New day in Australian evangelism

TV commercials filmed on location in the Middle East draw record-breaking crowds in Melbourne.

Phil Ward is a Seventh-day Adventist journalist living in Sydney, Australia.

 

Prime time advertising for an Adventist evangelistic campaign? It's being done in Australia—with dramatic results. The Victorian Conference has presented the Second Coming, the state of the dead, and the Sabbath as part of their prime-time TV advertising, and the result has been record-breaking crowds at John Carter's evangelistic meetings.

This new approach utilizes thirty- and sixty-second commercials, shown on Melbourne TV stations primarily be tween 6:00 and 9:00 P.M. There are thirty-two commercials in the series, each featuring Evangelist Carter with an on-location explanation of Bible truth.

The first five commercials were filmed in Egypt. In them Elder Carter asks the viewer: "Who was the bearded queen? Did she really have a beard? Why did Pharaoh disfigure her face? And why is her mummy the only one missing?" He then promises to answer these questions at his Biblical archeology meetings the next weekend.

The series continues with spots showing Elder Carter at Biblical cities such as Babylon and Jerusalem, explaining how the Bible's predictions about these cities were fulfilled to the letter. There are also archeologically-based commercials explaining how the Dead Sea scrolls show that the Bible in the viewer's home can be trusted.

After firmly establishing that belief in the Bible is logical, Elder Carter then begins explaining Bible doctrines. Using films of Pompeii, he draws parallels be tween the destruction of that famous Italian city and the end of the world at Christ's second coming. The commercials also deal with such topics as hell and religious persecution. There are several that explain Adventist health principles and point out that SDA men live an average of seven years longer because of their health beliefs.

One spot is filmed at a football Grand Final match in Melbourne. The Grand Final is always played on Saturday. Elder Carter asks viewers if they would like the Grand Final to be transferred to a Tuesday, which, of course, they wouldn't want. Then Elder Carter points out that God's big day, the Sabbath, was changed sixteen hundred years ago; perhaps they should be concerned about that, too.

What have been the results of this innovative approach to advertising? Attendance at the opening session of the evangelistic crusade run in conjunction with the TV advertising was 9,500—the highest attendance ever at an Adventist outreach program in Australia.

Probably the most amazing aspect of the new project has been the high degree of enthusiasm of the nonmembers attending the meetings. All twenty-three ministers on the evangelistic team agree it is the most responsive audience they have ever seen in public evangelism. Not only does the audience clap at the end of the meeting but enthusiasm has reached the point that people clap during high points in Elder Carter's sermon. And ministers visiting people in their homes are being treated as long-lost friends. The main reasons for this audience enthusiasm seems to be the television sup port program.

Preparing the TV spots for this series was a monumental task. Just filming, writing, and editing the TV commercials took two thousand man hours. The film unit was overseas for two months and shot two miles of 16 mm film. So pleased are they with the success of the program that the film unit is returning to the Middle East for further filming, this time with three of Australia's evangelists along to film commercials for their coming campaigns.

Producing the films was ah act of faith on the part of the conference since it did not have money to pay for TV time. The funding of the project had to come directly from Melbourne church members. Pastor Carter visited each of Melbourne's thirty churches and challenged the membership with the vision of an enlarged evangelistic outreach. The willing response was $100,000. The members obviously were behind this bold new venture in preaching the message.

In Australia, the public's attitude toward TV is changing. People are growing tired of TV and are attending the theater and other forms of entertainment. What has happened in Melbourne has shown that Adventist evangelistic campaigns are the type of program that people will now come out to attend. But the key to success seems to be the prime-time commercials.

The Australian team is convinced that a similar TV and evangelism approach could work in almost any major city in the world. In Melbourne, it is almost certain to bring a record influx into the church. Applied on a worldwide scale, it could bring another Pentecost.

Note:

This new TV approach was originated and directed by John Carter, produced and filmed by Warren Judd, of Advent Radio Television Productions, Sydney, and the scripts were written by Sydney Adventist journalist Phil Ward. Warren Judd has prepared a kit outlining the techniques used, which includes copies of all the scripts. This is available from Warren Judd, Producer, Advent Radio TV Productions, 150 Fox Valley Road, Wahroonga, N.S.W. 2076, Australia.

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Phil Ward is a Seventh-day Adventist journalist living in Sydney, Australia.

October 1979

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