This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come'' (Matt. 24:14). The kingdom theme has basic appeal. Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom has proved that people get excited about kingdoms. The good news of the kingdom was the main theme of Jesus' ministry. We are told in Matthew 4:17 that He began His ministry by preaching the kingdom. When He had trained the twelve He sent them out to preach the kingdom. And we are to preach the gospel of the kingdom unto all the world.
That's what Harvest '90 evangelism is all about. When we pray, "Thy kingdom come," we should automatically think Harvest '90 evangelism, God's gathering call for the kingdom. When we read and teach kingdom parables, we should automatically think Harvest '90 evangelism, God's gathering call. When we quote Jesus at the communion table, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (chap. 26:29), we should think Harvest '90 evangelism.
We need to come to the place in our own personal experience where we automatically think of Christ's kingdom and breathe the atmosphere of Christ's kingdom and continually speak enthusiastically and excitedly about Christ's kingdom. That is what Elder C. E. Bradford calls experiencing the primacy of evangelism. The primacy of evangelism is not a concept; it is an experience. It is a state of being. It is a walk with Jesus Christ.
The Pharisees came to Jesus one day and asked Him when the kingdom would come, Jesus told them that the kingdom is not outward. It is not visible. The kingdom of God is within people (Luke 17:20, 21). Its territory is their hearts and minds. Jesus Himself is the king. The citizens are those true followers who are led by the Holy Spirit.
Preaching the kingdom
According to Matthew 24:14, we are to preach the kingdom gospel. That's our assignment. That's our calling.
It's exciting to preach the everlasting gospel and the three angels' messages in the context of Christ's kingdom. I am thrilled as I go out on the field of battle with the shield of faith and the sword of the Word to extend the kingdom of Jesus Christ in the hearts and minds of people.
I'm no great evangelist. I go to the small churches and work with the young ministers. The Lord always gives us some results, but nothing very big. I conduct from one to five evangelistic crusades each year. But not with great success as evangelists go. So I can't teach you very much about public evangelism. What I want to present is a concept, an experience that perhaps we can call leadership evangelism. That is setting the sail--creating the atmosphere and the working climate--for evangelism within a conference. I would like to share with you eight steps that you can take to establish the primacy of evangelism in your field.
Step number one calls for fasting and prayer. Nothing is more important. Pray for the latter rain experience. Pray for the kingdom of heaven within us. It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us. It is through the Spirit that we gain victory over sin and that the temple of our lives is cleansed for Christ to dwell in us. The Holy Spirit is waiting for channels through whom to work. If we are to double everything through Harvest '90, then of necessity we must have a double portion of God's Holy Spirit. Our conference staff has scheduled a three-day retreat the first week of November for fasting and prayer to prepare our lives for Harvest '90. We believe that when the latter rain comes, it should begin with leaders first.
The second step in experiencing the primacy of evangelism is dreaming. As Christian leaders we must dream of a finished work. Do we dare dream of converting an entire city as Jonah did? Do we dare dream of converting an entire nation as John Knox did? I dare you this morning to dream for Christ's kingdom.
When the One Thousand Days of Reaping was begun, we in Texas dreamed of 5,000 baptisms, and it happened. And now at the beginning of Harvest '90 we are dreaming again. We are dreaming of 12,000 baptisms, and I believe it will happen. A dream is nothing more than the expression of your inward desires. And if the kingdom of heaven is within you, those desires are going to be burning strong.
The third step in experiencing the primacy of evangelism is planning. Careful planning. Thorough planning. Mustard-seed planning.
Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. And God, speaking to us as leaders, said through Ellen White, "We must get away from our smallness and make larger plans."--Evangelism, p. 46. God wants all of us to become great organizational leaders, so dream big and then plan big. We tell our pastors in Texas, "God can't bless any visits not made, any studies not given, any crusades not held." And, my friends, God cannot bless any plans that don't exist. What good are dreams if they are not backed up with plans?
Now why did Jesus say that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed? He went on to explain that a large tree grows from a tiny seed. Let me tell you that big trees can grow very rapidly from mustard-seed plans. We have been planting a lot of churches in Texas. During the past eight years we have planted 76 new congregations. And they have become a large tree. Today those 76 new churches have more than 5,000 members, and they contribute more than $2 million in tithe each year.
We made big plans at the beginning, but we planted small seeds. And at first the fruit looked weak and insignificant. But now the result is the equivalent of raising up a conference within a conference, and that is what I mean by mustard seed planning.
Jesus spoke again of His kingdom, and He said that His kingdom was like a merchant. That brings us to step four in this growing experience that we call the primacy of evangelism. Like the merchant of the parable, we are to buy in, we are to identify with, the plans we lay. And here is where inspirational leader ship comes into focus. The Caring Church Manual says much about the local church having owned goals, and I think that's good. But I also believe that the churches need guidance. They need inspiration. They need a sanctified climate in which to choose their goals and objectives. And that comes through inspirational leadership.
When I first entered the ministry, I was awed and sometimes amazed by our great inspirational leaders. I said in my heart, "With my small, peanut personality I can never become a leader like that." But then 1 discovered that others can furnish the inspiration to go with my organization, and that together, when spiritual gifts are merged, the ministry is blessed. And those who listen can see that pearl of great value, and like the merchant in the parable they want to buy it, they want it to become theirs.
I am happy to admit that much of our inspiration in Texas has come from south of the border down Mexico way. Some times we hear, "Well, that will work in a Third World country, but it won't work here. " I have heard that too, but it's not true. When the One Thousand Days of Reaping began I was invited to speak at the Mexican Union ministerial presession. As I looked out over that audience of about 600 young ministers and their wives it appeared to be a college or a university group, and I asked one of the elders on the platform, "What is the average age of your ministers?" He said that most of them were in their 20s. It was obviously a youth movement in this fast-growing field. When I returned there was a ringing in my heart. I said that if Mexican young people can do it, Texan young people can too. So we called for 200 Texan youth to conduct 50 Revelation Seminars with a baptismal objective of 100. People were saying, "Well, that will work in a Third World culture, but young people in America can't get excited about evangelism today." But to their surprise, instead of 200, closer to 300 Texan youth came forward. And instead of 50, there were 80 Revelation Seminars. And instead of 100, approximately 200 were baptized. Why did our Texan youth respond? Because they were inspired. They saw the pearl, and like the merchant they wanted to own it, and they bought it. Let me tell you, my friends, that Christ's kingdom commission and Christ's kingdom power are not limited to Third World countries--they are universal.
Our experience in Texas has revealed that the Holy Spirit is waiting for channels through whom to work. Jesus told His disciples that the mystery of the kingdom had been revealed to them. And that brings me to step five--training. We must equip our members to share the mysteries of the kingdom with others. And in the Caring Church Manual a great emphasis is placed upon training--every church a training center. But I believe that in addition every conference should have a training center and that someone must teach the teachers, someone must train the trainers. I believe also that every job description for pastors should emphasize that they are to become effective trainers. The same should be true for departmental directors and conference presidents. We should roll up our sleeves and get right in there and become trainers.
We must teach our members the skills they need to share the mysteries of the kingdom. We have one young pastor who has learned that secret. And he has been equipping his members and putting them to work.
The year before last there were many Revelation Seminars in his district, and he baptized a little more than 100. Last year with 17 Revelation Seminars in the spring and 11 in the fall, he baptized almost 150. This year with an expanded program and more lay participation it appears that he will baptize approximately 200. Now, my friends, he dreams, and he organizes, and he inspires, and he trains. I am anxious to get back home and see what his Harvest '90 plans are for next year. He always goes far beyond our expectations.
In another kingdom parable Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to a landowner who hired laborers to work in his vineyard. And that leads us to the sixth step in experiencing the primacy of evangelism.
Training is not an end in itself. Everyone must go to work. And I believe that the conference president should set the pace. He should be an example. Not only should he help train his pastors and laymen but he should move out into the field with this trained army and be recognized as a veteran in the territorial conquest for Christ's kingdom!
It will soon be time to send out the eleventh-hour workers, according to the parable. And when that time comes I want to be right out there in the field with them. When probation closes I want to be out there in the field with them. I feel the closest to God when I am trying to help others.
In the parable the landowner said, "Go to work and I will pay you. " The Lord does pay wages. Wages in souls won. Jesus said He worked and that His Father worked. And when the president goes to work then the pastors go to work. And when the pastors go to work then the laymen go to work. We are all laborers together with God.
Reaping and keeping
Now that brings us to the seventh aspect of this growing, expanding experience of the primacy of evangelism, and that is harvesting. "Harvest "90"--it has a good ring. It is Biblical. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a sower--sow little, reap little; sow much and you will reap much.
Two of our Texan pastors heard of a young minister in Mexico who in recent years had reaped almost 5,000 souls for Christ's kingdom and was in the present year reaping 1,000 souls. So, like the Queen of Sheba, they went to see for themselves. They returned on cloud nine. And like the woman who met Jesus at the well, they said, "Cyril, you must go and see. "
I found a shy young man, obviously gifted and filled with the Holy Spirit. He was graduated from ministerial training at Montemorelos in the spring of 1980 and assigned to work with another pastor as an intern for the remainder of that year. Then he was given his first district. In his first year there he baptized 485. Using a Harvest '90 concept, he decided he would double that for the next year, so he set his goal for 1,000. He was well on his way to that goal when the conference moved him to the largest church in that field. He spent the rest of that year settling in, getting acquainted, training, organizing, and equipping the members for action.
The next year he aimed to baptize 1,000, and he baptized 1,009. And so he decided to double that. So the following year, 1984, he set a goal of 2,000 and nearly reached it.
When he came to that city it had 6 Adventist churches and about 700 members. One year later those 6 churches had become 32, and those 700 members had increased to 1,709. The next year there were 40 churches, and the membership had virtually doubled. And when the One Thousand Days of Reaping closed, 45 churches and approximately 4,000 members brightened that city with the light of their influence. It was the equivalent of raising up a conference in one city as the disciples did in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
The remarkable thing is that every one of those 45 churches has a pastor--a lay pastor--and every one of those 45 churches has a lay evangelist. Their example inspired us to develop the faith community church concept: We aim to have in every church a lay pastor organizing new faith community churches, each in turn having a lay pastor and a lay evangelist. Again people said, "Well, that will work in a Third World culture, but it won't work here. " But it does.
The eighth and final step in this growing, glowing experience of the primacy of evangelism is nurturing—establishing the lambs of the flock in the fold. The Caring Church Manual emphasizes this as being very important, and it is.
The church is a mother, and the caring church will take care of all the newborn babes that are placed in her arms. Sometimes pastoring a growing church is like operating a nursery. Jesus said that except we become as little children, we cannot enter the kingdom. So bringing 5,464 new infants into the congregations of our conference has presented us with the challenge to nurture them, assimilate them, acculturate them into Adventism. We have taught Adventist history, Christian education, Christian stewardship, and church organization. And it is amazing to see how fast the new members grow and find their places in the ranks. Each year we are spending thousands of dollars on nurturing, on materials to establish these lambs of the flock.
Making evangelism first priority
Now, we have been talking about the primacy of evangelism. What is it really? Is it voting 10 percent of our annual operating budgets for evangelism each year? Is it placing evangelism first on our monthly conference executive committee agendas? Is it making evangelism a central theme of our conferences, rallies, camp meetings, et cetera? Yes, it is all of that and much more. It is praying, dreaming, planning, inspiring, training, working, harvesting, nurturing, and it is doing it all over again in many different ways under many different circumstances on and on until Jesus comes.
You may ask, "How are you applying these principles to Harvest '90 in Texas?" Well, the process has already begun. It started with our administrative council, our conference officers, and our five area administrators. In a staff meeting we read and reread the Harvest '90 document, spending nearly an entire period on paragraph two of the document, which says that the final harvest in souls is far beyond our human resources. We realized that we need the promised latter rain of God's Spirit for power to prepare the church for evangelizing the world. That was when we decided that as leaders we want the upper room experience. And so we scheduled our staff retreat, which will take place in a few days.
In addition to praying, we have begun to dream. We've set goals of 12,000 baptisms and a conference membership at 30,000 during Harvest '90. In addition to dreaming we have begun to plan mustard-seed plans. In a letter Elder Carlos Aeschlimann challenged us to conduct a conference-wide crusade, and our staff has accepted that challenge. We reminded ourselves that the kingdom of heaven is like a net, so we decided to throw a big net, a huge net. We decided to conduct 1,000 Revelation Seminars simultaneously in 1986, ten Project 100s in 1986. We have never even dreamed of doing something like this before. This means recruiting and training 1,000 Revelation Seminar instructors. It means recruiting and training 3,000 associates to help them. It means inspiring and motivating our members to support the sending of 5 million Revelation Seminar brochures so that 24,000 to 30,000 non-Adventists will come to our seminars and study the Bible and these wonderful prophecies, these special messages that God has given to the church at this special time. We anticipate that from that one conference-wide crusade, there could easily be between 3,000 and 4,000 baptisms.
That is mustard-seed planting in addition to mustard-seed planning. Our people need to make these goals their own, and that will require a lot of inspiration through rallies, meetings, literature through the mail, and one-to-one contacts.
Just the other day someone said, "Cyril, you seem to like evangelism." And the answer to that is Yes, unequivocally Yes. Evangelism, my friends, is our calling. Evangelism is our work.
We are to do the work of an evangelist. Evangelism is our lot. Evangelism is our hope. Evangelism is our victory. Evangelism is our crown. And when the King of heaven is within you, you will be absorbed in this mission of the kingdom.
Evangelism is the most basic, primary, fundamental function of our church. In fact, Jesus organized the church to seek and to save the lost. Evangelism is a mandate as well as an opportunity and a privilege from God.
And when I read the words of Revelation, and when I see that great multitude standing before the throne on the sea of glass in their snowy white robes of Christ's righteousness and with their golden crowns of light upon their heads and palm branches of victory in their hands, I become excited- I become excited because I know, my friends, that most of that great number that no human can count will come from this, the world's present population. And we can have a part in inviting them into the kingdom.
Oh, God, hasten the day when the King shall come and we shall hear those melodious words from the King Himself, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. . . . Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25:23-34).