This statement will disturb some people: The I Seventh-day Adventist Church will do more and • more evangelism, and evangelism will become more and more successful.
I can hear some say, "Elder Wiggins does not know what he is talking about. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get people out to crusades these days." I know all the pessimistic arguments and predictions, but my faith is in the spirit of prophecy. Listen to this: "Evangelistic work, opening the Scriptures to others, warning men and women of what is coming upon the world, is to occupy more and still more of the time of God's servants."1
Thus the church is going to do more evangelizing, not less. And it will become more and more successful. "Thousands in the eleventh hour will see and acknowledge the truth," says the Lord's messenger. Then she adds, "These conversions to truth will be made with a rapidity that will surprise the church, and God's name alone will be glorified." 2
The future of this church will be in the hands of men and women who believe in the final and relentless march of the truth to ultimate and glorious victory. This truth will triumph despite obstacles and seemingly insurmountable odds. We need leaders who believe this, preach this, and plan with this belief as the motivating power behind dynamic, optimistic programs of evangelism.
God has ordained that the remnant church will gather all His people to prepare them for the return of Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation makes it clear that the call out of Babylon will be the most successful call ever given by man, by God, and by His church. And this leads me on to another fact.
God wants this church to be successful. Did He not die on the cross for man's salvation? Did He not inspire the Holy Scriptures so that truth may be known and believed? Has He not promised and provided power the accomplishment of the task He has given to us? It is not God's fault that thousands are not yet won by us in one day in one place. Then whose fault is it?
"Much careful thought and fervent prayer are required to know how to approach men and women upon the great subject of truth." 3
Now that is a bombshell! That statement tells me that there are some things that we must do if our evangelism is to be successful.
A BIG MISTAKE
Because we know that soul winning depends on God's Spirit, we have made the big mistake of assuming that it depends only on God's Spirit. Listen to this: "When divine power is combined with human effort, the work will spread like fire in the stubble." 4 That's dynamite!
Now get this. Only when the truth is accompanied to the heart by the Spirit will it quicken the conscience or transform the life. 5 The soul winner needs the presence and power of the Holy Spirit more than he needs anything else. But we have known this all along. That's not the problem with our evangelism. What is our problem?
Our big problem is that we have ignored the truth of this next statement: "The agency of the Spirit of God does not remove from us necessity of exercising our faculties and talents." 6 In the church we have not paid enough attention to the human element in evangelism. This is tragic, for "what human power can do divine power is not summoned to do. God does not dispense with man's aid." 7
How dare we say that people will not come out to hear the gospel, when Billy Graham and others are attracting the biggest crowds in the history of evangelism? The fact is that these men are using human means that we are not using, much to our shame and failure. "When in our work for God right methods are energetically followed, a harvest of souls will be gathered." 8 Much of our failure lies in methods—the wrong methods for a particular place or group. Right methods can be created and will produce success.
AN OBVIOUS WEAKNESS
In the light of the above, a crippling weakness among us becomes obvious. Most of our soul winners are one method men. When they meet people to whom the method is suited, they succeed; when they meet people to whom the method is not suited, they fail. That's a truth cogently stated.
Ellen White warned us against this mistake. "We must work in different ways, and devise different methods, and let God work in us to the revealing of truth and Himself as the sin-pardoning Saviour. 9 Why have we not taken that statement seriously? I'll tell you why in a moment, but first let me emphasize the need I am pointing out.
"Let us not forget that different methods are to be employed to save different ones....
"The classes of people you meet will decide for you the way in which the work should be handled." 10
WHY HAVE WE BEEN SO SLOW TO DEVELOP METHODS?
Is it not surprising that, despite this counsel, many of us have only one method of soul winning? Why have we been so slow to develop numerous methods to meet varied conditions and classes of people? The answer is given to us by the Spirit of Prophecy:
"In order to lead souls to Jesus there must be ... a study of the human mind." 11
That is to say, the soul winner must understand the principles of psychology that apply to the teaching of truth, the persuasive presentation of truth, the opening of men's minds to truth, and how men make decisions about truth. Only as we understand the laws that govern human behavior can we create methods to suit any situation or class of people.
Here is where our problem has always been. First of all, we were suspicious of psychology. The suspicion has been so widespread and ingrained that we have not stopped to ask ourselves what kind of psychology is worthy of our attention and what kind deserves our suspicion.
There is much speculative and philosophical psychology that is of no use to us as soul winners. However, the social psychologists have carried out numerous empirical studies that have yielded practical results that are acceptable and workable. To accept these findings does not require that we belong to any school of thought in psychology or that we dabble in parapsychology. The social psychologists and anthropologists are engaged in research about man's behavior in society and groups—how men develop attitudes, change their attitudes, and act according to, or contrary to, those attitudes. And they have come up with principles and laws that every soul winner should know and apply. "He who seeks to transform humanity must himself understand humanity." 12
Second, perhaps those who have taught psychology in our colleges and schools have not challenged the ministry to apply the findings and insights of psychology to church work in general and evangelism in particular. The truth is that psychology presents invaluable help in vital areas such as these:
- How to attract a crowd to meetings anywhere in the world.
- How to keep crowds coming night after night.
- How to present truth in such a way that people will accept it easily.
- How to help people break bad habits quickly.
- How to secure decisions from the great majority of your listeners.
- How to get people to remember sermons longer.
- How to decrease the rate of backsliding.
- How to decrease dissatisfaction with the church.
- How to motivate church members to work for Jesus and the advance of His cause.
- How to analyze an audience to discover what will appeal to them.
- How to make advertising more effective.
- How to reach the hard-to-reach.
AN INEVITABLE CONCLUSION
In the light of all we have discussed so far, is it not obvious that we have a solemn obligation to study practical psychology seriously so that we may cease lamenting how difficult it is to win souls? "The Lord wants us to be sanctified. We shall have to contend with people of varied dispositions, and we should be in a position where we know how to deal with human minds." 13
My conviction is deep, and my optimism is high. Marvelous exploits for God in evangelism are just ahead of us. My own crusades have demonstrated the possibility of discovering and creating methods to suit any circumstance. These crusades have demonstrated that God will use right methods to do a work we cannot now imagine.
Let no one speak pessimistically of evangelism in this late hour. We have not yet seen big evangelism. When we see it, we shall all be surprised. But it will come to men who believe that God's work cannot and will not fail. It will come to men who prepare themselves for miracles in evangelism. It will come through men who understand that God awaits our cooperation in the most worthwhile task assigned to man.
1 Evangelism, page 17.
2 Selected Messages, Book 2, page 16.
3 Testimonies, Vol. 4, page 67.
4 Selected Messages, Book. 1, p. 118.
5 See Evangelism, p. 291.
6 Counsels to Teachers, p. 361.
7 The Desire of Ages, p. 535.
8 Evangelism, p. 330 (emphasis supplied)
9 Ibid., p. 291.
10 Ibid., p. 106.
11 Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 67.
12 Education, p. 78.
13 Ms. 41,1908 (emphasis supplied).
Kembleton S. Wiggins was an evangelist in the Inter-American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when he wrote this article.