Pulpits of Hope:

Fulfilling God’s mission

Robert Costa is an associate secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association.
Mark A. Finley, DDiv, serves as an assistant to the president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States. He is also is the founder and president of the Living Hope School of Evangelism in Haymarket, Virginia, United States.

Pulpits of Hope is a simple, flexible, and effective initiative that every preacher may adopt in his or her church. It is part of a comprehensive evangelism plan based on the five universal keys of successful soul winning and evangelism reflected in the book of Acts.

The five keys to successful evangelism

Key 1: Revival. Churches grow when members experience genuine spiritual revival in their lives. Emphasize these three things to begin your church’s spiritual revival:

  • study of the Bible (Acts 2:16)
  • intercessory prayer (Acts 1:4, 14)
  • witnessing (Acts 1:8)

Key 2: Training and equipping. Churches grow when every member is trained and prepared to serve (Acts 2:42, 43).

Key 3: Community outreach. Churches will grow from a planned process of outreach that meets peoples’ physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual needs (Acts 2:44, 45).

Key 4: Harvest. Churches grow when preaching the Word of God through evangelistic proclamation (Acts 2:40, 41).

Key 5: Follow-up and nurturing. Churches grow when they nurture members and new converts and train them to testify (Acts 2:46, 47).

Pulpits of Hope

We can transform our churches into centers of evangelization through the Pulpits of Hope plan, or simply put, Sabbath morning evangelism. Public evangelism is expensive. And while it has an important role in the church, sometimes we overlook the fact that thousands of visitors pass through the doors of our churches every Sabbath, many times unnoticed. Many leave without having been invited to accept Jesus and His teachings. That is why the evangelistic sermon is important, and it is always appropriate to make an appeal or call. Every pastor and elder called to preach may follow and use this flexible, low-cost preaching plan, which is giving amazing results in churches that use it.

To support this concept, the Ministerial Association of the General Conference has developed a Christ-centered evangelistic series of sermons in PowerPoint and Keynote, with professionally illustrated prophetic and doctrinal topics.1 This plan, among other things, offers the following advantages:

  • Accustoms the ears of members to evangelistic preaching on Sabbath morning.
  • Exposes both members and visitors to the whole biblical message, including distinctive Seventh-day Adventist doctrines.
  • Helps believers to establish their faith on a solid biblical foundation, thus reducing apostasy.
  • Helps each pastor prepare and submit a preaching plan to the local church or district quarterly, semiannually, or annually.
  • Covers the entire biblical message within one calendar year.
  • Lets members and visitors know ahead of time the topics that will be presented, which will encourage them to bring friends and family to worship services on Sabbath.
  • Develops and promotes a culture of evangelism and develops more pastors and lay evangelists.
  • Is a highly flexible plan, adaptable to churches of any size. It does not interfere with the plans of the higher organizations of the church and can begin on any Sabbath of the year and continue for as long as needed.
  • Can be used in a single church or simultaneously in districts with multiple churches because the pastor can assign the same sermon to all the elders.
  • Is the most economical and effective method of evangelism.
  • Helps many to decide for Jesus and the truths of the Bible. The direct result will be increased attendance every Sabbath and more baptisms throughout the year.

The Bible must regain primacy in every pastor’s life. The Word of God must be the source for sermons. It is the message that comes from the heart of God to the heart of every person. The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes it has been specifically called to proclaim the eternal gospel (Rev. 14:6-12) and that all truth should be presented within the context of the gospel.

“Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”
(1 Cor. 9:16, NKJV). The pastoral task and evangelism are inseparable. The expansion of the church through personal and public evangelism, the preparation of people for baptism, planting new congregations, and developing new disciples should be the primary emphasis of each minister.

Evangelistic churches are growing churches. The New Testament church prioritized evangelism. It shared the Word of God in confidence, anticipating the blessing of the Spirit (Acts 4:31; 5:42; 8:4).

The Great Commission is to preach the Word and make disciples. It is not a suggestion; it is Jesus’ command, and it is vital for the church’s health, life, and growth.

We must view evangelism as a process leading to discipleship, not just an event that adds to membership. While increasing membership is a by-product of evangelism, the Great Commission envisions each believer becoming a mature, disciple-producing minister. The task of evangelism does not cease until new believers are nurtured, trained, deployed, and winning souls themselves. Disciple making must be regarded as an integral part of the evangelistic process, not just an appendage or follow-up after the main evangelistic event. Winning members without discipling them is ultimately self-defeating.

A revealing study

Thom Rainer, pastor and prolific researcher, carried out an extensive 10-year study of the fastest-growing churches in the United States to learn how they are reaching out to postmodern people and why their members were motivated to stay in the church.2 The results speak volumes about how we need to relate to postmodern people and what will keep them coming back to church. Listed below are factors that attract and influence members in some of the fastest-growing congregations:

  • Pastor/preaching: 90 percent
  • Doctrines: 88 percent
  • Friendliness of members: 49 percent
  • Someone from church witnessed to me: 41 percent
  • Family member attends: 38 percent
  • Sensed God’s presence; atmosphere of church: 37 percent
  • Relationships with others than family members: 25 percent
  • Sunday School class: 25 percent
  • Children’s/youth ministry: 25 percent
  • Other groups/ministries: 12 percent
  • Worship style/music: 11 percent
  • Location: 7 percent

Harvest

As we near the end of time, God is preparing a great harvest of people around the world. Thousands of pastors and laymen are cooperating with God in His final work. Now is the time to focus our vision on what Christ is doing in the world. The Lord promises His Holy Spirit right now if only we seek, ask, and believe.

As we testify to people in our spheres of influence—in church, at home, at work, at school, or in our daily activities—God will bless our efforts. As we plan to reach our neighborhoods, towns, villages, and major metropolitan areas, He will make our work successful. As we sow seeds, God will give us a harvest.

Every child of God is a beam of light. We are engaged in the most exciting and lasting work in the world: soul winning. As leaders and church members, we have an awesome responsibility that comes with a stunning promise, summarized on the last page of the book Evangelism: “Our watchword is to be, Onward, ever onward! Angels of heaven will go before us to prepare the way. Our burden for the regions beyond can never be laid down till the whole earth is lightened with the glory of the Lord.”3

The stories in the book of Acts will occur again, even more gloriously, with the coming of the latter rain. The disciples did not have all the means available to us today, but one thing made the difference for them in the first century, and it will do the same for us today: to be baptized and possessed by the Holy Spirit. Very soon, the world will be illuminated by God’s glory. Will you let it shine through your life and work?

  1. See https://gcevangelism.net/
  2. Thom S. Rainer, Surprising Insights From the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 21.
  3. Ellen G. White, Evangelism (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1946), 707.
  4. Ellen G. White, “Aggressive Work to Be Done,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, August 2, 1906, 8.
  5. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn, 1948), 6:11.
  6. Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1915), 193.
  7. White, Testimonies, 6:54.
  8. White, Evangelism, 699.

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Robert Costa is an associate secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association.
Mark A. Finley, DDiv, serves as an assistant to the president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States. He is also is the founder and president of the Living Hope School of Evangelism in Haymarket, Virginia, United States.

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