Editor’s note: The 2008 Spring Council of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted to designate 2009 as the Year of Evangelism and that this special evangelistic reaping emphasis continues until the General Conference Session in Atlanta in June 2010. The North American Division of the church in November 2007 voted a similar designation. The interview with Ron Clouzet, ministerial secretary for North America and Bill McClendon, a pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States, shows how one part of the world church focuses on evangelism.
Willie Hucks (WH): What is the origin of this “Year of Evangelism” initiative?
Ron Clouzet (RC): This began at an annual North American Division (NAD) Ministerial Secretary Advisory Committee held at Andrews University in January 2007. In April 2007, the Year of Pastoral Evangelism Committee met, and that’s where the initiative took shape that led to the personal pastoral goals of two meetings a year and the NAD goal of 100,000 baptisms. In November 2007, the initiative was voted at the year-end meeting. This began as a pastoral initiative that was later revised as a general evangelism initiative.
WH: What do you wish to accomplish as a result of this emphasis?
RC: Revival in the Adventist Church in North America. We can’t just wish for things to happen, for 100,000 people to be baptized. We can’t simply work hard for that to happen. Many pastors, church members, and other church leaders are working hard already for what we are getting— which is a third of that number. This is really an impossible objective that will call for us to first go to our knees, secondly to work together, and thirdly to make personal commitment. If those things happen, there’s going to be a revival in the Adventist Church in North America and that revival will lead to church growth.
Bill McClendon (BMcC): We talk about what we hope to accomplish. I don’t sense it’s just the 100,000 baptisms. What we really hope to accomplish is that pastors, church leaders, and church members re-engage in the work that Jesus has asked us to do: share the gospel. In a very intentional way, we need to again reconnect with the mission that Jesus asked us to do, and that is to share the gospel with our friends, our neighbors, and our communities.
WH: Is this thrust limited to just church pastors?
RC: No, lay members are very much a part of this. But we encourage pastors and other church leaders to take the lead in reaching out to others, to be bold and unapologetic about making our faith the first thing.
BMcC: I agree. It started out with this idea of re-engaging pastors, but as we began to develop the ideas and what would happen, we saw every church being involved in intentional evangelism twice during 2009. Thinking about that, there is no way that pastors and church leaders could be able to do that without the support of lay people. Everybody ought to be engaged in evangelism. Pastors and other church leaders should take the lead not only in conducting public evangelism, but also to invite church members to be a part of that process by mentoring and training them. Then we hope that in 2010, we will have a focus on lay evangelism where everybody, not only pastors continuing their cycle but laypersons as well, is engaged in evangelism.
WH: What are your roles? Are you coordinating this? Are you involved in other ways in this, such as satellite evangelism? Do you have any additional roles to play?
BMcC: I am part of the pastor’s advisory committee where this originally initiated. I’ve been invited to be a part of the evangelism committee, and I’m now part of a steering committee that is currently meeting. In addition to that, I’m a pastor and my role is to be engaged in public evangelism at my local church.
RC: This initial idea preceded my becoming ministerial secretary for the Adventist Church in North America by a number of months. I was, at the time, the associate ministerial secretary for North America. I was chair of the initial committee that developed the initial basic goals. We have put together a steering committee that has been working for about six months now.
WH: What do you hope will transpire after this initiative concludes?
RC: A new way of doing business.That we as a church realize that what we’re about is accomplishing the mission of the church: leading people to Jesus. My hope is that it will cause us to think about new priorities—new emphasis on spiritual fervor and growth because we recognize that unless we ourselves are converted, we will not truly love others, nor can we introduce others to Jesus. So I hope that it will help the church recognize that we’re not about the business of maintenance, about the business of institution building, or about the business of being just a respectable religious organization. I want our paradigm to shift from one of thinking that the mission of the church needs to be accomplished by professionals and technology to that of believing that my mission is right outside my front door.
BMcC: I think many of us that have been involved in this initiative hope that in some sense it won’t be over, but it will have such an effect on churches, pastors, and church members that in a real sense this initiative will never be over until Jesus comes. We hope that churches will be transformed and become mission focused, that people will become connected with sharing the gospel in such a way that evangelism will cease to be an activity or a program that a church does once a year or once every few years. In addition, that such a lifestyle will become a part of the fabric of what we are and what we do as a church.
WH: I know there’s an Adventist ministries convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in January 2009. Please tell our readers what will take place there. I’m assuming also that a part of this meeting focuses on falling in love with Jesus. How do we go about doing this? Will all of this be addressed in the meeting there?
RC: The theme is “Come and See: Renewing the Urgent Call to New Testament Evangelism.” So that comes right out of Matthew 28:6, 7, where the women were invited to come and see for themselves that Jesus had been resurrected before they could go and tell. So, that is one of the objectives. We can’t help others stand up unless we have a personal, vibrant, and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. But in a practical venue, the Myrtle Beach meeting is being offered to the pastors for the first time. Historically that meeting is for conference directors. They bring in conference and division directors and departmental directors. Rarely do they have any pastors. Now it is open for pastors to come. We’ve been encouraging pastors to come. A committee has worked on designing dozens of workshops that have pastors in mind to help them gain resources for church-based evangelism. I fully agree with Bill that we hope this doesn’t end and that this will be something that is ongoing. My hope is that North America will not see this as a one-time thing. I would hate to see us have an emphasis one year on evangelism and then after that say, “Well, that was interesting.” My hope is that we continue to plan, based on this in 2009 and for the future. How do we make this—the next quinquennium, for the next ten years, and so forth and so on—a lifestyle for our pastors and church members?
WH: What do you want the readers of Ministry to do about all that we have discussed during this interview?
BMcC: I would say to get involved, to be a part of what we believe will be the beginning of the most ambitious, aggressive movement in the church here in North America, to get serious about taking the gospel to our friends and neighbors, to be involved at a local church level. We’re asking every church to do two evangelistic meetings in 2009. There are specific dates that we have set: April 17 and September 11, with the idea that every church in North America on those same weekends will open their doors and harmoniously work to preach the gospel. Every person being involved in sharing the gospel through a local church and through preaching; that is really what we’re hoping the members will do. Not just go to some training, not just go to a meeting and get inspired, but will actually find a way to, in their own communities, re-engage in evangelism.
RC: I agree. My answer is engage. Just engage. Evangelism is a process, not simply an event. That’s why the suggestion is to have two meetings a year. Go out on a limb for God, go beyond anything you’ve been comfortable in doing thus far. Learn to really trust God, to put Him to the test. When it comes to evangelism, God loves to be put to the test. He can be trusted because it is His expressed will that we reach the world. So, let’s do it and not be afraid of failure, and not be afraid of small results, and not be afraid of lack of support. Let’s just do it and keep doing it. We’ll get better at it, and God will find that we are serious about it, and He will keep blessing. Just engage. Go to the Web site, www .yearofevangelism.org, register, and move forward. Don’t wait for anybody else to move. You move.
WH: Do you have any closing thoughts for our readers?
BMcC: This initiative, these goals, as Ron has said, are not just about spending more money, it’s not about a better brochure, it’s not about the technical side of it; rather, it is really a call to get on our knees. On January 3, the first Sabbath of 2009, we’re looking at having a division-wide prayer event, so that before we even engage in the work of evangelism, we will begin, as churches, to pray and ask God to lead us through this process. We’ll have various prayer events throughout the year, as well as resources and other materials that can be available to a church. We need to understand that our first work is to pray.
RC: I have been hearing some very encouraging things from throughout North America—stories about courageous decisions made by leaders and pastors in conferences. For instance, the Georgia-Cumberland Conference is putting two million dollars extra into evangelism this year. They’re raising that money, and they have voted a goal that is three times larger than what they usually have. The Minnesota Conference is doing the same thing. The Texas Conference, for instance, is already 30 percent ahead of last year in terms of church growth because they’re already engaged. The Southern Union has a goal of a 10 percent increase in their membership. They typically have 3 percent growth. They are providing resources for their pastors. They’re not waiting for North America to do this or that. It’s those kinds of stories that are being repeated all throughout this country. That’s encouraging.
WH: I thank you all so very much. I know our readers are going to be blessed, and we’re going to encourage pastors and others to pray for this initiative, for revival, for reformation, for growth, for every blessing that the Holy Spirit has for all of us.