Barring sickness, every minister,—executive, pastor, departmental secretary, and evangelist,—every Bible worker and Bible teacher in the Southwestern Union was present to enjoy the spiritual feast of the ministerial institute and to take part in the business of the conference session. In the words of R. L. Benton, president of the union:
"It is time that we think in terms of the actual finishing of the work. When we catch such a vision, we can soon finish it. If we follow God's plan. 'the Lord will delight in us,' and we will finish the work quickly. To accomplish this, we must follow a balanced program, present a united front to the world, maintain sincerity of purpose, and be without guile.
"To maintain a balanced program, we must have a clear vision of all our resources, utilizing every one, and not follow one phase at the expense of others. The resources available for the finishing of the work are as follows: public evangelism, colporteur evangelism, medical work, educational work, over ten thousand laymen, our young people, and our juniors."
Special emphasis was placed upon the importance of teaching and living out health-reform principles. A definite call was made for ministers to devote more time to the forwarding of this work. Those in the institute asked that as a group they might receive two weeks of intensive training in health-reform principles in order that they might be better prepared to present them in a strong way to the public. Julius Gilbert White, of Nashville, Tennessee, gave four helpful studies on the subject.
The work of religious liberty was presented by H. H. Votaw. He urged the need now of cultivating the friendship and favor of those in positions of responsibility in our government. Such contacts will aid us in presenting the principles of religious liberty and prolonging the period of active work.
Comprehensive Group Discussion
An hour and a half each afternoon was devoted to group discussion of the various branches of the work. The ministerial roundtable discussions were made intensely interesting as old problems were given a new setting. Special attention was given to the problems facing the minister who does both evangelistic and pastoral work. In the Southwest, this includes every minister. Some men specialize in evangelistic work, and others are better fitted for pastoral work, but it was quite uniformly agreed that both must strike a balance. The work of the evangelist cannot be separated from that of the pastor, who must bring the new converts fully into church activities. A pastor must also be a definite soul winner, and should devote some time each year to evangelistic work. The special campaigns should also come in for a definite share of his time. With church school problems, Harvest Ingathering, Signs, Watchman, missions, and various other campaigns on hand each year, a definite time budget must be made to give every phase of the work proper attention.
The Oklahoma Conference is now using a feasible plan in "follow-up" Ingathering work. A return post card is inserted in the Ingathering magazine. To date, this has brought in the names of nine hundred persons. To these individuals they send four copies of Good News, and then selected numbers of Present Truth for ten weeks. At the close of this period, they send them a questionnaire. All who reply are mailed a year's subscription to Present Truth. The conference takes care of the first expense in this program, and then the churches in whose territory the persons are located assume the financial responsibility. Some have begun to observe the Sabbath as a result of this follow-up work.
The district plan is needed to complete the principle of organization in the local conference, which should in turn divide the territory into districts under district leaders, for the purpose of finishing the work in each respective territory. Unless there is definite planning and districting, vast sections will go uncared for. This plan has in a measure been put into operation in some parts of the Southwestern Union, and has resulted in increase in all phases of evangelistic endeavor.
By request, E. E. Beddoe presented a model of a unique, postless tabernacle for exhibition. The model was two by three feet in size, representing a building forty by sixty feet and eighteen feet high. This tabernacle is made entirely of wood, largely in sections, so it can readily be taken down and reassembled. It has a round roof, with no sides other than the roof, which reaches to the ground on each side. The roof is supported by rafters in the shape of a half circle. This style of structure eliminates all need of posts or other supports inside the building, is more economical to construct than any other form, and has a very pleasing appearance. The tabernacle is covered with solid board sheeting and roofing paper.
The topic, "How Much Personal Visiting Should a Pastor or Evangelist Do?" was discussed. It was the consensus of opinion that personal visiting is the key to success. No substitute can be made for it, and the amount will be determined by the other responsibilities placed upon the man. However, definite time should be allotted for such work; and the more time allotted, the greater the measure of success.
Each new member brought into this message is not thoroughly instructed until he has been taught to do missionary work and definitely fitted into the organized plan of the church. This means that the church must have a definite missionary program, and be so organized that when a new member is brought in, he can be assigned a place in a definite working band. The failure to harness this new power and direct it into proper channels is one great lack in our organization.
Writing for the press has a very definite value in giving publicity to our message. Of course no two editors are alike, but nevertheless many of them are willing to grant a great deal of space when articles are prepared in newspaper style. C. A. Walgren, of Childress, Texas, related his experience in a city of sixty thousand, where at first the newspapers refused all articles. But within three months they were accepting his articles, and within a year were calling for them if they were not there on time.
Harvest Ingathering at present absorbs far too much of the minister's time. In many places almost one third of each year is taken up in this work, but not over six weeks ought to be given to it. It has been demonstrated that in most districts this work can be done more satisfactorily in a shorter time. To accomplish this, several things are necessary: Organization of territory and workers, definite time objective, the Holy Spirit to prepare the way, prayer, zeal, and a vision by the leader.
In discussing the financing of our public efforts, it was suggested that there are definite advantages in having the offering taken at the, close of the meeting instead of at the beginning. Two who had used this plan stated that it resulted in larger offerings.
We greatly appreciated the services and excellent help of the General Conference brethren at our union session and ministerial institute.