we want a friendly, informal approach with no tendency to preach, we usually try to limit the seminar to about 180 people, although recently in Finland for weeks we had one of 500 people.

Enrollments

The seminar is first mentioned a week and a half beforehand and people are warned that only a limited number will be planned for because of the small accommodation available. Of course, as I have already said, we have purposely made sure that the accommodation is small in order to give us the required atmosphere. People are told that they must enroll in order to attend and that the program will run Fri day night and all day Sabbath and consist of hard Bible study. They are also told it will be no use coming for part of the seminar and that there will be an enrollment fee. We are not particularly interested in the money, but we find it is psychologically helpful for the people. Forms are passed out at the midweek meeting in order to give those folk the first preference. Then on Sunday night forms are again passed out, and the people are told that there is no guarantee of their being accepted but that if we can accept them, a confirmatory letter with their name badge will be sent to them. (Actually many of these are delivered by the team.) Sometimes we are unable to accept people, but those folk are almost certain to be there the following Sabbath to take the places of the few who drop out.

The Next Week

At the end of a very busy but happy day, we say to the people, "Did you enjoy your selves?" There is an immediate chorus of response, so we then say something like this, "Well, I have some good news for you. We are going to have another seminar next week, and this will also prove a blessing to the folk who could not be with us today. Now, we cannot have a full-day seminar because I do not have the time, and you do not have the time, but we are going to meet next Saturday morning from ten o'clock until twelve o'clock." Nearly all the people from the first seminar get back to this one and, of course, follow on week after week at the same time each Sabbath morning. No enrollment is carried out for these ensuing seminars.

After a few weeks together, the folk are moved over to the church or if the seminars have been originally held in the church, then the program gradually moves toward the regular Sabbath-morning features. In any case, after the first seminar the two-hour program is made to approximate the Sabbath school and worship service. A half-hour Bible-course lesson is studied and after some weeks, this moves to the Sabbath school lesson quarterly. A ten-minute mission story brings a picture of Adventist work in some other part of the world field.

A period is spent on Bible marking and, of course, the closing half hour is always devoted to a spiritual topic that will approximate the Sabbath sermon.

Why Sabbath Morning?

We often have workers say, "Why don't we have the seminar on Sabbath afternoon as so many more could attend?" We feel that we may as well face our people with just one hurdle, for if we had our meeting on Sabbath afternoon, we would still need to eventually change to Sabbath morning. Moreover, the audience has already come out in the morning for the all-day seminar, so why not continue to have them come in the mornings?

Advantages of the Seminar

Here we have a captive audience that is not brought together as a result of any advertising and consequently the evangelist can present any material without the need of trying to satisfy some previous advertisement or of holding the interest of the people. The folk become fiercely loyal to the seminar and the attendance holds very steady. Here then are our interested people, and while a few folk are added to it each week as people make Sabbath decisions and get Sabbath privileges, essentially the baptismal group will be found among those who came out to the first seminar. During the seminar meetings we go over and over every point of truth; in fact, during an evangelistic campaign with its home Bible studies, Bible course lessons, seminar, et cetera, we aim to cover every truth six times.

I find too that the seminar is very valuable in making sure people have faced the personal experience of conversion before we try to indoctrinate. Again it can be pointed out that the close fellowship with others who are also taking a stand for the truth is very helpful. Especially is this so in difficult lands of Northern Europe where we have state church monopolies, where people are entered in the civil register as belonging to the state church and where when a person takes his stand we have to actually get him deregistered.

It could be pointed out that another ad vantage of the seminar method is that it is so adaptable and can be operated by a pas tor in a town or country district where perhaps he has a dozen or so interests or Bible-course names. These people can be specially invited to partake in a seminar and this will bring people to a decision stage.

I have tried to be explicit regarding this method, but I am sine there must be many questions I have not answered. All that I can say is that the man who goes ahead and runs a seminar will never want to do with out one again, and any questions he may have as to how it operates will surely be answered in the practical way as he sets about to do it. We have many men now in different countries of Northern Europe and also in Australia who have tried this and are convinced that it is a most valuable adjunct to the evangelistic program. May- God bless you as you enjoy the thrill.


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February 1970

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