by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference
As I write this, I find myself near the lake of Galilee where evangelism was born. The preacher was an itinerant rabbi preaching to peasants, fishermen, tax collectors and prostitutes. His primary ministerial district was a relatively small area around the lake where small communities worked hard for their daily survival. If I had been given the task of preaching the gospel to all the world, I would have likely started my ministry in Jerusalem, or even Cesarea Maritima; but Capernaum? Yet, in a matter of a few decades, Jesus’ evangelistic methods proved to be successful: “During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds. . .” (Acts 6:1 MSG). Jesus’ methods worked, His message was relevant, powerful, and transformational! Time has passed and the Gospel continues to radically change lives and relationships.
By now you have probably heard about vision 2020. It is an ambitious, strategic evangelistic initiative by the North Pacific Union Conference and its six conferences to adopt an evangelistic lifestyle in our local churches in order to turn around the declining growth and attendance of our churches.
Vision 2020 consists of five quarters of intentional, dynamic church activity supported by evangelistic tools designed by the Voice of Prophecy to help church members focus their lives around spreading the good news of Jesus throughout their NPUC communities.
RENEW—which began the 1rst quarter of 2019 was designated for personal renewal and spiritual growth through prayer, Bible study and sharing. To spark this ongoing progress, the North Pacific Union launched the reading of the book “Steps to Personal Revival” by Helmut Haubeil. This author not only encouraged the evaluation of the condition of the spiritual man, but also aimed to create a hunger for Holy Spirit baptism.
REFOCUS—2nd quarter of 2019 is designed to encourage churches to discover and prayerfully align with their biblical purpose and mission through mission alignment seminars and encouraging church pastors to seek resources on how to revitalize their churches.
RELATE— Beginning the 3rd quarter of 2019 will focus on each member and church learning to apply Jesus’ method of relating to people. Challenging every member to enlist in the joy of becoming involved in mission, encouraging and empowering congregations to launch community focused seminars on health & nutrition, marriage & parenting, finances, singles, or any other seminar that will bless the local communities; are just some of the ways we can connect to the needs in our communities to create and grow ongoing friendships.
RECLAIM— the 4th quarter of 2019 is focused on reclaiming those members and friends that at one point were regularly attending our churches but have stopped coming. This stage may entail the systematic revision of names and church records identifying potential names of people that can be contacted through a card, a phone call, a caring visit to let these missing members know that they are missed and that we would love to see them back in our churches.
REACH—is the phase in which evangelistic meetings will be held in every church. The Voice of Prophecy has prepared a series of brand new, Power Point evangelistic presentations that our pastors and lay leaders throughout our union will be able to utilize to preach a series of meetings that will bring the unique, Christ-centered, Adventist message of hope and wholeness to all the people of our union and the world.
Our Adventist movement has about a million members in North America, but unfortunately, only a few disciples that are willing to follow Jesus into the mission of the church. Just like in the early church’s evangelistic thrust, we are conscious that none of these planned efforts will be possible without a special anointing of the Spirit as a result of heart-felt prayer! Spirit-led pastors and members will be empowered by the Spirit to fulfill their mission and purpose.
We have been told that “If Christians were to act in concert for the accomplishment of one purpose. . . they would move the world.” (Gospel Workers, 277).
We have for too long loaded our church activities with sermons and board meetings. However, it is interesting to note that before Jesus preached a sermon or performed a miracle, He made disciples. Making disciples seems to have been Jesus’ priority. As I said before, I am writing this in a hotel close to the lake of Galilee. As I observed the distance between the main cities and villages where He preached and made miracles, with the exception of Nazareth, the territory that He covered around the lake was very insignificant. I became aware of how small the towns and villages were around the northern part of the lake, in particular Capernaum where the Bible tells us that “He withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zabulun and Nepthatli . . .” (Matthew 4:12,13).
So, Jesus didn’t try to impact the whole world with His message, though He did. He didn’t try to preach to all the world, although He has. He didn’t try to make a difference in the life of millions of people, although this is what He accomplished. He only sought to change the hearts of twelve men and impact the community that He had at hand. Nothing else was more important that to try to change the minds and character of the men and women that were around Him. Once He did this, the whole world was radically changed.
Recognizing the importance of making disciples Jesus said: “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.” (Matt. 10:25). When Jesus called his disciples, He did so with the intent that they would be like Him. The true disciple is like his master and does what his Master does. Paul became a disciple of Christ, and then wrote to the Corinthians: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Vision 2020 will be a success as long as our church leaders and members recognize that we are here to make disciples, not just to make a living and raise a family. God’s prophet stated: “The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character, they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them.” (COL 415.5, italics applied).
The following five quarters in our lives can be lived with intentionality and give us a reason to live lives with deep meaning and purpose and offer us an opportunity to join hands, between members, pastors, churches, conferences and the North Pacific Union Conference. Let’s come together and tell others, through the use of our love-infused talents and spiritual gifts, what a wonderful God we have and His plan to redeem our desperate, lonely and broken humanity. We are told that “God could have proclaimed His truth through sinless angels, but this is not His plan.” (AA 330.2). God has designed that we, His disciples, will join Him, in fishing for men.
God doesn’t need us to accomplish the mission; we need the mission to accomplish God purposes in our lives. It is time to change the course of the declining church attendance, church growth and church participation. If we seek the Lord with all our hearts and ask Him to pour His love for lost souls into our hearts, He will open doors of opportunity we cannot imagine. Join us in praying for an outpouring of His Spirit as we pray to join God in reaching all the people of the North Pacific Union Conference and the world with the distinct, Christ-centered, Adventist message of hope and wholeness!