A decision for prayer
A decision for Christ
A decision to keep the Sabbath
A decision to be baptized into the remnant church
The spirit of prophecy says that a decision must be called for at the right moment (Evangelism, p. 283). That book also says that we are to bring those under conviction to decision at the earliest period possible, or the conviction will wear away (p. 229). It is with this counsel in mind and the knowledge of the way the human mind works in decision making that I recommend the following tested techniques for more decisions.
You gain decisions by asking for them. The more often you ask, the more decisions you will get. If you master the technique of making calls, you will increase your usefulness in evangelism. The key to getting decisions for baptism is to lead people into progressive decisions. In my meetings people are asked to make four important decisions in a definite and planned order:
1) A decision for prayer
2) A decision for Christ
3) A decision to keep the Sabbath
4) A decision to be baptized into the remnant church
At no time should a person be asked to make a decision out of the order outlined, and at no time should a person suspect that he must make a decision ahead of the one he has made until he arrives at that point. Thus your meetings are divided into four distinct phases and you should never be drawn into any phase ahead of the one where you are at any particular time. Resist the temptation to answer questions on subjects you have not yet presented.
The call for prayer
This is made every night when an altar call is not made and is very important. The key to your success in gaining a large number of decisions is right here. These calls are easy to make, and they pray people right into the church.
You should build up to a strong climax in every sermon, ending on the main point. Here is an example of how you go into your prayer: "Dear heavenly Father, we thank Thee that soon Jesus will come to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. Now as every head is bowed and every eye is closed, how many would like to say, 'Pastor, pray for me that I'll be ready when Jesus comes?' May I see your hands? Hands are being raised all over the building. How many more would like to say, 'Pastor, include me in that prayer. I want to be ready when Jesus comes?1 Will you raise your hands quickly? It seems that every hand is raised. Lord, help us to be ready. Bring us back tomorrow night. In Jesus' name. Amen."
If you are in an area where people are suspicious of your intentions, it is good to preface your call for hand raising the first three nights with these words: "As every head is bowed and every eye is closed, I am going to ask you to raise your hands for prayer. This is not a call to come to the altar. This is not a call to join the church. This is simply a call to raise your hand for prayer. How many would like to say, 'Pastor pray for me that I'll be saved in God's kingdom'? May I see your hands?"
It is prayer that will change the lives of your listeners. Prayer makes it possible to work with the Holy Spirit. It is prayer that will make men willing to leave jobs, churches, friends, and old habits to follow Jesus all the way. Make these calls for prayer every night, and unless the people definitely resist, they will be converted and take their stand with the remnant.
The call to accept Christ
Many people do not believe they are saved unless they move forward in an altar call. Tactful methods require that you do not depart from the people's customs or ways of thinking unless they are theologically wrong. Ellen White says this was Jesus' method, and we cannot improve upon it. Therefore I almost always ask the people to accept Christ and to demonstrate their decision by meeting me at the altar for prayer.
For best results you should operate on the following psychological principles:
1. Tell the people in advance that you intend to make an altar call.
2. Explain why it is made.
3. Tell them what will happen to them when they come to the altar.
Here is an example: "Tonight, after the sermon, I am going to ask all of you who have never made a personal decision for Christ to decide for Him right where you are. Then I'm going to ask you to leave your seat and meet me at the altar for prayer. You ask, 'Pastor Wiggins, why should I come?' You should come because every person Jesus called in the New Testament He called publicly. He also said that we are to confess Him before men. So it is very important that you come. When you come, I'II lead you into a prayer of commitment, and you'll return to your seats. It will not be a call to join a church. It will be a call to give your life to Christ and be saved. I will be praying for you, and I know you will come."
On the night that you plan to make an altar call you should ask the people to stand for prayer at the end of the sermon. The call will proceed along these lines:
"Let us stand for prayer. Eternal Father, we thank Thee that all of us can receive salvation tonight through Jesus Christ. As every head is bowed and every eye is closed, how many of you know deep down that you are not saved and would like to be saved tonight, may I see your hands? Hands are being raised all over the place. How many more would like to be saved tonight, may I see your hands, quickly? Cod bless you. Now will all of you who raised your hands and mean it meet me here at the altar? Come quickly. Cod bless you."
At this point you should start to sing 'Just as I Am' or some other appeal song. When the people are at the altar, thank God for their decision and ask the people to repeat a prayer of commitment after you. "Dear Lord, I realize I'm a sinner. (Repeat). I need Jesus as my Savior. (Repeat). I am sorry for my sins, and I invite Jesus to come into my heart. (Repeat). I intend to live for Him for the rest of my life. (Repeat). Whatever He says to do, I am willing to do. (Repeat). Wherever He says to go, I am willing to go. (Repeat). Amen."
Present them to Jesus and give them a word of assurance based on 1 John 1:9. The people should return to their seats accepting their salvation as a fact.
On the nights that you know there are not many who are prospects for acceptance of Christ, you should make two calls in one. You may ask all who would like a closer walk with God and all who would like to accept Jesus as their personal Savior tonight for the first time to come forward. Another night you may ask all who have decided for Christ for the first time to come, and all who would like prayer for someone else's salvation to come. When they come, let them raise their hands to show which group they are in, and then lead them into prayer accordingly. Whenever possible, let those who are deciding for Christ for the first time fill in a decision card that contains that decision only. They may be visited and given assurance and told that the Christian life has just started for them and that they must keep attending the meetings so that they may grow up in Christ and discover God's will for their lives.
The call to unite with the Church
Before people are asked to unite with the church, they should be made to understand, in strong language, that God has a special message for these days in Revelation 14:6-12 and Revelation 18:4. They should grasp the truth that the church of Revelation 12:17 is the church that will preach this three-fold message and that the call to come out of Babylon into the remnant church has come to them at last. Only when people get that truth clearly should they be asked to unite with the church by baptism or vote of the church. It will surprise you to see the ease with which they decide when they understand this truth. And we are not complete Seventh-day Adventist preachers unless we emphasize this truth.
Use strong texts, and there will be no need for many. Get to the point quickly and show by your manner that you believe everyone accepts that truth. When the first baptism is over and not before, tell the people that all of God's people were not baptized, so you will have another baptism the next Sabbath.
Make an altar call every night during the week for people to be baptized on Sabbath. Vary your altar calls. Ask them to go to the vestry, or come to the front, or sit in the benches up front. Always tell the people, before the sermon, that you will make a call and what they must do. All who come forward must follow the same procedure of signing cards, etc., as was followed from Monday night onward during your Bible class week. Since most of your new candidates were in your class the week before, there is no need for a class this week. Give private instruction to all who may need it.
Keep Philippians 4:13, 19 before the people. Challenge all to gain the victory during the Bible class week. Help those with Sabbath work problems. Teach the people to pray. Do not talk doubt. You'll be surprised at the victories gained. Keep saying, 'You'll make it!' They will.
Find out what the common objections are and answer them in your sermons. Never give people the impression that Cod will accept an excuse. Every excuse is a sin. Honest people who love Jesus obey immediately no matter what the cost may be.
You will observe that there is no call to keep the Sabbath. Sabbath keeping has little significance outside the context of Revelation 14:6-12. Thus it is presented as a part of the three-fold message, and people are asked to decide for the message as a whole.
It is important, however, that you be sure that the Sabbath truth is understood and accepted before you present the subject of baptism into the remnant church. This is easily accomplished by asking two simple questions as part of a questionnaire or in your visitation:
1) Is the Sabbath truth clear to you?
2) Have you ever thought about keeping Jesus' Sabbath holy?
I recommend the questionnaire.
When the person says Yes, you reply immediately, "Good. Don't put it off. Let us pray." Thank God for the decision and ask Him to help the person to obey Him immediately. Experience has taught me the amazing effectiveness of this simple method.
If you feel you want them to come to church, read Isaiah 58:13, 14; then invite them to try God out this coming Sabbath. Do not give them the impression that it is perpetual. Ask them to try God out at least once. Conclude by asking: "Is that too hard for you?" If the person hesitates, add, "Of course not. You love the Lord and want to follow Him." Have a word of prayer to seal the decision. After the service on the Sabbath in question secure a decision for attendance next Sabbath.
Kembleton S. Wiggins was an evangelist in the Inter-American Division when he wrote this article.