Step-by-Step in Better Living Evangelism

Capitalizing on the health-emphasis explosion.

EVERYWHERE TODAY there is a real health-emphasis explosion. People are interested in health problems and in protection of our environment. They are concerned about diet, and there is a fast-growing interest in the prevention of disease.

Even vegetarianism has become a very live issue. In our evangelistic outreach in the past several months we have noted an even stronger public interest in our health programs.

Health is often thought of in just the physical realm, but it actually involves the whole man. With our long exposure to the principles of physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being, Seventh-day Adventists are in an extremely strategic position to take advantage of this current interest and to help people find restoration to the state of existence originally intended by the Creator. Because many in these last days are be coming gospel hardened, the health approach presents a challenging and fruitful evangelistic opportunity.

The Better Living evangelism approach envisages making an impact on, and bringing out to public meetings, a class of people who will not ordinarily attend the usual type of evangelistic services. Public evangelism as a whole in the United States today is, for the most part, reaching people who are already evangelically oriented. This means that a large segment of the population is not being exposed to Adventist preaching. These people must be given an opportunity to hear the third angel's message.

Public interest in such health-centered programs as the Wa-Rite Weight Control Program and the Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking is evidence that there can be approaches that do appeal to classes of people not now being reached. But this kind of evangelism necessitates much more careful field preparation and planning than does the usual three- or four-week public effort currently con ducted in the United States.

In fact, it is most successful when not only the community but the church has been carefully prepared well ahead of the actual blended ministry effort itself. Some have been able to obtain satisfactory results by going into a community "cold turkey" with the Century 21 Better Living evangelism program, but the greatest success is bound to occur where both the church and the field have been adequately prepared. Out of our experience with this approach to evangelism over the several past years, a step-by-step methodology has been developed that we wish to share with our readers in this issue. This consists of a five-step program as outlined below.

Step 1—Better Living Breakthrough

Better Living evangelism, actually, must begin with Seventh-day Adventist church members themselves. It has been an eye-opening experience that in every case where we have attempted Better Living evangelism we have found the general public more enthusiastic and responsive than our own members. After visiting with church members about this and after several lengthy analytical sessions with those participating in our programs, we have concluded that a large part of the reason for this observed phenomenon is that Adventist members are .somewhat gospel hardened when it comes to the health message.

We have also learned that many who know what they should be doing in order to enjoy better health are not willing to give up their pet habits and are resistant to participating in a health series because they are afraid they will be put under pressure to adopt practices they don't want to follow.

In order to meet these objections and to encourage our members to become medical missionaries it is essential to begin with a church medical missionary training program that is designed to meet the following three objectives:

1. The necessity for personal practice of health principles in the achievement of sanctification.

2. Training our members in a wide range of medical missionary work.

3. A realization of the urgency of using medical missionary work to help finish the gospel task.

We can't expect the public to rise above the experience of church members. Therefore it becomes imperative to begin with a program that will help the church realize the tremendous opportunity we now have for doing medical missionary work.

J. Wayne McFarland, Josephine Benton, and Leo Van Dolson have shared the privilege of not only preparing but conducting several pilot programs of a church training program we call Better Living Breakthrough. It not only fulfills the objectives spelled out above but out lines simple methods of meeting people on the level of their physical, mental, and social needs in order to lead them to Christ, who alone can supply all their real needs.

Materials and instructions for con ducting the Better Living Break through classes are now available and include the following topics:

1. Breath of Life

2. Water of Life

3. Start Moving!

4. Eat to Live

5. Sunlight and Sonship

6. A Little Poison Now and Then

7. The Body Temple

8. Heritage of Health

An Instructor's Manual not only gives the details of how to conduct the pro gram but provides a night-by-night script for doing so. (See Figure 1 for a picture of Better Living Breakthrough materials.)

At the conclusion of Better Living Breakthrough the church is organized into medical missionary working bands that provide opportunity for every church member to serve in a way that he can most comfortably and effectively work. These encourage continuing involvement and joint effort. It's much easier to sustain interest in missionary activity when the members are part of an enthusiastic team effort and have opportunity for creative input in deciding what methods and plans their band will follow.

Step 2—Community Outreach

The key to holding people's attention is finding out what they are most interested in and then presenting pro grams that fit within their range of interest. As basic as this seems, most evangelistic campaigns held by Adventists do not provide for time, effort, or money to be expended in this direction.

Our first task, then, in Community Outreach is to find out what those needs or interests are. One means of doing this is to run a community health interest survey. In surveys conducted in six different areas it has been found that this is a form of missionary activity that church members feel comfortable in doing. Because it is a community service, it is quite easy for them to make the initial contact with people in their homes.

The first step in formulating a community health interest survey is to decide what kinds of activities the church members are interested in offering to the community and feel they have expertise in delivering. It is also important to know what other agencies are doing, so as not to compete with them or unnecessarily duplicate services.

After the church has been organized into working bands, you will undoubtedly have groups that have decided to hold Five-Day Plans, Wa-Rite Weight Control programs, and vegetarian cooking schools. Materials and kits for these are available from the General Conference Temperance and Health departments (see Figure 2). Other offerings might include the Heartbeat program developed by John Scharffenberg and available through the School of Health at Loma Linda, stress control clinics, water seminars, physical fitness classes, 4DK alcoholism seminars, or whatever other community interest programs your church members may be able to provide. The health interest survey offers all of these, briefly explaining what they are all about. Some of the topics that are to be included in the follow-up public meetings might also be listed on the survey and thus tested for popular interest in your area.

Obviously, responses to this kind of community survey not only indicate areas of interest and preference on topics but provide a mailing list that can be used to invite people to those pro grams you know they're interested in. It is very important to learn which nights of the week and at what time people are most likely to attend a class or lecture series. Sample surveys are available through the Ministerial Association, or the General Conference Department of Health or Lay Activities.

Church members have found it easy to work with this survey. People respond to it favorably, since it is a community service; very few refuse to participate in filling it out when asked to. The community health interest survey can be used quite effectively in several ways. One is by setting up a table or booth with health displays in a shopping center. People going by are asked to stop for a moment and complete the questionnaire. Of course, its greatest usefulness is in home-to-home contact.

Several months before beginning a Better Living Institute, health-centered programs in which the community has expressed interest should be started. Obviously, the more of these that can be held the larger your potential audience for the follow-up meetings. Contacts with community health agencies can contribute much to the support of your program. Demonstrate your desire to cooperate with them and go out of your way to show an interest in what they are doing. If possible, local church members should volunteer as helpers in the programs of community health agencies in order to build good and lasting relationships.

The book Evangelism has the following to say about a quiet and efficient way of preparing the field for an effort: "The work is to commence quietly without noise or trumpeting. It is to commence by giving Bible readings and thus educating people. This plan will be far more efficient than starting in with sermons." —Page 445. Organizing medical missionary bands to introduce community health programs, followed by Bible studies, fits this blueprint.

Step 3—Bridge Building

Experience with the Better Living evangelism approach has taught us that there is a definite gap between health programs such as Five-Day Plans, weight-control programs, and other efforts to meet needs in the area of health, on the one hand, and Adventist evangelistic and doctrinal presentations on the other. Some have expressed a feeling that the basic health programs are effective as a public relations medium in developing an image of community concern, but that they have not produced enough converts to warrant continued emphasis. They feel that these programs need to be followed up with some kind of a "bridge" that will eventually lead many of those attending into the more conventional type of evangelistic program.

The value of such a "bridge" is that it becomes the means of establishing confidence in Adventists and their philosophy on the part of those who are interested in health problems but not necessarily in religious programs. This "bridge" should present the concept of a way of life that includes the physical, mental, social, and spiritual dimensions. But it should not be directly associated in the minds of those attending with a completely religious orientation. Such an approach must also continue to meet the interests and needs in the area of health of those attending. But it must be developed in such a way that the participants will catch a vision of a much broader and deeper significance in the realm of health than they prob ably had in mind initially. They need to be led in a perfectly natural and unforced way to include the concept of the spiritual dimension as part of the holistic approach to real health.

It is exciting to note that long ago the Lord anticipated our need for the development of such a program and gave us a key to building the kind of "bridge" that we now recognize we must use. The servant of God has outlined an approach to health evangelism that is built around the basic philosophy and principles that underlie man's health needs. Various terms are used to describe these underlying principles, but we choose here to use the expression "laws of life and health." Concerning these laws of life and health we read: "Health, strength, and happiness depend upon immutable laws. . . . The same law obtains in the spiritual as in the natural world. . . . The transgression of the physical law is transgression of God's law. . . . God's law is written by His own finger upon every nerve, every muscle, every faculty which has been entrusted to man. . . . The laws governing the physical nature are as truly divine in their origin and character as the law of the ten commandments. . . . Every 'Thou shalt not,' whether in physical or moral law, contains or implies a promise. If it is obeyed, blessings will attend our steps." ELLEN G. WHITE, Healthful Living, pp. 18-23.

Notice the following concerning the above quotations. These laws are described as "immutable." They are not, then, mere applications that depend on changing circumstances, but are basic principles that apply everywhere with equal force. They also apply across the board in the spiritual as well as the natural world. In order to be actually a law of this kind, then, it must be applicable to the physical, mental, social, and spiritual dimensions of life. They "imply a promise." That is, when followed in our lives, their sure results will be better health and relationships in all areas of life.

Not only does it become essential for us to understand the laws of health, but there is the accompanying responsibility of teaching them to others: "Educate people in the laws of life so that they may know how to preserve health. The efforts actually put forth at present are not meeting the mind of God." —Medical Ministry, p. 259. "To make plain natural law, and urge obedience of it, is the work that accompanies the third an gel's message to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord." —Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 161.

A program that we are developing here in the Ministerial Association and Health Department of the General Conference, designed to meet the specifications outlined above, is called The Golden Eight series. It will soon be available for field testing. The schedule that follows demonstrates how the title of each of the eight programs in the series incorporates the laws of life and health indicated in parentheses.

"Banquet of Consequences" (Cause and effect)

"Use It or Lose It" (Activity)

"Take It Easy—You'll Last Longer" (Rest and restoration)

"Balancing Act" (Balance and regularity)

"When It's Clean, It's Clean" (Order and cleanliness)

"Lifestakes" (Temperance and self-control)

"Give and Live" (Mutual dependence) "Wrapping Up the Health Package" (Positive living)

Several other programs are now being conducted in the field that hold promise of being the bridge between health pro grams and the study of doctrinal truths. These range from stress-management courses to built-in bridges that are incorporated directly into the conventional evangelistic series.

One of the most interesting of the stress-management courses is that used by Vernon Rees, chaplain at Loma Linda University Medical Center. It develops a bridge between a number of the health plans and Bible studies. Result? Baptisms!

Dr. Charles Ricks, a dentist in the Florida Conference, is using much of the material in the Better Living Break through series mentioned in this article under Step 1. Although it is intended exclusively for church members, he has discovered that there is no way they can keep our non-Adventist friends away who wish to attend.

The Better Living Center in Philadelphia is building bridges directly from some of its health features to the study of the Bible by making the Bible feature an optional choice for the participants. This is also the method promoted by Roger Morton, of Porter Memorial Hospital, in Denver.

In any or all of these efforts there must be a team concept, the doctor and minister working together. Obviously, either a physician or a minister can con duct these steps to Better Living evangelism. If there is not sufficient help available the manuals point out what portions may be curtailed.

Those programs specializing in incorporating into the evangelistic effort the bridges that will bring people to a decision must last over a period of several months or longer. Reuben Hubbard, at the School of Public Health of Loma Linda University, and Merrill Enright, evangelist in the Southeastern California Conference, are conducting such evangelistic thrusts.

Step 4—The Century 21 Better Living Evangelism Institute

For years ministers and doctors, spurred by such statements as the fol lowing, have been urging the General Conference to prepare a better-living approach to evangelism that can be used around the world: "Medical missionary work is in no case to be divorced from the gospel ministry. The Lord has specified that the two shall be as closely connected as the arm is with the body. Without this union neither part of the work is complete." Testimonies, vol. 6, pp. 240, 241. "As physicians unite with ministers in proclaiming the gospel in the great cities of the land, their combined labors will result in influencing many minds in favor of the truth for this time." —Medical Ministry, p. 248.

In response to this demand, the Century 21 Better Living Institute has been developed. It is designed to introduce the twenty-first century way of life (which we anticipate will be experienced in heaven itself) to people living in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Its format is more typical of adult education programs than of the usual evangelistic presentation, and it blends the health message with the doctrinal presentations.

In the Philippines where J. R. Spangler and Wilbur K. Nelson held the first major blended ministry campaign hundreds have been baptized through Better Living evangelism, and evangelists throughout the Far Eastern Division have been stimulated to adopt this approach.

After McFarland and Spangler had completed their successful pilot program in Portland, Oregon, a Bible instructor asked church leaders to hurry and begin another Century 21 Institute. When pressed to explain her reason for this request she indicated that three families she had been studying with from the first Better Living evangelism series held there were ready for baptism, and she wanted more such out standing interests with whom to study.

A minister in Mississippi enthusiastically reports that he has been given use of a splendid auditorium free of charge, plus free newspaper advertising, because he and a local doctor are using the Better Living approach for their evangelistic series.

Dr. Wayne McFarland received a letter from a doctor who has cooperated with a Century 21 Better Living Institute in Stoneham, Massachusetts, com mending the program as the best ever presented there. Many other such glowing reports have been received along with some very helpful suggestions for improving the program as it is revised.

The rationale behind this better-living approach is found in the fact that Seventh-day Adventists aren't commissioned to make healthy sinners out of people. We exist for one purpose alone, that of leading people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

The reason for spending several years in developing and testing the health evangelism approach outlined in this article is to draw people who would never otherwise come to Adventist meetings, not only to attend but to hear and accept the three angels' messages in all their fullness.

The Century 21 Better Living Institute has been prepared by the cooperative efforts of several General Conference departments. The basic plan for this series consists of a doctor's presentation and a minister's presentation, using a beautifully illustrated syllabus and overhead projection slides.

A notebook cover and first syllabus section are distributed the opening night and a registration fee is charged to cover the cost of the materials and to avoid the necessity of taking offerings. Each subsequent night as people arrive they receive the respective section of the printed syllabus materials.

There are twenty-one presentations in this series. The topics are arranged in the following sequence, but the lesson materials are not numbered. Those using this program can rearrange the lectures as circumstances indicate.

Materials, instruction manuals, visual aids, and details on advertising and presenting this health-evangelism series can be secured through your local Adventist Book Center (see Fig. 3).

Step 5—Follow-up

It is important that the interest created during this series be followed up with a gift Bible and Bible-marking series, for experience has demonstrated that many who attend this kind of evangelistic program do not have adequate enough background in the Bible or Christianity to be able to make a full decision, during the brief period of the Century 21 Institute presentations, to unite with the church in baptism. However, reports coming in to us from around the world field indicate that when there is careful follow-up of the large numbers of non-Adventists who have attended the Century 21 Institutes a large percentage are baptized.

Because the way of living presented takes time to adopt, we have discovered that it is best to run the series over a longer period of time eight weeks being the ideal. This means running three lectures a week for seven weeks, and then beginning a full-scale Biblemarking class during the eighth week. The Bible-mar king class can be tied in with a cooking school, using the Century 21 Cookbook, or with Loma Linda School of Health slide-tape programs.

However, the health part should, at this juncture, be kept short, as far as time is concerned, and a larger proportion of time given to Bible study.

We do have samples of a Bible-marking series of 30 lessons available in the General Conference Ministerial Association. It is divided into three sets of ten lessons each. The first is a Bible presentation of the topics covered in Steps to Christ and it can be introduced during the first week of the Better Living Institute. Doing so makes it possible to cover the first set of ten lessons in the eight-week series by studying one lesson per week during the Institute and using one lesson each night through the eighth week.

The first ten-lesson set leads to a faith experience. The subsequent two sets develop hope and love. The second coming of Christ and the prophecies (including the sanctuary, 2300 days, and judgment) are included in the Hope series, and the Love series covers the testing truths that demonstrate our love for Christ in practical terms. These lessons can be used either for group or for individual study and cover the basics of the three angels' messages.

Ministers, doctors, and lay evangelists who have a love for souls and who have been successful in bringing people into a relationship with Christ and into fellowship with the church can bring into their program a strength that adds to the quality and quantity of con versions through the Better Living evangelism approach. We need to re member, however, that simply by advertising health lectures we may fill the seats but not the baptistry. We are still dependent upon the preaching of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit to lead men and women to Christ. There is no totally sure-fire way to evangelistic success. But experience clearly demonstrates that if conducted properly the Better Living evangelism approach can add a new element to our traditional evangelistic program. In using it we are presenting a more complete message in the pattern of Jesus as we develop a balanced and well-integrated health component.


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December 1976

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