Evangelism

I’m doing my first evangelistic series this spring, March 28-April 11. I’d like your ideas. What would you suggest for a theme? Topics? What might a night look like?

We’re a 400 member church in the suburbs of Houston. Our membership (and that of our neighborhood) is multi-ethnic,  including people from dozens of countries.We have active young adults who I’d like to involve.

The latest study from the Center for Creative Ministry shows that the median age of Adventists in North America is 51 (not 62 or 58 or other numbers that have been thrown out). This study tells us again that we have a problem with young adults disappearing after high school. It also shows that half our churches are in small towns and rural areas, whereas young adults tend to be drawn to cities. And what’s the most effective form of evangelism? Friendship–30% of Adventists joined the church because of friends and family, as opposed to 10% who were brought in through public evangelism.

So this isn’t going to be one of those evangelistic series that relies on mass marketing and leaves out the name, “Seventh-day Adventist.” I want to explore issues of life and spirituality of interest to young adults. I want to do it in a way that will encourage young adults to bring their friends.

The floor is open. Let me know what you think.

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About A Allan Martin, PhD, CFLE

Jeremiah 24/7
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8 Responses to Evangelism

  1. elisa says:

    are you targeting young adults or just wanting to involve them in the programs? if you are targeting i would suggest including some kind of community service/outreach. it would be great to see an “evangelistic” effort turned upside down and done in a completely different way. i hope it goes well! i also though, think you should spend time on the doctrines and not ignore them. there is some uniqueness to our church and we should be proud of that. those are my two cents…

    • Bill says:

      Hi Elisa,

      In answer to your question, both. Involving and targeting.

      “if you are targeting i would suggest including some kind of community service/outreach. it would be great to see an ‘evangelistic’ effort turned upside down and done in a completely different way.”

      Can you say anything more about either of these?

  2. Roshan says:

    More so than in other generations, there are more young adults now that have a very limited understanding of who Jesus was or what Christianity is about. One prevalent stereotype is that Christianity sets up people with a guilt trip and then conveniently provides a Savior. One goal of the series may be to address this confusion and ignorance.

    Purpose and destiny are powerful themes that still resonate with young adults today. Addressing end-time issues from this perspective may help to make it more relevant to them.

    As I reflect upon my situation and those of my non-believeing peers, I am caught up by the tremendous hope that Jesus gives me on this Earth. Addictions, crises, and the grind of careers and relationships are all powerful forces that young adults confront here. As I see how I deal with them in comparison to my non-believing peers, I become thankful that I have a Savior who is still active in my life, not merely sitting back and waiting for the Second Coming to whisk me away from the problems of this world. The Sanctuary message is powerful at least because it indicates Christ’s continuing concern for His children.

    In preparing for an evangelistic series, perhaps the most important work should be the host church’s own preparation. That is, the host church must be prepared to demonstrate that the lofty thoughts presented by the speaker have inspired-are inspiring those who profess to believe to evidence the power in their lives. Testimonies of church members may be extremely helpful in this area. Exhibitions of church activities in the community may also be useful. Bible study groups that people can participate in could be relevant.

  3. aamphd says:

    As for stats, it would be worth noting that the other figure of 58 as median is partially the result of reporting by the one in the same Center for Creative Ministry.

    http://creativeministry.org/article.php?id=501&search=median%20age%2058

    It just a matter of their doing their own study to see if their demographic data coincides with that of Dr. Lawson.

    It appears that within a certain margin of error there might be a nominal difference between 58 and 51 as a median statistic. Remember this is not the mean.

  4. Zane says:

    Hey Bill,

    I’d love to see an “evangelistic” series done by an Adventist congregation modeled after ALPHA–dinners and conversations.

    http://www.alphausa.org/

    And along that line, although, I hate the word “targeting”, it’d be refreshing to see an attempt at engaging the non-Christian/non-religious folks out in the world instead of non-Adventists.

    Also, I’ve found the NOOMA videos by Rob Bell to be very effective/relevent in theme and presentation. We’ve used them for vespers at our church before and young adults that attended regularly got really into it, bringing their friends, or asking to borrow the DVD’s to give to them.

    Good luck! Looking forward to hearing about the meetings…

  5. Todd says:

    Hey Bill,

    I’ve been mulling over this question since you posted it. Part of the reason is that, in my opinion, the Adventist method of evangelism is no longer effective, to the point where it’s almost counter productive.

    Allow me to elaborate. Recently at the Forest Lake Church in Apopka, FL we had the opportunity to host the Mark Finley evangelistic series every evening (you may have seem the satellite broadcast). Pastor Finley is a wonderfully engaging speaker, and he touched a lot of people. The only problem is, the people he was touching were Adventists. When I looked around the meetings I mostly saw the same faces I do every Sabbath intermingled with friends from other area churches. While I know the meeting was enjoyed by most, the point is he was preaching to Adventists (to the choir, as it were).

    My suggestion in your meetings, particularly since you’re reaching out to young adults (and as Zane rightly said, hopefully some non-SDA’s too), is to do something completely different, such as:

    * Drop the buzzwords about what you’re doing (“evangelism” and “targeting” or “reaching”). The folks who care about the Adventist speak will come anyway, but make it more friendly to non-sevies.

    * Keep the message simple. Jesus loves you, PERIOD. No matter what. Unconditionally. Without qualification. I know it seems like something everyone should know, but most people DON’T (including a lot of people in the pews). Focus on the fact that no matter what you’ve done (or are still doing) be it sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. it doesn’t matter because Jesus loves you (the lifestyle change happens AFTER we realize that, not as a pre-qualifier).

    * Be authentic. Talk openly and frankly ABOUT sex. About drugs & alcohol. About homosexuality (there’s a great love your neighbor example there). About the economy or even politics. The point is to talk about REAL issues that people are experiencesright NOW. Introduce them to a God who walks with them THROUGH the moden trials, isn’t some distant being in the sky or just a storybook character.

    * DON’T put on a show. Again, keep it simple. With Gen-X, that generation responded to a good, flashy show. They got something out of that and found their way home through programs like that. The succeeding generations are all about the message, the authenticity. To me, your ideal program would be two have one song (MAX 2) then have a message. It could be a sermon, although I think a personal testimony or an interactive sermonette about relevant, modern topics would be even better. After the discussion conscludes, have the song leaders come back up and invite anyone who wants to stay and sing some more songs to do so. Get AWAY from the old formula (Announcements > Songs >Sermon > Closing prayer/song/altar call).

    I know all that was kind of a mouth full, but for modern young adults, evangelism how it’s always been done doesn’t work, especially if you want to reach outside the SDA church. Keep it real. Keep it simple. The Spirit will do the rest, just watch.

    Good luck with your meetings!

  6. elisa says:

    In answer to your question to me, Bill, I like what Zane said about the host church modeling Christianity to those who come. I guess that was sort of what I was meaning about involving outreach and community projects – not just preaching/teaching about Jesus but actually DOING something that exemplifies it. I don’t know exactly how this would work – sorry I don’t have a step-by-step idea. For myself having something interactive is much more meaningful than only listening to preaching. I highly recommend having a prayer room set up and available during the meetings as well as a social time (i.e. cafe style). I also like what Todd said about using current events and issues to tie into the teachings. NOOMAs are excellent (as a side note I recommend these for Sabbath school discussions and every church should have the entire set!).

    Todd – it sounds very much like you are describing a GodEncounters meeting! :) that is great!

    And I can’t resist defending the meetings at Forest Lake – I imagine much of what Todd mentioned is true – that he was preaching to Adventists but I know of a few friends who were able to invite non-SDA neighbors and friends to the meetings and are now studying the Bible and attending church with them. These meetings were not entirely ineffective. We must be careful of blanket statements (which I have been known to say as well).

    There is a lot of potential for these meetings – please share how they turn out and some of your thoughts/plans for preparation.

    • Bill says:

      Thanks, everyone, for the feedback.

      Here are some scattered responses. :-)

      It goes without saying for me that it is non-Christians that we want to invite. Sad that that even needs to be mentioned!

      There are some things I like about the Alpha approach, Zane, but I wouldn’t use the program itself because of its charismatic element. The food/fellowship element, that others have mentioned in other ways, I think is important. Making this a safe place for discussing real issues.

      Real issues, real people, focus on the real Jesus. Definitely.

      One thing I’m wrestling with is this is to be a series at our church, on the far SW side of Houston … and we need to be present in the heart of the city, which is where young adults live.

      “Get AWAY from the old formula (Announcements > Songs >Sermon > Closing prayer/song/altar call).”

      Aw, I suppose you also want me to get away from the old beast slides, too. You probably don’t even like the one where the fourth beast looks like a t-rex with ten horns. ;-)

      Ryan Bell is hosting a mini-conference on “Beyond Evandalism” at the end of this month. Wish I could be going, but we have a conference-sponsored evangelism training that same weekend. http://rechurch.wordpress.com

      I’m going to be jumping off of LOST with the theme. LOST … and found. Titles coming from different episodes. Focus on connecting with the contemporary search for spirituality, for mystery, for faith that makes a difference, for real relationships …. More as we flesh it out.

      My fear is that the church won’t break out of its mold … that it will be the same old people who show up … expecting the same old thing …

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