The ministerial student who has chosen to spend his vacation time in colporteur-evangelistic work can rest assured that he will gain experience in a practical way that will be of the greatest value to him in time to come. This is equally true of the Bible instructor, for in either instance the problem is one of persuasion, and a gospel worker wants to be outstandingly successful in bringing judgment-bound souls to a decision.
There is no work where a person is more intimately associated with human beings than he is in gospel work, and the more we learn about human nature, the more successful we will be in dealing with people. In school one may study many subjects that will provide one with ample theory, but actual practice in dealing with people, such as the colporteur work gives, will provide a practical aspect that will be of incalculable value. An individual may have many degrees, but if he lacks the ability to express himself in a way that will have a persuasive influence on the one who is listening, all the knowledge he has gained is in a certain sense excess baggage.
The ministerial student colporteur who spends three months doing nothing but talking to different individuals, in an effort to persuade them of the value of the thing he offers for sale, is gaining a practical experience that he could never gain through reading books. Such an experience will help him to make the knowledge he has gained from his textbooks worth far more to him. The ability or lack of ability to persuade others can spell the difference between success and failure in any line.
One time I listened to a very capable surgeon trying to persuade a young woman that she should have her appendix removed. The only thing he succeeded in doing was to give her a bad case of hysterics, and he had to leave her bedside without an affirmative decision. Incidentally, he lost the surgeon's fee that would have been his had he succeeded in persuading her. Immediately another doctor was called who. understood something about human nature as well as how to remove an appendix, and after talking with the patient for about five minutes he reassured her, and convinced her that the thing to do was to go to the hospital immediately and have a blood count taken, with the understanding that if it indicated surgery she would have it. An hour later she was minus her appendix merely the difference in knowing how to persuade. The first doctor would have done well to spend a few months canvassing from house to house!
The minister or Bible instructor is confronted: with a far greater responsibility than that of the surgeon, because he is dealing in eternal values. His ability to persuade the individual may decide the destiny of a soul. How can the preacher persuade large groups of people to accept the doctrine that he preaches, if he has not first learned how to persuade the individual? When one has spent a number of months in telling the one-soul audience about our denominational literature and persuading the individual to purchase some of it, he has learned what to say and what not to say in order to. lead to a decision. What will work with the one-soul audience will work with the multitude..
Because of the great value of colporteur experience to our ministerial work, it has been a sort of unwritten law for many years that students who are in training for the ministry should have at least one successful summer's experience in the colporteur work. However, occasionally some student evades this opportunity and succeeds in finding his place in the ministerial program of the church without it. He may have a reasonably successful career as a preacher, but his career could have been even more successful if he had not missed the privilege of learning how to minister to the one-soul audience.
It has been my privilege during recent years to observe the work of a number of young men who were not given an opportunity to enter the ministry on the regular internship plan, and who had not had an experience in the colporteur work either. These young men were invited to work as colporteur-ministerial interns a plan recommended by the denomination, in which, the young man is charged with the responsibility of pastoring a small church over the week end and spending from twenty-five to thirty hours during the week in colporteur- evangelistic work. His remuneration consists of a small cash subsidy for his week-end program, plus the commission from the sale of his books.
Although some of these young men have accepted the responsibility reluctantly, it has been a great inspiration to listen to their testimonies a few months later as to the value such an experience has been to them. They state that they wouldn't take anything for what they have learned in the colporteur phase of their work. In fact, some have told me they realize that they would have been considerably crippled had they found their way into ministerial work without the colporteur background.
The messenger of the Lord has emphasized the importance of colporteur experience in the following statements.
"All who desire an opportunity for true ministry, and who will give themselves unreservedly to God, will find in the canvassing work opportunities to speak upon many things pertaining to the future, immortal life. The experience thus gained will be of the greatest value to those who are fitting themselves for the ministry." Colporteur Evangelist, p. 16.
"Let those who have been in school go out into the field, and put to a practical use the knowledge they have gained. If canvassers will do this, using the ability which God has given them, seeking counsel from Him, and combining the work of selling books with personal labor for the people, their talents will increase by exercise, and they will learn many practical lessons which they could not possibly learn in school. The education obtained in this practical way may properly be termed higher education." Ibid., p. 24.
"If there is one work more important than another, it is that of getting our publications before the public, thus leading them to search the Scriptures. Missionary work introducing our publications into families, conversing, and praying with and for them is a good work, and one which will educate men and women to do pastoral labor." Ibid., p. 80.
"In evangelistic canvassing, young men may become better prepared for ministerial labor than by spending many years in school. Those who are fitting for the ministry can engage in no other occupation that will give them so large an experience as will the canvassing work." Ibid., p. 93.