During our family evangelism campaign in a Mexico City suburb, 1,600 persons completed the Family Life Seminar course, and 219 were baptized. More over, 70 couples renewed their marriage vows 14 of them wearing their original wedding outfits. In the aftermath, more than 300 attendees are continuing to study in preparation for baptism.
From my work in metropolitan family evangelism, three keys to success have emerged:
1. Preparation and seed-sowing
Our goal is to get all local church members involved in the campaign. Counsel on this point is clear:
"The leaders in God's cause, as wise generals, are to lay plans for advance moves all along the line. In their planning they are to give special study to the work that can be done by the laity for their friends and neighbors. The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers" (Gospel Workers, p. 351).
"The minister and the church members are to unite as one person in laboring for the upbuilding and prosperity of the church.... The minister's work is the lay member's work as well. Heart should be bound to heart. Let all press forward, shoulder to shoulder. . . . All should be laborers together with God, and then the minister can feel that he has helpers in whom it is safe to trust. The minister can hasten this desirable end by showing that he has confidence in the workers by setting them to work" (Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, July 9, 1895).
"It is not the Lord's purpose that ministers should be left to do the greatest part of the work of sowing the seeds of truth. Men who are not called to the ministry are to be encouraged to labor for the Master according to their several ability. Hundreds of men and women now idle could do acceptable service. By carrying the truth into the homes of their friends and neighbors, they could do a great work for the Master" (Christian Service, p. 67).
Our preparation includes three parts:
a. In the congregation itself: We announce the coming campaign and what we hope it will accomplish. Good communication is essential. If possible, we hold a week of lay training to inspire and equip lay members to work efficiently.
b. In the territory: The 20-lesson course of the Family Life Seminar is useful. Church members invite friends, relatives, and neighbors into their homes for study. This phase of preparation lasts from two to three months, providing time for participants to plant the gospel seed and nurture it into a fervent interest for Christ.
c. Among the supporting staff: Different committees are established to plan various aspects of the campaign: music, sound, projection, reception, lights, appointments, deco ration, literature, transportation, prayer bands, plus the marriage vows renewal and graduation ceremonies. These committees then assign workers specific tasks.
2. Cultivating the seed in public and personal evangelism
Basically, this phase of preparation lasts from two to four weeks. We begin the campaign in concentrating on family life themes. Every spiritual lesson opens with a tie-in with family life and closes with the presentation of a basic church doctrine from Scripture.
To illustrate: When speaking about salvation, we show how the modern home is in crisis, lost, and in need of a Saviour to rescue and reestablish it. Just before God's law is presented, we present the laws of discipline in the home. Before the state of the dead is presented, we speak of how the death of a loved one affects the home. Before we present the day of rest, we talk about a day when the family can be more united.
Before the campaign itself begins, we like to have a graduation ceremony for all who complete the Family Life Seminar lessons. Typically, from this group the majority of baptisms come. From 20 to 25 percent of the graduates of the course will be baptized before the close of the lectures. An additional 15 to 25 percent will request baptism in the follow-up. In other words, from 40 to 50 percent of the new graduates of the course, who are not already church members, will be baptized during or after the campaign.
3. Harvest evangelism
Those who remained unbaptized during the campaign can take that step during our follow-up program. Weekly baptismal classes are fruitful, along with home Bible studies, further Bible seminars, and assigning laypersons to continue working with and preparing them.