Creating and Promoting Evangelistic Spirit

Presentation at Bible and History Teachers' Con­vention, Washington, D.C., August, 1940.

By A. ALLAN ANDERSON, Head of Bible Department, La Sierra College

Evangelism lies at the foundation of our whole educational program. The supreme purpose of our schools is to save our young people, and train them for service in the salvation of others. Like the prophet Elijah, who is the type of this mes­sage, we have been called into a threefold work : (r) to denounce apostasy ; (2) to lead men back to God; and (3) to reorganize schools of the prophets.

Every student who enters our colleges should, by his very association with us, feel the urge of that purpose. Evangelism is the work of lifting men out of the engulfing sea of sin and establishing them on the Rock of Ages. To this work every believer in Christ is called. The chief business of the church, the chief business of our colleges, is evangelism. Everything else, no matter how important, is supplementary to this. To this great task every teacher on our faculties should be dedi­cated. We must all work together to create and promote the spirit of evangelism. It would be well for each of us to examine ourselves in relation to this challenging task. Is the fire of evangelism burning in us as it was in the ancient prophets? Or has that fire died down so that the smoldering embers are but a pa­thetic testimony to our spiritual status?

How can we create or re-create this spirit of evangelism in our colleges ? It requires more than so many square feet of floor space to make a "school of the prophets." We need more than material equipment. Our faculties must be made up of members with more than scholastic qualifications. Our teachers must be men and women of deep piety. They must be soul winners, if our colleges are to become centers of living evangelism. In Luke 3:15 we read that in the days of John the Baptist "the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts." That describes the world today. A spirit of expectancy is every­where. It is in the hearts of our students as they come to us. Especially is this so at the beginning of the school year. That in itself presents a challenge to us. But that challenge is our opportunity.

The young people of today long for lead­ership. We must be spiritual leaders; we must inspire a spirit of evangelism in the early days of the school year. This will help our young people to know the real purpose of our colleges. How can we do that ? First, we must catch a vision ourselves. "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Next, we must be evan­gelistic in the presentation of the truth. We must evangelize our theology. We are called to the work of "teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man per­fect in Christ Jesus." Col. 1 :28.

Furthermore, our doctrines must be more than mere arguments. Our study of prophecy must be more than a record of historic fulfill­ments, or predictions for the future. These studies must be mighty appeals in the demon­stration of the Spirit. We must allow our own hearts to be moved by the messages we bring our students.

"Formal, set phrases, the presentation of merely argumentative subjects, is productive of little good. The melting love of God in the hearts of the work­ers will be recognized by those for whom they labor." —"Testimonies," Vol. VI, p. 67.

"As the golden oil flows from the heavenly olive trees into the bowl, it makes the lamp of life flash with a clearness and power that all will discern. Those who have the privilege of sitting under such a ministry . . . will feel an inner life. The fire of God's love will be kindled within them.""Testi­monies to Ministers," p. 340.

And that fire must first burn on the altar of the teacher's heart, if it is to be transmitted to the students. If it is burning there, his will not be a cold, formal teaching of the letter, but rather a flame of living truth. "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." 2 Cor. 3 :6. Yes, we must be alive, alert, to the situation. We can admire the stuffed animals in our nat­ural-history museums, but we are unmoved by' them. They present no challenge. Their glassy eyes fail to inspire. As teachers, we must not be satisfied until our messages arouse our students to action for God.

It is recorded that John the Baptist "was a burning and a shining light." He was no mere reflection of a textbook. He shone, but he burned as he shone. And Jerusalem and all the region round about Jordan felt the fire of his evangel. His teaching was plain, pungent, and purposeful. But it was full of heart appeal. He was a prophet on fire with a message, and the effect was tremendous.

He was no mere make-believe, no imitation, no mere gas log on a hearth. He burned as he shone, and the whole countryside came to hear him.

Unless we, as molders of those who will herald the second advent of Jesus, are on fire, those who sit in our classes will not be moved. Unless the teacher is a burning bush, he will never compel his students to turn aside to hear the voice of God. The mold that we, as teach­ers, give to our students, is the mold that they will carry into the field. If we want them to be evangelists and soul winners, we ourselves must be evangelists and soul winners.

The promise is that "your young men shall see visions." Yes, youth is the visionary time of life. But if they are to see the vision, we as teachers must bring it to them. And what is the vision that we are to bring? A vision of soul-winning service, in which every one of them can take part. Has not the time arrived when every teacher, tech­nician, doctor, dentist, nurse, and musician, as well as every theological graduate, who leaves our halls of learning, shall go out a potential soul winner ? Our students, no matter from what course they are graduated, must go out with more than a diploma and a recommenda­tion. They must go out with a vision of the world's need, and an urge to have some part in the "salvaging of the wreckage of a ruined race."

If they go from us without that vision, then we have failed, no matter what else they carry away with them. They may have all that we can give them in the sciences of chemistry, biology, and mathematics, but unless they know that "the science of redemption is the science of all sciences," unless they have caught the urge to study the theme which "angels desire to look into," which will be the absorbing study of the redeemed throughout eternal ages, they can hardly be said to be ready for graduation from one of the schools of the prophets. Though they may understand all mysteries and all knowledge, unless the moving love of God fills their hearts, they are still unprepared for the great task of soul winning.

Our youth must be helped to realize that the church is more than a parading ground. Their religion must be more than a piece of bunting to be brought out on gala days. It must be more than a one-day-a-week experience. It must be so vital a thing with them that they cannot keep it to themselves, but must share it with someone else. With this spirit filling our colleges, we can look into the future with confidence, feeling that we have an army of youth with a true vision of service.

You may ask, How can we inspire the spirit of real evangelism in the whole college ? A few suggestions may be helpful. First, I would say, give everyone in the college some­thing to do in soul-winning work. The regular activities, such as the foreign mission band and the ministerial seminar, are too vital in the life of the school to be attended by only a very small group. With your forbearance, I would like to relate what has happened in La Sierra.

There we had these regular bands, with com­paratively few students attending. The great majority of the students were occupied else­where when these meetings were convening. A study of the question revealed that under these conditions the whole college could not possibly feel the urge for a soul-winning pro­gram. After much prayer and many meetings in counsel, we decided to unite all spiritual ac­tivities under one organization. We called it the "King's Crusaders," the word "crusade" suggesting both vision and action. By dis­banding the various bands, we made room for this larger plan.

Many of our young men and young women who were training for other lines of work than ministerial, such as medical and teaching, gave their support wholeheartedly to this enlarged program, and we were able to use them as leaders. Among them were some of the keen­est-minded students in the college. It became evident to us as we studied our problem, that a doctor, just as much as a minister, needs to know how to organize a Sabbath school or a young people's society. Many of our doctors and nurses will be located in isolated areas where there will be no church. If we can fill these young people with a vision, we can ex­pect them to be medical evangelists when they go out into the field to work in their chosen profession.

This sweeping change brought a wonderful reaction. The whole student body was gripped. We organized a number of committees, drew up a constitution, and all projects of soul-winning endeavor were united. Each of these committees met separately once a week. A general meeting was held once a week, at which a brief report was given of the program, and further plans were laid. Sev­eral evangelistic efforts were organized, and many who up until that time had the impres­sion that these evangelistic efforts were some­thing for the ministerial students, became aware that they, too, could have a part in them.

In one of these efforts we pitched a tent, and held meetings six nights a week, our min­isterial students rotating in order, with two or three speakers every night, making short, crisp, forceful presentations of the truth. No one student attended more than twice a week. We selected our ushers, receptionists, and other helpers from those taking the teachers' training and nurses' training courses, etc. We organized the Crusaders' Choir, which was run entirely by the young people. We found our teachers eager to help, and transportation was provided by them and by friends in the dis­trict. Each Friday night from six to seven, we held our Crusaders' council, and each third week the meeting was given to the foreign mission group. We did not call it a foreign mission band. We called it the foreign-evan­gelism group. Reports were brought in, and missionaries were invited to speak. The whole school was inspired with the idea of service in fields abroad.

The next week was given to home evan­gelism, and special speakers were invited to address the group. The next week after that was given to a detailed study on how to or­ganize and build up Sabbath school work, young people's work, and other church activ­ities. Sometimes we called in departmental men to lead out. All these meetings were open to the whole college, and at the conclu­sion of each talk, opportunity was given for questions.

At once the school realized that the minis­terial department was not something confined to those who were going to make preaching their lifework, but that the ministry was some­thing that gripped the whole church, and they became enthusiastic in it. Others besides stu­dents were gripped. Our teachers shared the same spirit, and one came to me, saying, "I can't talk, but I can organize, and I must be in this soul-winning program. It appeals to me."

Now how can we create a spirit of true evangelism in our colleges? Put the re­sponsibility on the students. Organize and enlarge the program of spiritual activity. Aim at the inclusion of the whole school, and the whole school will respond. Young people re­spond when they see something actually work­ing. Those who have been careless in their relation to truth, and some who have never known this message, catch the spirit of it. In Zechariah 8:23 an interesting picture is held out to us:

"Thus saith the Lord of hosts : In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall . . take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you : for we have heard that God is with you."

Yes, the Gentile students in our colleges are soon aware that the Lord is in the institution, and they come to those of our young people who are spiritual leaders, and say, "We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you."

This is not a theory. It is a reality. It is working. God longs to do a bigger work with us and through us. Surely the time has come when our young people must catch a vision of an enlarged work.

Paraphrasing the words of the wise man, Solomon, we would conclude this discourse by saying, With all thy getting, get evangelism.

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By A. ALLAN ANDERSON, Head of Bible Department, La Sierra College

March 1941

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