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Evangelistic Clickbait

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

Roy Allan Anderson and an Art Credited Only to Hollywood

Matthew J. Lucio

January 17, 2022


Roy Allan Anderson, secretary of the Ministerial Association up at the G.C., was among the first to use the Oregon Conference's new Stone Tower Evangelistic Center when it opened in 1953. Besides serving as the home of a local congregation (as it does today), Stone Tower was meant to signal a new method of urban evangelism. "Rotating evangelistic teams" would make it a "recognized stronghold for evangelism in the Portland area." (1) The modern building was built for large evangelistic meetings, including plenty of overflow spaces when the preaching really got hot.

At some point in his series, Anderson promised that if his audience would come back, he would name five preachers in Portland who wouldn't be going to heaven. Anyone familiar with evangelists (Adventists or not) will recognize the salesmanship for what it is. Some might even admire the craft (and Anderson was among the best at it). But not everyone.

Source: Review and Herald, April 29, 1954.

After Anderson teased his big reveal, he received a letter. The writer had been to several of Anderson's lectures and confessed:

I rather envy your ability to make each lecture, as you announce it, sound more stupendous, more colossal, more earth-shaking than its predecessor. It's an art heretofore credited only to Hollywood. (2)

Nevertheless, the writer found Anderson's "double-talk" off-putting. To promise to name five ministers in Portland while "never meaning to" - as the writer understood it - is double-talk. So was the instance of another Adventist evangelist who advertised his series with the headline: "Adventist Minister Denounces the Jewish Sabbaths." Adventists had to know how the public would interpret that, making it something like a bait-and-switch.

The writer wasn't done offering examples. Anderson had apparently asked his audience if they wanted to hear a lecture on the Sabbath, mischievously hinting that there was some "risk" involved. The writer laid it out: "About 99.9% of your audience" expects you to say the fourth commandment still matters, that the Catholics changed the Sabbath, and that Adventists alone are the remnant "(and don't Adventists love to hear that. It makes them fairly purr)".

Why not this one time draw from your theological studies and tell us exactly why the great reformers such as Calvin, Luther, Huss, Knox, etc. all rejected the keeping of Saturday in favor of Sunday. And please Elder Anderson don't give as your reason the stock excuse I have heard innumerably times, "They didn't know their bible", or when confronted by discoveries or theories of facts presented by truly great men, please don't quote "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." Such answers are not worthy of your background.

And then the knife twist: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if Adventists just for once acknowledge their debt to the Catholic Church?" (Yeah, I'm not going there.)

I wasn't at the Stone Tower to hear these things for myself, so I cannot speak to the letter's claims, but I thought the comparing evangelists to “Hollywood“ was particularly striking. Traditional evangelism is drama. The evangelist is telling a serialized story—like a television show. (He or she just happens to think it is both true and of vital importance.) Yet this letter is a challenge to all who tell the Christian story to be ethical in how they tell it and to avoid "cheap arguments" which might dismiss challenges with a pious slogan. People are watching.

As Ellen White said:

Truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.(3)


2. Letter to Roy Allan Anderson, Nov. 24, 1953 (Center for Adventist Research).


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