"With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message . . . might be carried to the whole world!"—Education, p. 271. How often we have read these words and have been challenged by them. The youth of the church—they are our hope, our greatest resource. How can we be sure they are "rightly trained"?
In 1948 a plan was begun by Edward C. Banks, then of Southern Missionary College, that was surely born of God. Believing that we cannot learn to swim only by reading about it in a book, nor be successful drivers until we have mastered the manual and ventured out onto the highway, a program was begun to take these preachers-in the-making into the field to conduct a full-scale soul-winning program.
Since then the program has caught fire and developed into one of the strong features of our ministerial training program at Andrews University and Southern Missionary College. In the summer of 1964 four such field schools of evangelism were held, with some eighty students participating. Steven Vitrano of Andrews University led out in a program in East St. Louis, Illinois, with the University's newly purchased Airatorium. Bruce Johnston and Don Jacobsen conducted one for the Southern Union in Charlotte, North Carolina, and one in the Canadian Union in Calgary, Alberta. E. E. Cleveland conducted a successful program in St. Louis, Missouri.
For some of the students this is the first actual soul winning in which they have ever engaged. For a few, it is the first evangelism they have ever witnessed. For many comes the thrill of having a part in winning their first soul.
The program is an intense one, lasting just over four weeks. There are three weeks of public meetings, each night. And the fourth week consists of a follow-up Bible class for those who have made their decision and are preparing for baptism. The final weekend is climaxed with a baptism and all the church participating in the ordinances of the Lord's house with the new members.
Each day's activity begins at 7:30 breakfast. Classes follow from 9:00 A.M. till noon. Discussions and lectures are held on the important phases of evangelism and pastoral work. Following dinner the students go out in teams of two to visit interested people in the city. Staff members visit with the teams from day to day to give on-the-job training in this critical facet of the ministry. The public meeting in the evening, followed by an aftermeeting of the students and staff to discuss the evening program and the events of the day. An earnest prayer season is held for those who came to the meeting. Responsibilities end about 10:00 P.M.
Since the Seminary moved to Berrien Springs in 1959, more than 800 persons have been baptized as a direct result of the field school program. And its impact is far reaching in its effect upon the young preachers themselves.
To see them translate their book learning into soul winning, to watch them as they love these new souls into the kingdom, is a thrill that is never to be forgotten.
And then as they go to their districts, inspired, enthusiastic, eager to be soul winners, we cannot but reflect: "With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, . .. how soon the message . . might be carried to the . . . world."