E. E. Cleveland Interviews Neal C. Wilson

E. E. Cleveland Interviews Neal C. Wilson: North American Leader Discusses His Evangelistic Experience

North American Leader Discusses His Evangelistic Experience.

E.E.C. is an associate editor of the Ministry.

Question: A vice-president of the General Conference has enough responsibility to occupy him 365 days of every year. Why did you turn aside from your admin­istrative duties to run these meetings?

Answer: It is extremely important that a leader understand thoroughly what he is admonishing others to do. He should be the first to field-test plans and to have a working knowledge of the practical prob­lems involved in the work of the church and not depend merely on directives of a purely theoretical nature. I have always produced the strongest kind of response in my own life. In keeping with this principle, therefore, I wanted to identify with the real work of the church—direct soul winning and active evangelism.

Question: Why did you pick Oshawa as the site of your campaign?

 Answer: There were a number of invita­tions that came to me but only one from Canada. Phillip Moores, president of the Ontario-Quebec Conference, invited me to hold a series in the beautiful College Park church on King Street in Oshawa. This appealed to me, and in addition, I was anxious to let our people in Canada know that they are an important part of the North American Division

Question: Were you a little anxious, ac­tually I mean frightened, at the prospect of "mounting an offensive" after so many years in another aspect of evangelistic work?

Answer: Not so much in March of 1967, when the campaign was first being planned and was still eight months away. The closer, however, I came to the date the more apprehensive I became. Oshawa was the site of the union conference headquarters, the Ontario-Quebec Conference headquar­ters, Kingsway College, Kingsway Publish­ing House, and the Maracle Press, et cetera. I felt ill prepared as I approached the meet­ing and was indeed anxious. I wondered why I had ever agreed to accept this assign­ment. I knew, however, that there was only one thing to do—move into the cam­paign in faith and with the determina­tion to do our best and plead for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and conversion.

Question: Would you do it again?

Answer: It seems to me this is a leading question and is virtually laying the ground­work to get me out in the field again. Be that as it may, let me assure you it was a most rewarding experience and a marvelous refresher course, and I would certainly do it again.

Question: What were the immediate results and what are the prospects?

Answer: Many decisions were made with about forty classified as "A" interests. There were ten baptisms before I left and many to follow. A very cheering aspect was our contact with a number of backsliders and some of these were reclaimed, a result that brought rejoicing to the church.

Question: What was your average nightly attendance?

Answer: The average nightly attendance was between 350 and 400, with about 700 on weekend nights.

Question: What, if any, prepreparation went into the effort plan?

Answer: Much careful planning was done by J. C. Reynolds, pastor of the College Park church, and his very able lay leaders. I was much impressed with the excellent organization and the willingness of our laymen to assume responsibility. Many skills were needed, and each person carried out his assignments efficiently. The talented and dedicated ladies of the church did much to assist, and especially worthy of mention were the splendid meetings con­ducted each evening for primary- and jun­ior-age children.

Question: Were you tempted to extend your campaign, say, another couple of weeks?

Answer: As I came to the close of fifteen meetings, I felt that I should really stay another ten days or two weeks. Some good interests were developing and decisions were being made that needed careful nur­turing. It does seem to me that ordinarily two weeks is just a little short in order to cultivate the interests and reap the largest possible harvest.

Question: Were you the recipient of any statements of surprise that you were do­ing this? What was your reply?

Answer: Yes, indeed. Many questioned the advisability of my holding these meet­ings. Questions were asked such as, Didn't I have more than I could do already? Didn't I have to carry work home with me every night? Weren't there enough others who could do this type of work? And, suppose things didn't turn out favorably, et cetera. My reply was that this is the kind of work to which I had committed my life, and furthermore, there is no more im­portant work than pleading with men and women and youth to give their hearts to Christ. I felt assured that the Holy Spirit would take care of the results if we would faithfully plant the seed and do our part. In other words, having put my hand to the plow, there was no turning back.

Question: What impact do you think was made on the pastors and congregation, being thus exposed to a General Confer­ence administrator conducting an effort?

Answer: I really cannot speak for others, but I would like to believe that some were benefited and encouraged. I could give a little testimony, however, of what it meant to me personally. It was a real blessing to associate with fellow ministers, gospel work­ers, and believers. As we spent time each day in prayer and counsel, I thanked God for each one of them. With much satisfac­tion I witnessed laymen, pastors, the con­ference president, the union president, the college president, departmental leaders, and others with heavy leadership responsi­bilities unite in the visitation program from home to home. This kind of coopera­tion is the basis of success and wonderful fellowship.

Question: What are your conclusions?

Answer: A few impressions and conclu­sions: I was impressed with the far-reaching influence of medical evangelists, literature evangelists, the consistent radiant lives of our church members, and the compelling impact of personal invitations. I was aston­ished to find how many who, on the surface are apparently disinterested, actually long to know of the forgiving, cleansing, keep­ing strength of Christ's love and the bless­ing of fellowship. To look into the faces of several hundred people night after night and realize that behind each face is a life in which a battle between good and evil is being fought, is indeed a solemnizing experience. Then to visit in the homes and see the struggle of the great controversy being waged in every heart makes one very conscious of how desperately we need a re­vival, a willingness to make things right with God and the desire to remove every hindrance, thus clearing the way for the latter rain. There is nothing quite like the thrill and joy of seeing men and women and young people make decisions to accept Jesus Christ, follow Him in baptism, and determine to prepare for the crisis ahead and be ready for His glorious second com­ing.

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E.E.C. is an associate editor of the Ministry.

April 1968

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