Community Outreach

Over the last week I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel in the footsteps of Paul through Turkey and Greece – beginning in Izmir (Smyrna), we've visited Ephesus, Colossi, Laodicea, Philadelphia, Pergamum, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and are now in Athens.

I’ve felt inspired by this trip, by Paul’s example, but also reflected on how weak the Adventist Church is in Greece today. There are lots of reasons for that, especially the local culture (as our local guide told us, if you’re Greek then you’re Orthodox – that’s just the way it is), but then I think about how our church is beginning to be affected by secularism back in the States. So what might Paul do? Surely he would say Adventist Christians should have a focus on evangelism.

But I wonder how many Spectrum readers would feel, reading that? Excited? Irritated? Alarmed? Bored? But all of those responses probably come from a distorted understanding of the meaning of two loaded words: “mission” and “evangelism.”

For many Adventists, the word “mission” probably prompts thoughts of missionaries, and that, in turn, conjures up images of white men, in white pith helmets, and khaki drills, cutting their way through thick forest with a machete, on their way to converting savages to the gospel and to Adventist health practices. Now, that picture have had some basis in reality, once, but today it’s rarely true even in areas that have jungles, such as Africa, Asia and Latin America. Even in the past, “mission” meant much more than that. Apart from anything else, the objects of missionaries included citizens of sophisticated civilizations, as well as primitive tribes in the naked jungle; and furthermore, mission for Adventists was never conducted only outside Christendom. Until 1964, one of the SDA Church’s departments was the Home Missions Department. Its name said something powerful: foreign missionary work is vital, for if those areas where the church is strong do not take responsibility for those where it is weak or non-existent, then the gospel will not be preached, as Christ commanded us to preach it, “in all the world”, “in every nation”, “unto the uttermost parts of the earth”. But as well as foreign missions, our homeland is also a mission field; and there is missionary work to be done in our neighbourhoods, as well as in what Ellen White often referred to as “the regions beyond”.

Ellen White made some very significant statements about home missions. Here is the first.

Many suppose that the missionaryspirit, the qualification for missionarywork, is aspecial gift or endowment bestowed upon the ministers and afew members of the church and that all others are to be mere spectators”, inspired testimony tells us: “Never was there agreater mistake. Every true Christian will possess a missionaryspirit”. (T 5:385)

But thus far, you might feel we are begging an important question: What is mission? If mission is what the church is called to, and church members are to be missionaries, what does that entail?

The mission of all Christians is to make disciples of Jesus. This is also the explicit mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, according to its Mission Statement. But how do we make disciples? The usual answer is “evangelism.” But what, in turn, is evangelism? The root of this word in the Greek word for good news: evangelion. So evangelism, at the heart, is sharing the good news that God loves us enough that He gave himself for us, living here among us, dying and being raised to life again, and ministering for us in heaven, making us right with God, and thereby assuring us of eternal life. This really is good news and evangelism is the term for sharing it with all men and women, as Christ commanded us.

But when we say “evangelism”, I’d guess that most Adventists, think of a public evangelistic campaign. Typically, it has a guest speaker, an evangelist, who comes in specially: ideally he (and it usually is a “he” though increasingly there are women evangelists as well) is a high-profile speaker, with lots of previous success, and a supporting team that provide wonderful music, and impressive audio-visual effects. At some point those effects definitely will include graphics of statues and strange beasts, as described in the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation. Then they move on and hopefully leave us with some converts who the local church will hopefully help to grow in Christ.

If this is evangelism, then we have a serious problem, since increasingly people in Western countries just don’t go to crusades. In particular, middle-class people born in this country—not just white people, but people of other ethnicities who have been raised here and have taken on the secular culture of this country—don’t attend evangelistic meetings. They just don’t go. In some parts of the country, evangelism still works—the South and the Midwest for example. But in the northeast of the United State, on the West Coast, and increasingly elsewhere, evangelism appeals only to an ever-shrinking section of the population.

But there are other problems, too, which reflect not the methods we use but our very concept, in practice, of evangelism. If what I just described is what “evangelism” is, then what is it? It is short-lived and episodic, occurring at intervals. It is done by outsiders and professionals, who are not involved in their community, but move from one campaign or crusade to the next—and it’s striking that we use those military terms, “campaign” and “crusade” for evangelism, because that is an insight into how we think about them.

I want to suggest that evangelism is much more than a prophecy chart, or an impressive video. Instead of something that is a one-off, that is temporary and done periodically, it should be a permanent part of our church life. And it is something to which every member of the body of Christ should contribute.

But before you stop reading: I’m not saying that everyone needs to preach an evangelistic sermon; or that everyone should put leaflets promoting public evangelism in mailboxes, or distribute them at malls; or that you need to do better at inviting people to attend prophecy-focused sermons that you know many of your friends will never attend, would be embarrassed by if they somehow did attend, all of which makes you deeply embarrassed even to invite them. I’m saying our entire concept of evangelism needs to shift.

Yes, public meetings may well be part of it, at some point, as a way to help move people to the point where they’ll make a decision. But evangelism is no longer just the meeting and the preliminary work of passing out leaflets and so on. Instead, a public meeting becomes just one potential facet of something much more sustained. As we move into this quarter in which the Sabbath School will be focused on the role of the church in the community, it is a good time to remind ourselves of two other statements by Ellen White: her second one about “home missionaries,” and a powerful one about the role of community outreach in mission/evangelism.

Ellen White wrote in the book Christian Education: “Everyonewho has seen the evidence and light of truth and accepts the truth, professing his faith in Jesus Christ, is a missionaryin the highest sense of the word. . . and it ishis duty to . . . diffuse that which he has received.”(CE 155)

Note: everyone who is a disciple of Jesus Christ should be a missionary; it is his and her duty to share the good news. So what Ellen White is telling us is that, in God’s plan, the person responsible for the mission of your local Seventh-day Adventist Church is not your pastor or your Conference evangelist or evangelism director: it’s you. But what can “I do?” I can’t preach a sermon, I feel terribly uncomfortable knocking on doors – and I know from when Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on my door that I’d probably be making my neighbors uncomfortable if I did go door to door!

The answer is in my final quotation from Ellen White, from the book Ministry of Healing:

Christ’s method alone [alone she states] will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’ There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen” (MH 143)

Here, I suspect, is the answer to the slowing growth of the SDA Church in North America; and maybe even, to some extent, in Greece. It is the model that Paul used as he went to great cities like Ephesus and Corinth, living there and (we are told) working there, for around two years in each place, instead of making quick passing evangelistic visits. It is a method anyone can be involved in, since it doesn’t require us to be able to preach powerful sermons; it just requires us to be friends to our neighbors, to spend time with them, to help meet their needs, and then, when the time is right, to tell them about Jesus. This is something we all can do. This is evangelism for the twenty-first century – it just so happens that it was also the evangelism of the first century.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7538

The Final paragraph is a winner. If one accepts Christ as Creator, Redeemer/advocate, and coming King of Kings. we are kin regardless of affiliation. Tom Z

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It’s the Message not the Method
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1.Wendy, so you have been confronted with the Greek Adventist church. What new converts are generally immigrants. Filipino nurses. Go to the UK. Anglo-Saxon Adventism has all but died. The U.K. Government views the Adventist church as a black church. Danny Shelton of 3ABN, white, plans to hold a 2 week evangelistic meetings in London in a few months. High profile for 3ABN. Bringing the cash. My prediction is the result will be more immigrant members already prepared by local black pastors. Nothing wrong with that. But what about the majority White population?

2.Ted Wilson, of the GC makes it sound easy. He was in Rwanda for the 95,890 baptisms. Next year he is off to Roumania. He goes where it appears ‘easy pickings’ to model what church members should be doing. He and his father were in Derry, Northern Ireland in 2004 for 3 weeks. Zero baptisms.

3.Your article suggests if we get the method right or find what seems to fit our personality then the Adventist church will grow. You quote the Adventist mission statement. However you fail to mention the qualifier “…proclaim the everlasting gospel embraced by the three angels’ messages (Revelation 14:6-12), and to prepare the world for Christ’s soon return.”

4.Have you ever considered that it might be the Adventist message that might be the problem? The first century church did not preach the 3 Angel’s message. The Adventist church presents a ‘generic gospel’ message (although no one can agree as to what it is) but then there are the quasi secret teachings just like Mormons and Scientologists. The 3 Angel’s message is about the Sabbath. It is about an eschatological Sabbath. Sabbath observance is the ‘seal of God’. Once the Universal Sunday Law comes into effect, salvation is not determined by choosing Christ but a day of the week. Adventism has always been about the Sabbath.

5.So Wendy. Your frustrations over the lack of growth over the church in Europe may not be rooted in method but really message. A Victorian science fiction message may just not resonate with any critical thinker in the 21st Century - Edgar

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You mean sort of like Noah and the flood?

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The Adventist Church will do OK , and even expand exponentially , as long as it keeps focusing its “mission” and evangelism in places such as the so-called Third World. and especially the AFRICAN CONTINENT. My opinion emphasizing “dark, ignorant” Africa is based on evidence that many blacks there may not be so dark and/or ignorant in matters concerning religion as popularly thought. In fact, one may say the same about Asia. Africans( some of them anyway) may readily accept stories of Christ and his miracles because they have religious Avatars who have performed “miracles” and also preached much the same messages of love and tolerance toward one’s fellow man as Jesus himself did. In fact the Greatest miracle-worker ever known on earth is an African known as SIMEON TOKO , who also totally baffled the Roman Church to the extent that Pope John XX111 sent a delegation to Angola to ask him if he was a reincarnation of Jesus. Toko was allegedly mentioned in the third message of the Lady of Fatima. In short Tom Dark and American journalist who researched, interviewved eyewitnesses, and allegedly actually witnessed some of Toko’d miracles has reported the following , Inter alia. TOKO , a Christian, and said to be a very knowledgeable preacher (A Baptist) was immortal, Several times the colonial Portuge hifred professional paid assassins to murder him ,but with no success. On one occassion Commandante Paiva les his team of assassins to kidnap TOKO who did not resist. They cut off his head, dismembered his body limb by limb and stuffed the remains in a crocus bag ( tied at the top)and left it in a casve, ingternding to return to feed it to sharks. According to Paiva , when they returned the bag was nowhere to be found. Then they heard a deep voice asking why were they persecuting him so? and Toko appeared. The assassins fled saying Toko was a God. Another time two Portugerse told Toko" Nkigger, go lear the grass from under that reaper. Toko mjuttered to the onlooking cook Canhan di"watch, thd son of man will once again be tested" Canhandi had no idea what the term meant as he was not christian. Toko went beneath the reaper nad a foreman immediately started the engine mincing up his body. As thery were high-fiving each other Toko resurrected himself and they fled in terror calling him a god… When TOKO dcecide to die in 1983 Paiva pushed to the head of the many thousands at the funeral and loudly said “He is not dead”. So when Jesus and his resurrection is preached in dark Africa it may that some converts are used to miracles of another God -man. The author mentions also SATAN and his wiles and antipathy toward mankind. Satan LIVES on the planet of heraven, is a member of thge Government there and is on good gterms with YAHWEH. It was a man named ALALU who sought to instigate the overthrow of king ANU father of Yahweh. Satan WAS AGAINST the creation of man project, claiming that making such an intelligent creature would only rish them being able to devise technology to make nuclear weapons before they learned to control their aggressive behaviour . and so risk nuclear war which could contaminate large areas of the galaxy. Was he right???

" If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen” (MH 143)"

The method quoted here in MH 143 is used by the SS lesson authors for the SS quarterly framework. Very few will notice it because many/most SDA don’t really spend time with their SS lesson. The part I chose from MH 143 is actually addressed to pastors. They are the ones who “sermonize”. The point EG white is making is that the general trend of sermons is to nurture, counsel, present religious therapy for Laodicean , carnal, secular members who are not being sanctified or overcoming temptation.

Very little time in sermons is used to train or prep members for outreach. Only the typical cliché words are used in prayers or sermons for outreach.
Words like “share Jesus with those we meet.” It is shallow superficial outreach lip service.
I dare and /or challenge anyone who really cares to try asking their members to anonymously write down the gospel on a 3 by 5 card or small piece of paper what the gospel is and hand it in and then have the pastor/elder read the responses out loud to the audience of participants. Then have a critique of the answers.
Do this at a ministerial meeting of many pastors too.

Very few know what the gospel is. What they think is “good news” is actually irrelevant to the general population. It is just obscure religious irrelevant history to them

This is one of the reasons for revival & reformation…the general trend in the institution is ignorance and fanaticism.

What are the real needs of people? For them to know and accept Jesus??

Yes, but do they think that?

What the need is…is for them to counter the increasing perversion ,depravity, and secularism in their lives. To counter their culture of celebrity, lust and debt. To counter the selfishness, gender conflict, cynicism, apathy and selfishness, and general trend toward barbarianism.

This is what the gospel did after to those areas around Jerusalem as the gospel spread. It impacted barbarianism and civilized those who accepted the principles of scripture.

SDA members are not going to outreach if the goal is to get people into the church. They are embarrassed or ashamed of the church. Those who aren’t don’t care and are involved in the world.50-85% of them are into perverted media entertainment or porn.

To prove me wrong…I challenge SDA leaders to implement large sample surveys about the members feelings about church experience , quality of worship, outreach motivation.

One of the best efforts in recent times was the Los Angeles health expo to treat people there with medical & dental assistance. Show you care with immediate needs as a bridge to treat their minds.

Humans have corrupt thinking processes.

Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Would anyone like to stop playing church?

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Nobody can “make disciples of Jesus”. Therein may lie the problem - thinking we can do the work intended for the Hoy Spirit. If we "make friends and minister to others for the sole purpose of “gaining their confidence” just to one day lay the full force of the Adventist "28 " on them, that won’t work either. A friendship forced in this way is not a genuine friendship. Given the Adventist basic philosophy of life - to separate from other faiths - this “method” of “evangelism” is doomed as well.

Maybe we should find way to change our perspective of who we are in relation to our neighbours; and change our relationship to the Gospel commission - from being a “duty”, to being a privilege.

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The mind-set that if you are Greek in Greece, then you ARE Orthodox. The mind-set if you are in some other country then you are Catholic, or Lutheran.
As SDAs we havent addressed these issues.
Our 1st and formost out reach should be to make people BETTER Orthodox, BETTER Catholic, BETTER Lutheran. Help them to find God, to understand God loves them. Introduce Jesus as the one who has brought God With Us. We have been separated from God, that is why we do bad, hurtful things to others, to ourselves. Help them to develop a Bible reading life, a working Prayer life. Help them understand that God removes and changes lives, and help them experience this through the God-Man Jesus who died, was buried, was made alive, and now in heaven for us.
These are what we need to present – helping them have a relationship with God where they are. If we cant do that then we have NOTHING else to offer. The 3 Angels, the Beasts, the Sabbath is not going to do it for them.

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@gideonjrn - I wholeheratly approve. But let me at firts point out an endeavour successful and in Christs sense in Los Angeles : OK, there.

But ehre in Austria you at first have a full cover medical Social Security package. And every weekend edition of the daily newspapers brings piles of newspaper print on modern health. Austria is the country ith the highest numbe of water cure possibilities per capita. And right across our church there is a supermarket with quite common offers - and a large corner wit Health foods. On the other side of the crossroad is a bio - market (with quite expensive “reform - food”)- -

And next week we wil have a Sabbath of “Yours getting a blue zone”. - - silly, just silly. But on order of the Union.

One thrird of our church members now are YOUPIES - from outside. Not coming because of an “evangelisation” - you know, posters, ten evenings , beamer, - - but because someone showed them one way out of their personal troubles. - everybody be well prpared fro SAbbath Chool they require an atmosphere of eaarnest study on the problem !

Once upon a time the billboard costs were about $ 1000.- with the only effect to stimulate the towns gossip . The attendants of the “cruisade” all were - church members.

But there are other needs we were blessed to meet : The helplessnes of parents with their kids. A small church ( fourty members) runs a yearover childrens program with up to eighty or hundred chiden - Meetings, hikes, experiences, adventures - - also one complete whole week before the school in September begins. . And then the parents come for sharmg their problems - -

Post scriptum : No, Brother Ted Wilson, Austria is a “Catholic County” - on your map. It really is secular, and, do not bother, we are not persecuted by the Jesuits.

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the slow growth of the church in areas like north america may be signaling more than ineffective evangelism…i believe we may be witnessing the reality that some parts of the world, like north america, have reached their saturation point: people have indicated by their choices over many yrs just what their response to christ’s invitation to take up the cross of self-denial really is…it may be that we are in the stage of the parable of the wedding banquet of Matt 22, or the great supper of Luke 14, where our corporate focus should be on the “highways and hedges”, and “on the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind”, which is what our impressive evangelistic success in the third world may represent…after-all, in the parable, the “highways and hedges” were resorted to because the original invitees were no longer responding…

if this is true, then personal ministry and community outreach should be emphasized more for our own spiritual benefit, rather than the hope that many converts will result…it may be that we need to accept that we are farther along in the time span allotted for human probation than we think…it may be that christ will wind up his intercession for humanity sooner than we think…

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