A Brief History of the
Department of Evangelism
In February of 1927, Bishop C.H. Mason appointed Elder L. C. Page as leader of the “group of Evangelists in the Church of God in Christ.” By his own admission, Elder Page did not know the first thing to do, so he just preached. Bishop Mason gave Elder Page a second charge in the fall of 1933. He then instructed him to organize and supervise the National Evangelist Board. Not long after these instructions, Elder Page began having Evangelist Board meetings in different parts of the country. The first one was held in Memphis, Tennessee around 1937.
In the early days, on the Friday before the main Sunday in the National Convocation in Memphis, Bishop Page and the Evangelists were in charge of the service. This day was known as Evangelist day and it soon became a highlight of the Convocation. In these services, many souls were saved and baptized with the Holy Ghost.
The early conventions of the Evangelist Board were really crusades led by Evangelist President Page and a few mostly male Evangelists from across the country. Those in attendance were few and the delegates stayed in private homes. The first year the convention was headquartered in a hotel was 1969 in Dallas, Texas. This was the first convention following Elder D. L. Austin’s appointment as the first Convention Chairman in the Board’s history. Bishop Page was a noted soul winner and these conventions reaped large numbers of converts and people who received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.
The Evangelist Board was the first of the auxiliaries and departments to have a “Bible Institute” during its convention. The Institute was under the direction of Dean O. E. Dinwiddie. Today most of the departments of the church have integrated the Institute or “Work Shops” and Seminars into their convention programs. The best Gospel preaching was delivered by some of the most powerful speakers from around the country. Each convention held water Baptism on the closing night. Many hundreds of souls were baptized on this night. According to one historical source, Mother Lillian Coffey appointed Mother Reatha Herndon as president of the National Women’s Evangelist Board in 1951. Mother Herndon and her twin sister Leatha were pioneers of the evangelistic work of the Church of God in Christ. Together they traveled across the country proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were also instrumental in establishing 75 churches across the nation. Dr. Reatha Herndon is the Elect Lady of the Evangelist Department. She has served with Bishop Page and Elder Edward Battles and now serves with Evangelist Richard White. On October 11, 2000, Mother Herndon will celebrate her 100th birthday. In 1972, with the approval of the General Assembly, the Evangelistic Board was granted full departmental status with all the rights to organize, conduct and/ operate as the other major Departments of the church.
Dr. Edward Battles was appointed President of the Evangelist Department in 1983. He immediately began to seek God for direction in strengthening the work of Bishop Page. The first undertaking was a series of International Department of Evangelism Crusades in a Holy call to refresh, train, and strengthen Evangelists. Mother Herndon, an evangelist of over sixty years at that time, encouraged Dr. Battles and she was present at the initial meeting which was held at Williams Temple Church of God in Christ. Under the leadership of Dr. Edward Battles, the Evangelists were trained in child evangelism, institutional evangelism, and street witnessing.
In 1993, Dr. Battles published “ The National Evangelist Department Handbook for Structuring Department.” In this handbook questions on the mission and meaning of the Department of Evangelism are answered. Evangelists can use this handbook as a guide in their endeavors to do the work of an Evangelist. At the National Leadership Conference in 1997, which was held in Houston, Texas, Presiding Bishop C. D. Owens appointed Evangelist Richard White President of the Evangelist Department.
Rev. White sought God in prayer for His direction in leading the Department of Evangelism. After consulting with members of the Department, Evangelist White appointed 10 Regional directors to coordinate various areas of the country. He has emphasized the importance of “Deliverance, Development, and Demonstration.” Once a soul has received deliverance through salvation we must offer training to help them develop and become mature believers or saints.
After this process, they will be able to demonstrate to others this process of being born again.
The president’s vision is to conduct regional crusades that will impact the lives of people throughout this country. Since the Department is concentrating on winning and nurturing new souls into the kingdom, The President has adopted the theme: