The End is Just the Beginning

The first chapter of "Momentum" closed recently in Auburn, Washington, where the end of the story is just the beginning.

Church growth brainstorming sessions last year spilled over into the North Pacific Union Conference-sponsored mission trip to Bolivia in March 2006. Northwest leaders witnessed how Bolivian church leaders and members live and breathe evangelism.

"Where we've focused on the final meetings, in Bolivia, they look at the whole harvest cycle," said Dan Serns, NPUC ministerial director. "They hold three cycles of evangelism per year, and we aren't even used to one cycle per year."

Mission trip participants returned with plans to apply the Bolivian model of evangelism to wake up the evangelism in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, and the concept of "Momentum" was born.

Serns pitched the Momentum vision to presidents' counsel where everyone said the idea was great but no one immediately volunteered to pioneer the concept.

"Momentum fit well with our vision and mission," said John Freedman, president, "so I volunteered Washington Conference as the first host site. Besides, I thought it might be easier to set the path rather than follow it."

The new approach called for pastors and members to be involved in a five-step process: 1) intercessory prayer, 2) missionary partners, 3) small-group ministry, 4) reaping meetings, and 5) Bible study classes.

"This is not a quick campaign, but a five-year process," said Bruce Koch, Washington Conference ministerial director and evangelism coordinator. "The whole plan is designed to be a consistent and continual process of employing evangeliving and training people to share their faith. What leads into and what follows the reaping meetings is as important as the meetings."

Living the Story

Building a team of lifestyle evangelists required an emphasis on training and education. For two months, churches received weekly bulletin inserts explaining the components of Momentum and sharing how members could be involved. At a planning meeting, leaders selected the title, Snapshots of the Savior, for the reaping meetings, and determined a "metro Seattle" location in Auburn.

Education continued through a prayer and evangelism rally the first weekend of January 2007. Ron Halvorsen Sr., long-time evangelist, agreed to present Washington's reaping meetings, and talked with rallied church members representing nearly a dozen churches about how they could actively prepare for the upcoming series through prayer walking.

Soon after, 107,000 Bible study invitation cards were mailed to residents in the Greater Auburn area. Washington churches in eight major areas joined together for Bible Study rallies where Bible worker/trainer, Gayle Lasher, presented a hospitality workshop and an overview of Bible instruction.

Nearly 150 Bible instructors established contact with 350 new friends, and met weekly with many people to study the Bible. They then returned to the Impact Your World class on Tuesday nights to share successes, questions and opportunities.

Marilyn Thomas, from the Auburn City Church, attended Impact Your World and appreciated the practical advice. "[Through the class] we charged our batteries to go out and ask, ‘Would you like a Bible study?'"

In addition, Washington Conference Spanish coordinator, Omar Grieve, provided a School of Evangelism where 150 youth and adults successfully completed training for presenting evangelistic meetings, providing sermons and giving Bible studies. "We are intentionally training workers and sending people out to the fields," Grieve said.

Three weeks before Snapshots of the Savior began, 10,000 handbills arrived for church members to share with friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, classmates, and even strangers.

Another 77,000 handbills were slated for direct mail. The Post Offices for the selected zip codes handled the handbills in a sporadic fashion. Individuals surveyed from the zip code regions each reported receiving the handbill on a different day. Where some received the colorful handbill on Monday, others didn't receive it until Friday—the day before the meetings began.

The End—and the Beginning

The opening day of Snapshots of the Savior arrived. White background sails reflected light patterns. The church auditorium filled. Six cameras—two roving, four stationary—powered up. The lights dipped. The music started. The hosts spoke. The musician sang. The speaker began. "Welcome to Snapshots of the Savior."

"I watched the screen to see people's reactions," Koch said, "and the best word I can think of to describe what I saw is ‘connected.' The audience was resonating and responding to Halvorsen's message. And the connection continued throughout the week."

For the technical crew, the first two nights were pretty rough. During a debriefing session, a cameraman spoke up and said he knew why the first two nights were particularly difficult. The crew had forgotten to pray collectively. For the following six evenings the crew assembled at 5:30 for a prayer session before they set up the cameras and prepared for the evening.

Concurrent with Snapshots of the Savior, Diane Halvorsen, a pastor from Apopka, Florida, and the daughter of Ron and Carrol Halvorsen, presented Auburn Adventist Academy's spring week of prayer.

"This school year, there is a real interest in choices and decisions," said academy chaplain, Mark Weir, who went on to explain that student involvement in Snapshots of the Savior was voluntary. "Initially, I hoped 30 students would go."

Each night, though, the school provided more and more transportation to accommodate all the students—60 by mid-week, all campus residents by week's end.

The Next Chapter

The story of Momentum is just getting started. Six months into 2007, church members are excited about Bible studies, sharing their faith, and seeing themselves for the first time in an evangelistic role. "God is going to continue to use these people as more members get onboard with Momentum," Koch said. "What we've seen is only a glimpse of what God wants us to do."

As a result of Snapshots of the Savior—live in Auburn—newly trained Bible instructors have 190 new contacts. More people are preparing for baptism in their home churches and surrounded by family. Approximately 400 Bible studies are still ongoing. Spanish meetings are continuing strongly with church or small group evangelistic series.

The end is just the beginning as in the next five years each of the 10 metro areas of the North Pacific host a Momentum cycle of reaching people for Jesus. As Serns said the final night of production, "We're ready to roll into the next cycle."

June 01, 2007 / Feature