Is it possible to have a relationship with God without going to church?
Why doesn’t God show himself and make it simpler for us to believe in Him?
Would God send someone to hell who has no knowledge of who He is?
The panel answered question after question as people gathered, in person and online, for Questions I Would Ask God. During this traditional evangelistic series re-imagined, Pastor Rick Labate, Pastor Heather Crews, and Pastor Junnie Pagusan shared answers from their Bible knowledge and personal experience.
The series spread over three weekends, Friday, Sabbath morning, and Sabbath evening. Each session began with a TED-talk inspired presentation by Dr. Rick Labate, ministerial associate for the Potomac Conference. Each presentation invited a response through texted questions for the panel. This Question and Answer time was followed by a snack break, and another presentation and Q&A.
The new format presented concrete Bible answers in an engaging and interactive way. Letting people ask questions allowed the series to meet the current culture with an age-old message. Beginning with basic Christian apologetics and moving to unique Seventh-day Adventist beliefs, each session was engaging and interactive. The format invited internal dialogue, live anonymous questions via text, and lively conversations during a snack break.
A children’s program allowed parents the hour and a half needed for the evening’s program.
Beginning with a specific question for each presentation, and built a Biblical answer. The questions:
God, Do you really exist?
God, How can I find out truth about you?
God, Why is the world so full of evil and suffering?
God, How can I have inner peace?
God, about this obedience thing….
God, will this world really come to an end?
God, is Jesus really coming again?
God, how can I get some relief from my hectic schedule?
God, why are there so many different churches?
God, What really happens when I die?
God, Do you really burn people forever in hell?
God, eternity playing a harp on a cloud, really?
After a brief word of welcome by Pastor Crews, Pastor Labate shared a twenty-minute presentation. Then the panel took their places on tall stools behind a table. Questions connected to the evening’s presentation encouraged continued engagement through the concrete answers and personal stories. Lively chatter around hot drinks and creative snacks built community. But the break wasn’t for long, and everyone returned to the room for another TED-talk inspired presentation and Q&A time. A response card invited commitment at the end of each presentation, and provided study materials communicated the message that some questions were still unresolved.
“It felt like breathing a breath of fresh air,” said Dr. Crews, pastor of the Courthouse Road Church, which hosted the series in February 2019. “The format turned an energy intensive event into an energizing event.”
Evangelistic series are time consuming, high-energy commitments that require effort. Yet they are necessary. Even if people want a saving relationship with Jesus, they need to have the next step articulated clearly – this clearly articulated next step is what the leadership team of the Courthouse Road Church was looking for. The team wanted to do an evangelistic series that matched their community. God lead them to this format.
New faces were added to Courthouse Road Church as a result of “Questions I Would Ask God.” Many are now an engaged part of the mission team who staff and help at other events. More long-time members feel a renewed faith and excitement for the church mission to build bridges back to God in their community. One millennial who attended put it this way, “I’ve never learned so much about God in such a short length of time. I want to know how to be a Seventh-day Adventist.”
The good news of the gospel does not change, but how we present it in an ever changing world must. This new format brings another tool to share who Jesus is, and invite people into a saving relationship with Him. This series functioned as a reaping event, holding hands with the other events the Courthouse Road Church hosts. This evangelism reimagined “Questions I Would Ask God” gives a very clear explanation of what the next step is for our community.
The impact on the church was profound. It invited new people to a relationship with Christ and the Seventh-day Adventist church, as well as revived the current member’s walk with God. Sometimes we assume that every member knows the core Adventist beliefs, these kind of meetings allow a renewed view of our chore identity as a church. Knowing these beliefs showed up anew for the Courthosue Road Church. One member sat through the question “God, Do you really burn people forever in hell?” presentation. At the end she cried joyful tears as she told Dr. Labate, “I never knew God was so loving! This confirms his character to me.”
Heather Crews is the pastor for the Courthouse Church in North Chesterfield, Virginia