My church is located in one of the most secular counties in Washington State. We are surrounded by scores of unchurched and dechurched people. Would it be worth it to try a public evangelistic prophecy seminar in our area?
Ask Mary Lee.
Due to some physical and sexual abuse she experienced in her home as a child, Mary concluded that Jesus didn't have the power to help her in life. So at age 10 Mary shut Jesus out of her life.....for the next 70 years.... until she received a brochure in the mail advertising a prophecy seminar at the Port Orchard Seventh-day Adventist Church last October. For some reason, Mary felt compelled to come. As she listened to the biblical, Christ-centered messages, she met Jesus and was ready to accept him.
As we visited in my office, Mary told me she wanted to give her heart to Christ and be baptized. "But there is one problem. I have been smoking for 67 years and want to quit first. I have tried every plan, product, and method and never been able to quit."
"Well now you are going to try Jesus," I said. The evangelist Jason Morgan and I prayed with her and claimed Jesus' promises... and, by God's grace, Mary walked out of my office a former smoker. She went home and threw away her cigarette paraphernalia. When the stressful situations came, instead of reaching for a cigarette, she dropped to her knees and said, "Jesus, thank you that this isn't part of my life anymore." Jesus had given her victory. Her "smoking chair" out on the front porch became her "prayer chair." When her atheist grandson-in-law asked Mary how she was able to quit smoking, she said, "Jesus helped me." He was shocked and didn't know how to respond.
A few days later, we celebrated with all heaven as Mary was baptized along with some others from the seminar. She shared her powerful testimony in front of the church and was so thankful to become part of it. She joined the new member Sabbath school class. Church members quickly became friends with sweet 80-year-old Mary.
Little did we know that only a couple months after her baptism, Mary would be diagnosed with cancer. Her health declined rapidly. Within 6 months after her baptism, Mary passed away.
A couple weeks before she died, Mary invited my family over to celebrate her 81st birthday. I asked her what advice she had for us after 81 years of life. She shared, "A couple months ago, I was really struggling with God about something. As I was praying, God put a song on my heart, Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey. With tears in her eyes, she said, "That pretty much sums it up." I could feel tears in my own eyes. That was the last time I saw Mary alive.
Mary had run from Jesus for 70 years, but Jesus caught her just in time... in the last 6 months of her life. Jesus had changed her life and changed her destiny for eternity.
I can imagine that when we get to heaven, Mary might come up to some of us and say, "Thank you for investing your time, money and energy in evangelism so that I could be here." And we'll say, "Thank YOU Mary, for inspiring us with what the life-changing love and power of Jesus can do."
Evangelism in any form works because Jesus works. At my church we are involved in all kinds of evangelism, outreach, community service, revival and small groups all throughout the year. It has been thrilling to see Jesus growing our church family through it.
I have come to the conclusion that Jesus is powerful enough and loving enough to reach people through any kind of evangelism method, including prophecy seminars. We don't need to ever cast any method in a negative light. We just need to be faithful in doing everything in our ability to work with Jesus to reach every individual in our mission field.
Are public evangelism prophecy seminars still worth it? You will never be able to convince Mary (or thousands of others like her) otherwise.
Jesus is pursuing people around us with His life-changing love. How is He calling you and your church to join Him?
Dustin Serns is pastor of the Port Orchard church in Washington