An Evangelistic Paradigm Shift in Idaho
The Idaho Conference recently finished a series of evangelistic meetings with Brian McMahon. We praise God for the dozens of people who made eternal choices during those meetings. But what happened in the months leading up to these meetings also signaled the beginning of a paradigm shift for many Idaho members. Some, even of our most dedicated and long-term members, realized for the first time that effective evangelism is not just a short-term series of meetings but an ongoing emphasis on spiritual connections, making friends for Jesus in our community.
We embarked on the plan two years ago with much prayer plus the support of the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) and our local churches and pastors. The plan was simple:
We arranged for McMahon, a seasoned NPUC evangelist, to present a Prophecies Unsealed series early in 2019. The meetings would be conducted live at the Cloverdale Church in Boise, Idaho, with a couple other local churches joining together there. Several other churches would participate via livestream technology, with the meeting content seen on screen.
With the meeting dates set, we hired Michael Gee, an experienced Bible worker, to be a Bible worker trainer throughout 2018. Gee focused on several important areas, including:
- Lay Bible worker training of more than 150 members in the eight churches participating in Prophecy Unsealed;
- Mentoring of members who initiated Bible studies with friends or neighbors;
- Seminars at participating churches on biblical hospitality to create a culture of welcoming friendship to new guests and eventually newly baptized members.
There were at least 11 baptisms that resulted from studies given by church members — many giving Bible studies for the first time. Most of these baptisms took place even before the Prophecy Unsealed meetings.
Advertising was designed to coordinate in multiple venues during the months before the meetings. Many who came to the Prophecies Unsealed presentations were influenced by a card they had received at the September 2018 AMEN (Adventist Medical Evangelism Network) free medical clinic in Boise. Some also received brochures distributed during Meridian Church’s “Journey to Bethlehem.”
Brochures were also mailed in a radius around the host church and the livestreaming churches. Facebook ads were strategically pointed to people in the communities where meetings were scheduled. And several billboards were placed in prominent locations in west Boise and in the Nampa area.
During the meetings, the main host site and many of the livestream locations provided a meal each evening before the meeting. This also helped members to get acquainted with guests and make them feel more connected and welcome. We cannot underestimate the significance of a powerful prayer ministry that continued throughout each week of the meetings.
The Cloverdale Church host site had strong attendance throughout, closing with nearly 180 people present, including 37 guests. Nampa Church, one of the livestream locations, had 120 people present with 17 guests. As results continue to add up, we believe there will more more than 40 new believers attending our Idaho congregations as an immediate response to these steps God has blessed.
A Few Stories
An interesting story developed in the small Heyburn Church. This little congregation has had between six to eight members attending on an average Sabbath. As a result of the Bible study efforts and meetings, they may soon double that attendance, with five or six interested people studying toward baptism.
One church member who served as an Uber driver prayed people would notice the outdoor billboards and be motivated to come. She saw a couple at the meetings as a result of her prayer. They are continuing to study.
An 85-year-old church member gave studies for the first time. She didn’t think she could give studies because of her age and shaky voice, but her study resulted in one of the baptisms at Nampa.
The Cloverdale Church’s Disciples Making Disciples initiative brings new/prospective members together each Sabbath morning during Sabbath School and once more each week. This continues for four months of spiritual mentoring and Bible study following the meetings. The Nampa Church is following up with a pastor’s Bible class for new members and guests. Michael Gee is helping members to continue studies with new members and those who are interested.
We praise the Lord for each decision. We ask ourselves: What if we hadn’t taken the time and effort to have these meetings? They are inconvenient and costly and take lots of time and energy. But the people who came and responded are extremely happy and appreciative of the decision to make these meetings a priority.
The Prophecy Unsealed meetings were held at the Cloverdale Church in Boise, with the Meridian and Kuna churches assisting at and supporting the host site. In addition, five churches joined the meetings by livestream: Eagle, Elgin, Heyburn, Middleton and Nampa.
Each congregation learned in its own way the power of being intentional about a lifestyle of evangelism. The meetings may have been an important focal point to draw people to a decision, but in many cases those people wouldn’t have been ready without the personal connections and ongoing Bible studies. “We are excited that a new culture is emerging in the Treasure Valley,” says Gee, “one that is helping us see the mission field in our own communities.”
Where will this paradigm shift take Idaho and the Adventist mission in the months ahead? Stay tuned.