THE It Is Written telecast's Revelation Seminar has generated tremendous enthusiasm in the major centers where it has been held. But the question remains, Is the Seminar approach to evangelism the answer to soul winning in every church?
The Revelation Seminar is based on a day-long initial study session complete with printed study materials, question-and-answer periods, and a vegetarian luncheon. The study plan for the Seminars is to take basic tenets of Christian belief and outline the plan of salvation. By utilizing a chain Bible-marking pro gram in addition to basic lecture periods, the Seminars detail God's concern for a true body of believers.
The Bible is held as authority, and the Seminar participants, more than half of whom are nonchurch members, are asked to confine the questions within the framework of the Bible. During the vegetarian luncheon, and during breaks through the day, Seminar participants make Christian friends and discuss aspects of the program. Following the luncheon, a discussion of healthful living proposes vegetarianism, not as a Biblical doctrine, but as an alternative way of life.
Early statistics indicate that a full 50 per cent of the nonchurch members at tending the Seminars actively seek church membership following the series. Still, according to those who have observed closely, one must not consider the Seminar approach as a panacea for every church.
"One must assess each situation care fully," says George Vandeman, speaker of the It Is Written telecast. In the areas where the Revelation Seminars have been held they have been unquestionably successful as far as effectiveness, efficiency, and cost are concerned. Still, if the preparation is not complete or the church is already deficient in areas of leadership the Seminars could prove to be a phenomenal waste of time, money, and effort.
The Revelation Seminars are in many ways a pastor's dream. Instead of leaving the program exhausted and ready for the millennium in which to rest, pastors gain enthusiasm and find the Seminar exactly the push needed to activate groups of laymen in soul winning and witnessing. Many pastors are turning to this method of evangelism for exactly the same reasons that have caused them to shy away from other forms of soul winning in the past.
Seminars need to be planned so as not to interrupt the well-organized church program. The one-day initial Seminar may take key laymen from a single church service, and the follow-up weekly Seminars require one night a week of the pastor's time. But regulations permitting attendance of only those church members who bring a nonmember to the Seminar alleviate the problems of a mass exodus from planned church activities.
How to Finance the Seminar
The heavy cost of financing evangelism has been one of the chief concerns of many who hesitate to hold a full-scale series. In our Seminars we have circumvented this by requiring the participants to pay a major share of the costs. Each person attending the Seminars is required to pay a $12.50 fee, with youth 20 and under paying a reduced fee of $10.00.
While this fee does not cover the entire cost of the notebook, materials, rental of the hall, the vegetarian meal, and the Seminar Bible, it reduces the cost to the church to less than $8.00 in most cases. Thus a Seminar for 300 persons would cost the church less than $2,500 and, with 150 nonmembers in attendance, could be expected to yield approximately 75 new members.
Because of the investment that each participant makes (the $12.50 fee covers the following weekly Seminars) the dropout rate in the follow-up Seminars is exceptionally low. Although some do not attend the weekly two-hour sessions, which are patterned after the original Seminar but are headed by the local pastor, others who have heard of the program via the neighborhood grapevine take their place.
The Seminar approach gives several advantages in message presentation. First the program allows subjects to be studied in detail. With participants at ease behind tables, with glasses of water at their elbow and notebooks in front of them, the atmosphere for serious study is set. In addition, the longer period of time allows for the meeting of questions and objections before they can be reinforced by prejudices.
This is not an isolated approach that can benefit only one specific church, but is a mingling of the best of a pastoral program, the interest generated by an international religious telecast, and the benefits of lay-member witnessing. Churches can combine efforts with churches from as far away as 150 miles, benefiting by forming delegations for the initial thrust and adding their own follow-up series.
Though facilities are important, they do not seem to be a limiting factor to the success of the Seminars. Most of the Seminars thus far have been held in hotels such as the De Soto Hilton in Savannah, but travel lodges, Masonic halls, and even the Queen Mary luxury liner have been used to advantage.
The prime factors in determining the success of each Seminar appear to be the quality and amount of advertising, the groundwork laid by the pastor and his laymen, and the depth and enthusiasm given to the follow-up Seminars.
Although many facts of the Revelation Seminar program are new to evangelism, much of the traditional program has been modified to fit the requirements of the Seminar setting.
Standard Bible topics are handled in the format of the Seminar. With a chain Bible-marking system each participant is led to his own conclusions by an unfolding of the Bible truth on the given subject. Enough texts are given to cover each subject fully, and each text is viewed in its proper context, as well as in the light of every other text in the chain-marking plan on that particular subject.
The Seminars are begun with prayer and include several opportunities to appeal to each Seminar participant to accept the truth that God has so graciously provided. Still, differences are noticeable. There is no music, there is no actual preaching or formal procedure. The question-and-answer periods are free and open, and the discussion following the vegetarian meal is refreshingly new and innovative. In addition, printed study materials outline each subject and provide the Seminar participants ample room for comments and note taking.
If you are searching for a total approach to soul winning, if you are willing to take the time to lay a firm foundation, and if you are prepared to follow through with a complete program of candidate education, then the seminar approach could well be just the program that you have been looking for.
Pastor Dale Chaffee, of Brunswick, Maine, says there has never been a program so successful. "It is the future of evangelism," says the pastor of the Corona, California, church. Without a doubt, the testimony to its effectiveness lies in the story of those who have experienced it.