Elder James White, also known as Evangel, has a true calling in life to evangelism. After 40 years of ministry, he was recognized with a Distinguished Service Award at the Pastoral Evangelism and Leadership Conference held last December on the campus of Oakwood University.

Strong beginnings

He and his mother were introduced to the church when he was seven years old at a tent gathering in Bessemer, Alabama. Fascinated by the preaching and the images displayed, he knew at that tender age that he should help people to find Jesus Christ. As a youth White volunteered to go out and put up tents and operate the projector at crusades.

While at Oakwood College in 1970 he took a homiletics class to study the art of preaching and writing sermons. His instructor,Dr. Mervin Warren, told him that the Lord had blessed him with the gift of evangelism. Upon graduation in 1972, White moved to St. Louis, Missouri and worked under evangelist S. T. Lewis of the Northside Church. Elder Lewis nicknamed James “Evangel” because of his great love for evangelism. Now Elder White refers to Evangel as his spiritual name.

White won his wife, Barbara, into the church through evangelism. He gave her Bible studies and made notes in her Bible of key texts. Barbara attended many crusades with James over the next five years. Now, after 45 years of marriage, they continue to offer Bible studies as a couple to win souls for Christ. “The greatest thing that this life holds is going out and winning souls for Jesus Christ. Nothing is more important than that,” White stated.

Stories of service

White recalls one of his greatest experiences in evangelism while preaching with the Ebony Evangelism team of speakers. They were assigned to New Orleans, Louisiana when a hurricane came and blew the tent down and tore it up, not to mention putting it completely under water. While they were waiting in the rain for the truck to come pick up the tent Barbara told the team, “Do not put that tent in the truck because my husband will be putting it back up.” When they told James, he said, “She told you I’m going to do what? How can I put up a tent that’s torn and under water?” He stood there and looked at his wife, then looked up to heaven through the rain and asked God, “How am I going to do this?” He prayed and the Holy Spirit led him and his team to put the tent up and ultimately baptize 49 precious souls.

Challenges are what make life interesting. Elder White remembers a time laboring in Waterloo, Iowa with Joann Harrington and Robbie Bass. White had several ministerial students from Andrews University working alongside him. The local faith leaders got on the radio and preached against Elder White’s tent meetings. They took his sermons and argued and discussed them on the radio. Their tent was right in the middle of a drug zone. A relationship was formed with the drug dealers and they would stop selling during the meeting time and actually protected the tent at night. A few of the drug dealers’ relatives were baptized.

Modern efforts for modern society

Some of the most effective agencies of soul winning for Elder White have been Sabbath school, community service and health fairs. White has led at the Central States Conference in the departments of Community Service, Prison Ministry, Sabbath School, Men’s Ministry, Inner City and Stewardship. He encourages each department to sit down and determine how many souls they want to win because evangelism is the heartbeat of the church.

“This is what I believe: We have no time to lose,” said White. “The work is becoming more difficult in our cities and we must move as fast as possible with aggressive warfare. As Sister White said in her writings, if we would be kind and tenderhearted there would be 100 souls in the church to every one person now. The Lord is coming real soon and He has commanded us to go out and win souls. We have our marching orders in Matt. 28:19-20: ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”’

Elder White says that Jesus was the greatest evangelist because in every person Jesus met He saw a soul for eternity. “We must follow His example. The Lord has shown us that we must use modern efforts to reach a modern society with excitement and enthusiasm. There will be no starless crowns in heaven. Everybody can win souls. Jesus is not calling us for our ability, but for our availability. The secret to soul winning is to pray and keep on praying. I’m Evangelist White with a white tent here to preach the gospel of Christ and help finish the work!”

This article was also published in the March/April 2015 print edition of OUTLOOK. It was written by Brittany Winkfield, a member of the New Community Church in Denver, Colorado.