Why Introduce the Bible Instructor?

The role of the bible instructor in the body of Christ.

By DOROTHY WHITNEY CONKLIN, Bible Instructor, Southern New England Conference

Paul refers to the normal growth of the Christian church as "the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." I believe that I am doing no violence to the original intent of the passage when I apply it to the properly functioning evangelistic company. "Fitly joined together," with every organ supplying that for which it was added to the body, is surely the definition of a healthy evangelistic organization—and the Bible instructor is one of those organs.

Her effectiveness will depend to a great ex­tent on the public recognition her work receives from the evangelist. This is no bid for publicity, but a simple statement of proved fact. We know that a dignified and fitting presentation of the Bible instructor to the public with whom she will be expected to work will greatly facilitate that' work, just as the lack of it will hinder. The public is not accustomed to women in her particular field. Other evangelistic bod­ies have not so used them. On the other hand, the average audience is familiar with certain types of women frequently attendant on public meetings of a religious nature. In all fairness to the instructor the evangelist should see to it that she is not confused with any of these.

Many people think of Seventh-day Adventists as somewhat akin to Jehovah's Witnesses or "Holy Rollers," and we should do all in our power at our public meetings to correct this error. "You know—those horrid, emotional people!" was the way a woman in the vicinity of the new Boston Temple designated the sect who had purchased the church—not knowing that I was one of them.

And those of pentecostal fervor do employ both women preachers and female exhorters.

Most folk who comprise a first-night audience have shopped about a bit, religiously speaking, and have probably attended Pentecostal meet­ings, perhaps "just for fun." They eye us with suspicion. After a few evenings have passed, and she has not taken her turn on the rostrum, they grow more apprehensive. When the first call is given, they expect her to swoop down upon them and create a public spectacle, as she exhorts them to "hit the sawdust trail."

When none of these dire predictions actually take place, they are sure that she must fit into a third class familiar to revival meetings in the more orthodox churches. Such services are conducted by a professional evangelist, ofttimes accompanied by his wife, in co-operation with the pastor of the local church, aided by the board of deacons and the choir. Clinging to the outskirts of such a company are usually several women of the church who "just love revival meetings in general, and Dr. So-and-So in particular." They are so willing to do "just any­thing at all," if only they may sit at his feet and worship. Everyone recognizes the type, and views them with good-natured contempt.

And last but not least in the "comedy of er­rors" comes the necessity of explaining to well-meaning elderly women that you are not the evangelist's wife. Is it any wonder that they take your proffered hand limply, and brush past you to greet the man of the evening? Who are you, anyhow ? And later, when you appear at their door with literature, are they expected to greet you with open doors and hearts ? Usually they do not ! They open the door a wary crack and answer in monosyllables.

Of course the Bible instructor with a zeal for souls and a genuine love for her profession can and does overcome much of this prejudice by persistent and gentle appli­cation of tact and personal charm, salted with a saving sense of humor. But precious time is being wasted while she breaks down barriers that need not exist.

Surely the evangelist should introduce the Bible instructor to the audience. In the course of the evening he will be presenting the one who will offer prayer, though he may never again return to that same audience. He will doubtless introduce the song leader and those who provide the special music, and even though these may appear night after night, they will not be called upon to make the personal contacts the Bible instructor will have to make.

Evangelists, let them know who she is. At least, this year you will not have to call her a "Bible worker" and leave them to wonder just how she "works" the Bible. Her present title speaks for itself, and tells them just what they may expect from her. They will realize that she is not just a woman who has taken it upon herself to give orders to the ushers.

With the sanction of the evangelist upon her qualifications, she may be afforded opportunity to sit down with that family who did not under­stand all you said last Sunday night, and help straighten them out. They may not be there the next time unless someone helps them. You probably will not have time or opportunity. You will not even know of their perplexity. But if this woman calling at their door has your recommendation as a Bible instructor, they may invite her in and ask her the questions that perplex. It may mean all the difference between a soul lost or a soul won for eternity.

Soon a special group will be culled who are interested enough to come out for instruction before the evening service. The Bible instructor may well handle such a class, thus freeing the evangelist for concentration on his main theme. This may take the form of a "pictured truth" hour, with movie projector and filmstrips re­viewing the subject of the week before. Or it may be simply a group of people with their Bibles in hand, following her along the same, though abbreviated, pathway.

Personally I lean to the latter method. I hope I have not started to fossilize, but years of movie-going in the past taught me how prone is the usual audience to leave its mind conven­iently at home, and expect to be amused. Some­how I fear that the habit pattern may be too well grooved whenever the stimulus presents itself. A darkened auditorium, shadows on the screen. A-ah ! Just sit back and enjoy your­self. Do not bother to think. Just look.

We have something far better than an hour's amusement to offer souls who are willing to be taught. I am convinced from my experience that, although it may take longer, and the pro­gram may not run so smoothly, people who have hunted down a dozen texts and read them from their own Bibles, have those twelve texts more indelibly fixed in mind than they would have, had they simply sat back and watched them flashed upon the screen.

There are some things, even in this twentieth century, that ought not to be streamlined. Like the Lutheran chorales, to achieve the desired effect you must strike each point a hammer blow. And that matter of tamping firmly into place is secured by such a co-ordinated program between the evangelist and the Bible instructor —the former giving the subject its dramatic first presentation, and the latter following along and making secure the details missed in the daz­zling brightness of Bible truth seen for the first time.

Yet with all this perfected timing of presen­tation and reiteration, few decisions are made without personal visitation. Only those who have come out of the world to find our truth can appreciate the struggle that inevitably precedes the new birth. Usually everyone and every­thing in your world is against you. And you must be so very, very sure before you take that fateful step ! Here again the burden falls largely upon the Bible instructor. She has her finger upon the pulse of the interest. Against those "fightings within, and fears without," a wise and sympathetic Bible instructor can appear like an angel of light and a bulwark of strength. Yet there must be times, too, when she is more like "pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides." One who has since become a stanch Seventh-day Adventist and one of my best friends avows that for months after I began Bible studies in her home she was in such a state of mental upheaval that she used to ask herself, "Why did I ever let that woman into my house ?"

However, a Bible instructor cannot allow herself to be too sympathetic. I have unpleasant memories of the woman for whom I felt so sorry, because of circumstances in her home, that I helped her reason herself out of taking the stand I was urging her to take. Sad paradox ! I learned from experience that a Bible instructor must possess the ability to teach the power of Christ when joined to human weakness, along with a sympathetic understand­ing of that weakness, and ever hold up before her readers the discovery that Paul made, "I can do all things through Christ which strength­eneth me."

In personal visitation the services of a Bible instructor are well-nigh indispensable to an evangelist. With so many more women than men accepting our message at the outset she can save him unnecessary embarrassment. The average non-Adventist husband is upset enough anyway, what with the prospect of losing his dancing partner, his companion at the movies, his fourth at bridge—not to mention forfeiting a tenth of his salary to her church, and no pork in his Saturday beans ! Then,. when she threat­ens to remove his engagement ring and wedding band, Satan has a fine opportunity to direct green eyes in the direction of that strange man who visits his wife in his absence.

The well-organized evangelistic company should apportion tasks to be handled by each member according to his individual genius and ability. This leaves the evangelist free from annoying or time-consuming details. Once a week, as soon as is feasible after the Sunday evening meeting, there needs to be a counsel meeting at which plans for the week will be dis­cussed in minute detail and up-to-date develop­ments considered.

During this meeting the Bible instructor should not be forced to sit listening to the evan­gelist outlining his plans for the future, and giving instructions to his subordinates for the entire period—having either to interject her experiences or questions into the monologue when he pauses for breath, or to tack them breathlessly on the end while he waits to de­part. If she is part of the organization and has faithfully carried out her share of the work, she has something to report and should be afforded due opportunity. But she must not abuse that privilege by developing all those little details that so fascinate the storyteller and bore every­one else. She must remember that she is not the only one reporting, and that the evangelist wants to hear the results, not all the extenuating circumstances.

Finally, the salvation of souls through the preaching of the third angel's message is the only purpose of an effort. This purpose can best be achieved when "the whole body is fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth." We ask you to see to it that the Bible instructor is "fitly joined" to your evangelistic company ; then we in turn will try to supply consecration, co-operation, and whatever else is needed to make that body healthy and successful.

Editorial Note. We might suggest that one very helpful way of distinguishing the personal Bible teacher as a professional worker connected with the evangelistic company is to wear the special Bible instructor badge. This is a three-color plastic em­blem, in the form of a shield, fastened to a sturdy pin. The badge is not to be ordered by the individual, but by the employing conference, through the Review and Herald. The price is only fifty cents. (For picture of badge and further information, see June, 1943, Ministry, p. 14.).

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By DOROTHY WHITNEY CONKLIN, Bible Instructor, Southern New England Conference

May 1944

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