Editor's Note: Commission Culture and the Momentum concept of lifestyle evangelism do not just affect the persons reached, but also those who are doing the reaching. Evangelism is a two-way street. Those who share the blessings of the Holy Spirit are filled again and again to overflowing in ways that are often surprising, and always heaven-sent. Let's "eavesdrop" on a few excerpts from journals that testify how God is changing lives through Commission Culture attitudes in the Oregon Conference. Because many of these stories are still unfolding, some names have been changed for privacy.
I like welcoming churches—churches where you feel at home instantly. I've been church hunting since my recent move to the area. A few have some great ideas on welcoming. Greeters at the front and back doors are lovely. When someone shows you to a classroom for Sabbath School personally, it shows they care enough to keep you from getting lost. At the most friendly church I visited, I was welcomed in the parking lot, foyer, sanctuary, and even by name from the pulpit. When you're new, a personal invitation to potluck makes all the difference. Going to a potluck without an invitation is like attending a family dinner without being family. It really made me smile to get a note from one church and a call from another later in the week. They thanked me for coming and told me I was welcome to come any time; it made me feel special.
I was placing fliers on cars in a department store parking lot when the security guard drove up and told me I wasn't supposed to be being doing this. I only had one left so I gave it to him. He saw Shawn Boonstra's face on the flier and said, "I've seen this guy before. I've watched him before in the early morning." We ended up having about a 15-minute conversation about our mutual Christian walks.
Biking to Portland
I met a man named Jason this evening. With no special gear like a bicycle light or helmet, and in jeans and sneakers, he rode his mountain bike with his belongings strapped to the back from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Portland, Oregon. Jason believes God wanted him to come to Portland for some reason and share his faith along the way. He asked if I was a Sabbathkeeper. He said he was, and had been for several years. Jason was given a flier for the It Is Written meetings at the Oregon Convention Center. He's been to every one, and he says he won't miss them. Jason shares his faith with people through his poems. He recited a couple for me. They were beautiful, yet simple. He says people might not read the Bible but maybe through his poetry he can bring people to Jesus.
Antonyo's Pentecostal sister invited him to church one Sunday. He went for a while and then began coming to our Adventist church. After the Pentecostal church found out he was attending an Adventist church, they rejected him. I invited him to my small group. Antonyo wanted to study with me about the Sabbath. After a couple hours of study, he was convinced the Sabbath was the true day of worship. Since Antonyo struggles with English, he asked me to go with him right away to explain to his boss that he needed Sabbaths off. I tried three times, but the boss wouldn't budge. I felt so bad and the thought was going through my head, "Come on, God, why didn't you work this out? We are going to lose this one."Antonyo could see my discouragement and sadness. As we walked back to the car, he put his arm around my shoulder and said, "It's OK, pastor. I want to be OK with the Lord. If I need to quit this job, I will. It's OK—the Lord is going to provide, and I am feeling really happy." "What just happened?" I thought to myself. "This new believer has more faith than I do. Wow, Lord." Instead of getting discouraged, Antonyo is hosting a small group at his house. Talk about a lesson in faith and trust.
Two Kinds of Food
Pat* and Tina* were methamphetamine cooks with a lab set up in their house. They both came from Adventist families but had quit going to church as kids. Pat's brother and a local small group started praying for them. One day Pat decided to make a batch of meth but it turned out all wrong. Pat made another batch and another, but each batch was horrible. Finally they fell into bed exhausted and frustrated. They slept for three days. When they woke up, Pat said to Tina, "We're done!" They stopped using, joined the small group who had prayed for them and asked for Bible studies. They've now been clean for more than four years, and are bringing their friends to the Bible study. At times their guests smell like marijuana and alcohol but the group welcomes them in. They eat dinner around the dining room table like family, then spend time together doing everything from playing games or working in the wood shop, to having Bible studies or just talking. One of the group leaders told me, "I think hanging out together is an important part of the life change."
What's the Two?
"What is the two for in Second Chronicles?" The person I'm studying the Bible with has never read it before. I'm having to show her the very basics on how to use a Bible. I explained there was a First Chronicles and a Second Chronicles and showed her some of the other books which have this distinction. At first she didn't understand what the colons between the numbers for chapters and verses meant. To her it looked like time (10:15 a.m.). Then I explained she could locate passages this way. She was so excited to learn how to read the Bible. You should have seen the smile on her face.
Our Hispanic pastors have started a conference-wide radio program called En Familia (In the Family), which goes to Hispanic families all around Oregon. Since family issues are a felt need in our community, this half-hour radio program reaches thousands of Hispanic listeners every week. This past December a family in Salem, Oregon called the program and expressed interest in receiving a box of food we were offering to needy families. The Salem Hispanic Church did the rest. They picked up the food, invited the family to church and began giving them Bible studies. Another young lady in Hood River, Oregon, who had just arrived in the area, was looking for a church, heard the program on Sunday morning, called in, and as a result is now connected to the local church.
Charles and Kelley
I Believe God Sent You
We responded to Stephanie* who filled out a Bible study interest card. When we dropped off the first study she seemed perplexed. So we figured she wasn't too interested. On our third visit she stepped outside her door and asked some tough questions. She said, "My brother died of a disease related to lifestyle. He was the most wonderful, caring man. What do you think about that?" We said a quick prayer to God and responded with "We are all sinners and God loves us all even though we struggle with different sins." Then she said, "I looked you up on the Internet, and I have no interest in becoming a Seventh-day Adventist." We said, "That's fine, people of all denominations really enjoy these lessons." So Stephanie invited us to have in-home studies with her. Her daughter Karen* also joined us. Even 12-year-old Zack*, pipes up with answers. After a few Bible studies Stephanie said, "I believe God sent you here—I never let anyone into my home!" They have since attended the Revelation Speaks Peace seminar with Boonstra, and requested baptism. Praise God!
We put 30-second television commercials on the Spanish channel. They probably showed 10 times a day and ran for a week, advertising the one-week evangelistic series with Robert Costa from It Is Written. It took place the week prior to Shawn Boonstra's Revelation Speaks Peace series at the Convention Center. Roberto* was watching TV when he saw the ad. He missed the phone number so he ran to grab a pen and paper and anxiously sat waiting for the commercial to replay so he could write down the number.
Roberto is studying with us today. He is coming to a small group and to our church service.
I am Blessed
Each one of the people I am having Bible studies with has made a change in my life. So many of them, I am ashamed to say, I would have never met until now. They each have their own unique story. The one thing they all have in common is they are seeking Jesus. Sometimes I don't think they even know why. Their financial troubles, job concerns, relationship problems, overcoming addictions, etc...are not so unlike my own story. I am grateful for each and every one of our Bible students for opening their doors and hearts to me. They blessed me richly and humbled me in remembering my own need for our loving Savior Jesus Christ.
* Denotes names that have been changed for privacy.