From June 2 to June 15, fifteen theology students from Southwestern Adventist University conducted fifteen different evangelistic seminars in English and Spanish churches across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. As a result, forty-five decisions for baptism were made by community members, and student evangelists were reporting personal revivals among veterans in every church. As for themselves, the pastors in training said they walked away feeling inspired and empowered to take the next step in their own spiritual journeys.
The meetings were the culmination of the University’s annual five-week Field School of Evangelism, a required class for upper division theology majors. This summer, students apprenticed under evangelist David Machado for three weeks in the classroom, as well as in the Hurst Seventh-day Adventist Church, where Machado conducted his own series of evangelistic meetings from May 10 through June 1. Machado’s meetings resulted in forty baptisms, for a total of eighty-five baptisms.
Assistant Professor Buster Swoopes, who co-taught the class with Machado, said, “Field school teaches students to continue to do public evangelism well into ministry, and equips them to be able to do so.”
This year, students were literally equipped by the Southwestern Union Conference (SWUC) and the Texas Conference, as they were provided projectors, suit allowances, books, giveaways, and flyers for the meetings. Southwestern Adventist University hosted the students in the dorm, and the SWUC Conference covered gas and stipends for meals.
Students also received plenty of hands-on experience in ministry. Senior theology student Alexis Mireles said, “Field school taught me how to take care of a congregation, how to visit and work with them, and everything that follows. It’s helped me understand how ministry really works. I’ve learned that visitation is more important than preaching.”
Swoopes said that while visitation was not required, all students were encouraged to knock on doors, and some students had tremendous results.
For instance, recent Southwestern graduate Miguel Simo gleaned twelve candidates for baptism from “cold knocking,” said Swoopes. “He was running the Dallas meeting, and almost every day he knocked on doors and organically and personally invited the twelve that were baptized to attend the meetings. Often days he came back to class sweaty and tired, but he never missed a day of class. He worked really hard.”
Recent Southwestern Adventist University graduate Samson Sembeba, who ran the Alvarado SDA Church meetings, and who has just accepted a pastoral position in Oklahoma, shared, “Going out into the pastoral world, I wasn’t ready to be an Adventist pastor. I knew the beliefs, but I couldn’t break them down from Scripture. Doing field school forced me to really study the Bible. I feel like going through this experience has been a revival for me, where I am now confident in the Bible--the Bible is so clear --and it makes me want to stand and proclaim it with everything in my bones. I’m so excited now. Field school changed my life.”
Alexis Mireles, who conducted a seminar in the Crowley Spanish Church, said the experience has changed how he views his calling. “Before this field school, I was planning to go as a missionary to somewhere remote, like the Amazon, but I realized that there are people right here in the U.S. that don’t know Jesus. This has made me be more flexible about my calling. I’ll go wherever God calls, but now I also feel he can bring me people that need to hear the truth right where I am.”
This year marked the tenth anniversary of the field school, which began under the leadership of Dr. Bill Kilgore. Each year the field school visits a different conference in the Southwestern Union. Next year the field school will take place in the Southwest Region Conference,
The field school is a unique component of Southwestern Adventist University’s religion program, setting it apart from its sister schools and providing excellent career preparation for future pastors, missionaries, and evangelists. For more information about Southwestern Adventist University’s theology program, visit www.swau.edu.