From my keen observation, I have concluded that the Seventh-day Adventist church is at its best when it is engaged in public evangelism. There is keener interest in soul winning, improved church attendance during the campaign and greater liberality in the areas of offerings and special donations. Can our church exist without evangelism? I say an emphatic NO!
There are various methods of evangelism that the church can employ but the tent crusade is still one of the most effective ways of soul winning in the church. Burrill writes “…We have not yet discovered anything that comes near to being as successful in reaching unchurched people that public evangelism. Therefore, common sense tells us that we must not abandon the one thing that is at least reaching some segment of the unchurched population.” Ministry Magazine June 2002 pg. 6. This article therefore, will look at tent evangelism or crusades.
I agree with former Inter American Division Evangelist Kembleton S. Wiggins who wrote, “The SDA Church will do more and more evangelism and evangelism will become more and more successful.” Soul Winning made Easier. pg. 7. K. S. Wiggins’ conviction finds support in the following statement by E. G. White, “Evangelistic work, opening of the Scriptures to others, warning men and women of what is coming upon the world is to occupy more and still more of the time of God’s servants.” Evangelism pg. 17
In light of the above statements we cannot speak pessimistically about tent evangelism. Many of us are yet to experienced successful tent evangelism on a big scale. When it happens we will all be surprised but it will come to men and women who believe that God’s work cannot and will not fail. It will come through those who understand that God awaits our cooperation in the most worthwhile task assigned to man.
If soul winning is to be successful each church member must understand that, “Evangelism is not something you go and do, it is something you do while going”. This is clear as far as the Bible is concerned. Jesus told his disciples before He ascended to heaven, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Act 1:8
In order to achieve this success, it is fundamental that we prepare and prepare well. Our best efforts must be directed in this area. E.G. White declares, “God does not generally work miracles to advance His truth…it is our part to mature wise plans, and set in operation the means whereby God shall bring about earthly results.” Evangelism pg. 652
Preparation is therefore essential. There must be a deliberate approach in preparing the preacher the church and the field many months in advance (at least one year) if the church campaign is to be highly successful. We must seek God’s approval in all aspects of the program, even the tent site and the selection of the crusade team. The preacher should decide months ahead of time the sermon sequence he is going to use; the type of crusade he plans to conduct; the method of field work he is going to execute and the conservation strategy the church will engage in. Sometimes all of these decisions come by experience but from my own experience it is best that they come via divine revelation. If God sets up the program then the vision will not be blurred and the evangelist will move forward with confidence despite adversity. How true! People are motivated by vision.
But no evangelist can work by himself. He needs the assistance of the Church. The church moves with the evangelist who has a vision for God’s work. Where does the vision begin? It begins with God’s revelation. EG White is so correct when she advises, “There must be more earnest seeking of God, most thorough study; for the mental powers will be taxed to the utmost in laying plans which will place the work of God on a more elevated platform. That is where it should always have stood, but men’s narrow ideas and restricted plans have limited and lowered it.” EV. 563
The preparation of the Church Members is also crucial to the success of any evangelistic crusade. We must, therefore, strive for maximum cooperation and participation. I heard somewhere that the successful expansion of any movement is in direct proportion to its success in mobilizing and occupying its total membership, in the constant promulgation of its aims and objectives. More of this will occupy Part 2 of this article.
In conclusion, every evangelistic encounter is a special event. Indeed it is in almost every case an exciting event. If our church ever praises the Lord, it is during evangelistic meetings. It is also a matter of life and death for some people. It is an awesome moment when some soul may cross the bridge from death to life or may slip forever into eternal damnation. It is the time when a wife with elation expresses, “My husband has joined the fold!” Just imagine the joy of a mother whose son has been baptized, the joy of the preacher who leads a Priest to the remnant church. Indeed every evangelistic series is significant. Public evangelism has worked for the church. It is still working and if God is indeed the leader of this remnant church, evangelism will continue to be our driving force and will end with the parousia of Jesus Christ. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Mat 24:14.