In our high-tech age the use of videos is a highly successful tool for evangelism. Thousands of families that are not sufficiently motivated to attend a live evangelistic series can view the same evangelist in their homes. Videos can whet someone's appetite for truth where previously there was none. This presents unprecedented openings for evangelism.
Like any form of sharing, video evangelism can be demanding. It isn't an easy street formula to replace hard work or Bible studies. In fact, in most cases, successful video evangelism is a bridge between first contact and Bible studies. If we depend on media methods alone, leaving out live Bible study, the results will be shallow.
Video evangelism promises a high return for the pastor's time. As a pastor I can study with only a limited number of people, but I can lend video tapes to many people, as I get lay members to assist me. For example, I placed one inexpensive advertisement in a small town newspaper offering the first Dimensions of Prophecy video. For my $40 outlay I had 13 requests. This developed into a few families watching the entire series and becoming top interests. There was also the important dimension of giving laypersons the joy of involvement, as they learned how to visit with people.
In this generation used to sensational entertainment, it takes something rather startling to attract attention. Some of our video presentations have that capacity. They are professionally prepared with gripping audiovisual effects. I have discovered that under the Holy Spirit's winning influence, casual curiosity often turns to a real desire to keep watching the entire series.
An entering wedge
In a secular, materialistic society, few people will accept Bible studies with out prior "softening up," especially if they don't know you. However, my experience has shown (in Australia and in New Zealand, both with notorious reputations for being post-Christian) that more than 50 percent of strangers will accept a message video after a casual contact. Recently when I moved to a new town as a stranger, my doctor, car salesman, lawyer, mechanic, and real estate agents all accepted my offer of watching a prophetic video, and in each case they continued viewing the series. Not only that, but their business associates and families borrowed the videos from them. In my experience, approximately 15 percent of those who accept the first video are eventually baptized. So imagine what could happen if a trained laity accepted this method using basic soul-winning techniques.
Let us suppose that trained church members lent out video tapes to 100 homes, and 200 viewers saw the first video. Of these 200, approximately 50 people may develop sufficient interest to view the entire series, so that at least 15 would eventually join with Christ and the church! Even if the laypersons were inexperienced and few or none of the original viewers were baptized, it would not be difficult to channel them into a Revelation Seminar, which surely would bring a significant number to the point of baptism.
The Kenneth Cox video series, Dimensions of Prophecy, is quite appealing. In one conservative New Zealand town we have a small church with only a few working members. Yet they sacrificed and purchased five sets of Cox's tapes and three video players (30 percent of the town didn't own one). The tapes were constantly lent out and helped contribute significantly to the baptism of several persons in just a few months, while others are still being visited.
With Cox's excellent Christ-centered coverage of testing truths, the videos have a special ability to consolidate people who are already receiving studies. After a study with a family on a given subject I often leave them the relevant tape to firm up their knowledge of that particular subject.
Steps in video evangelism
1. Selecting the video series. Get an original set. Copying is illegal, gives poor quality, and makes it difficult for the producers to finance an ongoing video ministry.
2. Organizing the viewing program. Don't expect that an announcement or a promotion during church service will bring members flocking to go out. A better approach is to follow the general announcement with personal contacts with a few keen people, and then take them with you individually. After a few visits with you, they will gain confidence to go on their own. Don't expect viewers to watch the entire series and make decisions. It doesn't work that way. Decisions have to be gained at strategic times during the viewing process. To begin with, develop friendships and cultivate confidence.
3. Following the tape sequence. Normally tapes must be used in their original sequence. However, exceptions can be made. I once met a man at a garage dump who looked ill and asked him how he was. He replied, "No good; I'm dying of lung cancer." I then thought it appropriate to lend him the tape on heaven, though it was number 4 in the series. After the video gave him hope, he then watched the entire series, beginning with the first. Each successive tape builds on the information provided by the earlier tape. A progressive soul-winning strategy has been built into this sequence, and deviating from it lessens its impact. For this reason it is best not to discuss a subject unless the person has watched the video covering it.
4. Making the contacts work. Videos can be offered to anybody friends, business and trade people even after a surprisingly short acquaintance. Simply say that you have enjoyed a tape on Bible prophecy and world affairs and ask if they would like to borrow it for a week. Do not inform them that you have an entire series, or they will be daunted by the thought of such a large commitment. Set a time for picking the video up and stick to that time. If you allow too much time to lapse, convictions of truth may fade before you call again, or they will become casual about viewing, not knowing when you are likely to arrive.
The second time around, ask them if they found the tape interesting. If their response is positive, offer them the next tape, briefly describing its title. If they haven't yet watched the first video, give them just one more opportunity. I have made the mistake of spending too much time trying to support a waning interest while others looking for light have been neglected. After a few visits, once they feel comfortable with you, it is a good idea to sit with them during the viewing, particularly during decision tapes, for you can encourage them while truth is fresh in their hearts.
During the first few visits, don't get into any deep discussion with them on the topic at hand, unless they lead you into it. Just let the Holy Spirit create interest through the video at this stage. However, it is important to get some response and feedback with every visit, without giving the impression that you are pushing. Draw people out increasingly in proportion to the number of videos they have seen. The idea is to get them talking about what they have seen. Their positive reactions deepen their conviction and prepare them for the vital decisions. Hearing them talk also gives you a chance to ascertain how they feel about what they have viewed and the degree of their interest.
5. Leading to decisions. A good video series will present salvation in Jesus early, before distinctive doctrinal issues are presented. People need to give their hearts to Jesus before testing truths such as the Sabbath and tithing are presented. It is when the gospel has been presented from a few different angles and the Saviour is lifted up that hearts are drawn to Him. Wait until people have at least expressed some sort of desire to accept Jesus on a few occasions before you call for a personal verbal decision. We are reluctant to ask for decisions because we feel awkward or think we will be regarded as being too pushy. Yet asking for decisions is essential in soul winning. "When persons who are under conviction are not brought to make a decision at the earliest period possible, there is danger that the conviction will gradually fade away."1
Decisions for Christ are made by a blend of emotion and intellect. Usually people won't respond to someone they don't know well enough to trust. Therefore it is important to build up a natural friendship with them as they view the tapes.
6. Presenting testing truths. If, for example, you present the Sabbath to someone who hasn't yet accepted Christ, they will see it as a burden to be rejected, or they will try to keep it legalistically. The Sabbath can have a beautiful relevance only to those who have accepted Christ as Saviour and also Lord. "If persons mention the subject [Sabbath], tell them that this is not your burden now. But when they surrender ... to God, they are then prepared."2
Cox covers the Sabbath over three programs and recommends that people not be asked to keep the Sabbath until all three programs have been viewed. Then rather than asking them directly to keep the Sabbath, it is more tactful to ask them if there would be any problem if they began keeping the Sabbath. Any difficulties expressed can then be dealt with. If they say that there is no problem, they show they are open to accepting the Sabbath, and should be encouraged to make that decision.
7. Extending church membership. With any video series the best time to invite them to join the church, if they haven't already declared this intention, is after they have already made decisions regarding the major testing truths such as the gospel, the Sabbath, healthful living, etc. Church membership will then be a natural extension of the path they have already chosen. With the Cox series, this invitation comes after they have watched the video Why a Church?
The strategy for soul winning presented here is not unique to video outreach. The principles apply to all soul winning. However, applied to the professionalism of modern videos, it is an irresistible combination.
Contact your local Adventist Book Center for more information about the Cox series and other video sets available.
1. Ellen G. White, Evangelism (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1946), p. 229.
2. Ibid., p. 228.