What Could Happen . . .

If every Adventist church had a yearly soul-winning plan? Like Wenatchee, Washington's Abundant Life Church where the church board organized two six-month cycles, each of which included a week of prayer and fasting, outreach activities, Bible studies, a reaping meeting organized by lay members, and discipleship of new members and interests.

Like the Kelso-Longview, Washington, church, where Pastor Dave Livermore and team mobilize members in small groups using the "free market groups" concept, followed by a public evangelistic series.

Like the Caldwell, Idaho, church where Pastor Brian Yeager, Positive Life Radio chaplain, invites listeners to a variety of outreach activities that lead to Bible studies, baptism, and church membership.

If every pastor trained a few church members to give Bible studies? Like Donovan Kack, Libby (Montana) Church pastor, who taught church members to give Bible studies to neighbors and friends. Seventeen members gave Bible studies, resulting in 22 baptisms at the next evangelistic series.

If pastors and conference leaders in major metro areas prayed that God would build new churches in their cities? Like Sao Paulo, Brazil, where there are 750 churches in five conferences. The current plan is to establish an Adventist church within 200 meters of any location in the city.

If every Adventist church with more than 300 members developed a plan to plant a new church? Like the Pleasant Valley Church in the Portland area, where Pastor George Gainer's team is planning to multiply God's work in Clackamas County by releasing members to add new points of contact in the community.

If pastors and church leaders in metro areas worked together to coordinate public evangelism and soul-winning? Like in Anchorage, Alaska, where Adventist churches held public meetings with evangelist Leo Schrevin, resulting in more than 80 baptisms. Like the six churches in the Forest Grove/Hillsboro, Oregon, area working with the Oregon Conference and North Pacific Union staff in bi-lingual, bi-cultural evangelistic meetings. Like the pastors and churches of Spokane, Washington, who united to participate in the Jac and 'dena Colon reaping meetings.

If every Adventist elementary school had a soul-winning plan? Like Meadow Glade Adventist Elementary School in Battle Ground, Washington, where pastors work with students and teachers to develop outreach and look for spiritual interest. At a recent week of prayer, 20 upperclassmen signed up for baptismal classes. A Sabbath afternoon baptism is planned for March 2005.

If every Adventist academy had a yearly soul-winning plan? Like Cascade Christian Academy where 40 students (including many non-members) conducted a two-week intensive evangelistic series last April. Similar activities are taking place this fall at Auburn Adventist Academy (in Washington), Mt. Ellis Academy (in Montana) and elsewhere.

If every family had regular family worship, spent the Sabbath in worship and outreach, and returned a faithful tithe? In these last days we have the promise that the Elijah message, calling people back to the worship of the Creator God and full surrender of time and talents to Him, "will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." Malachi 4:5-6.

Three God-given ways this "heart-turning" is accomplished is through 1) interesting family worship, 2) families spending Sabbath together in worship and outreach, and 3) family financial management that is obedient to God and puts His priorities first.

Interesting family worship. The Valuegenesis study of more than 15,000 Seventh-day Adventist young people and their leaders showed that the single most important factor in helping children stay loyal to Jesus and the Seventh-day Adventist Church is "interesting family worship." The study indicates that this is the place where young people learn to love and respect God, express their faith, feel acceptance, and recognize God's claims on their lives. Family worship is the best training laboratory for future soul winners.

Spending the Sabbath as a family in worship and outreach. Jesus modeled outreach in the gospel stories. He was in the habit of going to church on Sabbath (Luke 4:16) and spending the day healing and teaching the people. (Matthew 12; Mark 1–3, 6; Luke 4, 6, 13–14; John 5, 9)

Returning a faithful tithe. The god of our society is money. Releasing the first 10 percent to God in tithe, and then looking for opportunities to give generous offerings is a God-given way to gain victory over greed and covetousness, to support God's work, and to learn to manage money responsibly. There is plenty of money to do God's work. The challenge is that it is in the bank accounts, houses, cars, and credit card debt of God's people. God is willing to do amazing things when His kingdom and righteousness have first priority in our lives. (Matthew 6:33)

If members quit thinking people aren't interested in Jesus or the Adventist message? In the 1980s, it was popular to hear in the church: "The days of public evangelism are over." Many pastors stopped holding reaping meetings in their districts. Then in the early 1990s, the iron curtain fell and hundreds of pastors were needed to preach in the former Soviet Union. There was a shortage because many had forgotten how to preach our distinctive, end-time message.

Some said our society wasn't interested in prophecy. Then the "Left Behind" books became best sellers. Some said people didn't like handbills with beasts, but long lines of people stood in front of movie theaters to see movies about beasts. People are becoming desperate to understand what happens after death, to find time to relieve stress, to strengthen the family, to be healthier, and to know what will happen in the future. We need to get the Adventist message to people as quickly and effectively as we can, using every willing person.

Thom Rainer, who is dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth, has done extensive research on the attitudes in America toward Christ. He says in his recent book, The Unchurched Next Door (Zondervan 2003), that today there is amazing openness to spiritual things that wasn't there a few years ago. And here's real news—“More than 17 million people will accept Christ TODAY if presented with the gospel by a friend. Another 43 million are close.”

Now is the time to be bold, to live for Jesus, to speak for Jesus, to let people know that He is coming soon, and that He wants to prepare a place for them.

What might happen ... if every member saw that God has a work for him or her to do, and they asked God for courage to let their lights shine? Like you …


Dan Serns

North Pacific Union Conference Ministerial director

Featured in: January 2005