Evangelism, Sabbath-morning style

There is power, power, evangelistic power in your Sabbath-morning pulpit—learn how to harness it!

Robert E. Costa, MA, is an associate ministerial secretary focusing on evangelism and church growth, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

For years it has been my privilege to help train ministers to develop effective soul-winning methods that best suit their own talents and situations. God has given His church a special end-time message to proclaim. Especially during their internship, new ministers should partner with experienced pastors who have a clear evangelistic vision and can train them to present truth within the context of the everlasting gospel (Rev. 14:6–12).

The church also provides a marvelous context for the pastor to deliver the message. There is no venue that has more possibilities for decisions for Christ than the local church. There are three ways in which you can use the church as a powerful avenue for soul-winning.

Maximize evangelism through proclamation

Transform the pulpit in your church into an evangelistic center through the “Sabbath Morning Evangelism” plan. Much more can be done from the pulpit on Sabbath morning. Every Sabbath, thousands of visitors pass through the doors of our churches, and the evangelistic sermon is the most appropriate type to reach them. Every year, the General Conference Ministerial Association develops more and more beautifully illustrated, state-of-the-art, Christ-centered, prophetic, doctrinal sermons in PowerPoint® and Keynote®, freely available and fully editable into any language.1

Every pastor and elder can take advantage of this flexible, inexpensive, and successful plan. They can dedicate a quarter, a semester, or most Sabbaths of the year to do evangelism from the pulpit in their local congregations. Preaching doctrinal sermons has many benefits:

It accustoms congregants to evangelistic preaching on Sabbath morning.This exposes members and visitors alike to the distinctive doctrines of the everlasting gospel. Paul said, “For I have not shrunk from declaring to you God’s whole truth” (Acts 20:27, Weymouth). Declaring God’s whole truth (a) establishes believers upon a solid biblical foundation, (b) increases their faithfulness, and (c) reduces apostasy.

It encourages pastors to submit a yearly or quarterly preaching plan.This will include all the essential Bible teachings within one calendar year. In addition, the plan enables congregants to know in advance the subjects to be presented, encouraging them to bring friends and relatives to worship services on Sabbath morning.

It develops more pastor-evangelists and lay-evangelists. Allow the same sermon to be preached in multi-church districts. The pastor can assign the same sermon to all elders. The Word of God must be the best source for sermons. It is the message that comes from the heart of God to that of every person. The Bible and the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy must regain primacy in every pastor’s life. While working to complete the Great Controversy, Ellen White wrote in 1884,“I want to get it out as soon as possible, for our people need it so much . . . I have been unable to sleep nights, thinking of the important things to take place . . . Great things are before us, and we want to call the people from their indifference to get ready.”2

It increases appeals for Jesus and Bible truths. Instead of allowing His disciples (and us) to select what we think we should preach or teach, Jesus told us that we must instruct others “‘to observe all things that I have commanded you’ ” (Matt. 28:20, NKJV). Not to do so is an act of open rebellion—we could say that it is pastoral malpractice. Sadly, there is more than one way to distort evangelism. While one of them is to present something that is not true, perhaps the most subtle misrepresentation involves proclaiming only part of the truth—or a half-truth. Be careful not to ignore the pillars of Christian faith—truths and doctrines that Jesus Himself taught and revealed—especially the message clearly described in Revelation 14:6–12. If we do not preach “all” that Jesus asked us to teach, what kind of disciples are we being?

It increases decisions for Jesus and His church. Baptisms will now take place year-round. Evangelism is a concept that covers much. The purpose of evangelism is to proclaim the message of God’s grace in such a persuasive way that individuals will embrace Jesus as their soon-coming Savior and Lord, unite their lives with His church, and dedicate themselves to service in God’s cause. More than an event, evangelism is a lifestyle for the believer. Charles Bradford states, “It is not for us to argue the question as to whether or not a person can be saved outside church fellowship, or to put it the other way, whether it is absolutely necessary to belong to the SDA Church to be saved. It is our task to pull them into the lifeboat. We can’t afford to be fuzzy in our thinking here. To remain outside is to be in definite peril.”3

Organize evangelism through intercession

The most sacred task of the pastor or elder is to promote true revival and reformation among members that lead them to spend daily quality time in personal communion with God through prayer and study of His Word. Organize the church to be a center for fervent prayer and Bible study. Every great revival and missionary movement throughout history took place only after intense personal and public study of the living Word of God coupled with fervent and earnest prayer Both elements are at the heart of soul winning—and both are at the heart of Sabbath School. What is special about Sabbath School? At least five things.

(1) Bible study—supplies an inter-active, dynamic, systematic study of Scripture for spiritual growth from birth through adulthood; (2) fellowship—offers weekly spiritual nurture and communion for church members and visitors; (3) sharing—encourages class participants to share their experience and spiritual insights with other church members through prayer and testimony; (4) world mission—enables believers stay connected with the global church family through world mission education; (5) service—provides small-group classes, a structure for organized outreach to the community and a great preparation for giving personal Bible studies.

The church is a spiritual entity, and members expect their pastors and elders to be leaders filled with the Holy Spirit. A congregation usually never goes beyond where the pastor leads it by precept and example. The time spent with God will give each minister a clear vision of how to fulfill God’s dream and help him or her to experience more vividly the reality that “the church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men [humanity]. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.”4 This will lead to the comprehensive mobilization of every believer, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Strategize evangelism through integration

A yearly outreach master plan, in which all departments of the church participate in an integrated way, is highly recommended. The pastor and the elders need to work hand in hand with every department to produce a comprehensive evangelism plan that will mobilize the majority of our members—children, youth, and adults alike. Such a flexible and bold master plan must include a cycle of revival, training and equipping, sowing, reaping, nurturing, and consolidation that allows every member and institution the opportunity to be involved.5

Those congregations that have employed this model are the ones at the top in (a) soul winning, (b) retention of members, and (c) discipleship.

Preparing individuals for baptism, planting new congregations, and developing disciples should be the main emphasis of every pastor and elder. We must view evangelism as a process leading to discipleship, not just an event that expands membership. While membership growth is a by-product of evangelism, the Great Commission envisions each believer becoming a mature, disciple-producing minister. The task of evangelism is not finished until new believers are nurtured, trained, deployed, and winning others themselves.

Disciple-making must be viewed as integral to the evangelistic process, not just a follow-up after the main evangelistic event. Gaining members without discipling them is ultimately self-defeating. A balanced evangelistic program calls for pastors and elders not only to promote evangelism but also to nurture new members and train them for service and then deploy them in reaching others. And by doing so, they place themselves at the center of God’s activity. “There are possibilities for work to be done by you for Jesus that you have never dreamed of.”6

Grand finale

The fifth book of the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, could truly be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. But if the beginnings of the church were glorious when, after Pentecost, the great evangelistic explosion occurred, something bigger must take place in our day. Millions of believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, will proclaim within the framework of the “everlasting gospel” the last three mes-sages of the mercy of Jesus “to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6, NKJV). We could almost say that the Acts of the Apostles is incomplete, because the most glorious chapters are about to be written. You and I are part of the events they will depict. 

So, let us use every means at our disposal—Sabbath sermon, Sabbath School, Adventist Youth program, prayer meeting—to share the gospel with our communities. “Evangelistic work, opening the Scriptures to others, warning men and women of what is coming upon the world, is to occupy more and still more of the time of God’s servants.”7 What a privilege. What a responsibility. We can almost see the great finale as Jesus revealed it to John in Patmos: “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory” (Rev. 18:1, NKJV).

And the glorious thing is that it will happen. Jesus has told us how things will end. The last generation will witness and participate in wonderful things: the descent of the Holy Spirit in its fullness and the rapid completion of the Great Commission. “The Lord designs that the presentation of this message shall be the highest, greatest work carried on in the world at this time.”8 May God use us to make ours that last generation.

1 For these free downloadable sermons, visit “Illustrated Sermons ETMFJ” page at www.gcevangelism.net/sermons.

2 Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 19 (Silver Spring, MD: Ellen G. White Estate, 1990), 78.

3 Charles E. Bradford, Preaching to the Times (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1975), 122.

4 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), 9.

5  For more ideas and resources, visit www.ministerial.adventist.org.

6 Ellen G. White, Sons and Daughters of God (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1955), 271.

7 Ellen G. White, “Aggressive Work to Be Done,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Aug. 2, 1906.

8  Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), 11

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Robert E. Costa, MA, is an associate ministerial secretary focusing on evangelism and church growth, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

August 2019

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