By Norman Midgette
From personal experience I have learned that one of the better ways of reaching the lost with the gospel is through the use of Bible Correspondence Courses. If you will use a good course, advertise adequately, and correspond promptly with those who take the course, good results will come.
Here is one example of the kind of results you might expect. In March 1965, while I was working with the church in Jordan, Ontario, we began an extensive program of work with Bible Correspondence Courses. In addition to the work locally, we advertized the courses in weekly newspapers in other areas of Ontario. From the first series of ads, we received 68 requests. We used a short eight lesson course first and those who completed this course and requested another, received a longer course. Here are some interesting statistics from those 68 requests.
Within a week we mailed lesson one to each person. Of these sixty-eight receiving lesson one, twenty-three never returned it. That was about one out of three. There are always those who will send for anything free, but that is the last you will hear from them. Six returned lesson one only. We found that most of those who will send in the answers to the first two lessons will complete the course. Thirty-two finished the course. That is about one half the number sending in the initial request. Of these, eleven were converted to Christ.
In summary we found that two out of three began studying the course, and one out of two finished all eight lessons. Of those who completed the study, one out of three was baptized. One final figure: of the sixty-eight initial requests for the course, one out of seven was baptized.
Statistics will vary with different parts of the country and with the diligence shown in following up the students who finish the course. And it cannot be emphasized too strongly that follow-up is necessary. In all the years I have worked with people through Bible Correspondence Courses I have only had one lady write and want to be baptized as a result of her study through the course alone. All of the others have resulted from personal studies following our contact through the course.
There are two major advantages of trying to teach through Bible Correspondence Courses. One relates to the nature of many people. They feel uncomfortable if not clearly "scared to death" at the thought of a face to face study with a preacher. They feel they likely will be pressured to "join his church" and they do not want to be backed into a corner or put on the spot. Yet, I believe today there are more people willing to read and study the Bible than at any time since World War II. Maybe it is because of the popularity given to the Premillennial Theories of an imminent "Rapture" and the return of Christ in the last quarter of the twentieth century. This is Armstrongism and the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses. Lindsay, in his book, The Late Great Planet Earth, has popularized this expectation among the young people.
Another reason for interest in Bible study may be the chaotic condition that seems to exist in the country and world. But whether people are more interested in studying the Bible from fear and desperation or from some other reason, we should be glad they are willing to study. We should take advantage of the renewed interest. If the interest is there, many will be less likely to object to a home Bible course study which they can do on their own than would object to the preacher coming by.
A second major advantage for the church is that the program can be set up to include little of the preacher's time with almost all of the work being done by members who can do little or nothing publicly. Many members ask, "What Can I Do?" Here it is! They can do all the mailing, grading, record keeping and some of the form correspondence. Personal responses to specific questions may need to be done by the elders or preacher. Any church or individual who teaches by Bible Correspondence Courses opens a door that might not be open to personal contact and includes actively in the work persons who otherwise might be doing very little if anything on their own.
Furthermore, by the time an individual has been in touch with you throughout a course of study like this, he feels he knows you better and generally has no objection to a visit and further discussion on the Bible.
Letting People Know
After you have selected a good course of study to use, and I will tell you about a new one in a moment, the next job is getting it into the hands of people for study. Here are seven ways you can do this.
1. The Newspaper-For the cost involved, you will receive more response for your money in a weekly newspaper rather than from a daily. Most everyone in the family will read through a weekly newspaper completely while a daily is often scanned for the highlights, knowing another is coming tomorrow.
2. Radio-If you have a radio program, advertise the course giving a description of some interesting chart or section in lesson one. Make it a major part of the announcements occasionally.
3. Canvas-Few churches seem to canvas for anything today and without discussing in detail the virtues or weaknesses of it, there is a place for it in Bible Correspondence Course work. One of the best ways is to canvas the neighborhood where the building is located with a packet of material such as a tract on "What To Expect" or "What Is The Church of Christ?", a card informing the community of the times of services and other vital material on meetings. In the packet also have lesson one of a good Bible Course with a self addressed, stamped card for them to fill out and drop in the mail.
4. Visiting-Everyone has friends and acquaintances we often visit. If a discussion of the Bible or religion, or morality comes up, take the opportunity to mention the course and leave them a card or folder on it. Keep a few with you all the time.
5. Referrals-Most people will enjoy the course, once they start taking it. When they are about half way through it, and you feel confident they are going to continue it, let them help you. Chances are they have mentioned the course to several friends and have gotten a reaction. Some may have said, "That sounds interesting. I might enjoy taking a course like that." In order to take advantage of this, send a brief letter to the student taking the course asking for the names and addresses of friends they know who might like to take the course. Leave several blanks at the bottom for them to fill in and return with the next answer and question sheet. We have had names sent to us by students before we had time to request them and some have been baptized.
6. Printed cards-I am speaking of cards printed with the "Guaranteed Postage" format. This is an advantage over cards with a stamp placed on them, because this way you do nest lose the stamp if the card is not returned. With the "Guaranteed Postage" format you pay the postage at the post office when you pick up the card. Have the card already addressed to you or the church, and on the back have an ad and description of the course and a place for them to fill in their name and address. They are inexpensive to print and any post office can show you how to prepare the address side of the card. When you get them, see that every member of the church has a supply to keep with him at home, in the car, in the pocketbook or purse or in the pocket.
7. Public Bulletin Boards-Around every city there are numerous bulletin boards for public announcements. Laundromats are a good example. Some stores have such places and in Marion there is one at the Public School Employees Federal Credit Union. Search them out and make these cards available. Once you get started you will think of other ways to spread the word, but the main key to a good beginning is to advertise well.
In the past you have seen mention of the church in Bancroft, Ontario in this magazine and recently it was featured with a picture and brief history. An interesting thing about this church is its beginning. The initial contact with the people in this northern Ontario community was from a lady who sent in a request for a Bible Correspondence Course advertized in the Peterborough Examiner. This was the Summer of 1965; it was just the beginning. To date almost 100 have been baptized in Bancroft and surrounding communities.
I personally know one of the better ways of reaching the lost is through the use of a good Bible Correspondence Course. Advertise it well and be prompt in corresponding with students. Good results will follow. In our effort to save others, this is one way that should not be overlooked.
A New Course
One of the newest courses to come on the market is one prepared by Gene Tope. It is primarily designed for non-Christians and is a good detailed study of first principle subjects. The first lesson covers the distinction between the covenants and the remaining five lessons discuss the nature of sin, the answer in Christ, with a special study given to baptism; the nature of the church, the answer to denominationalism, true worship and motivation to obey complete the study. The course can be reviewed by you or the church where you are a member by requesting returnable sample copies. Truth Magazine Bookstore has published the course. The cost to purchase is 75 cents per set.
If you are not at the present using a Bible Correspondence Course as a part of your work of teaching, it is well worth considering. It has proven itself effective.
Truth Magazine XIX: 14, pp. 214-215
February 13, 1975