Why not try this? …Ask non-believers for advice on how to reach them

This summer I was visiting my dad in the Sacramento area when he invited me to his barbershop singer group one evening. About twenty men were there as he introduced me and asked me to tell them about myself. After sharing about my family, I told them one of my jobs was to organize mission trips around the world. Another part of my job was to train pastors. That’s when I was hit with a burst of inspiration. I said, “What advice would you like pastors to hear? What do you wish they knew or did or didn’t do that would help you?”

Wow, what interesting thoughts they shared, in the group and then privately afterwards. I’ve asked the same question to many people since- business executives & US government leaders on airplanes, non-Adventists at a community barbeque, etc. Many of them knew nothing about us as Adventists; their comments were directed toward what they had experiences in other denominations.

Here is a small sampling of what they’ve told me—

· “I wish churches were more inclusive. I’ve tried visiting several churches and no one talked to me.” Assistant Director of the US Forest Service

· “Tell the pastors to talk about something relevant, something that we can use during the following week that will help us with our lives and families.”

· “Don’t preach so much hellfire and damnation. Let people know that God wants to save them.” Brother of a Baptist preacher

· “Be gentle with people. When I e-mailed my high school friend about what I was doing in life she e-mailed back that she had become a Christian and that she was horrified at how I was living my life. I know I have problems but I want help, not criticism.” Business executive

· “I don’t know any pastors. But I have a brother who is an orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem. I would say do something that helps your community instead of staying to yourself.” Jewish engineer at a community barbeque

What surprised me most in this whole process is how open people were to the question and how willing they were to give clues about how to reach them with the message of a crucified, risen, loving and soon-coming Savior.

Ellen White was so right when she wrote “God wants us to go right to the people, realizing that they have souls to save or to lose, and tell them that you desire them to have a life that measures with the life of God–an eternal life in the kingdom of glory. Then you may sit down with them and ask them if they will listen to some precious truths from the Scriptures. But few will refuse you, and then you will have an opportunity to open to them the glorious gospel message.” {Manuscript Releases vol. 3 p. 286.3}

Blessings to you,

Dan Serns

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