Foreword.—What was doubtless the most important advance move in North American evangelism, as projected in the union sessions and institutes, was made at the Southern Union meeting, where a Field School of Evangelism was formally and enthusiastically authorized. J. L. Shuler, president of the Carolina Conference, was appointed Southern Union Evangelist, and charged with the responsibility of launching and conducting the field school hereinafter described. A very practical and successful evangelist, with conspicuous teaching and organizing gifts, the right man was found for this union enterprise, which, we are persuaded, is destined to blaze a new trail, and will surely be followed elsewhere in time. Because of its fundamental importance we asked J. K. Jones, president of the Southern Union, to prepare the introductory statement, then the authorizing action itself will appear, and finally an explanatory word by Elder Shuler concerning the plan. These are commended to the careful study of all ministers. Subsequent articles by Elder Shuler will further unfold the plan, the mode of operation, and the working relationship to the conferences comprising the union. The keenest interest will follow this enterprise.—Editor.
In view of world conditions in general which point unmistakably to the nearness of probation's close, it is a sad fact that, charged as we are with a special message to a doomed world, our evangelistic, soul-winning work in America is not advancing as rapidly as the time and circumstances demand.
As a firm believer in our various phases of departmental work, I believe they should be developed until they reach still higher achievements in service. But I do not believe any of these can ever take the place of the direct soul-winning evangelism that God has ordained we should carry forward in our work. There has never been found, since this movement was organized, a more effective way of winning large numbers of converts to the faith.
We hear much about the part our lay members are to play in soul winning in the closing days of this message. And I believe their work is to come into even greater prominence as we near the end. But even though this is true, we must not forget what the Lord has said about the paramount place the evangelist is called upon to fill at this time.
In the "Testimonies," Volume IX, pages 98101, God calls for evangelists who have been trained, and who have the ability to hold large audiences, quickly to find their way into the large centers of population, and publicly present this message in such a way as to startle the hearers and arouse them from their state of lethargy. The servant of the Lord also states that such men are to be properly supported in this public work. This testimony was given many years ago, but what are we actually doing to warn these cities and win many new converts to the faith? We must not, in our zeal to train the lay members, neglect our duty to train our ministers for the public-effort work God has mapped out for them.
Too few preachers in the United States are attempting to hold large efforts. This may be due to various reasons. Not every man is fitted for holding large audiences. Some who could do it are not able, because of a lack of available funds. There are others who desire to do this type of work, and could, if they only had some experienced, successful city evangelist to train them in the field.
We are not doing what we should in field training for ministers. In fact,. we have not heretofore developed any plan for the actual training of young ministers in the various phases of public effort and successful soul winning.
Ever since I came to the Southern Union, my heart has ached as I have visited one large city after another, to find no public effort being conducted of sufficient size to arrest the attention of the populace. A wonderful plan was set in operation when the General Conference adopted the Ministerial Internship plan for assisting capable young men from our colleges in taking up ministerial work. Our interns, however, are not always placed with brethren who can give them the training that is necessary for them to become successful city evangelists. Consequently, in many cases our young men continue on, untrained in their work, and finally become just ordinary public speakers, whereas, if they had had the proper training in the field, they might have become outstanding evangelists, capable of entering the very largest cities.
Our need for evangelists in the South is great, and our funds are altogether too meager. We must find some practical way of definitely training each young man who enters the ministry in our union, thus preparing for more fruitful results than have been obtained in the past. Our union committee gave careful and prayerful consideration to the evangelistic needs of our field. After considering the situation fully, we decided to request J. L. Shuler to lay aside his executive work, and enter unreservedly into a plan for training ministers and Bible workers in what is called a Field School of Evangelism. Brother Shuler has accepted the counsel of his brethren, and will soon enter into his work. We will, during each year, place under his personal supervision and training, young men and women from each local conference in our union, taking them every step of the way through a city effort, training them in public speaking, in holding Bible readings, in conducting Community Bible Schools, in the circulation of literature, and in other essential phases. Class-work will be conducted, and examinations will be held on our points of faith, the proper methods of labor, and other matters.
Having started out as a young preacher myself, stumbling along as best I could, I consider this School of Evangelism to be the finest provision I have ever heard of for our young ministers and Bible workers. It will develop for us a strong, growing force of laborers, capable of working the large cities. It will greatly increase the number of converts to our faith, and be the means of raising up many new churches. All the other good things which help to build up a conference, such as tithe and mission offerings, will follow in its train. For another thing, it will cut down the number of apostasies, for Elder Shuler is noted for strongly stressing the cardinal features of our message.
The plan, as outlined in the following recommendation, was enthusiastically discussed and adopted by the union conference session held at Chattanooga, Tennessee, in February. I have never seen a recommendation receive a heartier welcome by both preachers and lay members than this, and we believe it marks a new day for evangelism in our work.