Does evangelism — especially public evangelism — still work? That's a big question, and it's asked often.
Why do we do evangelism? Is there a purpose behind sharing our Adventist beliefs and ideas?
This past fall, my husband and I preached a full evangelistic series at our home church. We held 20 meetings, over a five-week period. It was intense and a lot of work. If you have ever done public evangelism or have been involved in it, you know it is a lot of work — and it's not just the preaching, but all the preparations and behind-the-scenes details to make sure the series goes smoothly.
One of the greatest challenges of public evangelism is often a lack of local church support and help. If you don’t have enough members that are invested in doing an evangelistic series, it will never be a success. You need members who will attend, help fill the pews and be involved in the welcoming of visitors, as well as participating in childcare and visitor outreach. It takes a team to make public evangelism something that even has a chance of being a success.
If you are blessed to have the support of your congregation, there's still the challenge of not having enough people to attend the meetings. Even more important than member involvement is people’s interest in your topics, and personally being touched by the Holy Spirit to attend the meetings. Without the Holy Spirit guiding people, and without their hearts being tender to His leading, you won’t have many in attendance.
Of course, it would be nice to be able to control the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but we don’t have that power. However, through prayer and thoughtful devotion to God, we can be granted wisdom to know when and where to attempt public evangelism. God can — and still does — work through our evangelistic efforts, but we need to be mindful of God’s timing and the ripeness of our communities.
Just doing evangelism because it’s what we’ve always done isn’t a good reason to do it. Rather, it should be Spirit-led. This allows for more involvement by our church and communities.
When it comes to public evangelistic series, there are details that we Adventists tend to stress while there are others we sometimes wait to present. This reality inspired my husband and me to write our own sermons rather than using a pre-written curriculum. This wasn’t because the material was bad, but rather it was because we felt it would be a good exercise for us as pastors.
People who are attracted to a Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic series often come because of the fliers that show beasts and political images. People are curious and wonder what it's all about. We decided against those images on our fliers, and rather, we simply featured an image of Jesus on the front. We wanted people to come that were interested in hearing about Jesus and the Bible, not just Revelation and its beasts. Our desire was to start with Jesus. We didn't want to use beasts or sensational ideas to get people in the door. We wanted people to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior first!
Once someone accepts Jesus, God is the one who does the changing of their hearts. The theology comes from a relationship with Jesus. The changes in lifestyle come from a relationship with Jesus.
We still need to share our beliefs on Revelation, end time events, the second coming, our health message, etc. But it must come from a place of love for Jesus, or it won’t be something that makes a lasting change in our lives. This is why we chose to begin with the message of Salvation through Jesus. The first few meetings focus on Jesus, who He is and why that matters to us as Seventh-day Adventist Christians.
The message of salvation through Jesus is what is needed in our world today. The message of a Creator God who loves us and died for us is what transforms people’s lives, it’s what creates a desire to change and be made new in His image.
Evangelism only works when people’s hearts are touched by Jesus and the character of God. As followers of Christ, our duty is to present the love of God whether through public evangelism or other means. When the focus is on sharing Jesus, the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist church will be palatable and understood as a result of Jesus transforming our lives. That’s when evangelism is successful.