With the turn of the present century city Bible work received a new emphasis in our midst because of the repeated counsels of the Spirit of prophecy to open up a more intensive work in our cities. The cities of Eastern America were especially mentioned. And the needs of cities in other lands suggested that the time had come for a more concentrated effort in reaching the masses in these great centers. So the earlier decades of the twentieth century witnessed a great expansion of city evangelism.
During this era Elder and Mrs. S. N. Haskell made their distinctive contribution to city evangelism. The congested Eastern States of North America became their first training ground. Many a promising prospect from the lay ranks entered one of these "Bible training schools," and soon developed into a serviceable worker. This practical type of training greatly helped our home-foreign work in the larger centers. Even today one finds skilled personal workers who were trained by this method, and although the Spirit of 'prophecy definitely pointed to training workers in our denominational schools, it did not overlook a period of emergency, when workers had to be speedily trained for local work. Heaven endorsed this field training school plan.
We have now reached a period in our fast-developing work when each worker must think and plan constructively, with a clear vision for the work at large. Training our Bible instructors in the first two decades of this century was a different problem from what it is today. Our message has made great strides in every direction, and the world, too, has become more conscious of training and efficiency. Adventism is now in the spotlight. The debate and argument of former days has given way to modern Satanic attacks from within the church as well as without. It now takes more than an array of proof texts to beat off these assaults. Today a Bible instructor needs thorough Bible background and skilled methods. Bible instructors are not produced overnight; they must be trained.
With the need for a more intensive evangelism in earth's larger cities, there has come an increasing demand for skilled personal workers who are as efficient in meeting skepticism, argument, and confusion in the homes of the people as was formerly expected of the evangelist in bringing about the final decision for the truth. With hundreds, even thousands, of names for some of these evangelistic teams to look after, each member of the team must himself be well equipped with Bible knowledge.
Our modern evangelistic campaigns still feature the training-school idea adapted on the Haskell scale, but this field training does not allow for a protracted course. Today we must keep pace with the world around us, and everything moves much faster than it used to. With a few months' additional training during an evangelistic campaign, the less-experienced worker is now speedily directed in using his college-acquired knowledge and in accumulating up-to-date methods for an intensive work. It is this field training of Bible instructors, both men and women, that should develop our future working force. This directed type of training in association with an evangelistic team is invaluable to any Bible instructor's experience. The wisdom of such a plan has long been demonstrated among us, and is today increasing in recognition.
The growing interests of the Bible work for the finishing of the gospel message is a most important phase of our present-day evangelism. Truly the mission of the Bible instructor can be said to be in the ascendancy.
Laymen's Part in Bible Work
At this point we should consider another feature. What about laymen who have been aroused through the Spirit of prophecy to take their Bible in hand and go forth to teach the message of a soon-coming Saviour? Are they not to fill their place as personal workers? Indeed they are ! The noble laymen's movement must not be left out of the Bible-work picture, but there must be room for both groups. An overemphasis in one direction, or a neglect in another, will prove a handicap to our work as a whole, and for this reason our leaders today must see the whole plan of the Bible work, and not just one special phase of it.
What, then, is the right relationship of the lay Bible work to evangelism? Evangelists and Bible instructors should organize their evangelistic meetings so as to include the laymen from the beginning to the binding off of the interest. Our willing laymen are anxious to serve, but they await direction. Evangelistic workers need their services, but they must know when and where to use them. Nehemiah's work fittingly demonstrates the principle that wise leadership and direction must always be given to lay service. (Nehemiah 4.) In the training of future Bible instructors, laymen's training should not be overlooked, but it should always be guided by our evangelistic workers. Enthusiasm alone is not guidance. In Nehemiah's day each family was assigned a definite place on the wall from which to defend the city, and each individual's work was well planned. The successful outcome of the whole work depended on just such a balanced distribution of workers. This blending of our professional and lay Bible work is imperative for success.
Since the better organization of our Bible work during more recent years, our ministry should now be presenting a well-unified Bible-instructor program to the entire church. God has spoken, and He has set the pattern for our Bible work. If we are to measure up to our great possibilities in evangelism, we shall need to study closely the divine blueprint in the Bible and the Spirit of prophecy. We must avoid biased methods and tangents, and then guard well against overemphasis of method and wrong training trends that always result from confusion. Let us now go forward with clear vision to develop a strong Bible work, which will result in the largest harvest of souls we have yet experienced.
The hour is due for our message to triumph gloriously in every corner of the earth, and many personal workers are needed. Using the helpful book Evangelism and the new manual, The Bible Instructor, as our guide, let us pattern our Bible work according to God's plan, and unitedly cooperate as workers to develop a veritable army of well-trained, consecrated Bible instructors.
L. C. K.