Just yesterday, the first annual Evange-Lead Conference, sponsored by the Oregon Conference and NPUC, concluded. It was very encouraging to fellowship with pastors, elders, deacons, chaplains, social workers and other Kingdom-building lay people that joined the engaging and stimulating dialogue regarding evangelism.
Dr. Roger Walter, Oregon Conference’s Outreach Director and lead pastor at the Adventist Community Church in Vancouver, Washington, in conjunction with the NPUC evangelism department created and hosted this conference with the hope that pastors, church leaders and lay people would come out to be part of the evangelism conversation. Dr. Walter has just published a compelling book, Evangelism Intelligence, that invites us, as the remnant movement, to be intelligent about how we continue to fulfill the mission and purpose of Christ’s remnant church. He shares, through his own personal ministry journey, how public evangelism has proven to be effective, especially when one integrates the reality that Adventist churches grow very differently from traditional evangelical churches. Dr. Walter has continued to budget generously for annual public evangelism through the years which has resulted in a consistent flow of new members joining his church family. Adventist Community Church in Vancouver, Washington, continues to be the fastest growing, non-Hispanic, church in the Oregon Conference. If you missed this year’s Evange-LEAD Conference, I highly recommend you read Evangelism Intelligence(2018, Flaming Arrow Publishers).
Our program started in January of this year . We did a week of prayer at the church from and at the end of the week, we made an appeal for people to open their homes to have home Bible studies and invite their friends to meet one day a week for 9 weeks . We had 6 people offer their homes and start Bible studies there. I meet with the leaders of the small groups every other Sunday for training and visit their homes to support and encourage them. Every Sabbath one of the 6 groups share during 10 minutes about how about their week Bible study and invite people to attend. After 9 weeks , we had 2 weeks of reaping and sowing events at the church.
During the weeks leading to the reaping and sowing (we reap from our meetings at the small groups and we sow new interest for continued growing in small groups) event at the church we had several visitors in the 6 different homes. I was leading a group on Wednesday (the elders lead the other groups) and I got to know Victor and his wife Aracely , they are new in the church. They have been in the Hood River Church less than 2 years. Last year they invited a couple (Emma and Alberto) to the church and they were baptized. They always invite friends to church and to the small groups. During the meetings they invited Alberto and Emma’s parents and they also decided to be baptized. We had a total of around 30 visitors and former members who are attending church now and also small groups.
The program was prepared as part of the gospel long-term project to introduce people to Biblical end-time prophecies. Three families who belonged to a Pentecostal church visited the program. Their personal study of the Bible led them to believe that it was necessary to examine more closely the question of the Sabbath as the fourth commandment. They were opened to the influence of The Holy Spirit studying the Bible. Getting to know more about Daniel and Revelation prophesies they became convinced that the Sabbath is the true day of worship to God. Currently, communication with them continues in order to open to them other truths of the Bible.
Conducting Bible study programs among Russian speaking people is difficult because most are affiliated with a particular denomination, mostly Baptist and Pentecostal Churches. Thus, it is necessary to consider this fact, that these people have already accepted Christ as their personal Savior, and do not need an additional call to give their lives to the Lord. But the fact that many of them are willing to go beyond that level of understanding of the Bible, which was lacking in the churches of the Baptists and the Pentecostals, opens opportunities to preach the truth for the present time. Our new visitors questioned the stand of the church on temperance and the gift of prophecy as well. We pray that our loving Lord will continue to lead our new friends to steadily increase their knowledge and understanding the Adventist beliefs.
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Before I came on the NPUC Mission Trip to Guatemala, I had never really done anything specifically evangelistic, especially a reaping meeting. Honestly, I was a little cynical when it came to “traditional” evangelism. But I thought this would be a great experience to get outside of America and see how God is working in other places. When we all arrived, we got the royal treatment, something I did not expect. The Guatemala Mission welcomed us with a big ceremony to show their support and gratitude for our being in Guatemala. Every pastor was enthusiastic to see that they had preachers to help with the campaigns. It’s incredible to see the level of dedication that some of these pastors have. Some are pastoring more than 12 churches at a time, equipping the saints in each church to run on its own. This was so refreshing to see, and I’m convinced it’s more Biblical then our pastor-centered churches in America. As we were paired up with our translators, I met mine. Ginardo is a humble man, only three years into the faith. His English wasn’t great, but I know God used him to reach others despite the hiccups in some of the messages. A couple of lessons I learned working with Ginardo:
Experience isn’t necessary to do God’s work
The Holy Spirit is doing things so far beyond our ability
How people respond to spiritual things is not indicative of the effect of the preaching.
Sometimes the people changed the most through the preaching are the preacher and the translator.
The bond you build with your translator is special
I was surprised at how kind and generous everyone in Guatemala is. As we deployed to our churches to preach, families would welcome us into their homes and feed us. What is moving in these experiences is often the families are very poor and have little to give. One of the stories I heard from a new friend and pastor, Abner, was the kindness of one of his hosts. They fed him a full and equal plate of food as the father of the house he visited. As he finished up his delicious meal he noticed that the father had only eaten one quarter of his plate. He overheard the father silently call to his kids to finish the plate, because that was all the food they had. This type of generosity is uncommon and heart-melting. The people here really know what it means to be family. Yes there is brokenness, but the community is tight, especially within the churches. People actually love each other and share with one another. Continue reading →
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Something wonderful that happens when you do evangelism. You always see miracles. When we started our series of evangelism we knew it was an act of faith. That’s what evangelism basically is about. 300 invitations were distributed and we waited the first night to see how God was going to act. It was a blessing to see friends and guests, as well as members, attending the first night. Thank God because his Spirit knows how to move in each heart. That night we saw members who did not attend church anymore come back to the Father’s house.
We praise God for what he was doing from the beginning of the meetings. We also observed a whole family of non-Adventists who had also attended that first night. The nights passed and the decisive issues of doctrines were presented. We saw how God was working in the hearts. Little by little the ex-Adventists were also bringing their children to church, even on Saturdays, and we also saw them pay their tithes to the Lord. From the first time an appeal was made to be baptized, the first to raise their hand were the non-Adventists, showing their willingness to give themselves to Jesus and His church. In addition to them, a single mother who has been struggling with addictions also decided to be baptized. We heard that the Lord was brealcing chains. Thus, on the day of baptism, five precious souls joined the body of Jesus Christ. In addition to a couple of former Adventists back to the flock of Jesus Christ.
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Jesus is a common name in the Mexican culture. Many fathers name their children with this name to honor Jesus. For this reason this is a story of three Jesus’.
Jesus Rodriguez is a member of our church. He had a friend whose name is like his, Jesus Gonzalez. J. Rodriguez shared about Jesus with his friend, J. Gonzalez, but he didn’t have the time to listen. Unfortunately his friend began to have a bunch of problems.
J. Gonzalez’ wife abandoned him with his two children. Shortly, thereafter, he had a job related accident. When he was in the hospital, receiving treatment for his injures, the doctors discovered an illness in his kidneys. After further testing, he was told he had insufficient kidney function, caused by a rare family condition, and was in need of dialysis. As a result he lost his job, but not his friend J. Rodriguez.
J. Rodriguez took care of his friend and helped him with the treatments. The friendship between them grew stronger, and he shared Jesus with his friend once again. By this time the Milwaukie Spanish Church had started a Revelation Seminar. J. Rodriguez invited his friend to attend the seminar and finally he accepted.
I saw the two friends attend every night and I was privileged to witness Jesus Gonzalez accept Jesus and walk to the front during an altar call. He is now a member of our church.
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BibleTutor.org is a new website that collects contact information from people interested in receiving Bible studies and forwards that information to the area pastor for follow-up. Churches looking for Bible study leads can publicize the site’s domain name in any creative way and then be notified of the interests that develop in their area. We are developing literature for distribution in our area that contains an offer for a “Personal Bible Tutor” and directs people to this site. There is a page on the website where people who have received Bible studies can share their testimony of how they were blessed.
After a month long seminar with Shawn Boonstra and his Voice of Prophecy (VOP) team, I decided to have a follow up prophecy series at our local church. Tacoma Central has a history of doing at least two evangelistic meetings a year for nearly 12 years. We have been doing a lot of health outreach, cooking schools, personal studies, community events…etc We had nearly 100 interests to follow up on from the VOP meetings. So we had a number of people we had been working with and hoping to help make decisions.
We decided to do a Prophecy series in a classroom setting, since several people had attended a traditional evangelistic meeting. We sent no fliers or brochures, just letters to our interests. We had somewhere between 20 to 25 attend most of the evenings. We went twice a week for nearly three months. The people who came out to the meetings came from health classes, personal studies, and just few from the VOP meetings. We were certainty thinking there would have been more interests from VOP, but just a few came out.
The prophecy series was a good follow-up as well to the some of the new people who were baptized during the VOP meetings. We roughly had 30 attending. At the conclusion of the meetings we had three make decisions and were baptized and became a part of the church family.
Personal studies have continued to happen with still 20 to 30 interests to follow up on. We are still planning on at least a few more baptismal Sabbaths before the end of the year.
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For over a year now the Spokane Central Church has been planning and preparing for these reaping meetings. Our primary focus was to reach those who were part of our interest list developed over the year. We have contacts with people from our many ministries like: God’s Closet, STEAM Ahead @ Discovery Junction, VBS, Kids Bible Club, Pathfinders, local outreach seminars, weekly Bible studies, small groups, and many from just our regular Sabbath worship services. We had about 30 active interests that we specifically were hoping would join our meetings in some way. About 10 actually did participate.
We also love how local evangelism re-inspires and revives our membership as well. So we also reached out to our inactive or infrequent members. We were very pleased to average about 90 adults and 10 kids for our meetings each evening. About 30 of these in regular attendance were part of our specific target group. And we continue to see growth and spiritual development from these contacts. We currently have 7 in active baptismal preparation and another 13 filled out decision cards saying they are “rededicating their lives to Jesus” in response to the meetings.
Our theory for the meetings was simple: construct them in a way that removes the normal barriers/excuses that people have to avoid them. By reducing the meetings to just Fri/Sab and sharing 2 topics on each night, we were able to share 17 fundamental teachings in 3 short weekends. By providing meals and childcare it made the meetings very accessible and enjoyable to all. We also kept the timeframe palatable by keeping them to 2 hours (6pm-8pm) and that included the meals. So the first presentation was from 6-6:45, meal from 6:45-7:15, and second presentation from 7:15-8pm. We had very few preliminaries or added “fill” and kept things simple. We had limited music, with just a “theme song” after the meal to welcome people back to their seats, and then wrapped up each evening with a special music presentation as people contemplated the topics heard that night.
I am VERY pleased with how things turned out. I currently project we will have 6-8 baptisms as God still moves on hearts and I am shocked at how many of our own members still tell me they have not heard some of these teachings before (even the lesson on eternal torment??) We have created a survey asking people to respond to how the meetings went and so far the responses are very favorable. Our fellowship hall proved the perfect venue for the evening meetings and our Outreach Team is excited to learn from this attempt and make it even better next time. Since our main target audience is our ongoing interest list, we avoided the normal large expense for public marketing, although we are not opposed to doing more of this in the future.
I am thankful to God for his protection, inspiration and blessings for allowing our church to hold these meetings. Our members are not exhausted (some are already asking “When can we do this again?”) and our interest list keeps growing. I know God still has great plans in store for our church as we follow him and are faithful to share His gospel with our community.