WOULD you like to have a sustained evangelistic thrust in your church? You can by conducting an evangelistic pastor's Bible class on a continual basis. With this plan in operation there is a place to invite interested people and prepare them for baptism.
Consistently conducted, the class plan produces baptisms. This is my observation and conviction after twelve years of experimentation and development of the plan. Obviously, the plan will work better in some places than in others, but it always produces significant results with a minimum of effort. Teaching is part of the pastor's ministry, and the pastor's Bible class is one useful tool Cod would have us strengthen and use effectively to finish His work.
There are various means of instructing candidates and preparing them for baptism, such as public meetings, Bible studies, correspondence courses, and so on. However, the pastor's Bible class plan will help the pastor fulfill his teaching ministry with minimal addition of work. There are many people who have been touched by some arm of our church's message of redemption. Why not gather all these into this class on Sabbath mornings and lead them fully to Christ and into an understanding of His mes sage for their lives?
What facilities are needed? The minimum is an area in the sanctuary large enough to seat the class. Usually there is room for one more class. It does not have to be in any certain place, but if possible locate it where it can be found easily by the visitor. Be sure your hostesses and deacons know the location so that they can guide people to your class. Of course the ideal location is a separate classroom, but don't make lack of such a room an excuse. It will work in any situation.
Class May Begin Anytime
When should the class begin? It can be almost anytime of the year. One doesn't need to wait for the beginning of a quarter or a month. But the target be ginning date should be set far enough ahead so that you can properly advertise and get your interests notified and gathered into the class.
Where can you get members for the class? First of all, you need a small, friendly, and positive Adventist Christian nucleus. This is vital, because some Sabbaths your non-Adventist attendance will prob ably be very low. It is at times like this that you especially need the warmth and participation of this nucleus to maintain the dynamics. It is best to handpick this group.
Non-Adventist members of Adventist families should be encouraged to join. Use the church interest file to determine those who have taken Bible courses, attended meetings, received our periodicals, and so on. Send a letter of invitation to these folks. Every youth or adult nonmember who attends Sabbath school, those who are mildly interested in our church, have attended our schools, and have the connections, are all potential members. Contact your adult Sabbath school teachers and get the names and addresses of every non church member who attends Sabbath school. Explain that you are not trying to rob their classes, but if they will help you get these nonmembers into your special class for a few months it usually will bring them more quickly to a full knowledge of the message and into church membership. After this deep study into the doctrines and beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, these folks may choose to return to their original classes or join other regular classes. Experience has proved repeatedly that people come into the church more readily from attending a special evangelistic class than by attending the regular Sabbath school class.
Advertising the Class
It is important to advertise the fact that such a class will be held. This can be done by placing a weekly announcement in the church bulletin listing the subject. Invite all nonmember visitors and those wishing to renew their relationship to Christ and fellowship with His church to meet with you. I choose to refer to the backslidden Adventists as those who are out of relationship with Christ and fellowship with His church. Send a letter of invitation, and if your budget permits print a handbill giving time, date, location, and description of the subjects to be covered. Unless you wish to date it and limit its use to certain weeks, it is better to make this handbill general so that it can be used throughout the class series. Also, announce the class in Sabbath school just be fore the classes separate. Announce it again in the church worship hour and include it in your church letters.
Another effective way to advertise is to submit an article to your local newspaper stating that you are beginning a series of class discussions on the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of the great subjects of the Bible. Non-Adventist churches get articles such as this into the newspapers. Why don't we?
Basic Concepts That Prompt Success
What are some of the successful basic concepts of the pastor's Bible class? A carefully chosen enthusiastic Adventist nucleus and a secretary are essential. The secretary can be the pastor's wife, a Bible instructor, or a layman especially chosen for her ability to meet people and make them feel wanted and important. The secretary naturally uses the regular Sabbath school record card, but instead of calling the roll we use this simple card to get the names of those attending:
Each person is handed a card and pencil and asked to fill it out as he enters. The cards are then picked up. From this set of cards the secretary marks the regular record card and makes out a 3-by-5-inch attendance file card for each new person. As he attends from week to week his attendance is re corded on this card.
These attendance cards are left with the teacher, who checks to see who was absent. The new visitor's registration cards are also handed to him. He can then visit the absent ones, leave them the new les sons to study during the week, and encourage them to return next week. This duplicate record for the teacher's visitation is vital.
We also have gift evangelism Bibles either in the seats or available. The lessons are referenced and paged to this edition so that the people not familiar with the books of the Bible can easily find the texts.
A Personal Welcome Is Necessary
Always welcome the members and speak to the ones you recognize as new people, asking their names and where they are from. Make them feel welcome and at ease. As the discussion takes place in the class and they respond, commend them by name. Remember, the sweetest word to any person usually is his own name.
What are the teaching concepts of this class? The most successful teaching concept has been called preview-review. It is carried forth in the following manner: Pass out Lesson 1 to every class member, making sure he has a pencil and a Bible. Ask the class to turn with you to the text and write in the answer. Research has shown that looking up the text, reading it, and writing it down makes a much more lasting im pression than merely reading or telling what it says. Make it easy. Help the class to know what words to fill in. Encourage all to participate. You may write in the words yourself as you go along.
Continue to do this with the important key questions, pausing to point out suggested ideas, additional texts, or that the members may ask further questions. Get people to think and talk. The new series "Profiles of Faith" has a teaching aid that offers suggestions about the key questions. If you do not finish the discovery section in class, encourage the members to complete it at home and bring it back with them the next week.
The next week after the introductions encourage the class to repeat the answers to the questions. This review gets participation and reinforces the truth. Tell those who were absent or didn't get their lesson finished to write in the answers as you go through them. By doing so you are reviewing and setting the stage for new material. By experimentation you can review the answers in only a few minutes. Then pass out Lesson 2. You should now have about 20 min utes to spark interest and look up the key texts in this new lesson. You may wish to add certain points as time permits, but because of the shortage of time it usually is necessary to cover only certain key ques tions that might not be clearly understood or might need amplification. Ask them to take the guide home and complete it.
People can and do join the class at any point in the series. When you complete the series, it can be re cycled. When the person who joined late gets back to the point where he started he should be quite well instructed, and if he has accepted the points presented he is almost ready for baptism.
Does the pastor's Bible class interfere with other forms of evangelism? No. It will help them, and they will help the class. As soon as a gift-Bible student studies the Sabbath, the visitor should begin en couraging him to come to the pastor's Bible class. Naturally he should go right on with the Bible lessons, but the class gives him fellowship and support and establishes a church-attendance pattern. Evangelistic meetings can help mature and ripen the members of the class and lead them to decision. It also develops new interests that can be followed up by the class.
The pastor's Bible class should be the local church's continuing evangelistic arm. It provides a place where interested people can be prepared for baptism. If the pastor has several churches to pastor or for some other reason can't conduct the class in the regular way, an associate, a Bible instructor, or a trained layman may conduct the class. If it is called a Profiles of Faith class, it is not mandatory that the pastor teach it.
The plan works. Take it and put your ingenuity to work to adapt and improve it for your own person ality and needs.
The New "Profiles of Faith" Materials
There are 27 lessons, and a review in the new "Profiles of Faith" Bible-study series. These lessons are divided into nine sections lettered A to I, and they are arranged so that all the heavy doctrinal topics do not come in one choking block. As you noticed in the September Ministry insert, each les son has eight pages of full-color illustrated subject material on a specific topic. These pages are punched for a notebook so that they can be kept in a binder. The Bible-study worksheet is called Discovery, and a written explanation of the subject is in each lesson. A reaction section for the student's ideas is on the back page. The lessons are numbered by a key so that you can arrange them to your own desired sequence. Every three or four lessons a gift book can be given to the student to fill in his knowledge and supple ment his study.
The concepts of a wide cross section of pastors and leaders have been pooled and adapted in an attempt to provide in these new "Profiles of Faith" les sons an efficient tool for the speedy finishing of the work.