No matter the activity, if it's worth doing it's always worth the time and energy it takes to make sure we're operating according to that which is basic to it. Whether such an appraisal of the basics has to do with our marriage, our health, our automobile's maintenance, or our preaching, it's always worth being sure that we're still genuinely in touch with the fundamentals.
What are the basics when it comes to Christian evangelism, to Seventh-day Adventist evangelism? I'll cover three aspects that especially strike me.
First, the essence of Adventist evangelism is that it is distinctly and distinctively Christian. That is it has first of all to do with Christ Himself. Paul's passionate, definitive cry is the cry of the authentic evangel: "We preach Christ crucified . . ." (1 Cor. 1:23, NIV). The context of this statement is very well worth marking: The Jews demand signs and miracles, and the Greeks want wisdom (verse 22), but despite our knowledge of these preferences, we nevertheless preach Christ crucified.
As we consider the weight of these kinds of desires and felt needs in our audiences, it may be enticing to preach something else, but it is the crucified and risen Christ that we proclaim nonetheless. Even though the Cross may be a "stumbling block" to some and "foolishness" (verse 23, NIV) to others after all is said and done, we still preach Him . . . Christ.
Let's hold the basic of Christ and Him crucified (and risen) absolutely firmly in heart and hand as we proclaim Him in word and deed throughout this upcoming special year of evangelism.
But second, evangelism being His witnesses especially the "world evangelism" He is calling us to do "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea . . . and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8, NIV), is a deeply spiritual work. That is, it is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit.
This is a crucial basic, and one that is easily slighted in the crush of baptismal goals, ministerial egos, and the urgent press of all one inevitably has to do when evangelizing. It is critical to embrace the fact that, according to Jesus in Acts 1:7, the power to be His witnesses is promised to the one called to be a witness. And we receive that power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us.
We are ever subject to the pull of the thought that the power or the potency of our witness is in the method or the evangelistic strategy that we employ. Let's face it, if you dispassionately watched us going about our evangelism, and even if you assess the content of a magazine like Ministry, you would have to say that the employment of this or that evangelistic strategy is some times more important to us than the "intangible" of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit!
The work we are called to do is a 5p/ritual work and an absolutely indispensable fundamental that we must hold to our hearts and in our hands during this coming Year of World Evangelism.
The third basic is that we are Seventh-day Adventist evangels. That means that our proclamation of Christ and of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit is done in the unique, one-of-a-kind context of the three angels' messages as they've been delivered to us. Adventists are especially charged with the call to evangelize in the face of the approaching eschaton.
This means that during the coming year and always, we Adventists proclaim "the everlasting gospel" (Rev. 14:6) with "a loud voice" (verse 7) "to every nation, kindred, tongue and people" (verse 6). Again, it means that our proclamation of the gospel of Christ and Him crucified is a proclamation that is fundamentally eschatological at its heart. It has inescapably to do with the second coming of Jesus, the final judgment, the end of the world and of humanity as we know it.
Proclaiming the gospel in this final judgment context gives it a special potency, a force, urgency, and effectiveness that it does not have in any other setting, especially if we are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we face the challenges of this upcoming Year of Evangelism, let's step out on the solid platform of these three basics. They have a way of not only giv ing us evangelistic focus and energy, but of giving us the personal courage and strength to tackle something special for our Lord, our congregations, and our communities.