Editor’s note: The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America voted to designate 2009 as the Year of Evangelism. Other areas of the world also used similar designations. The editors share reports from three individuals who gave their perspectives on 2009 as the Year of Evangelism.
The impact of the “Year of Evangelism”
(G. Alexander Bryant)
Two thousand and nine, designated as the Year of Evangelism, had a tremendous impact on the North American Division. First, over 46,000 people joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America through baptism or profession of faith. This represents the largest number of people baptized in any year in the church’s history.
Secondly, this represents the largest percentage of membership increase in decades for North America. Prior to 2009, our baptismal average per year was around 34,000. Our highest had been 38,000. Even though we did not reach our goal of 100,000 baptisms, it was still quite a remarkable year. However, although the numbers are good, from my perspective this is not the most significant impact of the Year of Evangelism. The greatest impact centers on what it has done for some of our churches who no longer believed public evangelism was effective in this division. We had churches hold evangelistic meetings that had not done so in years. They accepted the challenge and watched individuals get baptized into their church. As a result, there is a renewed sense of what God can do here in this part of the vineyard. Because of this emphasis, we have seen more administrators give more attention, energy, and leadership to public evangelism. All of this energy and focus awakened something in the soul of this division. More people are beginning to believe that public evangelism can, again, work here. While the increase we did experience was not achieved by thousands being baptized in one location, it was the result of thousands of members being instrumental in seeing a few baptized here and there that contributed to the increase. In some ways, this is even better because it allows more people to see that their contribution can make a difference.
It’s exciting to see what is happening in North America. The most significant thing is that the fervor of evangelism is back in the air. You can sense it everywhere you go, from New York to California, from Washington State to Florida. Public evangelism, in innovative and creative ways, continues being reborn throughout this division. Leaders and members alike are discovering that relationship-building and involvement in the community is essential to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. During the Year of Evangelism, we have learned, in this division, that it is no longer true that one size fits all. We have learned that evangelism has to be tailor-made to fit the unique environment, community, and individual in the areas we are trying to reach. As a result, we are becoming more sensitive, aware, and tuned in to this particular challenge. In addition, we have learned that the paid clergy cannot be our only means of evangelism and outreach. Ellen White says, “Not only are the ministers called upon to labor for the salvation of souls, but every individual member of the church should make efforts to enlighten his friends and neighbors, every member must see that God has called them too.”1 Because of this wide participation of members, we are finding ways to unleash the laity to do the work God has called them to do. We are looking for a greater impact in 2010 as we see the result of Share the Hope Again.
Sharing the hope again
(Ron E. M. Clouzet)
Adventists have always been a people of hope. They genuinely expect Jesus, their Savior, to come to take them home. The Second Coming is called, in the words of Paul, “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) and has been like that since the Millerite Movement of the 1840s, when men and women of faith from every stripe of Protestantism joined hearts and minds to lift up the trumpet and proclaim that Jesus is coming again.
Because of this conviction, last year the Adventist Church in North America launched the Share the Hope initiative in order to reawaken pastors and members to our primary objective: prepare a people for the return of Jesus. The number of people who joined the church, as a result, was the highest ever! God began to stir in the hearts of churches across our land the conviction that we do not live for ourselves but for the benefit of others. And since the Spirit’s awakening does not happen overnight, the initiative for 2010 is simply to Share the Hope Again.
Four clear objectives
1. Intentionally prioritize the need for spiritual renewal at every level of the church by taking every possible step, including fasting, prayer, and study of God’s Word. Spiritual renewal and Bible study make sense, but do we need fasting and prayer? According to the Bible, we do. For instance, when God’s people sought repentance and forgiveness (Neh. 9:1–3; Joel 2:12, 13, 15–17), when in need of serious intercession for others (Neh. 1:2–11; Dan. 6:17, 18; 9:2–4; Joel 1:14, 15), when in need of faith (Matt. 17:18–21), when in search of a breakthrough to know God’s will or understand His Word (Ezra 8:21–23; Acts 10:30–32), when in search of an open door for evangelism (Acts 13:1–3; 14:21–23), when Israel was threatened to extinction by enemies (2 Chron. 20:1–4; Esther 4:1–3, 15–17), and when facing serious challenges and/or temptations (Matt. 4:1, 2), fasting and praying did wonders. They can usher in miracles today as well. The objective here emphasizes doing this together as a church. Corporate results will follow corporate effort by seeking the Lord together.
2. Work towards engaging all church members, pastors, and leaders in direct evangelism. Ellen G. White made this point clear: “Do not lead the people to depend upon you as ministers; teach them rather that they are to use their talents in giving the truth to those around them. In thus working they will have the cooperation of heavenly angels, and will obtain an experience that will increase their faith, and give them a strong hold on God.”2
We deprive others of joy when we do not encourage and support their efforts to win souls to Jesus. And the same thing happens to us. Sometimes leaders excuse themselves from participation in direct outreach because of their numerous responsibilities or that they have not been in touch with that kind of ministry for some years. When we think that way, we fail to realize that is the exact excuse many members make, especially busy professionals. We both lose out by busying ourselves to the point where there is no room to give a Bible study, visit an interest, or even help with some evangelistic endeavor.
3. Disciple new believers for participation in the mission of the church. Approximately 46,000 new believers joined the church in North America last year—more than ever before. Most of these are eager to share their faith with family and friends so they, too, may know and experience what they have. They do not need to be convinced to share, they need to be guided regarding how to do it. The pastor has a key role to play here: teach new members how to give Bible studies, teach them to articulate their faith clearly, help them with answers to objections, and then encourage seasoned members to accompany them to benefit from the contagious enthusiasm of a recent convert.
4. Reconnect with inactive and former members in the ministry of Jesus. The time has come to call back those who, for one reason or another, have become discouraged, disillusioned, or distracted from being a part of this remnant movement. This will take patience and genuine love to accomplish. But much could be accomplished when bringing a lost sheep back to the fold—there will be rejoicing all around (Luke 15)! All church elders should consider this work among their ministry priorities. The best way to do this may be by agreeing to meet once a week, and after prayer together, fan out to visit those who are missing from the body. They can share their stories, challenges, and joys with one another each week. And God will certainly give success to their efforts.
For more help on these steps, check www.sharethehope2010.com.
Share the Hope Again initiative also includes eight measurable goals, such as 50 percent of all new believers to be trained for ministry and outreach, 100,000 lay members to be trained and/or engaged in evangelism, for every leader at every level of the church to participate in evangelistic activity. What matters most of all is simply sharing the hope again.
Sharing the hope on the front lines
(Robert S. Folkenberg Jr.)
When it comes to church growth, shifting from addition to multiplication can only be accomplished when men and women, comprising the Body of Christ, have a clear sense of ownership of both the message and the mission of the church. We cannot “finish the work” by increasing our evangelism budget. Evangelism is not about events or programs. Let me express this conviction by asking the following question: How would we fulfill the gospel commission if we had no money? The answer to this question takes us to the heart of the issue: the gospel would be preached to the world by the church, with each member involved and consumed with Christ and His cause!
The call has always been for more workers to go out and bring in the harvest (Matt. 9:37, 38). Share the Hope Again is a call to focus on just that kind of mobilization— to focus our best efforts in calling our churches to embrace the mission we have been given by Christ. Then, equip them and lead them into the harvest where the Lord has the harvest ready to be picked and brought safely into the storehouse.
The Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has embraced this call. We have focused our training and mobilized our efforts on resourcing churches to organize local outreach teams. Across our conference, over 30 outreach teams have formed and work together to reach their communities with a level of intentionality that speaks of passion for the mission of Christ. They prayerfully embark on an ongoing cycle of evangelism. I recently spoke with a married couple who belong to a small church. They told me they had joined an outreach team and were excited about how the Lord was using them to reach their community.
The outreach team, led by a conference sponsored Bible worker coordinator, has fanned out across their community, knocking on doors, doing surveys, and starting many Bible studies. When they shared their experiences with me, they spoke with excitement, with a sense that God was truly working by their side.
As a conference, we are training these teams during intense weekend sessions, providing materials and literature for members to share with their neighbors, friends, and coworkers. All across the conference, members are obeying the call of Christ to boldly share the life they have found in Him.
Share the Hope Again calls us to focus our greatest time and efforts on this single point—involve the membership of Christ’s church in fulfilling the mission of Christ to seek and save the lost. Granted, it would be easier to fund a few evangelistic meetings here or there. But the call of Share the Hope Again is bigger than budgets or two-week meetings. It calls for the church and its members to embrace a lifestyle of evangelism—one that fully involves them in the great cause of Christ.
The counsel of Ellen G. White becomes so clear and pointed when she says, “We are living in a special period of this earth’s history. A great work must be done in a very short time, and every Christian is to act a part in sustaining this work. God is calling for men [and women] who will consecrate themselves to the work of soul-saving. When we begin to comprehend what a sacrifice Christ made in order to save a perishing world, there will be seen a mighty wrestling to save souls.”3
Share the Hope Again takes us right to this point. First, evangelism is not merely a one-year endeavor, not a single all-out effort to reach more people for Christ. No, it must be the very lifestyle of the church of Christ, and is the all consuming mission of the disciples of Christ to “save a perishing world.” In fact, Ellen White was shown, in a vision of the church as it would appear at the end of time that this church is alive and vibrant—one consumed with sharing the hope they have in Christ, again and again and again—until Jesus comes! This is her description of the end-time church.
“In visions of the night representations passed before me of a great reformatory movement among God’s people. Many were praising God. The sick were healed, and other miracles were wrought. A spirit of intercession was seen, even as was manifested before the great day of Pentecost. Hundreds and thousands were seen visiting families and opening before them the Word of God. Hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and a spirit of genuine conversion was manifest. On every side doors were thrown open to the proclamation of the truth. The world seemed to be lighted with the heavenly influence.”4
This is who we are going to be. Let’s become that now!
1 Ellen G. White, “The Work of Reform,” Signs of the Times
(June 3, 1889).
2 White, Gospel Workers (Washington, DC: Review and
Herald Pub. Assn., 1948), 200.
3 White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, CA:
Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), 9:125, 126.
4 Ibid., 126.