Arnold Kurtz wrote this article from East Oakland Church, Oakland, California.

It is all too easy to make an unfavorable impression on those who are not members of the Seventh-day Adventist church by reaching out to them in an offputting way. However, by taking time to learn effective, attractive methods, we can draw them to our loving Saviour.

Focus on points of agreement

Dale Carnegie reminds us, "In talking with people, don't begin by discussing all the things on which you differ. Begin by emphasizing, and keep on emphasizing if possible, that you are both striving for the same end and your only difference is one of method and not of purpose." The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that Jesus disturbed the regular patterns of thought as little as possible. Jesus did not come as an iconoclast, charging into the temples and hammering down all their idols. He disturbed their established ways of thinking as little as possible, moving them forward little by little.

Never argue

A valuable text for those giving Bible studies to remember is 2 Timothy 2:24, 25. "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing." As Ellen White expressed it, "The truth should be presented with divine tact, gentleness, and tenderness.... Let our words be gentle as we seek to win souls" (Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 400). Do not allow yourself to be drawn into a debate. You will inevitably lose; at the very least you will lose good will and interest.

Yet another valuable skill is to make the Christian life and the service of Christ attractive. "Make his praise glorious" (Ps. 66:2). "Make His service appear attractive, as it really is" (Steps to Christ, p. 116). Ellen White says of the devil's tactics, "Satan ever seeks to make the religious life one of gloom. He desires it to appear toil some and difficult; and when the Christian presents in his own life this view of religion, he is ... seconding the falsehood of Satan" (Ibid.). We must show people that to be a Christian is the most wonderful thing in the world. Make the religion of Christ attractive. We are to make our religious services attractive. "Our meetings should be made intensely interesting. They should be pervaded with the very atmosphere of heaven. Let there be no long, dry speeches and formal prayers merely for the sake of occupying the time" (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 609). Preachers, make your sermons interesting. Teachers, make your Sabbath school lessons interesting. Parents, make worship interesting. Make religion attractive. We need to make it attractive to our children, our teenagers. We need to make the Sabbath interesting-Sabbath meals, Sabbath walks, Sabbath books, Sabbath stories. There are so many wonderful things about the Sabbath that we should look forward to it each week.

I love the following beautiful definition of the Saviour's religion: "The religion of Jesus is joy, peace, and happiness" (Ibid, p. 579). That kind of religion is appealing. Growing up I was introduced to a religion quite unlike that. I grew up with a religion of fear. When I heard the coming of Jesus spoken of, I would see in my mind's eye Armageddon and guns and disasters, rather than imagining a day of joy. I dreaded the coming of Jesus. Happily, I now understand the beauty and promise of that day, the beauty and promise of walking with Jesus now. Let us present our religion, the religion of a loving saviour, in a way that is attractive, and will draw the seeking to Him. Yes, "the religion of Jesus is joy, peace, and happiness."

This leads us to another rule: be positive. Let us always avoid the blighting influence of condemnation and criticism. We dare not break the hearts of those for whom Jesus died. We dare not, by focusing on flaws break the spirit of one longing to return to a loving heavenly father. We are reminded, "The Lord wants His people to follow other methods than that of condemning wrong, even though the condemnation is just" (Gospel Workers, p. 373). We are to use other methods methods that draw rather than drive away. Let us consider four specific groups whom we are not to condemn:

The fallen sinner

Have you ever worked with an alcoholic and felt like telling him, "I am disappointed in you and ready to give up"? Are you discouraged in your efforts to help some other sinner turn his or her life around? Ellen White, in Ministry of Healing, urges, "Never cast them aside, never drive them to discouragement or despair by saying, 'You have disappointed me, and I will not try to help you.' A few words spoken hastily under provocation, just what we think they deserve, may cut the cords of influence which should have bound their hearts to ours." Let us never speak with condemnation or criticism to the struggling sinner.

Anyone who preaches the Word of God

That includes preachers of other denominations. I used to be able to preach sermons about them as well as anyone. I don't preach that way any more. I have found a better way. I pray for other ministers. In one town where other ministers were particularly bitter when we began a series of tent meetings, we prayed for them at every meeting, asking that God would bless them as they stood up to preach. When one of our visitors went back to his home church, his preacher tried to discourage him from attending our meetings. He responded, "Why do you preach against those people down there at the tent? They are praying for you." I am glad he could say that.

Other churches or denominations

Soul winning is a love affair (it really is), and you know another technique would not have won your bride. What if you had said to your lady fair, "Your family is no good; join mine." Yet that is sometimes our method when trying to win a soul. "When some who lack the Spirit and power of God enters a new field, they commence denouncing other denominations, thinking that they can convince the people of the truth by presenting the inconsistencies of the popular churches. . . . Some seem to have drawn from the armory of heaven only its thunderbolts" (Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 536).

Christians of our own group

What if in winning my wife I had described my four brothers in this way: "The first one is a thief; the second one is a liar; the third is a crook; and the fourth is the worst of the four, so join my family"? You know that technique would not win. But sometimes members of our church do that. They condemn one another and still expect to win people to the church while they themselves are fussing and fighting. One of my parishioners complained that I was not doing enough to get her husband to join the church. But the truth was that she was undoing everything I tried to do because she complained to her husband about all the faults of the church members. We are not to criticize our own brothers and sisters in the church. With God's help, we must change our methods. If we stop condemning, others may join with us!

Let us look at our next important rule: be a witness. The key to Bible evangelism is to witness. There is no real witness for Christ, however, apart from personal testimony. We must testify as to what Christ means to us. A witness can only tell what he knows. Imagine a courtroom. There is a chair for the witness and a chair for the judge. We must remember that our place is in the chair of the witness. We are not the prosecuting attorney. We are not the jury. Our work is simply to witness. For example, if I am in the witness chair and someone asks me, "Why do you keep Saturday for Sunday?" I don't snap back with "I don't keep Saturday for Sunday." Understanding what they mean, I simply explain that I keep the seventh-day Sabbath, and I tell why, because I love Jesus and I want to follow Him. Then he asks, "What is going to happen to me if I don't keep the seventh-day Sabbath?" If I reply, "You will be lost," what have I just done? I got out of the witness' chair and into the judge's chair; it is the judge who decides, not the witness.

In one Adventist community, an older member said to me, You know, one of my neighbors came to me and said that the people in this community are tired of being told they are going to the hot place if they don't keep the seventh-day Sabbath and join the Adventist church." It is not our place to tell people where they are going. Our job is to tell, of course, what will happen if they refuse to walk in the light, but we don't know how much light they have. So we must stay out of the judge's chair. John 5:22 says, "The Father . . . hath committed all judgement unto the Son." Not 90 percent, but all. He is the One who judges.

As the last rule, I'd like to suggest that we remember the trinity of faith, hope, and love-expressed faith, inspired hope, and the law of love. We win people by expressing faith in them. My parents expressed faith in me from the time I can remember." Son, you are going to be a worker for God. You are going to be a minister." They often expressed that faith in me, and it was hard for me to disappoint them. We express faith in people who are coming along nicely in the truth. "I know an honest man like you will never be satisfied until he walks in all the light. Isn't that right?" "You love the Lord, don't you?" And you move them right along by expressing faith.

Every Bible study, sermon, hospital visit, neighbor interaction must inspire hope. We should "work in a way that will cause hope to spring up in the place of despair" (Gospel Workers, p. 37).

We are told, "The Lord is keeping alive the spark of hope in their hearts" (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 354). What is the devil doing? "He [Satan] desires to take every glimmer of hope and every ray of light from the soul" (Steps to Christ, p. 53). As a representative of Christ, I had better be careful of my words to those Christ would draw to Him. "You have disgraced your family; you have disgraced the church," I say, and I go home and smugly mark it down as a missionary visit. In whose book? If I want to be on the Lord's side and want to inspire hope, I'll say, "There is still hope. If you have failed, so have I. Look to Jesus; there is still hope." We must make it our constant goal to inspire hope.

And of course the last and greatest of this trinity of grace is the never failing law of love. Love is the key to open the heart. This concept must undergird all our efforts, all our endeavors to win souls to Christ.

Of all people, Adventists should be experts in human relations. We must learn approaches which will effectively draw men and women to our loving saviour. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go in our approach to non-Adventists.

Arnold Kurtz wrote this article from East Oakland Church, Oakland, California.