by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference
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).
Attendees also got to hear Dr. Russell Burrill, author of Revolution in the Church, Radical Disciples for Revolutionary Churches, The Revolutionized Church, the New World Order. Russell, who served as director of the NAD’s Evangelism Institute for more than twenty years, pastor, evangelist, and church consultant, also deciphered the myths of public evangelism, the art of getting decisions for baptism, and explained how he has chosen the order, or sequencing, of his effective evangelistic sermons.
Like me vs. Not like me
I shared some ideas on how spiritual leaders can be more intentional about training their congregations on how to be more intentional about being open to the diverse kinds of people that God has placed in our circles of influence. It has been a deep concern to me over the years to witness powerful and convincing evangelistic preaching that results in souls surrendering their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ, just to cringe at the thought of them meeting and interacting with some of our less friendly (and sometimes plain unkind) members.
The post-fall, bent nature of most human beings is to be arrogant, to hold false assumptions about certain kinds of people, to be judgmental, bias and prejudice. We tend to unconsciously label people as “like me” or as “unlike me.” We tend to determine (again unconsciously) within the first 2.4 to 4.6 seconds whether we can befriend someone. What can we possibly know about someone in those few seconds? Of course, . . . not much! Social scientists tell us that humans base this determination on a number of factors being skin color, then height, followed by weight, then clothing, and finally accent. If you are “like me”, I may try to reach out and connect to you, but if you are not, I will have 101 reasons to pass you by as if you don’t exist.
But not Jesus . . ., he was blinded to color, height, weight, clothing and most likely he was also deaf to accents. He saw PEOPLE in need of a Savior, hope and healing.
“He passed by no human beings as worthless but sought to apply the healing remedy to every soul . . . Often, He met those who had drifted under Satan’s control, and who had no power to break from his snare. To such a one, discouraged, sick, tempted, fallen, Jesus would speak words of the most tenderest pity, words that were needed and could be understood.” MH, 17-26
“Never was there such an evangelist like Christ. Though He was the Majesty of heaven, He humbled Himself to take our nature, that He might meet men and women where they were. To all rich and poor, free and bond, Christ, the Messenger of the covenant, brought the tidings of salvation.” MH 11
May the Lord of heaven help us to be more like Jesus as we continue encountering human beings in the need of a Savior on our daily paths.