By Kessia Bennett, Oregon Conference
I’ve heard it said that evangelism doesn’t work anymore. But I don’t believe it.
I don’t believe it because of something Jesus says, recorded in John 5:17. “My Father is always at His work to this day–and I, too, am working.” God is always at work, wooing people, arranging circumstances, giving impressions, sending his angels, softening hearts. Our Father is always at work. So I believe evangelism can work; in fact, I’ve just seen it work.
As you know, we just finished the Revelation Speaks Peace evangelistic series with Shawn Boonstra of It Is Written. Here are some of the numbers:
* We met 5 nights a week for a month (February 1st to March 1st) plus two Sabbath mornings for a total of 24 presentations.
* We met in the Oregon Ballroom of the Oregon Convention Center in central Portland with a seating capacity of about 2500 — and there were nights that there was standing room only!
* From our membership, we had over 2100 people register! And nearly 600 of them volunteered for the meetings.
* Besides members, we had over 1800 guests register and 150 guests taking Bible studies through our on-site Bible school.
* The message was preached in English by Pastor Shawn and was translated into four languages: American Sign Language, Spanish, Russian, and Romanian.
* During the meetings, we had nearly 46 baptisms (done one at a time in a small tank in the hall) — and baptismal services are being held every night this week.
“My Father is always at His work to this day.”
We saw the Lord working among the lost–from next door neighbors to meth addicts. One story illustrates God’s working powerfully.
Her name is Linda* (a pseudonym) and she wandered into the meetings from the streets, drunk and prepared to prostitute herself. But she ran into one of our lay Bible workers, a quiet and unassuming woman by the name of Sarah* (also a pseudonym). Sarah greeted Linda and talked with her, telling her about the meetings, and sat beside her in the hall. Later that week she made a trip to the bad part of Portland to Linda’s house and she found Linda worse off than before. She’d been on a 5-day drinking binge and hadn’t eaten anything. But Sarah talked with her. She told Linda about God’s great love, a love that stays the same no matter what she’s done. She told Linda a little about the Great Controversy, she sang to her “Jesus Loves Me.” Linda said, “I don’t want to serve the devil any more; I want to follow Jesus!” And she accepted Christ there in her living room.
We saw the Lord working among the saved — maybe a greater miracle! We saw an elderly couple, both widowed and remarried, rededicate their lives to Christ in the waters of baptism. They said that they had never heard the message like this before and they wanted to make a public stand for Jesus.
We saw the Lord work among some of our former members. Like one woman — she was just going to support her friend, not to get hooked. But it only took one meeting and she couldn’t quiet the hungering for something more. She left the church in 1984, but during these meetings she gave her heart back to Christ and came back to the family.
If you listen to those who say that evangelism doesn’t work, they’ll give you all sorts of reasons. They’ll say, for instance, that we live in a post-Christian society and people aren’t interested in religion and they won’t come out to hear the Bible preached. But from the nation’s least churched region, we saw over 1800 people come to hear the preaching of the Word of God.
They’ll say: It’s too far for people to come. People won’t drive from the suburbs to hear those meetings, nobody’s going to cross the river from Clark County… Tell that to one family who came every night from Kelso-Longview. Or tell it to the familly from Brownsville, OR (about 90 minutes away) who rented a hotel room every weekend so they wouldn’t have to miss a meeting.
They’ll also say that our message is too peculiar, too irrelevant for people to accept. One pastor made a visit to a couple the night after the health message was presented against caffeine and alcohol and tobacco and unclean meats. When he arrived the wife told him that she wouldn’t be able to make the next meeting. A polite way to say she was no longer interested? No, she reassured him, she just wasn’t feeling well. But, she said, she sure was glad that she was able to make last night: it was her favorite one so far!
“My Father is always at His work to this day.” He’s always at work. Revelation Speaks Peace has reminded me that evangelism works — when we partner with Him who is always at work. So how to keep the momentum going? What if we just asked God to show us where He’s already working and asked Him for ways to join in?