MIAMI wasn't supposed to be easy and it wasn't; but the Lord blessed in spite of human expectations. To describe our experience is simple the Lord took over. To go beyond that is like trying to tell a love story that will never end.
We were part of a field school sponsored by Andrews Theological Seminary that worked five weeks with Pastor C. Dale Brusett and one of his associates, Clarence Pillsbury. It was their vision and guidance that made the summer of 1971 the most unforgettable experience in the lives of eight Seminary men and their wives.
Every night of the last three weeks of the meetings Acts 16:5 became a reality and a monument to what God can do and wants to do. As students we kept a close eye on the count and were all excited when number one hundred was baptized. When we reached 150 we were growing weary from the strain of a five-week campaign, but Elder Brusett, not interested in numbers, kept pointing to our many interests who had not yet made their decision. In those last three weeks we didn't have a night without a baptism. People came asking for baptism, people who wanted to follow Jesus no matter what the price. Those who were baptized told their friends and they too gave their hearts to the Lord. Hard victories over tobacco and narcotics were won.
At the end of those three weeks 184 precious people were new Seventh-day Adventist Christians, with reports still coming in of more. They represented all walks of life, all denominations, with a large percentage of Pentecostals and Catholics, all ages, including those with long hair and those that could almost remember when beards were in vogue, those who were in need of the Dorcas Society and those that could build a new welfare center by them selves. Sure, we learned some of the best methods in evangelism, methods that hand the reins over to the Holy Spirit, but equally important we learned to love a soul.
Hard Work Preceded Baptism
There is, of course, more behind 184 baptisms than bright lights and a baptismal pool. There was a lot of work under the direction of a man who has a vision of a ministry trained in the science of soul winning. A trained ministry and a trained laity come not by having in hand a long list of texts to combat objections, but actual, in-the-field, side-by-side work with those experienced in getting decisions. Even though our campaign was a large one Pastor Brusett made it a point to visit with each of us several times. We saw the importance of "clearing and setting" an interest that is, making sure that a presented truth was understood and then helping them to repeat their decision on that particular truth thus reinforcing their commitment. By being able to perceive an interest's relationship to the messages being presented, we learned the importance of being able to "read" an individual and thus when and what to say, especially in asking for their decisions.
In every lecture Pastor Brusett emphasized the love response to Jesus, not only the assent to an intellectual responsibility. Every doctrine was centered in Christ. Then and only then could the theme song be sung, "Let go and let Jesus have His wonderful way." There were only two altar calls. The first, with fifty people responding, represented decisions that were first made in the home. We learned to put our arm around them, black or white, rich or poor, and tell them how much we love Jesus and how He loves them. Our team's unity grew as we called no man unclean and sought to find the lost sheep.
While 184 persons baptized is considered a large result for a campaign, we were left with the solemn reality that there were more that would respond to the love of Jesus Christ. But the five-week campaign had come to a close. What if it had been shorter? Who would we eliminate? What a terrifying thought, yet a reality. But even though it was a five-week campaign, we all feel better knowing that Pastor Brusett leaves a man from the team to work with the new members and follow up the new interests for another five weeks.
There are many Miamis. There are many willing to labor and there are many going out. But there is a science to soul winning and without it our labors aren't what they could be. Who will teach us? Who will work with us? We are eager to learn.
The greatest Teacher of all said Go after He Himself had worked side by side with His interns, showing them how to sow and also to reap. It was this group that saw Pentecost.