There is no substitute for proclamation! If we want people to learn about Jesus’ love and His grace offered freely to each one of us, sinners, we must not only show them with our actions but also tell them with our words. If we want people to understand the plan of redemption, and Jesus’ command to love others, as well as the hope of His Second Coming and a resurrection, we must tell them about these things. If we really want them to live healthier lives and take time out to worship and rest on the Sabbath, we must inform them and do so ourselves.
Neither is there a substitute for inviting people to accept Jesus and join the body of Christ, the church, through baptism. If we want people to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, publicly commit to Him through baptism, and join the church, we have to be willing to issue the invitation to those whom have not yet made a decision.
If we preach awesome sermons and no one is accepting Jesus, being baptized, and joining the church as a result of our preaching, perhaps we are just giving speeches. If we produce amazing church programs and decisions for Jesus and the church quotas are not being made as a result of these programs, perhaps we are just putting up a mission-less religious display. The reason Jesus came to this earth, died, founded the church, and asked us to proclaim the gospel is so that people would accept Him, be baptized, and be saved. If we are not providing opportunities for this to take place regularly through our churches, we may not be doing Jesus, the church, our programs, and our preaching any justice.
Evangelism Outcome #5 - Every year provide multiple opportunities for people to make a decision to follow Jesus through baptism and membership
For the last three years (2015-2018) we surveyed and discussed with thousands of pastors, members, and church leaders, Five Outcomes that could revolutionize mission and evangelism across North America. The fifth one is key to our church, please read on:
Every year provide multiple opportunities for people to make a decision to follow Jesus through baptism and membership: 77 percent scored this outcome 7 or higher in a 1-10 scale. We cannot afford to be the church of God, having being trusted with such a life-transforming gospel and yet not invite people on a regular and constant basis to accept our Savior and join our church.
The good news need be told somehow, everybody ought to know. This is why I would like to encourage each Pastor and able lay leader in North America to find ways that work for you to constantly keep the invitation, in many different and tactful ways, before those who have not made a decision.
When it comes to proclamation evangelism, one way or one size does not fit all. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why, proclamation evangelism has become so burdensome for some, because we feel we must do what others have done, and have the same success others have had. It is OK to apply principles that work, yet you are not obligated to follow a school that does not apply to your context.
You do not have to fight the giant in King Saul’s armor. Please find something that works in your context and put into practice. I know churches that utilize their funding to bless the community through incarnational evangelism and make an evangelistic service of every Sabbath, with the needs of the unchurched in mind. I know pastors who have successfully used a CrossFit Gym for a week to present the gospel to health enthusiasts. I know families who invite their friends and neighbors to a smaller gathering in the privacy of their homes and present the gospel in a very informal way that is effective.
As a corporate church we must give organizational permission and flexibility to pastors and church members to create effective templates for the proclamation of the gospel. A proclamation which tells the story, allows people to know about Jesus, gives them the opportunity to accept Him as Savior and Lord and provides room for them to become a part of the body of Christ. If something does not work, take note of it, make changes, and try again. It is OK to try different methods and issue different types of invitations and appeals; what is not OK is to spend a whole year preaching, holding church services and programs, without giving people opportunities to accept Jesus, be baptized, and join the church. Not inviting people to make a decision and join should not be an option for Adventist pastors, preachers, lay leaders and churches in North America.
Please, discuss this outcome with your church and how to make it a reality to reach people who have not made a decision for Jesus and for the Adventist church in your community.
Pastor Jose Cortes Jr., is an Associate Director of the Ministerial Association and leads Evangelism, Church Planting, and Adventist/Global Mission for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.