The need for a special denominational system of education was early recognized by the pioneers of the message; hence in 1874 an Educational Society was organized, and a brick building of three stories erected in Battle Creek. In its first year Battle Creek College was giving instruction to a hundred students. Four years after the opening of the college there were 489 students enrolled.
From that small beginning our educational work has grown till at the present time we have in various parts of the world a total of 4,438 schools, with an enrollment of 202,677 students, and the total number of teachers employed is 9,589. (Latest statistics available, 1950.)
In our work something more than an ordinary education is required, and this fact cannot be too much stressed by our workers. This message is peculiar. It is unlike anything else in the world. We have a work to do which is unique, and therefore requires a course of preparation different from that which will suffice for ordinary avocations or callings. Under the Lord's direction a special system of education has been brought into being for the purpose of developing workers who shall be able to carry this last message of mercy to the world. We read in volume 6 of the Testimonies, page 152:
hat done in the colleges and seminaries of the world. In the grand work of education, instruction in the sciences is not to be of an inferior character, but that knowledge must be considered of first importance which will fit a people to stand in the great day of God's preparation. Our schools must be more like the schools of the prophets. They should be training schools, where the students may be brought under the discipline of Christ and learn of the Great Teacher. They should be family schools, where every student will receive special help from his teachers as the members of the family should receive help in the home. Tenderness, sympathy, unity, and love are to be cherished."
That much more than mere book learning or scholarship is essential for the successful carrying on of the work of God is apparent from many quotations that could be given from the Spirit of prophecy. Here is one that sums up in a few words the real need for a Christian education:
"A higher grade of preparation is required in order to do good service for the Master. But if the minister leans upon the knowledge he acquires, and does not feel the great necessity of divine enlightenment daily, the education gained is only a stumbling block to sinners. We want the God of all wisdom to be brought into our labor, into all our experiences; then every iota of knowledge obtained is a power for good and will aid in developing capacity and Christlike earnestness. This is religion."—Ibid., vol. 5, p. 529.
In view of the importance of giving our youth a Christian education, what a mighty responsibility rests upon our ministers to interest themselves in this most important branch of our work! Speaking of the work of our first college at Battle Creek, Mrs. White says, in volume 4, page 418:
"The education and training of the youth is an important and solemn work. The great object to be secured should be the proper development of character, that the individual may be fitted rightly to discharge the duties of the present life and to enter at last upon the future, immortal life. Eternity will reveal the manner in which the work has been performed. If ministers and teachers could have a full sense of their responsibility, we should see a different state of things in the world today. But they are too narrow in their views and purposes. They do not realize the importance of their work or its results."
No minister should shirk his God-given responsibility of advancing the interests of our own educational institutions among our people. As ministers we should ever remember that "the efficiency of the church is precisely what the zeal, purity, self-denial, and intelligent labor of the ministers make it."—Ibid., vol. 5, p. 582. We are told that "all branches of the work belong to the ministers." (Ibid., p. 375.) Therefore if a minister fails to interest himself in our educational work, he is failing in one most important branch of his God-appointed duty.
Had all our ministers and workers recognized their personal obligation to assist our educational work as far as possible, our influence in the world would doubtless have been far greater today than it now is. Shall we not therefore, one and all, determine henceforth to do all that is possible to build up our educational work, and gather as many of our young people as possible into our own schools?