Lessons from evangelism in Pakistan

An insightful ministry experience

Borge Schantz, Ph.D., is the director for the Institute of Islamic Studies at Newbold College, England.

Pat Boyle is a pastor in England.

The foundation of evangelistic success lies in home visitation. This was clearly demonstrated in our program in Pakistan. Daily house-to-house visitation was the essential means of soul-winning activity.

Home visitation, especially in newly opening areas, is a New Testament model. At Pentecost the believers met daily at the Temple and the Lord added to their number daily (Acts 2:42-47). Paul declared he taught "publickly, and from house to house" (Acts 20:20). Following this model brought good results. It has been said, "Teaching the Scriptures in families this is the work of an evangelist, and this work is to be united with preaching. If it is omitted, the preaching will be, to a great extent, a failure."*

Visitation in Muslim homes for religious purposes is forbidden. Therefore in Pakistan we targeted "neglected" and "lapsed" Christians. We had to become used to a large visitation group consisting of five to eight persons, sometimes even more. In addition to the evangelist, there would be the local pastor, the interpreter, a church elder, and sometimes members of their extended families. All of these played a significant role in opening up contacts and making it easier for the people we visited to receive us and the gospel message.

A new way

In some instances in which we were pioneering in unentered areas we "employed" a non-Seventh-day Adventist Christian on the team. He became the "significant person." His task was to keep track of those at tending the meetings. He would note who was present. He would listen to the village talk to find out who was interested and who was resistant or even hostile to the meetings. He would then guide us to the receptive homes.

This approach was new to us, but it proved to be a blessing. It is an important factor in church growth similar in some respects to Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman. Both our Saviour and the disciples had limited contact with the woman's Samaritan community. The woman, on the other hand, was intimately acquainted with it. She became the door to the community through which Jesus was able to bring the gospel. Through the woman Jesus overcame the disciples' prejudice and the Samaritans' suspicion. In the same way our Christian brother led us to the homes of receptive people. This in itself enabled us to use our limited time more effectively. And then at the end of the campaign he and his family were baptized into the fellowship of the Adventist Church. In some situations he also became the local leader of the new group of believers.

Those of us who work in the West should take this lesson to heart. Most of our church members have their friends within the church family. Consequently their significant contacts for faith sharing are restricted. Conversely newly baptized members have their network of significant people outside the church. We should consider how to use the newly baptized member as an entry point for witnessing to a network of new contacts.

A ministerial model

In our campaign we wanted to provide the local pastors a model they could emu late and use in their local situation. This was and is a necessary goal. Most of the local pastors engaged in the campaign were also responsible for teaching school five days a week. They did not have the luxury of a Western-style pastorate. In visitation it was important to follow a prescribed pattern. We adopted the following simple guidelines in order to make our visits positive, while we avoided mere socializing:

* Show respect to all persons in the home: parents, women, children, etc.

* Sit in a prominent position, where one can see and be seen by everyone.

* Try to make sure the head of the family is present.

* Listen to the head and others. Ask questions that can be easily answered. Avoid talk ing about oneself.

* Use the Bible. Read the text slowly and clearly. If someone who can read is present, ask them to do so. Don't embarrass anyone.

* Explain the text positively.

* Pray before leaving. Kneel if possible. Use short, direct prayers.

* Keep record of interested persons.

* Have the interpreter, if one is used, keep the evangelist informed of what happened during the visit.

Because the use of Scripture is vital, we wanted to make its use meaningful and significant. During the morning seminars we decided on the text to be used that day in our visitation. It was usually a text that dealt with the previous night's presentation but from a fresh viewpoint. Its clear explanation was intended to reinforce the specific Bible truth presented in the evening meeting.

Targeting the responsive people

Being Europeans and working in an Asian context had an advantage. People living in small communities find a foreigner interesting. This was a factor in attracting some to the meetings. It also drew some into the visitation activity. Of course, our foreignness could work against us in home visitation. We responded to it in the following way.

During our consultation with the local pastors at the beginning of the outreach, we decided to make a list of all interested per sons. As the meetings progressed, we had to limit the visitation in order for it to be effective. We identified people as one-, two-, or three-star interests.

As the campaign proceeded, the evangelists would visit only three-star people who were deeply interested in Bible truth and willing to make life-changing decisions. This procedure proved to be productive. As the interest increased, the visitation demands increased. If we had not limited the visitation to three-star interests, we could have ended up with as many as 2,000 interests to visit, and little to show for it by way of baptism.

Using established structures

As we were working in a culture not friendly to Christians and in which the ex tended family ties are strong and essential to survival, we consciously decided not to disregard the family structure.

Our entry was to approach the family head and opinion maker and attempt to get them to take a stand for Christ and church membership. When this was successful the rest of the family became responsive. When the head was resistant we tried to ensure that we were allowed to study with those members of the family who showed interest and prepare them for baptism but without separating them from the family structure.

We attempted to make sure that the strong and vital family ties were not broken even when one or more of the family members were baptized and joined the church. Fortunately, in these campaigns we were not compelled to appeal to anyone to take a stand for Christ in a situation in which they would be ostracized from the family or the larger community. If this had developed, it would have become necessary to find alter native places for these persons to live and work.

Here again we in the West can learn. How often we stress the individual's responsibility to decide for Christ (and rightly so) but then neglect to deal with the implications of a person's decision when it comes to their family context. Awareness of the implications of a person in a family becoming a church member should move us to look at the larger family picture and negotiate and manage the transition positively and productively. In taking this route we can do a lot to avoid unnecessary conflict and tension in family relationships.

Hospitality demonstrated and accepted is of extreme importance in most non-Western societies. In Pakistan it is an integral part of the soul-winning process in home visitation. This beautiful culture can cause certain difficulties for the visitor. One of these is the quantity of "refreshments" offered in up to 20 visits per day. We solved the problem by explaining that a cold bottled drink or hot drink was all we needed, and fulfilled all the customary hospitalities of our hosts.

Baptismal preparations

At the completion of the 10 public meetings there was a pause of three days. During this period home visitation was intensified. After the three-day interlude we started the baptismal lectures. These were not conducted in tents, but in alternative locations except where we had a local church building.

In the baptismal lectures, we presented the following subjects in detail, as they were important for church membership: 1. The body as the temple of God. Christian health and temperance, hygiene, and unclean foods. 2. Sabbath observance. 3. Christian stewardship. Tithes, offerings, and witnessing. 4. What it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist.

The final screening of persons who re quested baptism took place in the homes. This was also the place where many decisions to receive Jesus as Saviour were made in the presence of the extended family. In this way we maintained the family as a natural sup port group. As a result integration into the local church was to some extent simplified.

Basic beliefs

As a requirement for baptism each candidate was expected to believe and agree to the following six biblical teachings:

1. The Trinity. Belief in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

2. Jesus the Saviour. Recognition of one self as a sinner and acceptance of Jesus as the only Saviour. 3. The Holy Bible, God's Word, the basis of faith and the guide for life and conduct. This includes the Law of God with the Sabbath.

4. God's church, which the baptized join to be supported by regular attendance, witness to family and neighbors, and financial support through tithes and offerings.

5. The body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Lifestyle issues, eating and drinking habits, and Adventist church standards.

6. State of the dead. Clear understanding that immortality is a gift from God. Death is a sleep from which we wake at the resurrection when Christ returns.

Financial considerations

The campaigns were run on a low budget. At the meetings we did not use any slides, projectors, overhead transparencies, films, special music, or other audiovisual helps.

The rented tents were basically awnings. They were adequate for our purposes but in no way luxurious. The audience sat on mats on the floor. The exceptions, those who sat on chairs (as noted in the previous article), illustrated the homogenous unit principle.

The only "prizes" for attendance were Bibles given to those who attended the baptismal classes. Those who were baptized received a church hymnal. Those were the biggest single expense items on the budget.

Per diem, traveling expenses, and room and board for all workers were kept to a minimum. The average expenditure for each person baptized was less than $20. In financial terms we practiced economic constraints not only because of the limited budget we had, but because we wanted to show our local ministers that good evangelistic results need not require a large financial outlay. The key factor was the preaching of the Word of God powerfully, spiritually, and faithfully, coupled with giving meaningful pastoral care to those attending the meetings.

The evangelist's use or misuse of funds becomes a model for the local workers and members. From the beginning economy and openness were practiced. The congregation had a public announcement of the amount of the offering received the previous night. Each evening the offering was counted by two persons in an open manner. If a person gave tithe they received a receipt.

Overall, our evangelistic experience in Pakistan was a positive one. We learned much that could be adapted to future evangelistic enterprises both in cultures similar to that of Pakistan, and also in Western cultures. We found ourselves as blessed as any one who attended the meetings.

*Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers
(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald
Pub. Assn.,1915), p. 188.

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Borge Schantz, Ph.D., is the director for the Institute of Islamic Studies at Newbold College, England.

Pat Boyle is a pastor in England.

March 1997

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