Pastor Jose Cortes, Associate Director for Evangelism at the North American Division, recently posted this article on his facebook page with some very helpful ideas on how we, as Christians, can handle Halloween:
Halloween seems to be the one holiday in American Christianity
that we just don’t know what to do with. We happily celebrate cultural or
historical holidays like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s Day.
We love religious holidays like Easter and Christmas. But Halloween has quite a
dark history, and we don’t know how to approach it. As Christians we can either
pretend that it doesn’t exist (even though it does) or we can seize a great
opportunity right in front of us to reach out to our neighborhoods, friends or
colleagues. Here you will find some tips on how to use this Holiday as a
1. Be present: Don’t hide out all night. Open your church, and if
families stop by, have some cider, get to know their names and where they live
in the neighborhood.
2. Think of the Parents: Consider having some hot chocolate and
pumpkin bread out for the parents who are bringing their kids around the block.
Make church’s entryway inviting so they want to come closer or inside and hang
for a bit if possible.
3. Pass out Christian goodies: Halloween is the one night of the
year when strangers literally will show up on your church or home doorsteps
looking for handouts. Why not make sure they walk away with something
meaningful? If you’re planning on handing out candy this Halloween, you could
hand out a few tasteful tracts as well.
4. Host a Light Party! How can we be the light if we are hiding in
our homes; with the lights out, not answering the door? We are to be the light,
not hiding in the dark. You can host a Light Party in your home or in your
church. Turn on all the lights in your church, hang up some bright Christmas
lights, play Christian music, and hand out candy with handwritten notes saying,
“Jesus loves you”. You can offer free hot chocolate and free prayers.
Be the brightest place on the block, not the darkest.
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I am constantly humbled and encouraged with the dedication each lay-leader approaches ministry, to both nurture each current member and also minister to the community.
Developing each member as mission-minded disciples and investing personal energy, time and resources to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and His message to the un-churched in our community has been our focus. We are constantly brainstorming ways to forge relationships with the community through several outreach endeavors ranging from their Community service/diaper bank ministry to partnering with the local public elementary school tutoring reading for children as risk. We are involved with Rebuilding Mid-Columbia projects throughout our county, and several other volunteer based organizations, constantly partnering and connecting with the needs of the community.
As a way to bridge all of this wonderful work of establishing presence and credibility in our community and helping the un-churched in Richland across the threshold of eternity, we developed a teaching/preaching series entitled “The Storyteller.” We wanted to introduce Jesus and some of His most powerful teachings through the medium of His parables. We were able to address several key doctrines as well as what salvation through the person of Jesus Christ looks like. We invited them to participate in a community weekend leadership event called Both/And. We had a “full capacity crowd and the series was a huge success. We baptized 9 so far with the amazing follow up work of our Bible Worker. We are looking forward to a celebration Sabbath when we hope to baptize other candidates from ongoing harvest.
I love the everyday evangelism and discipleship that happens at Richland and absolutely look forward to the proclamation evangelism series that harvest all of the hard work each dedicated member has worked towards and prayed for. We are all so blessed and enriched by God’s great mercy to partner with us to usher His soon return.
This year we held an evangelistic series that taught our church an important lesson, the fact that we never know the impact and influence our choices make to those around us.
Two brothers began attending our church
for several months and had decided to take their next step and get baptized in
this series. As they were getting up to get prepared for baptisms, they walked
down the hall and saw a friend who was visiting our church for the first time.
His name is Carlos. Carlos was going through some rough moments in his life and
was looking for God that day. He recognized these two brothers and was
surprised to see them in blue robes getting ready to take an important step.
He saw something different in them. Last time they saw each other they were under the influence of alcohol. But now they were sober and had accepted Jesus as their personal Savior. Their faces reflected peace, joy, and happiness. He was touched by these brother’s testimony so much that he too decided to receive Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit through baptism that day. God surprises us every time. He is good all the time. They are currently being equipped and trained to become servant leaders.
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The road to giving my life to Christ was not exactly easy as some may think. Big and hard choices had to be made in my life first.
In the year 2012, do l retire? Do I continue with my teaching career of thirty-two years? Do I take care of my husband after his neck surgery? Do I continue taking care of my mother, who is showing signs of dementia? How do I finish my remodeling project? These questions are eating at me.
It became too much to handle. I finally hit rock bottom and felt beyond broken. I was physically and emotionally drained.
While driving from one place to another, I kept hearing “Go to a sanctuary and talk with someone.” In 2017, my husband visited the Seventh-day Adventist Church down the road from our house. He found solace there. One year later, he was baptized.
On July of 2018, I lost my mother. My father and a sister are both gone. I started to visit the church on and off. I kept hearing “Visit the sanctuary.” That’s where I met Pastor David Morgan and the family of the Selah Seventh-day Adventist Church. They welcomed me with open arms and lots of hugs. They have become very good friends. Their friendship helped me with my losses, troubles and gave to me time to heal.
On May 4, 2019, I was baptized. God has lightened my load of burdens. I’m active in the church, helping with the community services. I am now a member of the family of God!
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The vision for an evangelistic series for Stone Tower Seventh-day Adventist Church began in late summer, 2018. In 1953, Stone Tower had been built as the evangelistic center of Portland. “Evangelistic Center of Portland” was even engraved into this cornerstone set into the foundation of the church. With this in mind, our church plan was not simply an evangelistic series held once, but to re-establish Stone Tower as an evangelistic center in Portland once again. That plan would include yearly evangelistic meetings, bridge events, training for Bible Workers, fostering an atmosphere of friendship evangelism, and equipping every person with the resources they would need to embrace our returned focus on evangelism.
To kick-off our shared vision, our church decided to do an evangelistic meeting in the spring of 2019, that was bigger than anything Stone Tower had done before. The plan included coordinating a major evangelistic series with two other churches (Mt. Tabor Seventh-day Adventist Church & Lents Seventh-day Adventist Church), mailing to more than 100,000 homes in Portland, advertising through banners, yard signs, billboards, and a large 30 feet banner that would span down the side of the church. We included money to fly a team of literature evangelists (14 students) from Kentucky to canvass the area for four weeks. It also included setting up a 3 month Bible worker training school, with students from Generation of Youth for Christ and other areas. The total cost of the program was $60,000 and we immediately began fundraising.
Within a few months, we had not only raised our goal, but far exceeded it, while watching our local tithes and offerings increase. Our churches were excited! Mt. Tabor advertised for the series, and Lents setup several billboards. We were blown away, when 270 people showed up opening night, then 260 for our second night. We averaged 150 during the week and 200 on the weekends throughout the entire series. We had up to 36 children on our closing night of the series, which concluded with a special concert from the children for all the attendee’s.
We praise the Lord for the 26 people who made a decision for baptism and joined the Church. As a result of the series, our churches are re-engaged and enthused about evangelism. God is inspiring many families to give Bible studies in their neighborhood. Several gained victory over cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana as a result of giving their lives to the Lord in this series. One young adult who came to the series as a result of seeing a billboard, has now become our social media director and is enthusiastically sharing the Adventist message!
We praise God for inspiring us back to our evangelistic roots, and the imperative of Jesus to make disciples. Our Church has our identity back and more importantly, men and women are responding to the gospel in one of the most secular places in America; Portland, Oregon.
I was privileged to share the three angels’ messages in the Tacoma community at four different locations. Our budget was around $10,000. I have heard recently that people no longer come to meetings from brochures. Well opening night in the four different locations we were blessed to have around 35 pre-Adventist come to the meetings. Five of those who attended had either Master of divinity degrees or masters degrees in theology. After the 10-week seminar, almost all these people went through the entire series of meetings on the book of Daniel.
As follow up to this prophecy seminar, we invited Brian McMahon to be a part of the reaping process. Opening night, we again had approximately 35 pre-Adventist. 15 to 19 came directly or indirectly from the prophecy classes that I had been teaching. So far, we had 7 become part of God’s last day church and we have 10 “A” interests that will be baptized in the very near future. We also have formed 3 small groups for continued studies with these interests.
We have another person who attended my Seminar who now is studying with 10 different people using the prophecy series that I had been using. Out of this group, 30 to 35 are now starting to keep the Sabbath. We are hoping this will be a part of our new church plant in the very near future.
Everyone who gives their life to Christ has a story and I would like to share a very quick story from one who attended Brian McMahon’s series. His name is Mo. He is an overnight truck driver. One evening around midnight he was in western Washington channel surfing and came across a radio broadcast on 3ABN. He was so impressed with the program that he listened night after night. He could not believe what he was hearing so he shared it with his mother. The mother was so impressed that she decided to call about the speaker, Brian McMahon. Brian told Mo’s mother that he was coming to Tacoma to do a live series in the spring. They both looked at this as providential and God’s leading. In May, both Mo and his mother are now part of God’s worldwide church family.
Don’t let anybody tell you public evangelism doesn’t work!
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Pastor Brian Yarbrough hosted an ‘end time’ seminar in our small church at the Irrigon Seventh-day Adventist Church in April of 2019. Two meetings were held every night with a light meal in between. For those who attended at least 7 of the meetings, a beautiful Strong’s Concordance was given. Many were able to take one home with them.
The meal was simple and contained very nutritious soups, salads and breads. The meal time was a wonderful sharing time with all the people who were attending the meetings. It was nice to get to know these people. We had a small group that attended all of the meetings. It was a very gripping message due to Pastor’s gift to communicate very clearly and all were able to understand.
As a result LindaLee was baptized on April 27,2019. She had been studying with Pastor for several weeks before she took the plunge and received the Holy Spirit in Baptism. In addition there are two other adults and two minor children who are studying with Pastor for baptism sometime in the near future.
In conclusion, this seminar was a wonderful success and we are looking forward to holding another in the near future.
Two more churches to check out and I am done searching. That was my feeling toward churches until, a cheerful woman rang my doorbell. She had a wonderful smile and shared Amazing Facts Bible Study guides with me. I had no intentions of reading them until I saw the questions on the back. I became interested in them and looked forward to her returning and getting the next lesson. One day she did not return. I thought, “What did I do to keep her away?”
I did not have any interest in attending another church. I did have a different interest in one church that was across the street. It was down the hill behind my house and I could watch from my porch what was happening there. I would watch them arrive every Saturday all dressed up to worship and would wonder, “What are those crazy people doing going to church every Saturday? Don’t they know that you’re supposed to go to church on Sunday?” Why do those people attend church on Saturdays and not Sundays? What’s wrong with them? Each Saturday I would watch these people attend church and wonder why?
One day I needed help putting together a gazebo. I decided to ask for help from the members of that church. I found out the name of the church was Selah Seventh-day Adventist Church. I decided to go to the church and walk in and I met Pastor David Morgan. I was expecting to meet an over-weight, pushy, non-caring and womanizing person. I was wrong. He gave me an overview and tour of the church. To my surprise, there was the woman who used to come to my door and drop off those lessons. It was the Pastor’s wife – Annie Morgan. My shaking knees were no longer shaking and I started to feel better.
A few days later, Pastor David Morgan and a few members came to my house ready to work. Pastor prayed and we worked together to install the gazebo. They were as one, treating me as family, even though they did not know me. We had a great time. I decided to attend their church to see why they were as one. They were friendly, caring, and helpful. The Pastor encouraged us to read from our Bibles and not take his word. He read from the Bible often. I have been waiting for this type of message rather than others who do not use the Bible. One Sabbath I approached the head elder and asked what it took to be baptized and become a member of this church. Pastor Morgan studied with me until I was baptized. My question about the Sabbath was solved. I now serve as a greeter and in the Selah Adventist Community Services ministry. Now my wife, Guadalupe, is preparing to be baptized.
God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ Romans 5:20-21
Modern evangelistic efforts come with a new set of opportunities, but also a new set of challenges. Today, people are not as familiar with Biblical themes and stories as they have in times past. Biblical illiteracy is on the rise, and regardless if people attend church or listen to sermons, the practice of studying Scripture is largely underdeveloped in most believers. The challenge is, presenting messages with heavy theological themes makes it difficult to creatively set the context for some topics that require a much more comprehensive understanding of the Bible.
However, this new reality is also creating new opportunities that are exciting. Little to no biblical knowledge gifts learners with the beauty of starting from scratch, often without many of the harmful preconceived interpretations that can create barriers to growing faith. The opportunity to approach Scripture from a “childlike” posture, leaves the reader more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in revealing what is necessary and every foundation to the Christian faith. We have found this year that we are attracting a growing demographic of new believers which are changing the way we reach our community. We are embracing what is new with hopeful anticipation of making new disciples in Christ.
Living Free was the title of the series we chose to offer, and it was all about finding freedom through God sent relationships. This topic proved to be a powerful evangelistic tool in that it was so practical, it was able to translate well in all major issues of life. In this series, we explored the idea of freedom of being what God wants for us and how he uses people to do it. Instead of focusing on what tends to have us bound, we focused on seeing the help God has constantly offered us, even in our darkest moments.
This approach allowed us to connect the mission of Christ with the mission of the church in the incarnational method God uses to send salvation through people. Overall, we found these topics to hit home for many people, which raised awareness of people needing people to get through hard times, which voiced the need for having a family (church) to journey with.
One younger member of our church had been off and on with God for about two years before eventually he started attending more frequently, about three months before our series begun. He had just started a new relationship with someone who had no religious background, but he invited her to church. It was clear that she had no idea what was happening and, for the most part, was just there because she had been invited. But then, something amazing happened.
Our people embraced them, and loved them, and began to become friends. The real shocker was the first day they came to church by themselves. We were all amazed and grateful to God. After a few months, they began to help with the social media team, and I began to notice our posts getting better and receiving more traffic. One post I will never forget, was when I read the caption, “Saturdays are for second chances!” I was moved with joy and praise because I know who had created this post and I knew their faith was growing.
The only thing I didn’t know was how. No one was studying the Bible with them and they were only coming to church. I couldn’t figure it out. Finally, overwhelmed with curiosity, I had to ask, and their answer was shocking. In order to recap the message to create a social media post, they were listening to the message over and over again to find something to write. They were also paying close attention to the service and going back to read what Scripture was given. The day of their baptism, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Everyone knew that in some small way, they played a part in leading someone to Christ, and if we give God space, he can do amazing things.
We’ve decided as a leadership team to let grace be in charge, as referenced in the Scripture above. Christ needs to be the leader, both in our personal lives and in our church community. As we submit to his leading, we are praying that stories like this will become commonplace.