ENGLISHMEN who hove never before heard of Seventh-day Adventists will join the church four weeks after attending their first evangelistic sermon. It happened this past summer in Plymouth, England, in a seminary evangelistic field school conducted from June 7 to July 8 by Pastor Don Doleman, evangelist of the Southern California Conference. One evangelist from Finland, eight ministers from Britain, nine students from Andrews Theological Seminary, and I participated in the campaign. Pastor Cuthell, pastor of the Plymouth church, coordinated finances, housing, and advertising.
Several major facts emerged from the campaign. 1. Conducting a Five-Day Plan prior to the campaign brings results three adults who were baptized had attended the stop-smoking clinic. 2. The direct gospel approach sustains a consistent attendance in England and leads to decisions. 3. Fellowship activities involving members with interests draw non-Adventists into joining a lively, warm Adventist community.
The No-Smoking Clinic
The stop-smoking clinic was held in the church building the five days prior to the start of the evangelistic series. Dr. Wilbur Nelson, of the Loma Linda University School of Health, who conducted the clinic, continued health lectures as part of the evening program after the evangelistic series began. Many of the regular audience for the evangelistic lectures had first attended the stop-smoking clinic. Pastor Doleman made it clear in his advertising and visitation that he was preaching on Christianity and the Bible. His first lecture was entitled "The Man Called Jesus," and two nights later he preached on "How Men Are Saved." The fact that the series of meetings was being conducted in the Plymouth Seventh-day Adventist church building also left no question but that Pastor Doleman had come to witness to the gospel. No doubt, that limited initial attendance, but those who came at the beginning of the series continued to attend regularly. Indeed, attendance by non-Adventists grew during the month of meetings. Eric Bunker, the head elder of the church, who has helped many evangelists hold meetings in Plymouth through the years, was convinced that Pastor Doleman's presentations were perhaps the finest yet. "I wish he could come right back here next year. I think people who heard him the first time would want to hear him again and bring their friends. Even more would be baptized than this year."
Why I Joined
Mr. Taylor, an executive with the telephone company who joined the church with his wife, a schoolteacher, said, "You know, I had never heard of Adventists before these meetings. I joined for three reasons. First, I was convinced by the clearness of the lectures. Second, I was moved by Pat's [a young professional woman who insisted on being baptized the day before entering the hospital for major treatment] having the courage to be baptized. And finally, the folks at the Adventist church are so friendly. I've never seen anything like it before. I especially could tell it in their eyes. You folks radiate joy and genuine interest."
Pastor Doleman noticed how eager those attending the meetings were for fellowship. "I've conducted many series of meetings, but never before have the non-Adventists stayed so long after the lectures to visit as these folk here in England have. They just don't seem to want to go home."
Sensing this hunger for companionship Pastor Doleman and the team made fellowship activities a feature of the meetings. On the second Saturday night the seminarians put on a Gate-type program called "What's Happening Now?" Twenty to twenty-five teenagers from the church, their friends, and children of interests attending the meetings gathered immediately following the evening lecture for a couple of hours of singing, interviews, testimonies, and readings. The teenagers requested that the program be continued, so each succeeding Saturday night there was a program.
One night during the announcement period non- Adveniist adults interrupted to ask from the audience that a similar fellowship program be planned for adults. As a result, on the last two Saturday nights immediately following the evening lecture two fellowship programs were carried on simultaneously upstairs for adults and downstairs for teenagers.
In addition, on the evening of July 4 Pastor Dole man invited the entire audience to remain after the lecture for a fourth of July celebration. The English seemed to take to the idea in good humor, closing the evening by singing with the Americans the song "Land of Hope and Glory." Members took advantage of the informal atmosphere to get acquainted with the interests even before they joined the church. Perhaps the warmest social event was the fellowship dinner on the final Sabbath morning, when the new converts ate with the whole church and the departing evangelistic team.
Reflecting later on the summer's activities, Pastor Doleman said he would of course have been delighted to see more join the church, but he rejoiced that so many fine people had made their decision. "With a little more preparation there is no question that succeeding intensive campaigns in England could win even more converts to the church." Pastor Doleman and those who worked with him this past summer are convinced that the future of Adventism is bright in the British Isles.