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Correspondence School Soul Winning: What Is It?

 

What is a Bible correspondence course? Briefly, it is Bible study by mail. It may be offered in one or more languages and for various age groups. Since the beginning of the Bible schools, which are now being conducted in every overseas division, as well as in North America, millions of people have been enrolled.
 

History of the 20th Century Bible Schools

 

In the fall of 1941, the Greater New York Conference, the Manhattan Temple Church and the Brooklyn Washington Avenue Church started a weekly Sunday morning radio broadcast over the New York City 50,000-watt station WHN. Expenses were shared equally among the three organizations. Later, this broadcast expanded to a six-day-a-week, half-hour program under the united sponsorship of the Greater New York Conference, the New Jersey Conference, the Atlantic and Columbia Union Conferences, and the General Conference.
 

A Bible correspondence school was united with the original broadcast. It became our first local conference school of this type and has developed into a mighty spearhead of evangelism in that great city.
 

Lessons available at the time were used in the school. Within a short time the conference committee voted that Arthur E. Lickey prepare a new set of lessons. This came to be known as the 20th Century Bible Correspondence Course. Under heavy handicaps, the first of these lessons were printed in a small Brooklyn print shop.
 

The Interest Spreads

 

By this time the Atlantic Union took the plan to all the conferences of the union. The interest spread to the Columbia and Southern Unions, and since then over the nation and to other countries.
 

The Review and Herald Takes Over Publishing

 

When the printing of the thirty-lesson course was about half completed, the Review and Herald Publishing Association took over.

Eight small, attractive booklets, called the 20th Century Souvenir Library, were arranged to supplement the course. These provided strongly spiritual material to support the doctrinal lessons already given a good spiritual tone with illustrations.
 

20th Century Bible Course II—Baptismal Course

 

From the beginning, it was felt that there should be a finishing course or a baptismal class course. This course, “From Genesis to Revelation in Ten Lessons,” is the 20th Century Bible Course No.2. Ten new 20th Century Library booklets for this course are taken entirely from the Conflict Series by Ellen G. White and provide a wealth of spiritual gems from God’s own mine. This course and the following book were published in the spring of 1947.
 

“Fundamentals of the Everlasting Gospel”

 

This little book provides a summary of our entire message in attractive form. No final course is complete without this.
 

20th Century Introductory Course

 

Later, a course aimed primarily at heart conversion rather than at the teaching of specific doctrines was prepared. At the conclusion of this series of ten lessons, known as the 20th Century Introductory Course, a copy of Steps to Christ is awarded as an "Introductory Course Souvenir."
 

The perspective which time and experience can give should guide us as we branch out and move forward to more successful soul winning. Suggestions from the field will play an important part in plotting the future plans to reach millions with the message through the mail.
 

It can be said, with some degree of assurance, that the future of our correspondence schools rests with the dedicated, informed, and aggressive church members who faithfully follow up the interest aroused by the Bible lessons from the Voice of Prophecy and Faith for Today, our two leading promoters of Bible schools.
 

The Need for Qualified Lay Persons

 

Hundreds, yes, thousands of potential converts are lost to our cause each year because there are not enough qualified lay persons to assist the pastors in following up the interests created by the Bible correspondence school lessons. There are still greater days ahead for this type of service. We envision the time in the near future when thousands will be converted in a day. However, we find that even now the interests are so many that our busy ministers are unable to care for the growing work adequately. There is only one solution. It is the divine solution! We must train an army of competent lay persons to associate with our pastors and district leaders in an organized, concerted, unified program of follow-up to meet the great need of this hour.
 

The church must feel a definite responsibility in this matter. "The Lord holds the church responsible for the souls of those whom they might be the means of saving."—Christian Service, p. 13. Every student enrolled in our Bible correspondence schools "might be" saved if the right kind of help were given at the right time and in the right way. Many earnest, eager, hungry hearts appeal for help, for a visit from someone connected with our Bible school.


One student, who began paying tithe and keeping the Sabbath, kept pleading for a visit. She sent ten dollars, then twenty dollars, then one hundred dollars and next wrote asking for baptism. But still she was not visited. Fortunately, her interest did not wane; eventually she was visited by the Personal Ministries director of the conference who studied with her and invited her to a lay persons’ congress. She came and was baptized.
 

Nothing can take the place of a personal visit. It takes the simple, personal touch, which the lay person is particularly fitted to provide. "He [God] will use humble, devoted Christians.... Let such ones engage in service for Him by doing house-to-house work. Sitting by the fireside, they can—if humble, discreet, and godly—do more to meet the real needs of families than could an ordained minister."—Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 21.
 

Interest Coordinator

 

For some time it has been known that the greatest weakness in our follow-up program is the failure to provide a dedicated, well-trained person to coordinate the various interests that the local church locates each week.
 

Through the contacts made by the various departments of the church and those sent from the local conference office, many good interests are received. Through such media as Breath of Life, Faith for Today, Voice of Prophecy, It Is Written, and other church-sponsored broadcasts our best prospects for church membership come. Early contact with these persons will mean the difference between reaping a good harvest of souls and losing their interest.
 

Therefore, we have introduced in leaflet number 18 the interest coordinator and his or her very important role in the soul winning program of the church. Because of their detailed responsibilities, that person should have a secretary to help them as they seek to perform the following duties:

  • Set up and maintain the church-interest file. Each name is a sacred trust and must be visited at least once a week if decisions are to result. The interest coordinator should receive from each visitor a report on a provided form. All broadcast interests from the conference (through the conference president or Personal Ministries director), from the pastor, from any department of the church, or from church members should be given to him or her.
  • Assist the Personal Ministries Council in enlisting and recruiting qualified lay persons to follow up these interests and in organizing ‘Witnessing for Christ’ training classes for the lay persons who agree to follow up the interests in their assigned territories.
  • Give the cards bearing the name of each interested person, plus all the important information about them, to the church member he or she believes best fitted to follow up this specific interest. They should know that church member, have the member’s home address, home and office telephone numbers, their capabilities to maintain contact with an interested person and lead them to Christ, and the amount of time they can spend in visitation. They should try to match the age, life conditions, and cultural background of the visitor and the interest.
  • Arrange for copies of our periodicals, gift Bibles, tracts, Steps to Christ, Bible correspondence enrollment cards, and other literature to be available for the visitors to use, for frequently a gift will open the door for the visitor. They and the visitors should personally read the books they are offering to the people.
  • Become familiar with the correspondence or Bible course being offered to the people.
  • Tune in on the Voice of Prophecy, Faith for Today, It Is Written, and other church-sponsored broadcasts in order to become acquainted with the topics and thus be able to talk intelligently about them. The visitors should also be acquainted with these programs.
  • Consult the pastor regularly, receiving all the help he can give, all the cooperation that every officer of the church can give, and—last but not least—the support of every church member. It will require skilled hands to manage the varied problems that may arise.
  • At least once a month contact the heads of the departments within the church, literature evangelists, and others who are in contact with people."—Personal Ministries Leaflet No. 18, "The Interest Coordinator" pp. 10, 11.

Many Bible school students lose their interest for various reasons. Sometimes the message itself may come as a shock. "When the plain, cutting truth of the Bible is presented before them, it comes directly across long-cherished desires and confirmed habits. They are convicted, and then it is that they specially need your counsel, encouragement, and prayers. Many a precious soul balances for a time, and then takes his position on the side of error, because he does not have this personal effort at the right time." — Historical Sketches, p. 148. By offering to assist the student with the lessons, one is often able to help him through such crises in their experience.
 

There is also need for qualified lay persons to work with their pastor in following up interests, in addition to the Bible correspondence school students. The interest coordinator helps the pastor in organizing and conducting training classes for those who are to follow-up the interests created by the various church media, through the distribution of our magazines by our colporteurs, the many evangelistic efforts, and other types of Christian endeavor. All this seed sowing will produce a rich harvest. "All over the world men and women are looking wistfully to heaven. Prayers and tears and inquiries go up from souls longing for light, for grace, for the Holy Spirit. Many are on the verge of the kingdom, waiting only to be gathered in."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 109.
 

How Can We Meet the Need?

 

The need for qualified lay persons, who can unite with our ministers and church officers in the finishing of the work of God on this earth, can be met only by adequate training. No skilled mechanic or professional worker or technician can be produced without training. God has His plan for the training of the lay persons of the Advent Church. Here is the divine blueprint for every church:
 

"Every church should be a training school for Christian workers. Its members should be taught how to give Bible readings, how to conduct and teach Sabbath-school classes, how best to help the poor and to care for the sick, how to work for the unconverted. There should be schools of health, cooking schools, and classes in various lines of Christian help work. There should not only be teaching, but actual work under experienced instructors. Let the teachers lead the way in working among the people, and others, uniting with them, will learn from their example. One example is worth more than many precepts."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 149.
 

If this divine counsel were followed, we would soon have a trained army of lay persons in all our churches, who would be well qualified to work for the unconverted. They could then be sent out by their pastors to visit the people in their own communities, to follow up the interests created by our Bible correspondence schools or other agencies.
 

"So vast is the field, so comprehensive the design, that every sanctified heart will be pressed into service as an instrument of divine power."—Christian Service, p. 11.
 

We are now blessed with excellent textbooks for these training classes in our churches. We recommend the following:

  • Training Light Bearers by the Personal Ministries Department
  • Lift Him Up by the Personal Ministries Department
  • Leadership Series (six books) by the Personal Ministries Department
  • Witnessing for Christ Manual by the Personal Ministries Department
  • How to Win a Soul by Robert A. White
  • God’s Need by V. W. Schoen
  • Christian Service by Ellen G. White
  • Welfare Ministry by Ellen G. White
  • Evangelism by Ellen G. White
  • Bible Readings (Compilation)

Another valuable source of inspiration and appropriate instruction may be found in the following selected Personal Ministries Leaflets:

# 1. The Missionary Program of the Church
# 4. Every Member Participation in Soul Winning
# 6. Training for Witnessing
# 7. Visiting With Literature
# 9. Prison Ministry
# 10. Challenge of Unentered Areas
# 11. Bible Studies
# 12. Lay Preaching and Adventist Men
# 14. Ingathering Evangelism
# 16. An Appeal
 

Your teacher may be able to recommend to you other books as well. Our general lines of training for missionary work may apply to those taking part in our Bible correspondence school follow-up work. Those participating in this field of service must recognize, however, that they are engaged in a form of specialized service. This only emphasizes the importance and urgency of particular training.
 

Methods of Follow-up

 

The first step to emphasize in our plans for correspondence school follow-up work is the wholehearted cooperation of our lay persons with their pastor or district leader. Most of our Bible correspondence schools follow the plan of sending the names of interested students to the pastor or the district leader. These names should go to the interest coordinator, whose responsibility it is to select the best-qualified lay persons available to follow up all these interests. It is important, of course, that order prevail and well-planned efforts be made under the supervision of the pastor or the district leader. The lay persons chosen will want to counsel with the pastor about the individual students assigned to them before deciding upon the best approaches and procedures.
 

Friendly Visitation

 

The second step involves what might be termed friendly visitation. These visits to the interested students must be friendly visits. First, introduce yourself as a representative of the Bible school. It is well to have on hand a letter or card of introduction.
 

Remember that first impressions are lasting, so you will want to be neat and dressed in good taste. Be cheerful but always dignified. You represent a great God and a great movement. We repeat—the purpose of this first visit is to lay a foundation of friendship. Great tact and care are needed if the helps already provided are to prove successful.
 

In this important work ever lay person should consider themselves as an undershepherd called to work with simple, delicate touch of the Master. When the shepherd finds a lost sheep, he finds one that is confused, afraid, and distrustful. A sudden, rash move on the part of the shepherd may drive the poor creature away, bleating in fear and terror. In searching for "lost sheep" among men, the lay person too must be very careful and kind. Yes, so much depends upon the initial contact. Confidence and trust need to be established during those first few moments if the heart is to be led on to full surrender. The visitor can do this by showing an interest in the family. "Many can be reached only through acts of disinterested kindness."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 84.
 

Show a sincere interest in the children. Pray for any member of the family who may be sick or away from home. Pray for the family’s health and happiness. "Prayer changes things."
 

On these first visits do not feel that you must talk about doctrines. Talk about the love of God, your love for Christ, and your joy in His service. Tell them how you learned to love Him and of His blessings upon you since you went forward in your quest for truth. Tell them about the wonderful peace that has filled your heart since you made the decision to serve Him.
 

Too frequently there is a zealous effort to press forward the doctrinal phases of the message in a premature way. The more successful way is to "come close to them till their hearts are warmed by your unselfish interest and love. Sympathize with them, pray with them, watch for opportunities to do them good, and as you can,...open the Word of God to their darkened minds."—Welfare Ministry, p. 64.
 

Many church members can be trained for this type of service if they are given help and encouragement and definite assignment. "Hundreds of men and women now idle could do acceptable service."—Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 21. "Many would be willing to work if they were taught how to begin."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 149. Precept and example are essential factors in the training process. Church officers and teachers should team up with those who have learned the theory of service but who, perhaps through fear and timidity, are held back from participation.
 

Some of our church members may wish to spend some time during their vacation in this way. This visitation work brings rich spiritual dividends, and it may be a diversion from the usual pursuits or labor of life. Others could arrange to do this work on Sabbath afternoons. The Sabbath day is not a day for mere joy riding, yet this type of visitation could be done in rural areas unreached by our weekly contacts. In this type of missionary work we are radiating cheer and blessings while going forth on these errands for the Master.
 

Audio-visual Aids

 

The lay persons’ movement is blessed with marvelous tools to help in follow-up work with interested people. The following are helpful:

  1. The Bible
  2. Twentieth Century filmstrips and slides
  3. Other filmstrips by experienced ministers
  4. Sound motion pictures
  5. Tape-recorded messages with music and colored pictures
  6. View Master discs
  7. The message in health films
  8. The Bible in pictures, silent or with sound
  9. The Story Hour
  10. Encounter Lessons and filmstrips and slides

These vary in price, but the fact that there is such a vast price range makes them able to fit the purses of all lay persons. There is a device within the reach of nearly any trained church member who wishes to use audio-visual aids.
 

The lay person can also work through the Faith for Today television programs and Voice of Prophecy radio programs. Where possible, arrange for a visit to the student’s home at the time of the television program, or the Voice of Prophecy radio program. By visiting the home at that time and listening to or viewing the program with the student, you are helping them by your encouragement and example to become a habitual listener and viewer. Furthermore, by following the programs, one finds it easy to lead the discussion into many profitable channels. The lay person who does this is building for the future. If they show appreciation for the privilege of coming to the home and are friendly, a strong friendship may be built up, with lasting good results.
 

Visual education is here to stay. People learn much more through the "eye gate" than through the "ear gate." We must be alert to the opportunities provided us by the introduction of these mechanical aids for the giving of the message. They can be a definite help in our follow-up work with interested students or in reviving a waning interest.
 

The Wise Use of Literature

 

One of the best methods we have used through the years in our follow-up work is the wise use of literature. We have been blessed with a treasure house of wonderful truth-filled tracts, magazines, and books. However, in follow-up work the lay person must use discretion in selecting the right literature for the student. Their first visits should have helped them to see what literature would be suitable to the needs of the student or family.

  • Books. They should have a selection of books to be left with the student as the interest may indicate, such as Bible Readings, Steps to Christ, Prophecy Speaks (The Search for Certainty), and The Great Controversy.
  • The lending library. This plan has proved fruitful in some places where personal visitation was carefully carried out each week. A new book, with a reading lesson outline, is brought each week. Interest can be built up by these personal helpful visits.
  • Magazines. Subscriptions to our evangelistic magazines, such as These Times, Signs of the Times, and Message Magazine, can help to keep interest alive, and will also bring many students into the message.
  • Bible studies, Branch Sabbath Schools or the Sabbath School extension course. Years ago we were told, "Our work has been marked out for us by our heavenly Father. We are to take our Bibles and go forth to warn the world."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 150. In some cases we may be able to arrange for a Branch Sabbath School with the interested student. Indeed, in many cases a cordial invitation to attend your home Sabbath School and church may meet with a ready response. Many of these students have already made their Sabbath decision but have not had the courage to attend an Adventist church. In some cases your encouragement may be all that is needed. If the student is isolated, arrangements can also be made to send them the Sabbath School lessons. This is the plan outlined in the Sabbath School extension course.

Bringing to a Decision

 

This, in the fullest sense of the word, is the "nicest" work of all. If our work fails here, then all of our former effort is largely, if not wholly, lost. In every study, decisions should have been made so that as the student comes to the final one it will be a natural step forward. Here is where we need the most love, earnestness, and tact. We must have a true burden for the souls of these people. This is a personal responsibility. Earnest, private prayer that the Holy Spirit will lead the student to give themself to Jesus must be made beforehand, for the Holy Spirit alone can soften the heart and prepare for true conversion. We will need to point to the example of Jesus as the real incentive for making a decision. This is also true in regard to baptism. He was baptized by immersion. We will want to follow His divine example. He kept the true Sabbath. We will also want to follow Jesus all the way.
 

Prayer is a mighty force in helping to bring men and women to a decision, but love conquers all. If you really love people and long to see them in heaven, where they will enjoy eternal life with Jesus, concern will manifest itself in your attitude. Tell the people about your own experience, your own victory, your own joy and peace and happiness because of your decision. There are times when you may wish to bring along another church member to tell their personal experience in keeping the Sabbath or in paying tithe.
 

There are many appealing motives and incentives. These bases for decision are most important for our study and we should learn how to use them wisely. Here are a few of them:

  • The love of God. God has loved us so much that we want to please Him, don’t we?
  • The will of God is another mighty force. Think what it has done in the world. The whole Islamic movement is based upon that one thought—the sovereign will of God. Ask the students, "From the study of the Bible, you can see what God’s will for you is, can’t you?"
  • The blessings of God. Point out how much God has blessed them even when they may not have known Him fully, and how much more He will love and bless them when they make their decision to obey Him in every commandment and become His children.
  • The divine example of Jesus. This is a powerful, motivating appeal. Christians should always want to follow Jesus. Ask them, "What would Jesus do if He were here? What did He do when He was on earth? What would He want you to do today? Did He not say, ‘I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done’?"
  • Security. An appeal for the security of the family is a mighty argument. People want eternal security, as well as temporal security. Indeed, "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Look at what we will gain by becoming Christians. But look also at what we will lose if we are not saved.
  • Desire for salvation. The desire to be saved is very strong. The question "Where will you spend eternity?" is a sobering one. Answering such questions will help to bring men and women to decisions.
  • Fear of the judgment. It is not wrong to remind our friends of the impending judgments of God and of the awful day of judgment. "Who shall be able to stand?" We now have just a little time to prepare for the awful searching, testing time of the judgment hour. We must get ready now.
  • Danger in delay. Point out the danger in delay. "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." Relate the case of one who hesitated and delayed and was left unprepared. He delayed too long and, as Jesus said in His parable, "The door was shut."
  • Love of family. The love of a man or a woman for his or her family is a strong sentiment to appeal to. We may profitably ask such persons to unite the family in the service of God. What a wonderful thing it is to see an entire family serving God. Point out the beauties of a real Christian home. Remind them of the comment: "Families that pray together stay together."
  • The promises of God. Here is another powerful appeal to bring men and women to decisions. Read the precious promises of God. Tell how God has fulfilled the promises to you and your loved ones.

There are many other strong motivating forces that help to bring men to decisions. But these will give you something to think about as you study. Remember Paul’s method: "By the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears," "serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears...:and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house." Acts 20:31, 19, 20.
 

Establishing Students in the Message

 

This is the final step in our follow-up procedures. After helping to bring students to a decision for Christ and His last message, you still have an important work to do for them. Where advisable, spend that first Friday afternoon with the family, showing them how to prepare for the Sabbath. Plan to be with them to welcome the holy hours of the Sabbath with prayer and song. (If only one member of a family is interested it is often better to invite him to your home or the home of an Adventist friend, where a proper example of how to usher in the Sabbath can be given.) Start the new Sabbathkeepers in right from the beginning of that first wonderful Sabbath that they keep. That evening, when you leave, tell them that you will be back the next morning to take them to Sabbath School and the church service. A lay person can do this so graciously, and what a lasting impression is made by their simple but helpful acts of loving service! Thus you help these new believers to get acquainted with the proper way of preparing for, greeting, and keeping holy the Sabbath day. Introduce these newcomers to the pastor and other members. Encourage the church to be friendly. Yes, truly establish them in the church. This is a beautiful way to bind off your follow-up method of soul winning.
 

An additional help in establishing students in the message is to encourage continued studies. Advanced course can be recommended. Introduce the Conflict of the Ages Series to be read along with the study of the Bible. Encourage them to subscribe to the Review and Herald. If there are teen-agers or children in the family, tell them about Insight, Guide, Primary Treasure and Our Little Friend.
 

Besides being friendly yourself, be sure the students are made to feel at home in the prayer meeting, in the Dorcas Welfare Society, and other working units. Remember, "Everyone who is added to the ranks by conversion is to be assigned his post of duty."—Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 30. This is the final step in establishing converts in the message.
 

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