Madison School inspiration for self-supporting ministries

Madison School inspiration for other self-supporting institutions

Madison Missionary School was established under divine guidance. Its beginnings were marked by a deep desire to follow God’s blueprint for Christian education. The school failed because later on its leaders diverged from the blueprint. From the whole history of Madison School we can learn many lessons, both from their faithfulness and from their failures.

While Madison School was still functioning, some other institutions were established with a similar desire to follow God’s blueprint for education. One of these institutions was  Wildwood Lifestyle Center. It was founded in 1942, soon after the Pearl Harbor disaster. It was a very difficult period because of the war, the building materials were scare, the economical situation was tough. More details about the history of this institution you can read on the the page Wildwood story.  Wildwood offers medical missionary courses. Another program developed by them is L.I.G.H.T. (The Lay Institute for Global Health Training), which offers short term medical missionary courses for lay members, seminaries and online studies.

Wildwood Lifestyle Center is at the origins of OCI (Outpost Centers International). In the early 1980’s, Warren Wilson, who was then the president of Wildwood Lifestyle Center and Hospital, recognized the need to form an organization that could serve as counselor and encourager to many of the new self-supporting institutions. This organization could facilitate the growth of self-supporting work, network existing projects, and help train and strengthen leaders. Thus, in 1983, Outpost Centers was incorporated.

To see a complete list of self-supporting institutions from North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Europe visit the OCI website. At this time there are 82 self-supporting institutions.

Madison School and ASI

ASI’s history is rooted in Madison College, an Adventist self-supporting institution established in 1904 near Nashville, Tennessee by E.A. Sutherland and Percy Magan. As Madison expanded it began to plant satellite schools and institutions around the country. In 1947 these self-supporting entities formed the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Self-Supporting Institutions, or ASI.

At the time, ASI members were educational or health outfits. Over the years however, ASI membership began to include businesses and Adventist entrepreneurs and professionals. Thus in 1979, to better reflect ASI’s diverse membership, the organization’s name was changed to Adventist-laymen’s Services & Industries (ASI).


Madison Missionary School – First Years

Madison Missionary School – First Years

In 1904 was established one of the most remarkable and innovative schools in America, in the town of Madison, Tennessee, about 10 miles from Nashville. In the beginning it was called The Nashville Agricultural and Normal Institute (NANI), and in 1937 its name was changed into Madison College.

For over 50 years, the principal of the Madison School was Dr. Edward Alexander Sutherland (1865-1955). He graduated Battle Creek College. After graduation he became the principal of Walla Walla College in Washington state, and in 1897 (when he was 32 years old) he became the principal of Battle Creek College.Following God’s counsel about establishing schools in the countryside, he moved Battle Creek College on a farmland of 300 acres, not far from Berrien Springs, Michigan, ad changed its name into Emmanuel Missionary College (today it is called Andrews University).

Between 1895 and 1896, Ellen G. White wrote nine articles, urging the adventist believers to work in the southern states affected by the Civil War. Listening to this call, in 1904, Sutherland and his close friend Percy T. Magan (1867-1947) resigned from Emmanuel Missionary College and left towards South.

 Dr E. A. Sutherland - Madison Missionary School   Percy T. Magan - Madison Missionary School    Ellen G. White1899 -  promoter of true Christian education

In the summer of 1904, Sutherland and Magan discussed their plans with sister White, in Nashville, and after that they looked for a suitable location for the school in the surrounding areas of Nashville. On June 1904, E. White, W. Palmer, Sutherland, Magan and others embarked on a steamboat. Because the steamboat had some problems and they couldn’t continue the trip, E.White and elder Palmer went to see the surroundings. They found a farm with 412 acres of land (aprox. 160 hectares). E. White return to the boat and told  Sutherland and Magan: “This place look like the one I saw in a vision. This is the place where God wants you to start a school.” When the two saw the farm, they were deeply disappointed by how it looked. Even more, they had not enough money to buy such a big farm. They thought about buying a small farm, with fertile land and well maintained. After much interior struggle they accepted to follow the inspired advice.

The farm was bought for $12 723. It included those 400 acres of land, a house, and other buildings, stone fence on about 2 miles and 70 cattle. The land consisted of 100 acres of fertile land, 100 acres of land for cereals and fruit trees and 200 acres of pasture land.
(dollar value in 1904, USA: yearly wage of a worker was $200, an accountant earned  $2000, and a dentist earned $2500)

The school began its activity in the same year, 1904, with 11 students. The philosophy of education was developed under the guidance of Ellen White. She used to call this school  God’s Beautiful Farm. She appreciated the work done by the founders of this school: Sutherland, Magan (1867-1947), M. Bessie DeGraw, and Nellie H. Druillard. In 1908, Ellen White wrote the following in the article entitled “An Appeal for Madison School”: “The . . . education given at the Madison school is such as will be accounted a treasure of great value by those who take up missionary work in foreign fields. If many more in other schools were receiving a similar training, we as a people would be a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. The message would quickly be carried to every country, and souls now in darkness would be brought to light.”

Madison Missionary School was so special to Ellen White that she decided to get involved in its  leading. This was the only institution where she accepted to be part of the board (she was one of the 10 members who formed the school board), and she accepted with one condition: the school had to be an independent one, formed as a non profit association, not in the ownership of the church. Ellen White saw the obstacles placed in the way of all those who tried to apply her inspired advices about running a Christian school. This time her advice was to have an independent school. Her involvement in the leadership of the school had to be a defense against criticism and suspicions.

Related articles:

Madison Missionary School and the principle of self-supporting

Madison School: Difficulties on the road

Madison School: source of inspiration for other schools

The Schools of the Prophets – The Blueprint for Christian Education

The Schools of the Prophets

The Schools of the Prophets – their origin and their purpose


The schools of the prophets were established by the prophet Samuel. The first mention of the “sons of the prophets”, as all the young men educated that way were called, we find it in 1 Samuel 10, when Saul is anointed as king. (1 Samuel 10:5) In the days of Samuel there were two schools of the prophets, one in Ramah, where the prophet Samuel lived, and one in Kiryat Yearim, where it was the ark of the covenant. Later on some more schools of the prophets were established in Bethel (2 Kings 2:3), Jericho (2 Regi 2:15), Gilgal (2 Kings 4:38) etc.

Fathers and mothers in Israel became indifferent to their obligation to God, indifferent to their obligation to their children. Through unfaithfulness in the home, and idolatrous influences without, many of the Hebrew youth received an education differing widely from that which God had planned for them. They learned the ways of the heathen.

To meet this growing evil, God provided other agencies as an aid to parents in the work of education. From the earliest times, prophets had been recognized as teachers divinely appointed. In the highest sense the prophet was one who spoke by direct inspiration, communicating to the people the messages he had received from God. But the name was given also to those who, though not so directly inspired, were divinely called to instruct the people in the works and ways of God. For the training of such a class of teachers, Samuel, by the Lord’s direction, established the schools of the prophets.

These schools were intended to serve as a barrier against the wide-spreading corruption, to provide for the mental and spiritual welfare of the youth, and to promote the prosperity of the nation by furnishing it with men qualified to act in the fear of God as leaders and counselors. To this end, Samuel gathered companies of young men who were pious, intelligent, and studious. These were called the sons of the prophets…” (Education, 45-46)

Elijah and Elisha were used by God in a very impressive way to stop the wave of general apostasy and to help many Israelites to return to the true and only God.

“For several years after the call of Elisha, Elijah and Elisha labored together, the younger man daily gaining greater preparedness for his work. Elijah had been God’s instrument for the overthrow of gigantic evils…

During these years of united ministry, Elijah from time to time was called upon to meet flagrant evils with stern rebuke…

The schools of the prophets, established by Samuel, had fallen into decay during the years of Israel’s apostasy. Elijah re-established these schools, making provision for young men to gain an education that would lead them to magnify the law and make it honorable. Three of these schools, one at Gilgal, one at Bethel, and one at Jericho, are mentioned in the record.…

The heart of Elijah was cheered as he saw what was being accomplished by means of these schools. The work of reformation was not complete, but he could see throughout the kingdom a verification of the word of the Lord, “Yet I have left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal.” “(1 Împăraţi 19, 18) (PK 224-225)

“Just before Elijah was taken to heaven, he visited the schools of the prophets, and instructed the students on the most important points of their education. The lessons he had given them on former visits, he now repeated, impressing upon the minds of the youth the importance of letting simplicity mark every feature of their education. Only in this way could they receive the mold of heaven, and go forth to work in the ways of the Lord. If conducted as God designs they should be, our schools in these closing days of the message will do a work similar to that done by the schools of the prophets.” (FE 512)

“Like the Saviour of mankind, of whom he was a type, Elisha in his ministry among men combined the work of healing with that of teaching. Faithfully, untiringly, throughout his long and effective labors, Elisha endeavored to foster and advance the important educational work carried on by the schools of the prophets. In the providence of God his words of instruction to the earnest groups of young men assembled were confirmed by the deep movings of the Holy Spirit, and at times by other unmistakable evidences of his authority as a servant of Jehovah.” (PK 240)

The Schools of the Prophets And Their Curriculum

The chief subjects of study in these schools were the law of God, with the instruction given to Moses, sacred history, sacred music, and poetry. In the records of sacred history were traced the footsteps of Jehovah. The great truths set forth by the types in the service of the sanctuary were brought to view, and faith grasped the central object of all that system—the Lamb of God, that was to take away the sin of the world. A spirit of devotion was cherished. Not only were the students taught the duty of prayer, but they were taught how to pray, how to approach their Creator, how to exercise faith in Him, and how to understand and obey the teachings of His Spirit. Sanctified intellect brought forth from the treasure house of God things new and old, and the Spirit of God was manifested in prophecy and sacred song“. (Education 47)

The art of sacred melody was diligently cultivated. No frivolous waltz was heard, nor flippant song that should extol man and divert the attention from God; but sacred, solemn psalms of praise to the Creator, exalting His name and recounting His wondrous works. Thus music was made to serve a holy purpose, to lift the thoughts to that which was pure and noble and elevating, and to awaken in the soul devotion and gratitude to God.” (FE 97)

The Holy Spirit is greatly needed in our schools. This divine agency comes to the world as Christ’s representative. It is not only the faithful and true witness of the Word of God, but it is the searcher of the thoughts and purposes of the heart. It is the source to which we must look for efficiency in the restoration of the moral image of God in man. The Holy Spirit was eagerly sought for in the schools of the prophets; its transforming influence was to bring even the thoughts into harmony with the will of God, and establish a living connection between earth and heaven.” (FE p.526)

The Schools of the Prophets and the principle of self-supporting

The pupils of these schools sustained themselves by their own labor in tilling the soil or in some mechanical employment. In Israel this was not thought strange or degrading; indeed, it was regarded as a sin to allow children to grow up in ignorance of useful labor. Every youth, whether his parents were rich or poor, was taught some trade. Even though he was to be educated for holy office, a knowledge of practical life was regarded as essential to the greatest usefulness. Many, also, of the teachers supported themselves by manual labor“. (Ed 47)

The Schools of the Prophets – The qualification of the teachers

“The instructors were not only versed in divine truth, but had themselves enjoyed communion with God, and had received the special endowment of His Spirit. They had the respect and confidence of the people, both for learning and for piety.” (Education 46)

The Schools of the prophets in the time of Jesus

In those times there were no real schools of the prophets anymore. In the first century, the education the young people received was no more the one from the old schools of the prophets. There were schools, of course, religious schools, organized around all the synagogues and around the Temple, the equivalent of the modern so called Christian schools. The Jews considered them schools of the prophets, as we try to say the same about our Christian schools. The name, the label seemed to be the same, but the content and methodology of education were changed, they were not the same any more. And they are not the same today. Jesus’ disciples, most of them, if not all, did not study in those schools.

“Seven of the disciples were in company. They were clad in the humble garb of fishermen; they were poor in worldly goods, but rich in the knowledge and practice of the truth, which in the sight of Heaven gave them the highest rank as teachers. They had not been students in the schools of the prophets [as the Jewish schools of the day were still called], but for three years they had been taught by the greatest Educator the world has ever known. Under His instruction they had become elevated, intelligent, and refined, agents through whom men might be led to a knowledge of the truth.” (DA 809)

The child Jesus did not receive instruction in the synagogue schools [called also the schools of the prophets]. His mother was His first human teacher. From her lips and from the scrolls of the prophets, He learned of heavenly things. The very words which He Himself had spoken to Moses for Israel He was now taught at His mother’s knee. As He advanced from childhood to youth, He did not seek the schools of the rabbis. He needed not the education to be obtained from such sources; for God was His instructor.” (DA 70)

Our Lord Jesus was never sent to any of the Jewish religious schools from His time. And this was not because Mary and Joseph or Himself were exclusivists, but because the education you could receive in those times from the established schools didn’t follow God’s plan. John the Baptist’ parents were led by the Holy Spirit to make the same choice for the education of their son, because of the same reasons. Their example is inspirational for our times: when the existing schools don’t follow carefully God’s plan about education, the healthiest choice is to home educate your child. In reality the first option should be home education. (you can read here more about Christian Home Education (a pdf file) ).

The Schools of the Prophets and modern Christian education

In all our churches there should be schools, and teachers in these schools who are missionaries. It is essential that teachers be trained to act well their part in the important work of educating the children of Sabbath keepers, not only in the sciences, but in the Scriptures. These schools, established in different localities and conducted by God-fearing men or women, as the case demands, should be built on the same principles as were the schools of the prophets… It is of the greatest importance that church schools shall be established, to which the children may be sent and still be under the watch care of their mothers and have opportunity to practice the lessons of helpfulness that it is God’s design they shall learn in the home….” (Child Guidance 306)

“Then when I look upon the scenes presented before me; when I consider the schools established in different places, and see them falling so far below anything like the schools of the prophets, I am distressed beyond measure. The physical exercise was marked out by the God of wisdom. Some hours each day should be devoted to useful education in lines of work that will help the students in learning the duties of practical life, which are essential for all our youth. But this has been dropped out, and amusements introduced, which simply give exercise, without being any special blessing in doing good and righteous actions, which is the education and training essential.

The students, every one, need a most thorough education in practical duties. The time employed in physical exercise, which, step by step, leads on to excess, to intensity in the games and the exercise of the faculties, ought to be used in Christ’s lines, and the blessing of God would rest upon them in so doing. All should go forth from the schools with educated efficiency, so that when thrown upon their own resources, they would have a knowledge they could use which is essential to practical life. The seeking out of many inventions to employ the God-given faculties most earnestly in doing nothing good, nothing you can take with you in future life, no record of good deeds, of merciful actions, stands registered in the book of heaven,—“Weighed in the balances and found wanting.”.” (FE 228)

Schools should be established, not such elaborate schools as those at Battle Creek and College View, but more simple schools with more humble buildings, and with teachers who will adopt the same plans that were followed in the schools of the prophets. Instead of concentrating the light in one place, where many do not appreciate or improve on that which is given them, the light should be carried into many places of the earth. If devoted, God-fearing teachers of well-balanced minds and practical ideas would go into missionary fields and work in a humble way, imparting that which they have received, God would give His Holy Spirit to many who are destitute of His grace.” 6T 138

Our schools are to be more and more efficacious and self-reliant from a human standpoint, more like the schools of the prophets. The teachers should walk very near to God. The Lord calls for strong, devoted, self-sacrificing young men and women who will press to the front and who, after a short time spent in school, will go forth prepared to give the message to the world..” (CT 549)

In the modern history there was a school who started well in imitating the model of the schools of the prophets: Madison Missionary School. Many other self supporting ministries were inspired from the example of Madison. You can see some of them in the following video:

God’s Blueprint For Christian Education

God’s blueprint for Christian Education is found in the Bible.

The best place to have this education is the Christian home. More information about this you can read on the page Home Education (click and it will open in a different window).

Because God’s people often neglected this solemn duty to educate their children, God inspired obedient people to establish schools, the schools of the prophets. They were not conducted in the way pagan nations understood education. They had to follow different principles. The content of that education and the methodology were completely different than those of other nations and religions. The Christian education should follow their pattern in our days. (for more details please read the chapter 58 The Schools of the Prophets from the book Patriarchs and Prophets, by Ellen G White. You can read it online here searching for the title of the book and using the title of the chapter in the text search box).

In the 1800’s God called a woman, Ellen G. White, to advise God’s people how to establish Christian schools and how the schools of the prophets had to be our blueprint. There were people who understood and accepted God’s blueprint for Christian Education, but most of the people didn’t understand and didn’t accept this blueprint.

The Broken Blueprint of Christian Education (click to read/download the pdf file; it will open in a different window) is a very detailed history of what happened in the 19th and 20th century in the Adventist movement in the field of education. In order to learn from the mistakes done in the past we need to know what happened in the past and search for God’s counsel and guidance to avoid those same mistakes.

In the material provided you will discover interesting facts about how Madison School became the institution which followed God’s blueprint for Christian education, how some mistakes were done and why the school closed its doors. There is interesting information about how Loma Linda started also in the right direction and how very soon it followed the worldly pattern for education.