As evangelists we are like farmers. We live for the harvest. In all our plans, all our prayers, and all our work the harvest is ever in view. In England today all the benefits that science can bestow are exploited in order to reap a better harvest. As harvesters of the King of kings we ought to be examining our present methods to see where they are faulty, and exploiting new methods for better results.
Our colporteurs do a great amount of plowing and sowing throughout the land before the evangelist comes into the field to do the reaping. It is a bad policy to sow seed and not plan to reap a harvest. It is just as foolish to expect a large harvest without sowing, and yet this is what we are likely to do.
There is great need for a close union between the plowman and the harvester—the colporteur and the evangelist—if the cause is to achieve the maximum results. This co-operation is possible only when the local conference president has complete control over the movements of the colporteur. The president's plan for campaign work should involve the work of the colporteur as a seed sower. He should be placed in a new town a year or two before an evangelist is sent in to reap a harvest. I feel certain that if the colporteurs realized that they were the forerunners of the ministers, they would have more satisfaction in their work. They would have a more definite aim as they sowed the seed, because they would know that the good they were doing would have an opportunity to be developed in the near future.
There is a saying, "He who pays the piper calls the tune." Al present the colporteur is subject to the union and the local conferences, and the publishing house. There are times when these three governing bodies do not all call the same tune at the same time, and the result is a lost harvest. My first suggestion is that the one who plans for the evangelistic work in the field should also plan for the colporteur's location.
Second, develop some system whereby the interest that the colporteur awakens can be followed. He advertises the message in his book. Advertising brings people along, but it does not make them church members. You would not expect to baptize people after seeing them once or twice; neither can the colporteur do the impossible. He has his living to earn, and while doing this he can introduce people to the message, but it is for the evangelist to follow up the contacts he has made. The colporteur needs our co-operation just as we need his; otherwise much of his work is lost.
Third, there should be a great spirit of unity. We can speak about unity from the minister's direction, but the colporteur has to feel and experience this unity with us. So often he has been made to feel inferior, and the help that he could give is withheld. "The poor colporteur" is not an unknown phrase among us, but this would never be if a closer association were developed. He would be our fellow worker.
I baptized a person last year who had read Present Truth for twenty years. When I went into her town the colporteur was waiting to bring her to the services. Incidentally, she was waiting to accept the message. I baptized a man a year or two ago who had read one of the very early editions of Steps to Christ. He had been looking for us for many years. If the minister had followed the colporteur, he would not have had to wait so long. I had one colporteur who would get people interested in the message, and then he would introduce me to them. I have cycled hundreds of miles following up these contacts, and as a result a proportion of one out of every six persons whom I have baptized has been introduced to me by the colporteur. As the colporteur saw me bring some of his people along for baptism, he looked more diligently for others. He felt that he was cooperating with me, and it made him a better worker. I mention this to prove how fruitful it is to follow a colporteur—and to have his co-operation.
Discretion must be used in linking colporteurs with public campaigns. Avoid diverting them from their God-given work of the literature ministry. However, every effort should be made by the evangelist to use the contacts made by the colporteur, and when they are brought to fruition, he should be largehearted enough to give the colporteur some credit for the harvest gathered.