A toddler at a church I was visiting heard his pastor-father ask, “What time is it?” The young boy shouted at the top of his voice, “Evangelism Time!” In the Southern Union, 2019 is Evangelism Time!
Ron C. Smith, D.Min., Ph.D., president of the Southern Union says, “The Southern Union Presidents’ Council, in coordination with each entity of our vast territory, is enthusiastically poised to embark on a three-year evangelistic thrust. 2019 is the Year of Lay and Pastoral Evangelism; 2020 will focus on the revitalization of plateauing and declining churches; and 2021 will engage us in a coordinated strategy to reclaim missing members, and retain those that are in the fold of Church fellowship.”
Some have wondered if this is about numbers. It is not. Rather, it is all about committing ourselves to fulfilling the commission to call men and women to Christ. However, we are mindful that, “Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them,” Psalm 126:6 NIV.
Roger Hernandez, Southern Union ministerial director and evangelist, reminds us, “Evangelism is divided into three stages: Preparation. Proclamation. Preservation.”
Preparation: How can we be prepared?
One – Recognize that every believer is ready.
Using the present tense, Jesus said, “You are my witnesses (Isaiah 43:10). You are salt … You are the light of the world,” Matthew 5:13-14.
“Everyone in whose heart Christ abides, everyone who will [chooses to] show forth His love to the world, is a worker together with God for the blessing of humanity. As he receives from the Savior grace to impart to others, from his whole being flows forth the tide of spiritual life,” Acts of the Apostles, p. 13.
Does Christ live in your heart? Are you willing to show God’s love to the world? Then you are ready for God’s grace to flow to the world — not because you have a vast knowledge of your Bible or a perfect life. You are ready because you abide in Christ and Christ abides in you to produce fruit as His life flows through you (John 15).
Two – Equip yourself.
There are numerous resources available through the Adventist Book Center, AdventSource, Breath of Life, and It Is Written that can equip you for witnessing.
Resources for pastors inclusive of financial appropriations for public evangelism, training materials, and sermons are available as well.
People are excited about the 2019 Year of Lay and Pastoral Evangelism, and are planning and praying for a special manifestation of God’s saving power.
Jorge Mayer, Southern Union Hispanic ministries director, and the Hispanic coordinators and lay leaders are doing three things: GPS Small Groups, training 1,000 members to be lay preachers, and eight simultaneous evangelistic caravans.
One – The GPS Small Groups initiative: Members who accepted the invitation to lead a small group in their home have received one of 2,800 sets of materials provided by the North American Division Multilingual Ministries. These leaders with a group of members are already studying in each GPS with their friends.
Alejandro Bullón will preach a one-week reaping crusade the week of April 12-20, 2019. Bullón will speak to a small group, which will be streamed live to each of the 2,800 GPS groups in the Southern Union, and more than 14,000 groups across the North American Division.
Two – One thousand lay preachers will be trained and equipped to present the Good News in their own small groups. They will preach September 28 to October 5, 2019. The final day will be a special day when they will be allowed (in most conferences) to baptize the people they bring to Christ.
Three – Eight simultaneous evangelistic caravans will be held, one in each conference. Each caravan will have its own speaker, who will seek decisions from those who were not baptized through the lay meetings.
Marshall McKenzie, church growth director at Kentucky-Tennessee Conference, reports that, “The Kentucky-Tennessee Conference is committed in every way to the Year of Evangelism 2019. So far, we have commitments for 69 public evangelism meetings and 59 bridging events. Our goal is not only to proclaim the three angels’ messages from the pulpits of our churches to our communities, but alongside each public effort, is our effort to help each one of our churches become training centers for Christian workers — training centers that are focused on making more disciples who are ready and willing to expand the work of public evangelism and church growth until Christ returns. As the church growth director, I will help our pastors make each church a training center, but will also hold three evangelistic meetings. We ask for your prayers as we step out in faith in this new year, the Year of Evangelism!”
Allan Machado, D.Min., president of the Florida Conference, says, “The Conference is continuing a culture of evangelism — a culture of Christ-centered preaching and witnessing that offers hope and wholeness. We are encouraging intentional and organized reaping series at least twice a year, organized by the pastor and local church. These are to involve Easter evangelism and reaping evangelism in October in every congregation. Everyone is to plan to baptize in fulfillment of the Gospel commission.”
Joyce Thrower, layperson, Shiloh Church, Charleston, South Carolina:
“To me, evangelism is sharing our love for Jesus Christ daily. As a math interventionist in a public school, witnessing is a challenge. But, because of our rich, strong religious culture in Charleston, South Carolina, students speak freely about church and their beliefs. I gladly use these opportunities to discuss prayer, faith, the love of Jesus, and the need for God’s guidance. Also, as a Lyft driver, I listen to passengers talk, and have the opportunity to pray for them and their family. I am thrilled about God using me in the 2019 Year of Evangelism to grow His Kingdom.”
Robert Meneses, pastor at the Decatur-Cullman, Alabama, District:
“Our 2019 evangelism plans are exciting. In Decatur, during the March spring break, we are going to East Acres and teach kids practical life skills, and their parents how to fill out an application or write a resume. Other outreach efforts include a Prophecy and Revelation seminar in April, a Back-to-School outreach just before school starts, a healthy cooking group, a prayer group, and some other plans.
In Cullman we will do SOS (Service On Sabbath) once or twice a month to minister to families who need food, clothes, etc. In another ministry we call “Super Mondays,” we will teach community classes such as Spanish, how to stop smoking, and healthy cooking. A year-round Bible school will be held in both churches.
Matt Smith, pastor of the Marietta, Georgia, Church:
“We are just minutes from Kennesaw State University. The campus is full of young adults that are quickly transitioning into adulthood. We know how difficult it is to make this transition, so in 2019 we are hosting Adulting – Helping Young Adults Enter Adulthood. Adulting is a one-week, on-campus seminar. The first night, five presenters will give a short, 10-minute TED-style talk. The five talks will be on health, relationships, finance, professional, and spirituality. Each night during the week, the presenters will present their topic and be available afterward for questions. We hope to build connections with young adults and come alongside them to help them through this transition. We believe that by partnering with young adults during this tough time in life, we will build long-lasting relationships that continue well past graduation.”
Debleaire Snell, senior pastor of First Church, Huntsville, Alabama:
“First Church is excited to participate in the 2019 Year of Evangelism. In the spring, we will host our eight-week Sunday Morning Surge meetings, where we preach the Adventist doctrines each Sunday morning from 10 to 11 a.m. A pancake brunch follows each meeting. The Sunday Surge meetings minimize the biases we face as Seventh-day Adventists, and create another stream of unchurched individuals through our church doors.
Our fall evangelistic meeting will be August 24-31, with Roger Hernandez preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.
A number of creative community-based outreach initiatives are planned in conjunction with our fall evangelism: a Homecoming Celebration for returning citizens, a “Pamper Me Day” for single moms on Mother’s Day, and our 5K Run for Homelessness in September.
First Church has two additional campuses. Alexander Lampkin, lead pastor for the Abundant Life campus in New Market, will conduct a prophecy revival. We are pouring all of our energy into reaching those in our community who are not in a saved relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Austin Humphreys, pastor of the Washington, North Carolina, Church:
“The Lord blessed our efforts in a marvelous way here in Washington, North Carolina, as we doubled our membership in our fall evangelistic meeting, Keys to Life 2018.
In 2019 we are expecting God for greater! In April we plan to launch our new computer lab and homework assistance program that will have a lasting effect on the surrounding community. In the fall of 2019, we will have our Fight of Your Life evangelistic meeting. This meeting will specifically target families, and empower them to know that they don’t have to do life by themselves.”
Yaime Cordova, circulation manager for the Southern Tidings:
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves [with him],” Psalm 126:5, 6. If we sow seeds, God will give us a bountiful harvest of sheaves.
A couple of years ago Yaime Cordova sat in church disturbed. She saw the attendance at her church declining. Even though she was not the pastor, she felt it was her personal responsibility to help her church grow. She began praying, “Lord, I want the joy of making friends and seeing them saved! Please lead me to someone.”
Soon someone referred a law enforcement officer to her for some advice. After she advised him on several issues, he noticed her love for God, and asked if she would study the Bible with him. She agreed, and after the studies he was baptized in 2017.
With one person won, she wanted to see her family saved. Again, she asked God for help. God helped her lead her children to Christ, and this gave her the joy of seeing both of her daughters baptized in 2018. She rejoices that her father has also expressed interest in the Church.
On fire for Jesus, Cordova decided to make saving relationships with her neighbors. On her way home, she saw a neighbor in the parking lot of her apartment complex. Impressed that this was the friend she asked God for, she went over and introduced herself to the woman. During the conversation the woman indicated that her grandson is autistic. Seeing a need she could meet, she quickly offered to help the woman get support for her grandson. In appreciation, the woman asked, “Would you like to have some real Mexican food? Come to my home and I will fix some real Mexican dishes for you.” Cordova agreed to the fellowship, and is now praying for God to help her see her neighbor baptized in 2019.
A Powerful Promise
“He who loves Christ the most will do the greatest amount of good. There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, by putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart, and lives a life wholly consecrated to God. If men will endure the necessary discipline, without complaining or fainting by the way, God will teach them hour by hour, and day by day. He longs to reveal His grace. If His people will remove the obstructions, He will pour forth the waters of salvation in abundant streams through the human channels. If men in humble life were encouraged to do all the good they could do, if restraining hands were not laid upon them to repress their zeal, there would be a hundred workers for Christ where now there is one,” Desire of Ages, p. 250.
God wants to use you to reach your family, friends, and neighbors. The Southern Union invites you to join in the 2019 Year of Lay and Pastoral Evangelism.
Smith plans to conduct several evangelistic meetings during 2019. He says, “I’m appealing for the engagement of all, and the exclusion of none, as we embark upon this great opportunity for the Southern Union. We are urging everybody to call somebody to Jesus in 2019. That’s the Gospel commission: Go, Teach, Preach, and Baptize. We can’t do this without you!”
is the Southern Tidings editor and communication director at the Southern Union Conference in Norcross, Georgia.
Southern Union | December 2018