Currently, the Pacific Union Conference is putting special emphasis on evangelism, as are each of the other Union Conferences in North America. Our church has witnessed dramatic growth in various parts of
the world, and we rejoice with each positive report. But here at home it has been pretty flat. The obvious question is why? Why have we not seen more growth in North America? Are we using out-dated methods to
try and win people? Is our message focused on answering questions that no one is asking? Have we become so sophisticated and institutionalized that we've lost sight of our mission--to make disciples and prepare people for the coming of the Lord? These and other like questions have been debated at length.
Sometimes I wonder, could it be that one reason evangelistic growth in North America is flat is because too many members think and act like I do. Almost imperceptibly, I've come to see evangelism as an activity (a 5-7 week series of meetings) instead of a holistic way of thinking and living. Oh, I understand intellectually that it is the latter, but it's easy to buy into the idea that evangelism is primarily about adding members to the church books, or about bringing in people so we can have more tithe for future "programs." At times I have unwittingly viewed evangelism as a survival strategy for our institutions rather than a life-saving endeavor. Certainly this is a far cry from what Jesus had in mind when he said, "Go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matt. 28:18). NASB
In my heart I know evangelism is more than public meetings, but I'm afraid my actions often demonstrate otherwise.
As an Adventist church, and as individual members, we have a unique role to play. We are called to live and proclaim God's last day message of hope. I say "hope" because even though our message includes an element of impending judgment, at its very core it is a promise of hope--a message of impending "deliverance."
Some of the questions I struggle with include:
(1) How can I move beyond mediocrity in my efforts to share Christ?
(2) How can I resist the temptation to share a church-centered message instead of one that is Christ-centered? I love my church and haveworked for it all of my adult life, but our message is not about the church. It is about Jesus. As the old hymn says, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness." The church only has significance as long as it points people to Jesus and provides opportunities for service, spiritual nurture and growth. Withoutthese, it is just a club.
(3) How can I stay more focused on the idea that people simply need tohear about Jesus so they can find a better life?
I'm committed to finding answers to these and other like questions; to aligning my life more decidedly with God's purposes. Either I believe with all my heart that Jesus died for me and for every person on
earth--and wants to rescue us all from certain death and misery, or, my "God thoughts" are just that--musings about what it would be like if our screwed up world could be saved by an action-hero figure who
doesn't really exist.
I believe God does exist and that He is more than a fantasy--more than a figment of my imagination. I have heard His voice and felt His presence!
Just Do It
When Saul sent David out to fight Goliath, he demonstrated his belief that there was only one way to fight--which involved using traditional battle garb. It didn't take long for David to realize that he couldn't fight Goliath in Saul's armour. To win, David had to use his own implements and God-given abilities.
You and I have implements and abilities that can be used to share God's story. We may never hold a series of meetings, or fly to Africa. We may not follow a prescribed formula for "witnessing," or use any traditional soul-winning methods. But that doesn't mean God can't, or won't use us for His purposes. Finding new witnessing methods and tools is helpful, but they are not nearly as important as simply showing up and saying, "OK, God. I'm here. What do you want me to do?"
Evangelism today is about showing up and asking God to help us love as Jesus loved. Right now, if you feel a sense of gratitude for God's goodness, then you can be sure He is calling you to share that goodness with someone else. It really is that simple. And by the way, being Adventist is great if we understand that it is only a means to an end--the end is Jesus.