Evangelism symposium urges simpler gospel presentation
Rather than complicating the gospel or endlessly repackaging it, leaders are advocating a simpler approach. They say preaching basic Bible truths is the most compelling way to present the Adventist hope.
Ernestine Finley reminds church evangelists and ministerial secretaries that baptism is just the beginning. Her spiritual-friendship plan matches new believers with existing church members who share similar interests and backgrounds. [Photo: Ansel Oliver]
“This approach requires admitting one’s own vulnerability,” said Shawn Boonstra, associate director for the Ministerial Association of the church’s North American Division. “The world is tired of religious know-it-alls,” he said, citing a New Testament story in which the apostle Paul identifies with his audience to make a point.
The symposium is a broadening of the church’s Council on Evangelism and Witness to include more regional evangelists and ministerial secretaries in the discussion. Approximately 40 leaders from each of the church’s 13 divisions met at Adventist world headquarters on November 28–30, 2011, to share resources, exchange ideas, address challenges to evangelism, and pray together.
“Jesus’ mission is to seek and save everyone who is lost, so the number one priority of the church should be to win people to Jesus,” said Jerry Page, secretary of the world church’s Ministerial Association.
“In an increasingly secular world, evangelists can no longer assume their audience is either familiar with Christian principles or biblically literate. I would say my preaching has become more Christ centered, more biblically basic, and certainly ministering more to the felt needs of people,” said veteran evangelist Mark Finley.
Church leaders said a clear, authentic message of truth can even connect with the world’s growing postmodern population—a group of 1.8 billion people worldwide, according to Miroslav Pujic, communication director for the church’s Trans-European Division.
“We are realizing that Jesus’ message is exactly what this generation is looking for—the real truth, transparency, and an alternative to the systems and churches they don’t trust,” said Robert Costa, an associate secretary for the world church’s Ministerial Association. [Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN]
Church missiologist shares the Adventist perspective to Christian mission
In his essay, “Mission to World Religions and Contemporary World Views: An Adventist Perspective,” Diop calls Christ the “ultimate criterion” for assessing a religion’s need for mission.
“The idea that Christ motivates Christian witness lies at the core of Scripture,” Diop says. The Bible is abundantly clear that fellowship with God is restored only through acceptance of God’s love and Jesus’ incarnation, life and teachings, sacrifice, victory over death, and priestly ministry. “Nowhere but in the Bible do we find this whole chain of truth. What we find is Jesus—who He actually is, His divinity. The Bible provides a comprehensive diagnosis of human problems and a comprehensive solution. Ultimately that solution is Jesus, who came to cancel all the negatives. He defeated evil and death, and he is coming again to restore peace, justice and righteousness. And that we don’t find anywhere else.”
The distinctiveness of the Adventist faith stands out as some Christians may be tempted to dilute what sets Christ apart to better fit a culture of tolerance. But today’s notion of tolerance is a misnomer, Diop continues. “There’s a naive assumption that tolerance means endorsement. No. People have the right to life, the right to freedom, the right to expression, the right to their own choices, but that does not make those choices compelling to everyone. Respecting their rights? We must, unquestionably.
We owe every human being respect, dignity, courtesy and decency, but that does not mean accepting, endorsing or embracing their values,” he says.
Diop says that while mission begins with common ground, it must go beyond that. Muslims and Christians can find commonalities between the Koran and the Bible, but ultimately the words they use are caught in what Diop calls “webs of meaning,” or context. “The Jesus of the [Koran] is different from the Jesus in the Bible. He didn’t die on the cross; he’s not God. Muslims and Christians say they are both ‘people of the Book,’ but strictly speaking Christians are not people of the Book. They are people of a person, Jesus Christ.”
Witnessing to Christ in a Pluralistic Age is expected to serve as a textbook for students of missiology worldwide. [Elizabeth Lechleitner/ ANN]
1 Ganoune Diop now serves as an associate director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department as well as its liaison to the United Nations.
2 Lalsangkima Pachuau and Knud Jorgensen, eds., Witnessing to Christ in a Pluralistic Age: Christian Mission Among Other faiths (Edinburgh: Regnum Books, 2010).