The number one reason that evangelistic meetings fail is because the church assumes that presenting information is enough to secure meaningful presentations. Far too often, we hear people saying, “Well, they’ve been told. It’s up to them whether or not they accept the truth!”
True, it is up to the individual to accept or reject the truth. But even a cursory study of the methods of Jesus will demonstrate that it is not enough to merely mention the truth out loud. Evangelism is about people. It means engaging them where they are and ministering to their needs.
It is easy to tell which evangelists are going to succeed. The ones who preach and make a beeline for their car generally fail. The ones who head to the door to greet people after the meeting—the ones who linger until the last guest leaves—those are the soul-winners.
When a minister has presented the gospel message from the pulpit, his work is only begun. There is personal work for him to do. He should visit the people in their homes, talking and praying with them in earnestness and humility. There are families who will never be reached by the truths of God’s Word unless the stewards of His grace enter their homes and point them to the higher way. (Gospel Workers, p. 187)
To my ministering brethren I would say, By personal labor reach the people where they are. Become acquainted with them. This work cannot be done by proxy. Money loaned or given cannot accomplish it. Sermons from the pulpit cannot do it. Teaching the Scriptures in families,—this is the work of an evangelist, and this work is to be united with preaching. If it is omitted, the preaching will be, to a great extent, a failure. (Gospel Workers, p. 188)
If half the time now spent in preaching, were given to house-to-house labor, favorable results would be seen. Much good would be accomplished, for the workers could come close to the people. The time spent in quietly visiting families, and when there speaking to God in prayer, singing His praise, and explaining His Word, will often do more good than a public effort. Many times minds are impressed with tenfold more force by personal appeals than by any other kind of labor. The family that is visited in this way is spoken to personally. The members are not in a promiscuous assembly where they can apply to their neighbors the truths which they hear. They themselves are spoken to, earnestly, and with a kindhearted solicitude. They are allowed to express their objections freely, and these objections can each be met with a “Thus saith the Lord.” If this work is done in humility, by those whose hearts are imbued with the love of God, the words are fulfilled, “The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple.” (Evangelism, p. 463)
As with the other components of your meeting, it is essential to plan a visitation program carefully and execute it faithfully. The Voice of Prophecy team generally assembles all of the pastors and volunteer visitors on the first Monday morning of a campaign. We systematically read through the names of every person who has attended the meetings—and we say each name out loud. It can be time-consuming (up to eight hours if you have a couple thousand guests), but it is one of the most important exercises you can engage in near the beginning of the campaign.
Read through all the names as a team, including guests who have labeled themselves Seventh-day Adventists at registration. (Some who identify as Adventists may have never been baptized; others may have lapsed but have shown up for the meetings. There may be others who have been taking the Discover lessons and already identify as Adventists, but have not actually joined the church.)
Your task is to assess each name carefully. As you read them aloud, ask if anyone knows the individual you have just mentioned. If they do, assign the name to their team. If no one knows the individual, ask which of your visitation teams would like to visit them.
Never assign names randomly or by zip code. You want to ensure that the person making the visit actually wants to, and doesn’t have so many names that keeping up with visitation becomes impossible. There is something about requesting a name that compels a person to be faithful about following up.
When the names have all been read and assigned, it is time to hit the streets. You have approximately one week to 10 days to make friends with everyone coming to your meeting. If you fail to make personal contact, you will find the decision process much more difficult later on—but you will find friends are willing to ask honest questions and raise genuine concerns. They are more likely to continue attending, while strangers will simply disappear the moment they hit a speed bump in their experience.
The Voice of Prophecy team typically meets every day that does not have an evening meeting—usually every Monday and Thursday. We review the names, assign any new ones, and report on how things are progressing. We pray over the names as well.
Additionally, we often plan a Sabbath afternoon meeting with all of the Bible workers/visitation volunteers prior to the seminar meeting. Not everyone who volunteers will be able to meet on a Monday or Thursday morning, so the Sabbath afternoon meeting (around 4-5 p.m.) allows you to review the visits of the past week, answer questions, and give instructions for the next week.