Unspeakables: Out with the old, in with the…old?
I was recently told that the General Conference has dubbed 2010 the Year of Lay Evangelism. This follows directly behind the 2009 Year of Pastoral evangelism, which was preceded by the 2008 Year of something Evangelism whose specific focus I cannot remember. All I know for sure is that it involved some series of mass crusades. If you have been in the fold as long as I have you know the trend. This latest installment involves having similar crusade meetings, done in a similar order, at the same time across various locations, which is brilliant really, since everyone everywhere is exactly the same and respond to the exact same methods.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not knocking crusades. I know they work. I just wonder whether they work here – that is, within North America. I think the question is worth examining when you realize that the North American Division, with a growth rate of 4.3% over the last five years, ranks 8 out of 13 in terms of church growth among all our divisions*. In fact Divisions with the most developed countries seem to have the slowest rates of church growth.
Could it be that the traditional methods may not be as effective here?
Just for fun, do your own study. Next time you’re at church count all the people who became new members in the last twelve months. Minus from that number immigrants who transferred their membership. Then minus those who were re-baptized. Take away all the children who’ve been attending church for years but who just decided to get baptized. Now tell me how many you have left.
If your count was as low as mine then maybe, like me, you’re thinking that we need to find new ways to spread the gospel to those around us everyday. You know who I mean. The person who sits beside you at work – the one who just made the last payment on his 2009 hybrid and isn’t really in need of anything. Or your hairdresser who’s too busy running her own business to take a week night off. Or your next door neighbor Fred and his partner Gregory. They need to know Jesus too don’t they? So why aren’t we finding post-modern methods to share the gospel in our post-modern world?
In the book Evangelism, Ellen G White urges us to seek the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in spreading the gospel, and tailor our outreach methods to every situation. In other words, the one-size-fits-all strategy for evangelism will not work.
So how do we do make the change? Maybe by making our evangelism more individual focused than mass focused; or by using things like our health message to welcome in our health trendy society.//For this reason I am excited by the recent efforts of our church leaders to make this year’s evangelism strategy a bit different by including outreach in the areas of health, family and finances.**//But most of all we should be intentional and Spirit led about evangelism, recognizing that it is broke the way it is now, and we should fix it.
*Stats provided by Adventist Global Mission Frontline Edition 20th Anniversary Edition.
** Added July 2, 2010.