The Dearth Of Reapers

People are being converted to Christ in record numbers around the world, making the current shortage of ministerial and missionary recruits perhaps more critical than ever. Delegates to the annual convention of the Christian and Missionary Alliance were told last month that national church leaders are making repeated appeals for more trained workers from North America. In a number of areas, it was reported, the appeals are based on the desire to capitalize on surges of revival. “Both the overseas and homeland reports show the highest number of converts in any one year in our history,” said CMA president Nathan Bailey.

CMA-related churches overseas now have more than 264,000 members, a 125,000 increase in ten years. The number of congregations increased from 3,397 to 4,651 in the same period, not counting the 1,406 CMA churches in North America. A total of 16,264 baptisms were recorded by CMA missionaries in 1971, the last year for which figures are available, and this represented an all-time high. The gains took place even though the CMA missionary task force has stayed at approximately 900 for the past decade.

Bailey says that in his travels around the world he has sensed quite the opposite of the “missionary go home” spirit alleged in some quarters to characterize overseas Christians. “On my recent trip to Africa,” he declared, “the national church committee and the district committee in one area asked for an interview with me. Their burden in each case was a plea for more missionaries.” Similar calls were voiced in a meeting of CMA-related church leaders in Southeast Asia earlier this year.

CMA foreign secretary L. L. King echoed: “Although a renewed student interest in world missions and evangelization was evidenced, the critical need is for a great increase in the number of qualified youth responding to God’s call to overseas ministry.”

Bailey contends the primary responsibility for motivating missionary volunteers lies with Christian parents.In an ad lib during his presentation of the report, Bailey remarked wryly that evangelicals used to tell liberals they would not have recruitment problems if their theology were biblical. But the CMA is also making some efforts to spur recruitment of trained talent, including inauguration this fall of an innovative graduate program in the new Alliance School of Theology and Missions at Nyack, New York. Meanwhile, the CMA is starting to recruit lay persons on a contract basis for specialized service in such fields as medicine and administration in order to free ordained missionaries for evangelism and church-planting.

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For their part, delegates to the six-day meeting in St. Paul, Minnesota, tended to housekeeping matters, the main one a denominational reorganization plan.


Bury My Tithe At Wounded Knee

The armed occupation of the Indian village of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, may be over, but its shock waves are reverberating through several denominations and Indian mission boards.

Some church members learned for the first time during the dispute that their churches were funding the American Indian Movement (AIM), which spearheaded the takeover assertedly to dramatize Indian problems. They learned, too, that their leaders supplied money for AIM’s “Trail of Broken Treaties” caravan, which ended in the $2 million occupation and devastation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D. C., last fall.

At the same time, church leaders and missionaries were warned that one of AIM’s avowed goals is removal of Christian churches and missionaries from Indian reservations.

Syndicated columnist Lester Kinsolving stirred hot reaction early in the Wounded Knee takeover when he reported that Episcopal bishop Ivol Ira Curtis of Seattle had approved a $10,000 grant to AIM for its Washington trek. Other newspaper reports indicated that AIM received more than $37,000 from the American Lutheran Church, $40,000 from the U. S. Catholic Bishops’ “Campaign for Human Development” fund, and an additional $30,000 from the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. The Mormon church earlier provided $1,000 cash and $150 worth of gasoline for the Washington march. Church leaders have since defended the grants despite the damage and the Wounded Knee takeover (and, says writer Kinsolving, despite the accumulation of nineteen felony convictions for burglary and assault by three of AIM’s leaders). Huffed one indignant church official after Kinsolving questioned him about the convictions: “We fund projects—not people.”

At Wounded Knee, National Council of Churches officials kept the insurgents supplied with food and took a hand in the sometimes thorny negotiations.

For many, however, AIM symbolized devastation and destruction—and a call to young Indians to overthrow Christianity, the “White Man’s religion.”

Church of God minister Orville Lansberry and his wife returned to their church and parsonage at Wounded Knee after the militants left to find the home and garage burned to the ground. It was destroyed the night before the siege ended. The teepee-style church was severely damaged by fire, and the exterior was pockmarked with bullet holes from the many exchanges of gunfire between Indians and government agents.

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R. L. Gowan, director of the American Indian Mission, based in Rapid City, South Dakota, said the militants had seized more than $1,500 in supplies and equipment. Two missionaries connected with Gowan’s group fled under gunfire the night of the takeover.

Sacred Heart Church, the Roman Catholic church in the village, was also severely damaged. It had served as the militants’ headquarters during the eighty-day seizure.

While deploring AIM’s rampage at Wounded Knee, however, some Indian missionaries are listening to the Indians’ cry for justice and self-determination—and agreeing.

Donald G. Fredericks, director of the United Indian Mission (UIM) in Flagstaff, Arizona, said “some of the spirit of the Indian-ness” of the radicals is shared by Indian Christians “and it’s a healthy thing.” The Indians want pride in themselves and want the right to decide their own courses of action, said Fredericks. As a result, UIM is now “100 per cent indigenously minded.” (The mission has sixty-nine missionaries working in the southwest United States, Mexico, and British Columbia.) Fredericks added that UIM prefers extension courses rather than centralized schools for Indian workers. At present it helps nearly ten churches with Indian leaders among the 130,000 Navajo Indians. (The Navajos are the largest of 250 tribes in the United States.)

Gordon H. Fraser, a leading Indian mission authority and former president of Southwestern School of Mission in Flagstaff, warned that increasing Indian self-awareness will cause corresponding drops in white missionaries. Already missionary numbers have dropped in the last fifty years while the Indian population has “doubled and redoubled.” Fraser said Indian students at his school are encouraged to return to their reservations and work with their families first, then reach out to other tribe members, slowly building an indigenous church. Twenty-five graduates are now working on the Navajo reservation.

Both Fraser and Fredericks see Wounded Knee as a possible turning point for white-operated missions. The AIM has already blamed the church for many of the Indians’ troubles, and young Indians are returning to the peyote-using Native American Church in increasing numbers, they said. (Peyote is a hallucinatory drug derived from a cactus.) In the end, said Fredericks, all non-Indian missionaries may be forced off the reservations. “And if that happens the church will blossom. We’ll have a tremendous revival. We’ve sowed the seed and must let the Indian take it from here.”

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It’S In The Air

There’s a new sound in the nation’s capital these days. It’s the 1,000-watt daytime AM radio station WCTN, which went on the air last month interspersing soft-sell plugs for the gospel with routine secular-type programming. The idea behind the format is to reach more than just the church-oriented listener. Purchased for about $250,000 by the nondenominational, charismatic 300-member Christ Church, the station is broadcasting popular music, news, and weather reports—and both traditional and contemporary religious programming.

“Don’t hold me to playing a hymn every time I put on a record,” said Keith Jollay, 25, Christ Church’s disc jockey-assistant pastor, who is heading up the radio ministry. “What we want is a station that’s much more live than are most religious stations around the country today,” Jollay said. “We’re going to try to stay away from the usual pre-recorded sermonette-type programs, because you can’t keep an audience interested in a long evangelistic program. We don’t want prerecorded preachers coming on back to back.”

Jollay told correspondent Herb Perone that commercial advertisements (open to anything not contradictory to WCTN’s message) are expected to underwrite the station’s costs, but that in the meantime the church and individual donors will pick up the tab.

“The best writers are often shy and timid and need encouragement.… The editor … needs to carry a Geiger counter to discover the hidden uranium of writing ability.”

So said Dr. Benjamin P. Browne, known as the “grand old man” of Christian writing schools, in his book Christian Journalism for Today published back in 1952 by Judson Press. Practicing what he preached, Browne, an American Baptist minister gifted in writing and administration, was instrumental in building the International House for writers at the conference ground at Green Lake, Wisconsin. He founded Christian writing conferences there and at Judson College, Elgin, Illinois, and established the International Christian Writers organization.

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Although Christian writers’ schools at Judson and Green Lake have since faded away and Browne has retired in southern California, the legacy lives on. Editors are taking Browne’s advice of searching out neophyte writers and helping them hone dull talents to a cutting edge for Christ.

Schools of Christian writing have been proliferating in the past several years, and this summer may see a record number in the United States and Canada and also abroad.

Decision magazine’s eleventh annual School of Christian Writing, to be held next month in Minneapolis, has attracted 1,900 inquiries and nearly 400 applications, registrar Charlene Anderson said several weeks ago. “Interest in the school has greatly exceeded that of other years.… The quality of writing is going up. And it’s harder to get in now,” she said. Applicants will be narrowed to 200–250. The school will be held in Minneapolis July 13–22.

Decision editor Sherwood E. Wirt said in an interview that he got the idea for the Minneapolis school after attending Robert Walker’s Christian Writers Institute in Wheaton in 1961. “I realized we weren’t getting unsolicited manuscripts of quality in the mail. We didn’t let people know what we wanted,” Wirt recalled.

Wirt told Billy Graham of his vision for a school in early 1962, and the first conference was launched with about ninety students in the summer of 1963. God has used graduates of the Minneapolis schools in remarkable ways, says Wirt, and a few have zoomed into prominence swiftly. But the peripatetic editor and author sees the Minneapolis school as more than an end in itself. “It’s priming the pump for others,” he says.

Wirt and his wife, Winola—also an author well known in evangelical circles—trekked all over the South Pacific and the Orient in 1971, holding eight writing schools for Christians. Schools struck root and are growing in Tokoyo and Manila, reports Wirt. And he’s returning this summer to boost ongoing annual schools in London, Paris, and Frankfurt.

Another spin-off is a school at Olivet Nazarene College in Kankakee, Illinois. And a school will be held in Toronto for the first time July 2 to 4.

California is the site for two annual Christian writing schools, and a third is to be christened next month. A strong school with a let’s-get-down-to-business attitude convened during Easter week at Mount Hermon conference ground in the Santa Cruz mountains with 130 students. Practical sessions in conceiving, writing, polishing, and selling stories were led by pros like free-lance king James Hefley, and Norman Rohrer, who conducts a writers’ correspondence course and is executive secretary of the Evangelical Press Association.

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Decision also launched a California School of Christian Writing last July with seventy-three aspiring students (see August 25, 1972, issue, page 44). Bigger and better things are on tap this June 24–27 at Forest Home in the San Bernardino Mountains. The goal, according to Wirt, is to enable satellite schools to become autonomous. There, as elsewhere, the trend is to seek out the younger writers.

Meanwhile, writer Rohrer is spearheading the first writers’ conference at Hume Lake in the Sierra Nevada July 6 to 8. Mini weekend conferences at the Rohrers’ Hume cottage, Quill o’ the Wisp, will follow.

Other regular schools are the Christian Writers’ Conference at Wheaton College each March, a Portland, Oregon, Christian writers’ group meeting in January, April, and the fall led by Dr. Raymond Cox of Salem, Oregon; classes at Moody Bible College, Chicago; a June conclave of secular and Christian writers (Midwest Writers Conference) at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls; and occasional invitation-only schools hosted by Earl Roe for Guideposts in Rye, New York.

“We need to motivate superior Christian writing,” sums up writers’ dean Wirt. “We need to upgrade the whole corpus of Christian literature.”

And though the styles and techniques taught at increasingly professional schools of writing are as up-to-date as tomorrow’s headlines, the standards of excellence are securely rooted to the best of Christian classics, says Wirt, adding: “John Bunyan and John Milton are still our models.”


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