We might first ask the question, Is there a place in our denominational work today for the Bible instructor, formerly known as Bible worker ? Or is our evangelism facing new problems which require substitution of other contact methods to replace this worker, so important in our soul-winning efforts of the past?
Reasoning from the example of governments in the present war crisis, we would say that the services of capable women should be in great demand. Many government offices, as well as important positions in business, industry, and agriculture, are now being filled by women, who are keeping the machinery in action. Youthful and mature women now fill the vacan'cies created by the men who have crone to the front. Their precision, alertness, adaptability, endurance, and courage are coming to the fore in this unusual hour in history.
Likewise, in the present great crisis of the church, God planned that noble, self-sacrificing, skillful women should enter into active warfare against the mighty foe and do exploits for the cause of truth. To meet this need, there is no greater work than that of the Bible instructor. While devoted women have been associated with the program of the gospel in every age, Heaven designed that in the remnant church an unusual work should be accomplished by them.
We should emphasize the profession of Bible teaching to youth today, for God is calling young men and women to this particular work. Although women can do their best work in the homes, there is also a place for the young men in the Bible work, for in a personal way they can reach those men who are studying our message. But we have been instructed that these workers must not be "without a thorough education and training. They must be proved to see if they will bear the test; . . . [or] they will not correctly represent our cause and work for this time."—"Fundamentals of Christian Education," p. 113. The Bible instructor is not merely a feature in our present-day public evangelism, but a necessity. When a spirit of inquiry is awakened, the interest must be followed up by personal work.
"Those who desire to investigate the truth need to be taught to study diligently the word of God. Someone must help them to build on a sure foundation.... At this critical time in their religious experience, how important it is that wisely directed Bible workers come to their help, and open to their understanding the treasure house of God's word."—Review and Herald, Feb. 21, 1907.
"The best work you can do is to teach, to educate. Whenever you can find an opportunity to do so, sit down with some family, and let them ask questions. Then answer them patiently, humbly. Continue this work in connection with your more public efforts.
Preach less, and educate more, by holding Bible readings, and by praying with families and little companies. '—"Gospel Workers," p. 193.
Again, we have been instructed that our evangelism is weakened in its results where a thorough Bible work is lacking.
"Many a laborer fails in his work because he does not come close to those who most need his help. With the Bible in hand, he should seek in a courteous manner to learn the objections which exist in the minds of those who are beginning to inquire, 'What is truth?' Carefully and tenderly should he lead and educate them, as pupils in a school. Many have to unlearn theories which they have long believed to be truth. .. . They should be carefully instructed, and should be prayed for and prayed with, watched and guarded with the kindest solicitude."—Id., pp. 190,191.
Bible Instructors in Our Cities
The process of finding souls in our cities is that of searching for them. This requires vigilant, strenuous, persevering effort. Though the large cities now present new and challenging problems to the personal worker, nevertheless the Lord has many honest souls there and we must seek them out. Because of war pressure, in many a family every adult is away from home working in an office, shop, or factory. This is a part of patriotism, but it is also a problem the visiting worker has to deal with. Bible instructors must now spend many hours and wearisome days locating the individuals interested in our public meetings. All too often it is almost impossible to make any kind of contact in the home or office. Therefore, the Bible class before the regular evening meeting is not an innovation, but a necessity, in many an effort.
Some evangelists prefer teaching these classes themselves, and yet we find our sisters conducting these study groups with real efficiency. Too often the busy evangelist finds himself unable to give the proper attention to the classwork, and his burdens are greatly lessened by the services of the Bible instructor. We frequently find that these classes are progressive and that both Bible instructors and evangelist shoulder the responsibility of these instruction groups.
Where the elements of personal attention and prayer are carefully weighed, this type of Bible instruction has a definite place in modern evangelism. The lessons of the various correspondence and radio courses can be profitably employed in these Bible classes in connection with our public efforts. After the lesson has been taught in the class, the students enjoy answering the questions at home on a prepared answer sheet. This type of application fastens the truth in the mind and is invaluable where the indoctrination is thorough and where the soul needs are not eclipsed by the mere mechanics of the project.
Commendable progress has been made by our evangelists in bringing a larger group of interested souls to a speedier decision than we considered advisable some years ago. Evangelists of longer experience have progressed in their methods of approach, and younger evangelists are following their methods with success. To some extent evangelism has been thrown into a new pattern, with an unusual interest in experimenting to find methods that will produce greater results in shorter periods of time. We welcome this advance, and yet we must not overlook the almost alarming membership losses we have had to meet. This problem should become the burden of every earnest gospel worker.
Too often evangelistic companies are forced to cripple along without proper help in personal work. Much of the instruction is given in lecture form with the personal touch decidedly lacking. Again, the evangelists who lead out in these meetings are transferred too soon to other fields of labor. Thus new converts are deprived of that personal attention that means so much to their establishment in the message. Right at this stage the Bible instructor is indispensable to an effort, and conferences would do well to add women of ability and training to their working force to indoctrinate new believers thoroughly. It is poor economy to expect the new work to hold fast without this most needed attention. It is a reflection on our experience to neglect this point. In this connection we might well consider how the nations are already giving close attention to postwar problems and adjustments.
Bible instructors today must be skillful in training laymen who can be wisely used in our public evangelism. Under their leadership new fields of labor may be so carefully prepared by laymen that the success of an effort will be more definitely assured. There is also a need for trained nurses and dietitians who can make special contributions to our meetings. Health instruction might well become a drawing feature to the truth. Accompanied by visual education and profitable devices, the nurse and the dietitian can materially strengthen public evangelism. We have not yet begun to train or use these women to meet their fullest service. This should present a challenge to us for the future.
We now have Bible instructors who are especially skillful in working with children. The Christian church at large is showing a growing interest in the field of youth evangelism. The ability to work winsomely for juniors is an asset to the profession and may well be cultivated. However, we must remember that Heaven has distributed various talents and but a few to each individual ; so not every Bible instructor will make a "child evangelist," in this sense. But let us encourage those women who have a contribution to make in this field. Those who have pioneered in this work have already demonstrated its place in the gospel program.
As we plan our evangelism, let us stress the need for Bible instructors. Let us keep our vision clear for the proper type of worker, who has a background of education and denominational experience. Pleasing personality and aggressive bearing are not the only qualifications this delicate work demands. Although we may be forced at times to use helpers who cannot measure up to all our ideals for them, let us not forget that the calling of the Bible instructor measures up to that of the evangelist. With the right vision for our needs we will soon develop women of higher caliber, fine judgment, powerful teaching ability, and deep sympathies for the souls we must reach. These qualities, coupled with the same consecration needed for the ministry, will soon lift the profession out of the slump experienced in the past few decades. The Bible work is a noble work, indispensable and productive. May God speak to the hearts of our noblest young women to prepare themselves for a profession that will enlist them in the highest type of service for humanity.
L. C. K.