Once upon a time, towards the end of the post-Millerate era of zeal, a seed was planted. Perhaps it was in a small church made of rough boards hewn to fit a frame on a concrete block. Perhaps it was in a barn big enough to accommodate a few hundred believers. Wherever it was, the plant from the seed grew in a slightly different direction from those of other seeds or seedlings in this vast farming community. They grew a little more out than up. Then other seeds sprouted up until by the middle of the twentieth century there were unique plants throughout the area once occupied by early church members. The only trait all the plants had in common was their angle in relation to the ground.1
The plants bore fruit. Some of them grew into sturdy trees with blossoms on the outstretched branches that became sweet and juicy fruits—apricots, oranges, or mangoes. Others produced raspberry and blackberry and blueberry bushes that bore berries of many tastes.
The problem was that as the branches grew, they became heavy with all the fruit, until even the berry bush branches were about to break. The fruit must be picked, now.
The fruit committee met to discuss the issue. One member said they should sprinkle gasoline and burn the whole fruit farm down. “We should start over,” he said. Another member said that was ridiculous. “The fruit from the fruit farm is valuable,” she said. ”We should pick the most valuable fruit first, and sell it at the market.” The third speaker wasn’t even a member of the fruit committee. He was a thirteen-year-old son of two of the members, but he spoke up anyway.
“Can’t you see?” he said in a pleading voice. “This fruit is a gift to us. We should give it away free, just as it came to us, to all of our neighbors.”
Silence reigned until it was finally broken by a voice from the back. “So move,” the brother said.
And it was done.
[Thought Questions for Sequential Evangelism and Witnessing May 1, 2012]
1. Sequence. Since all of us Adventists became Christians of the Seventh-day Adventist persuasion at different times, does that mean we all have a different perspective of what the Bible says? What if we aren’t Adventists but are studying what this church born in New England believes? Have you ever watched an evangelist lay on layer after layer of doctrine and wondered if any prospective church members really knew what he was talking about? Should we invite people to join our church without going through a carefully planned sequence of what we believe? Why? or Why not?
2. Make it sequential. What is “sequential evangelism?” Does the lesson guide, in making use of the term “felt needs” imply that we should use felt needs as a guide to developing an outreach ministry? What if you participated in a community program that provides free meals to the public. Should you talk to them about your love for God and what you believe that Bible tells you about sharing that love? If all you do is load up plates with hot food and give them with big smiles to hungry people, have you missed an opportunity of witnessing? Why or why not?
3. From program to program. What is needed in order for your church to have a sequential outreach ministry? What if, instead of programs organized by the church, individual members were busy on their own meeting the needs of the public? What are the advantages of a member-based individual ministry? What are the disadvantages? Wait a minute. Wasn’t that a strong suggestion in the lesson guide that even though we’re meeting the needs of others, we “must follow Jesus’ example and somehow help to turn minds to eternal issues.” (Emphasis provided.) Did Jesus always lead those He healed to understand Bible truth? What about when he healed everyone living in a village or area? What about when He opens an opportunity for you to be a witness of His love to another person?
4. Milk and solid food. When your little one took a first bite of a cracker of other “solid” food, how did it make you feel? Was that the end of the baby’s nutritional growth? When it comes to theology, what teachings are “milk?” Some say the truths of the Bible are so deep it would take years for proper indoctrination of interested persons. So, they say, we should baptize them if they accept Jesus as their Savior but not accept them into full membership until they’ve grasped the 28 beliefs. What do you think of that approach? What would be the associated benefits? problems? Are you a connoiseur of the “deep beliefs” in Scripture? How do you prepare for such a vigorous diet?
5. Testing Truths. Ah, but there are some truths we teach that are so important we call them “testing truths.” What does that mean? Do we each have a different set of testing truths? Is the seventh-day Sabbath always a testing truth? To everyone? If you didn’t accept the Sabbath as God’s will, would you attend a seventh-day church? Speaking of sequence…Before we can accept a testing truth such as healthful living or Sabbath keeping, what all-compelling belief absolutely has to come first? Do you think we should spend more time preaching and demonstrating the cardinal truth of Jesus–His love–to win others to Him? Why is this easier said than done? Should we look for ways to wrap everything we believe in our love for a God with infinite love for us?
6. Evangelistic metrics. The word “metrics” is a buzz word in business right now. We are encouraged to use “metrics” in management and planning. Assuming the word “metrics” means “measuring,” should we apply metrics to our work of evangelism in our church? Why do we need to measure the progress a person is making while studying the Bible with us? Is it always possible? Should it be? What about your own spiritual growth? Are there metrics you can apply to perceive how your walk with God is leading you closer to Him?
7. The sower sows. Are you disappointed in the lack of opportunities that come your way to reap a fine harvest for God? Should you be? Does God give such opportunities to those who seek them? Statistics indicate that our church membership isn’t keeping up with population growth, especially in the US and Canada but also in Europe and other areas of the world. Does that mean Jesus is going to delay His coming more than He has? How many campaigns should we run in the next 20 years to turn the statistics around? Or is that God’s plan? What are you doing to help family members, neighbors, co-workers and others see a person whose love for God takes first place?