ASI was developed out of the Madison College project established by Dr. E. A. Sutherland and Percy Magan under the direction of Ellen White. Mrs. White felt very strongly that Madison College was fulfilling a specific need within the church. She spoke repeatedly about the role the college was playing in establishing a self-supporting work that would complement and even challenge the organizational schools. “There is a large field open before the self-supporting gospel worker. Many may gain valuable experience while toiling a portion of the time at some form of manual labor…” (Welfare Ministry, p. 64).
The self-supporting school was established near Nashville, Tennessee in 1904. Despite struggling at its inception, the school soon grew and began to plant satellite schools and institutions throughout the country. Part of the atmosphere of this burgeoning organization was a yearly meeting that brought all the entities together. Arthur W. Spalding wrote in his book, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, “Once a year for forty years, the schools, sanitariums, rest homes and other enterprises of the rural missions joined in a self-supporting worker’s convention held at Madison College” (p. 183). This laid the foundation for what is now the annual ASI International Convention.