Northwest Adventists have always had a penchant for fulfilling the great Gospel Commission. In the late 1800s, they generously contributed to send one of the church’s first mission boats, the Pitcairn, to the South Pacific. In 1886, some of the first missionaries to leave the U.S. went to Africa—again supported by the Northwest mission spirit.
In the early 1990s, Northwest Adventists rekindled that spirit with Operation Bearhug, traveling to the former Soviet Union to share their talents and their faith.
And since then literally hundreds of our members have made short-term incursions to numerous countries around the world. Thousands of baptisms have resulted. And those who participated were reminded of what Ellen G. White referred to as the “reflex influence.” She said, “To show a liberal, self-denying spirit for the success of foreign missions is a sure way to advance home missionary work; for the prosperity of the home work depends largely, under God, upon the reflex influence of the evangelical work done in countries afar off.”*
We have seen these words come true. Those who have gone return with a deeper, stronger walk with the Lord. And, while millions of Adventist dollars have been sent overseas, God has certainly blessed us financially here as well. Sharing the gospel has been forever embedded in our Northwest DNA.
But one area especially haunts us: the relatively low number of new conversions here at home. Some would say it’s easier to get baptisms in Africa or South America or India. But that is debatable. With the strong religious and family influences in some of these countries, people have to make great sacrifices to become Adventists. So then, why is the church growing so fast in many other places around the world yet only about 2 percent annually in North America? Certainly there are cultural differences, but I don’t think that is the real reason.
As we have compared evangelism patterns around the world and here at home, we’ve noticed something dramatic. In the U.S., we tend to think about evangelism as a once a year (or even less often) reaping series of meetings. In the areas of the world where our church is growing exponentially, members make it a way of life. In Bolivia, where we were this spring, they call it “evangeliving.” Each reaping series feeds into the next. Newly baptized members can bring their family and friends to the next series before the “fire” is lost. It’s the simple yet powerful principle of momentum.
So in a new and bold approach to evangelism, each of our local Northwest conferences have voted a new initiative called “Building Soul-winning Momentum.” Churches are encouraged to continue or begin regular community outreach, Bible studies and other interest-gathering programs. But then once in the fall and once in the spring each year beginning in 2007, there will be a one-week satellite reaping series for every church via the Hope Channel. These events, originating from key Northwest sites, will feature some of the church’s great evangelists like Ron Halvorsen Sr. and Shawn Boonstra, with what we pray will be unprecedented results.
Where the church is growing, this ongoing reaping, this regular cycle of evangelistic outreach has been the key. Why not here in the Northwest?
When the advertising for each series blankets the Northwest and it says, “Come to the nearest Adventist church and other sites in your area,” we hope those who respond will find your church ready to welcome them. And members who receive the Hope Channel will want to consider opening up their homes to friends and neighbors to watch the series.
I invite you to join us in planning and praying for Momentum in what we believe will be an exciting and successful new initiative blessed by God.
* Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 465-466.