Harvest 90 everyone's victory

The final, official report on the outcome of Harvest 90.

Carlos Aeschlimann is an associate secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and coordinator of the Harvest 90 program.

The Harvest 90 program launched at the 1985 General Conference session in New Orleans was the most widely accepted soul-winning program the Seventh-day Adventist Church has seen. Every division, union, local field, and (as far as we know) church participated in it. This program resulted in the greatest advance in soul winning the Adventist Church has seen in 50 years.

Specifically, Harvest 90 aimed to maximize church attendance, to double the number of members equipped for soul winning, and to double the number of accessions achieved during the One Thousand Days of Reaping. The latter goal involved four levels of achievement: 1. A basic goal of 2 million baptisms—double the 1 million baptisms goal of the One Thousand Days of Reaping. This was the goal set at the New Orleans General Conference session. 2. A second goal of 2,217,768 double the actual results of the One Thousand Days. 3. A faith goal of 2,303,000. This figure is the total of the individual goals the divisions set for themselves and is only the figure that was used in measuring their performance. 4. A supergoal of 2.5 million.

We don't have the figures to deter mine how successful we were at maximizing church attendance. But we think it likely that the Far Eastern, South Pacific, South American, and Inter- American divisions surpassed the goals they had set for themselves.

Regarding the doubling of the number of church members equipped for soul-winning activities: at the beginning of Harvest 90 seven divisions and one attached field reported 362,726 people involved in soul-winning activities. By the end of Harvest 90 that figure had risen to 639,904 people, an increase of 76.4 percent.

As to the third objective, although in Indianapolis the divisions reported 2,503,192 baptisms for the quinquennium, the General Conference's Office of Archives and Statistics counted 2,490,105 baptisms. This latter figure is the official figure. Based on it, we reached 124.5 percent of the basic goal of 2,000,000; 112.2 percent of the Harvest 90 goal of 2,217,768; 108.1 percent of the faith goal of 2,303,000; and 99.6 per cent of the supergoal of 2.5 million.

One last push

To culminate Harvest 90 with a global evangelistic explosion the Harvest 90 Advisory Committee challenged the field with a faith goal of 300,000 baptisms for the last two quarters of the campaign and a faith goal for the final quarter, the "Ninety Days of Reaping," of an average of 2,000 persons baptized per day. The committee also designated Sabbath, May 26,1990, "Harvest90 Victory Baptism Day." It encouraged every Adventist church around the world to con duct a baptismal ceremony on that Sabbath with the faith goal of baptizing 100,000 souls.

The challenge resulted in extraordinary evangelistic activity throughout all the world. And, thanks be to God, the three faith objectives were achieved. During the last two quarters we baptized 332,455 souls. Traditionally the quarter just before the General Conference session is very low in baptisms, but this time it proved to be the best of all: the baptisms totaled 197,179, or 2,167 per day. And on May 26 we baptized 117,206 souls probably the most people baptized on one day in the history of our church!

We praise the Lord for these results. They exemplify what He can do when a church is fully dedicated to its mission—when it makes its priority the preaching of the gospel in every corner of the earth.

Not all of the news coming out of the Harvest 90 program is good news. There is a reason for sadness, but even the bad news has its positive side. During the first year of Harvest 90 we suffered a loss through apostasies and missing members of a number of members equal to 22.5 percent of our baptisms. By the last year of the campaign that figure had dropped to 19.1 percent. During the entire quinquennium we lost 493,05 0, or the equivalent of 19.8 percent of our baptisms.

While we praise God that our rate of loss dropped 3.4 points during the campaign, we regret the loss of almost a half million brothers and sisters. It is imperative that we continue to improve on preparing candidates for baptism and on at tending to the new members.

Evangelistic methods

The Harvest 90 campaign stimulated the development of new methods of evangelism, among them the gigantic national evangelistic campaigns such as those held in Brazil, the Philippines, Spain, Korea, Papua New Guinea, Peru, and Indonesia. Harvest 90 also saw multiple campaigns in metropolitan areas—New York, Guayaquil, Mexico City, Seattle, Caracas, and Manila.

In order of importance the most productive methods of soul winning were: (1) public evangelism—used in all parts of the world, with exceptional results in Europe; (2) personal evangelism in several divisions the majority of the baptismal candidates were prepared by lay persons giving Bible studies; (3) baptismal classes this method brought great results in the South American and Inter- American divisions as well as in Africa and the South Pacific; (4) Revelation seminars used throughout most of the world; (5) witnessing by laypersons in their own homes; and (6) evangelistic baptismal services baptismal services held frequently and including a call for decisions as a part of the ceremony.

The various divisions showed some variety in their approaches as well. In Eu rope a mobile institute of evangelism was organized. The Far Eastern Division used language schools. In the South American Division, the organizing of new churches on a pioneer plan proved very successful. The Inter-American Division emphasized the combining of the efforts of pastors and lay members.

Factors contributing to the success of Harvest 90

What made Harvest 90 work?

For its part, the General Conference Ministerial Association coordinated Harvest 90 and offered suggestions and plans through the Ministerial Association Bulletin and the Resource Materials Bulletin. We also produced and sent out a quarterly statistical report, sharing news about the progress of Harvest 90. Each year we prepared for Annual Council a special program featuring reports from the division presidents and departmental directors. The Harvest 90 Advisory Committee, chaired by Kenneth Mittleider, prepared the strategies and statements approved at Annual Council.

But most important, the world field enthusiastically accepted the Harvest 90 program, voluntarily setting big baptismal goals and making excellent plans. It was obvious that the divisions had made evangelism the priority item on their agendas.

I believe the Harvest 90 program succeeded because:

1. It received unanimous approval at the General Conference session, and administrative leaders in the General Conference, divisions, unions, and local fields enthusiastically gave their total support to this program.

2. While the General Conference offered suggestions and plans, each division set its own strategies and goals.

3. The ongoing exchange of methods, news, and statistics kept the world informed on the progress of this program.

4. The goals were specific and clear.

5. The departments collaborated by sharing ideas, methods, and materials.

6. Working together in aggressive evangelism, pastors and laypersons were productive in soul winning.

7. Finally, and most important, God manifested His power and the Holy Spirit worked through the church. In turn, the church made evangelism a real priority.

Harvest 90 has been a memorable experience. By leading the church to place its priority where it should always be—on completing the great commission to evangelize the world—it united the church. Administrators and local field departmental leaders gave evangelism a high priority on their agendas. The churches served as centers of evangelism, and thousands of pastors became able evangelists. And above all, multiplied thousands of laypeople took an active role in preparing hundreds of thousands of baptismal candidates. The church was fortified, enriched, and strengthened.

Now Harvest 90 is history. But the church has reaffirmed its call to evangelism by launching a more complete and challenging plan: Global Strategy for Global Mission. Its goal is "to take the everlasting gospel to every people group and each individual on Planet Earth, placing a personal Adventist presence among all people groups throughout the world."

The same powerful God who gave the victory to Harvest 90 is going to give a greater victory to Global Mission. We hope that this will be the final victory.


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Carlos Aeschlimann is an associate secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and coordinator of the Harvest 90 program.

December 1990

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