R. Steven Norman III
R. Steven Norman III
R. Steven Norman III
R. Steven Norman III
Every conference in the Southern Union made preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ a priority during 2019. Pastors, laymen, and church leaders of every conference in the Southern Union held public evangelistic meetings.
Here are some inspiring reports from the Southern Union conferences of how God has used men and women to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Evangelism, the love of sharing the Gospel of Christ, is truly the life blood of the Carolina Conference,” says Haskell Williams, ministerial director for the Carolina Conference. “We believe evangelism begins in the heart of every member, so every year all of their churches, companies, and mission groups are encouraged to develop a “Seeking to Save” plan by developing saving relationships through acts of compassion. These relationships are nurtured with Bible studies and small groups with an evangelistic focus. Then reaping efforts are planned. Out of the 163 churches/companies in Carolina, 136 chose to be engaged in an evangelistic endeavor of Kingdom growth this year.”
A large-scale evangelistic effort took place in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina. Shawn Boonstra, director of Voice of Prophecy, conducted “Revelation Speaks Peace” in a 30,000-square-foot tent at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. A dozen churches from the Carolina and South Atlantic conferences joined forces, with the result of baptizing more than 50 individuals.
Additionally, the Hispanic churches across the conference conducted “Evangelism Caravans,” which are multi-church, traveling evangelism events that culminate in a one-day reaping meeting. This year for the first time, three English-speaking congregations joined nine Hispanic churches in a caravan. Jose Cortez, North American Division evangelism director, traveled from city to city, night by night, across both states, resulting in dozens of baptisms.
Gulf States Conference
“We in the Gulf States Conference believe we exist as a movement to share our faith and bring people into our Church,” says Dave Livermore, Conference president.
“Every pastor, every year, is expected to do public evangelism. We help with training, materials, and budgets, and many of us from the administration have come alongside several of our pastors and held series with them. So far for 2019, we have baptized or received through profession of faith 421 precious souls. I praise God for each one and the families they represent.”
The Florida Conference had numerous evangelistic meetings conducted in local churches throughout 2019, and three large evangelism events.
A “ReClaim Victory in Jesus” evangelistic series in May in south Florida had the participation of 21 churches and more than 200 baptisms.
A similar series was held in September in the west coast of Florida, from New Port Richey to Sarasota, with 11 churches participating and more than 100 baptisms.
There were Spanish ministries evangelistic meetings in 27 churches during the month of October, by guest pastors Alejandro Bullón and José Espósito. More than 100 were baptized.
In north Tampa, Tom and Jonelle (Jo) Johnston were looking for a Christian school, and were open to the idea of an Adventist one. Both Tom and Jo became very involved at the school, volunteering with sports and the Parent/Teacher Association. They also began attending Tampa First Church, and started small group studies with Brad Cassell, pastor, in their home. Finally, during the evangelistic meetings, the children decided to give their lives to Christ through baptism. Their parents, being baptized Christians, joined their children in the baptismal pool and became members of the Adventist Church through profession of faith.
“Jesse” and “Michelle” were attending evangelistic meetings in Taylor Mill, Kentucky, presented by Kieth Noll, Conference ministerial director. They shared with Noll and Byron Banos, pastor, what happened in Jesse’s life that totally turned him around.
Jesse did not really take God seriously, until financial burdens drove him to his knees, the couple said. He ran his own business, and ended up owing a very large sum to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He had no way to pay, so the IRS provided a payment plan for him.
It looked as if he would never be able to pay for the debt with five children to raise. Jesse was discouraged, and turned to his wife. Michelle, a believer, agreed to pray for him, but told Jesse that her prayers would likely do little good unless he surrendered to Jesus, gave the debt to Him, and trusted Him to take care of it. Jesse went to his bedroom, fell down on his knees, and surrendered his life and debt to Christ.
A few months passed, and Jesse received a letter from the IRS that the total debt of $150,000 was forgiven. Talk about rejoicing! Jesse now knows there is a God in Heaven who hears and cares about his children.
Jesse, Michelle, Jesse Jr., and Justin were baptized on October 12, 2019. They are warriors for Christ, and have a message for anyone willing to listen: Never doubt the power of God!
South Central Conference
About a month before the New Year, Benjamin Jones, Conference president, says souls have joined the Conference through several evangelism campaigns.
Roger Hernandez, Southern Union ministerial director, joined Debleaire Snell, senior pastor at First Church in Huntsville, Alabama, for a one-week reaping meeting. Forty-three people were baptized.
Carlton P. Byrd, D.Min., and the Breath of Life Ministry team from its home base at the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, had a life-transforming meeting with 101 attendees saying yes to Christ.
Alvin Kibble, vice president of the North American Division, preached at Magazine Street Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He, along with George Thornton, Ph.D., D.D., senior pastor of Magazine Street Church, rejoiced to see 39 individuals baptized.
Michael Lewis, pastor of South Park Church in Birmingham, Alabama, serves an urban community where unemployment, affordable housing, and violence are real challenges. So, not only does the South Park congregation preach the Good News of Christ to those who hunger for a better life, they work to help new members find jobs, secure housing, stabilize family situations, and begin to experience life in Christ. This year they have seen 56 baptized.
At the conclusion of a one-week meeting at Oakwood Academy, 26 students were baptized. One parent excitedly posted on Facebook that all three of her children were baptized.
Net Evangelism (Net19) kicked off a chain reaction within the Southeastern Conference. Administrators and departmental directors joined the evangelism call by conducting evangelistic crusades to reach more people for Christ.
Youth ministries evangelized the immediate areas surrounding Camp Hawthorne before Camp Meeting. Community services held Revelation seminars; Haitian ministries did Haitian Net Evangelism meetings; the Spanish-speaking communities came together to have the annual Hispanic Camp Meeting, which also focused on evangelism; and the Women’s Ministries Department continues to engage in soul winning through their nightly evangelistic meetings.
Through these meetings and the meetings held by pastors at 31 churches, 2,112 individuals were baptized during the first three quarters of 2019!
South Atlantic Conference
“The Lord has truly blessed the South Atlantic Conference evangelistic efforts this year,” says Calvin Preston, Conference ministerial director. “We had over 30 evangelistic meetings throughout the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and have baptized hundreds of souls to the glory of God.”
The West End Church in Atlanta, Georgia, hosted “A System for Survival” meeting in July with Ron Smith, D.Min., Ph.D., president of the Southern Union. With the evangelist and 12 Bible counselors, the evangelistic meeting resulted in 122 baptisms. Marcellus Howard, West End Church senior pastor; Daniel Hall, assistant pastor; Daniel Hall; and Roxanne McGraw, one of the Bible counselors, have continued with retention Bible studies on Tuesday evenings.
“Near the close of 2018, we challenged our pastors to make evangelistic outreach a priority in 2019,” says William Winston, Conference president. “Having been designated ‘The Year of Evangelism’ by the Southern Union, South Atlantic wanted to rekindle the fervor and excitement that comes with seeing precious souls wrap their hearts and minds around the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This year has been nothing short of amazing! Through the end of the third quarter, the South Atlantic Conference reports over 800 baptisms.”
Numerous meetings were held in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference resulting in 804 baptisms through the first nine months of the year.
“We praise God for each decision for Him, as well as for each church member serving,” says Gary Rustad, Conference president. “The book, Christian Service, page 121 says, ‘When churches are revived, it is because some individual seeks earnestly for the blessing of God.’ My prayer is that we all earnestly seek God’s blessings. You can make a difference.”
Lay Pastor Loses Sight, Baptizes Seven
Carmelo González, a volunteer lay pastor and ordained elder at Fayetteville, North Carolina, Spanish Church, together with his evangelistic team, started the evangelistic process of planting and cultivating during the months of May to September 2019. Their goal was to crown this effort with a harvest during the week of September 28 to October 5, and the baptism of individuals for the heavenly Kingdom.
They worked hard during the sowing and cultivation months. However, nothing foreshadowed what would happen to González. A few months before, he had eye surgery. The specialists said that the operation would not be risky, and after a few days his vision was in optimal condition.
However, three weeks before the beginning of the evangelistic campaign, González’s vision started to diminish considerably, to the point of becoming totally blind. But, the darkness did not stop Gonzalez from seeing God’s plan.
Aided by his wife, Doris, he rose to the pulpit during the eight days of the campaign, giving testimony about his life, and examples of Christ as the light of his eyes and life, his companion and friend.
On the last Saturday of the evangelistic meetings, González finished his message with a powerful call, and ended up baptizing seven people.
Southern Union Evangelism
The Southern Union administrators, departmental directors, and several administrative assistants also conducted evangelistic meetings during 2019.
A special evangelistic series conducted by Ron Smith, D.Min., Ph.D., president of the Southern Union, led to the baptism and profession of faith of 467 men, women, and youth. Throughout the year, the series called “A System for Survival,” or ASFS, visited four congregations. Three of the four series were blessed with marriage ceremonies that took place in the baptismal pools just before the new members were immersed.
“Families were strengthened and congregations were electrified by the restorative power of the Holy Spirit,” says Smith. ”We thank the Lord for the precious souls that He has ushered into the fold.”
Yaime Cordova, circulation coordinator for the Southern Tidings, and Mariel Lombardi, Southern Union Revolving Fund customer service and accounts manager, preached a one-week meeting at First Atlanta Hispanic Church in Tucker, Georgia, which revitalized the members.
Roger Hernandez, Southern Union ministerial and evangelism director, says “2019, the Year of Evangelism has been a life-changing year in three ways.
“Personally. Our department had the privilege of conducting 13 evangelistic series from Huntsville to Orlando, Georgia to the Carolinas, and everywhere in between. The best part about it was seeing a surge in young people interested in evangelism.
“Participation. Evangelism was done in small churches of seven, to large churches of 1,700. Whether it was small or big, the message resonated with people, and the greatest joy we have is to see both clergy and church members engaged in the mission of God. Initiatives fuel participation, and to hear the testimonies, — for example, of a sight-challenged lay evangelist who lost his sight two weeks prior to the series, but went ahead with it anyway, and God blessed him with fruit, — warms our souls. Every conference and most churches were engaged in reaching their communities for Christ.
“People. At the end of the day, evangelism is about people. ‘People Need the Lord,’ the song says. That is true all across our Union. The diversity of method and missionaries was exemplary. More people will be in the Kingdom because of the Year of Evangelism, and for that, we praise God!”
As of September 2019, 6,893 individuals were added to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“Through the end of September, our Union membership stands at 303,603,” says Ron Smith, D.Min., Ph.D. “There is strong evidence that we will finish 2019 with robust efforts across our constituency.”
is the communication director and Southern Tidings editor at the Southern Union Conference in Peachtree Corners, Georgia.
Southern Union | December 2019
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