Archive: Where Evangelism Comes Alive

By Eddie Robb, Associate Editor, Good News

What could bring 1821 pastors, their spouses, and seminarians from 99 denominations to Metropolitan United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit?

a) A settlement of Howard Hughes’ will, giving each of the 99 denominations a piece of the pie?
b) The premiere unveiling of Noah’s ark?
c) A school for evangelism?
d) 20,400 cups of free coffee and 18,000 free donuts?

Unlikely as it may sound, the answer is c and d. It happened last October when Billy Graham came to Detroit for an evangelistic crusade. Each night, October 15-24, people from southeastern Michigan Ohio Indiana, and southern Ontario poured into the Detroit Lions’ 80,000 Pontiac Stadium to hear Billy Graham proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

This crusade had all the familiar characteristics—big stadium, huge crowds, wide publicity, and many decisions for Christ.

But behind the scenes, unknown to the crowds, was another aspect of the crusade—the five-day School of Evangelism. In terms of lasting significance and multiplied influence for Christ, it may have been the most significant part of the entire crusade effort.

Each day from 8:45 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon, students at the School of Evangelism were bombarded with learning experience opportunities. Worship, major addresses, seminar workshops, and discussion groups all zeroed in on one subject: evangelism.

Seminars included Biblical Basis for Evangelism … Evangelistic Preaching … How to Share Your Faith … How to Develop a Growing Church … The Use of Media in Evangelism … How to Give the Invitation. In all there were 18 seminars—all thrusting toward conversion of the lost.

“Every pastor I know would like to be a more effective leader, ” said Dr. Kenneth Chafin, dean of the Billy Graham Schools of Evangelism. “This school is an honest effort to meet this need.”

Apparently, this “honest effort ” is bearing fruit. Rev. Donald Rossman, UM pastor from Bryan, Ohio, wrote Good News: “The weeks since the Evangelism School have not only been great ones in my personal life, but also in the life of my church. Prayers have been answered. Souls have knelt at the altar of prayer …. The doors have swung open and I believe God has begun to send a fresh breeze of His Spirit upon us.”

Reasons for attending the Schools of Evangelism were as varied as the people. Rev. Randy Brown, a pastor from Sterling, Illinois, told me, “I came to be spiritually fed.” A pastor from Pennsylvania explained, “I came to hear the rich resource persons of evangelical persuasion.” And Jack Harnish, a young pastor from Michigan, bluntly stated, “I came to hear Robert Schuller!”

The program lineup does feature big names: James Kennedy of Evangelism Explosion fame … Robert Schuller … Charles Allen, pastor of America’s largest UM Church … Cliff Barrows . . . Jeannette Clift George (who played Corrie ten Boom in The Hiding Place) … George Beverly Shea … Oswald Hoffman of the Lutheran Hour … the list of talent goes on and on.

And it was all free! In order to enable the maximum number of pastors and laypeople to attend, no tuition was charged. Many pastors were even given scholarships to help defray their travel and lodging expenses.

In a sense, the School of Evangelism began at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1958. Billy Graham was holding a crusade there and Lowell Berry, who was on the crusade executive committee, made a new commitment to Christ.

“The ’58 crusade was a wonderful experience for me, ” he told Good News. “I met so many fine Christians and saw the fine organizational effort to get churches to cooperate in counseling, in the choir, in finances, attendance, and follow-up. And above all, I saw a unique opportunity for folks to witness the evangelization of Christ’s Gospel when properly presented.

“I thought: Wouldn’t it be wonderful for young pastors and seminarians to share in this experience!

Mr. Berry recalls, “I approached Billy with the idea of starting a School of Evangelism. But a lot of people bring good ideas to Billy. He said he liked my idea but he wasn’t sure how much interest there would be among pastors. ‘Besides,’ Billy said, ‘it would cost a lot of money.’ ”

As a successful businessman in commercial fertilizer and chemicals, Lowell Berry had a lot of money and he didn’t give up easily. In 1960 a trial balloon was sent up at the Phoenix crusade, when Mr. Berry flew in some seminary students for a week-long “learning experience.”

But it wasn’t until 1967—nearly 10 years after the idea was conceived- that the first official School of Evangelism began in Kansas City, Missouri. Since then over 23,000 pastors, seminarians, and laypeople have attended in the U.S.A. In addition, more than 19,000 people have participated in Schools of Evangelism in as far away places as Tokyo, London, Melbourne, and Rio de Janeiro.

The great expense, the time involved, the logistical problems—is it all worth it? Lowell Berry thinks so. “I believe the local church is the most important single institution in the world, ” he said, “and ministers need all the help they can get.”

That’s what Billy Graham Schools of Evangelism are all about: strengthening local churches in their task of fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations [people], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I [Jesus] have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:19,20 RSV)


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our Mailing List!

Click here to sign up to our email lists:

•Perspective Newsletter (weekly)
• Transforming Congregations Newsletter (monthly)
• Renew Newsletter (monthly)

Make a Gift

Global Methodist Church

Is God Calling You For More?


Latest Articles: