Pastor's Pastor

You will catch more fish with the net

When Jesus likened evangelism to fishing, He probably wasn't thinking of a line on a pole dropped into a quiet stream with a bit of attractive bait. Jesus envisioned winning great numbers the gospel going to the whole world.

James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

When Jesus likened evangelism to fishing, He probably wasn't thinking of a line on a pole dropped into a quiet stream with a bit of attractive bait. Jesus envisioned winning great numbers---the gospel going to the whole world.

Soulwinning, like fishing, is one of those activities where quantity is determined by the tools you choose. You might catch a fish or two with a rod and lure, but huge numbers come only to those who use a net. You may win a few souls through personal one-to-one witness, but large numbers are usually won only as the result of mass evangelism when the message is preached to the largest number of people possible.

Evangelistic audiences once were limited to the size of auditorium or stadium or the technological capacity of equipment to amplify the voice of the preacher. Today, different tools make the task of preaching to massive numbers quite simple. For example, in South America, Alejandro Bullon regularly preaches to 50-60,000 souls in large arenas.

Opportunity for mass outreach

Evangelist Billy Graham recently conducted a satellite evanglistic campaign from Europe with more than two million attendees participating in 1,400 cities throughout 59 countries. Next February, Mark Finley of It Is Written and the North American Division are teaming together to launch our own evangelistic satellite thrust: NET '95. For the North American continent, this great venture raises the vision of God's people to some thing bigger than has ever yet been achieved. By placing such a priority on evangelism, the human and financial resources of the church are refocused on the church's mission to evangelize the world. Pastors and members will be united across five time zones toward a common purpose.

Success comes at the local level

While NET '95 provides a tremendous central focus, the success of the whole venture comes down to what happens at the local level. The late American politician, Tip O'Neil, noted that "everything in politics is local." Applying that to evangelism: everything in successful soulwinning ultimately is local.

The technology will be in place. One of our most talented and capable evangelists will be preaching. A quality team, led by C. D. Brooks of the Breath of Life telecast, will join Mark Finley in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The finest musicians will be secured. The most able of technicians, camera operators, and directors will produce a quality product.

But remember, unless something happens in the local church, little will result. Everything in soulwinning is ultimately local! This is why great evangelists such as Billy Graham, Mark Finley, C. D. Brooks, Bill Scales, and Alejandro Bullon insist on involving local lay members in preparation for their crusades. This also is why as much effort and energy must be invested in preparing for such an opportunity as goes into the actual crusade itself, and why follow-through must be an integral part of the whole process rather than an afterthought.

How to successfully participate What can pastors and elders do to ensure local success from such opportunities? Try the following:

Promote this opportunity as your congregation's local response to Christ's great commission.

Pray for abundant response from those who will participate in your area.

Work to ensure that every member and nonmember possible will attend the crusade events.

Prepare your audience to participate in the evangelistic crusade by pre-events designed to bring people to your church.

Motivate lay members to accept personal responsibility for inviting their neighbors and working associates, as well as their own families, to attend.

Secure the best possible equipment and make the setting as attractive as possible for your guests.

Visit each person who attends and invite them personally to accept Jesus as their Saviour.

Baptize those who accept Jesus and learn His message of truth.

Disciple new converts into healthy, witnessing members of the church community who themselves reach out to others.

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James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

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