When the field school of evangelism is considered from the pastor's point of view, I believe that it is a must for that pastor first to have experienced a school before he makes any evaluation of it. This, of course, is the best course to follow in making any evaluation, no matter what it may concern. There are some, however, who might be inclined to pass judgment on the field school before actually having had the opportunity of living through one.
When the final decision was made by our conference committee to have the Seminary Evangelistic Field School in the Calgary District, I met the decision with mixed emotions. Being well acquainted with evangelism, I was not apprehensive of going through a full-scale evangelistic series. But the idea of having a school attached to it and having a number of young men working with the series, most of whom had no previous experience—well, I wondered just how successful the series would be as far as souls were concerned.
I decided then and there that when the evangelistic field school came to Calgary there would be an interest ready to come out to the meetings, and that no stone would be left unturned by the church to see that we would be prepared as well as possible. This was at the beginning of the year. The meetings were to begin the first of August. The church missionary committee was called immediately, and long-range plans were laid to facilitate our goal.
The directors of the field school, Bruce Johnston, chairman of the division of religion, Southern Missionary College; and Don Jacobsen, instructor in the Department of Religion, Andrews University; were most helpful with ideas and suggestions relating to the preparation for the coming evangelistic series. Elder Jacobsen, early in the spring, met with the Calgary Central church and the conference officers to lay definite plans for the meetings and to bring inspiration to the church.
To say that elaborate plans should be laid and carried out in preparing a city and the church for evangelistic meetings, may not be necessary here, for I am sure that every pastor realizes this necessity. However, it was felt, that, in a special way, preparation was vitally necessary for several reasons. First, this was to be a school of evangelism to help prepare future evangelists and pastor-evangelists. Therefore it was necessary to show the students not only the know-how of an evangelistic series but also the effectiveness of a prepared church and community. Another reason was that in Calgary, a city of nearly 300,000 people, we have only one English-speaking church. It was therefore necessary for us to have plenty of time to do the extensive job of making the people of the city conscious of the church and to build up an interest among the populace.
Extensive groundwork was done by the church with the final impact being made by the evangelistic team through the use of every available means of city-wide advertising. The church chose to personally deliver an invitation to enroll in the Take His Word home study Bible course to the more than 85,000 homes of the city. This was done, even though we were not able to have the It Is Written TV series here in the area. We wanted to acquaint the populace with the term It Is Written, since this was to coincide with the advertising for the meetings. Also with this means we were able to enroll several hundred in the Take His Word course of studies, thus preparing them in a special way for the summer meetings.
It might be said right here that any apprehensive feelings I may have had in contemplating the field school of evangelism, have long since taken flight. I feel that the privilege of working through a series of evangelistic meetings conducted in conjunction with the field school is one of the most rewarding and refreshing experiences of my ministry.
For many years I have felt that there should be a program where the young ministers could actually work in the field with qualified instructors. Classroom learning is good to a point and is vital to a student's appreciation of a subject, but unless that student can actually put his knowledge to work under the right training conditions, it might be said that the knowledge gained is of but little value. In my estimation the field school of evangelism has done, and is doing, a real and lasting work along this line for the Lord's cause. It was my privilege to study and work along with the twenty-eight students and ministers who attended this particular field school. It was with keen interest that I witnessed the zeal with which these young men went about their work as they were instructed and trained by the directors of the school. With classes every morning and meetings every night, and with more than six hundred names of interested ones to visit, there was but little time for relaxation.
Most pastors will agree, I am sure, that visiting in the home is the key to success in an evangelistic series as well as in a progressive church program. This was one of the outstanding features of the field school. Rather than merely observing the program, each student participated daily with the visitation and evaluation of the interests. Because of this they felt that they were an integral part of the meetings and therefore took a great interest, with some even working after the meetings well into the night.
Here is a program that is deeply spiritual, thoroughly practical, and highly successful, for to date the number of baptisms have exceeded the half-hundred mark with many interested ones attending a second series of meetings. Some have already indicated their desire for baptism.
Let me also mention the effect that this program has had upon the church membership. Elder Johnston told the church when he first came that "the church would never be the same again after the meetings were over." And as one member was heard to say afterward, "That was the understatement of the year!" The members were enthusiastic about the program before it started, remained that way throughout the series, and are still talking about it with fond memories and appreciation.
It is my humble opinion that the operation of the field schools of evangelism in the different centers of population is a real step forward in the training program for our future ministers, as well as being a highly successful means of soul winning. As a pastor, I received much benefit from the school itself and a great deal of inspiration from the entire program.