Pastor's Pastor

Pastor's Pastor: Evangelizing preparation

Pastor's Pastor: Evangelizing preparation

When I heard John Sweigart use the term Evangeliving, I knew it conveys the best definition for teaching evangelism as process more than event.

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

When I heard John Sweigart use the term Evangeliving, I knew it conveys the best definition for teaching evangelism as process more than event.

During our years as itinerate evangelists, Sharon and I often grieved at the suppositions that we could deliver one event to encompass the totality of evangelistic endeavor. Leaders and members embraced this assumption: paying and praying for our success. Typically, however, neither group addressed the holistic necessity of evangelism as a thoroughly integrated process of sowing, reaping, and conserving.

And frankly, itinerating guests who shorten public preaching to an even briefer “touch and go” event only perpetuate the assumption that high-quality proclamation—conveying truth in the most attractive, winsome package possible— is all that is needed for evangelistic success. A possible theme song for such an approach could be “Information Saves!”

Vampire Christianity. Of course, such has never been our theological position, but this “event mentality” has clearly infected our practice. Anthony B. Robinson cites Dallas Willard’s new book, The Great Omission, which describes a prevalent gospel reductionism focusing primarily on conversion and eternal salvation while neglecting belief as a way of life here and now.

Willard terms this shortsighted focus on conversion at the neglect of thoroughgoing discipleship as “vampire Christianity” in which the individual says to Jesus, in effect, “I’d like a little of your blood, but I don’t care to be your student . . . in fact, won’t you just excuse me while I get on with my life, and I’ll see you in heaven.”*

So I cheered when the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted for a three-year comprehensive process of preparation, proclamation, and preservation while emphasizing the concurrent necessity of all three in continuous cycle.

Great goals, poor slogan. Unfortunately, the terminology designating 2009: The Year of Pastoral Evangelism may dissuade more than persuade. Some ministers may react and assume the proposal imposes more work on an already overextended pastoral force while conveying the idea that laity may relax, fund, and observe or ignore the efforts of professional pastors.

Designating pastoral evangelism perpetuates the myth that ministers can accomplish the objectives alone. Regardless of the worthy objectives, such terminology implies limitations on releasing all believers into the fields. Jesus instructs us to pray for more reapers, not to impose descriptive confines as to who is responsible. Here’s reality! If we wait for pastors alone to do the work, we will wait in our graves.

Of course, ministers have a leadership function—nothing happened at the crossing of Jordan until the priests’ feet entered the water. But the people were delivered only when they followed in eager participation. Therefore, I encourage the encompassing vision of all believers becoming engaged in evangeliving.

2008—Year of Preparation. Regardless of the need for better sloganeering, we can embrace the concept as beneficial. As ministers, we have a wonderful opportunity to intentionally prepare for a truly abundant harvest. While encouraging this integrated process, the following specifics will prepare us for an outpouring of evangeliving blessings:

Repentance. Let us acknowledge our sin and seek the face of our Savior in repentance for our willingness to maintain the status quo or to excuse small results. Let us seek forgiveness and expect victorious living.

Review. Let us remember and rehearse the abundant blessings of the Lord’s leading in our past and acknowledge our dependence upon His favor for our future.

Revival. Let us preach Jesus alone as the Source of all the church needs to accomplish God’s plan for seeking the lost, and let us never stray from a Christ-centered focus.

Reformation. Let us call our members to live our lives congruent with our convictions and let us lead by example, fasting from those things that detract from Jesus or that deny the Spirit’s transforming power.

Relationship. Let us restore everyday evangeliving. Make acquaintance with strangers until they become our friends. Invite friends to attend until they are included in church life, even before they become believers.

Renewal. Let us do things differently and expect different results. Plan annual events in which to preach good news. Conduct intense Weeks of Spiritual Emphasis and Prayer. Teach how to emulate Jesus.

Revamp. Let us rearrange priorities until committees become strategizing sessions for mission rather than boards to grant or withhold permission about lesser issues.

Reliance. Let us seek God’s will and God’s way, asking the Holy Spirit to help us view people through Heaven’s eyes, considering every contact a candidate for the kingdom. If you are concerned about funds, concentrate on the potential—the money we need to accomplish God’s will is already in the mouths of the fish we are called to catch.

Reap. Let us determine that evangeliving will define our lives and drive our preaching. Call for decisions. Concentrate on the cities—going where the people are. Expect sizeable results.

Rejoice. Let us expect great things from God and boldly venture forward to rejoice in all He will provide.

* Anthony B. Robinson, “Follow Me,” The Christian Century, September 4, 2007, 23.\



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

January 2008

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