All the testimonies shared at our recent camp meeting soul-winning hour were powerful and encouraging, but one stood out as particularly relevant as we look forward to our Discovering Revelation series across the conference beginning October 2.
As James shared his testimony on the camp meeting stage, he briefly recounted how he grew up in a non-religious home. Nevertheless, in his teenage years he became increasingly interested in spiritual things. When he spoke to his mother about his spiritual thoughts, she shared Bible truths she had learned at a series of evangelistic meetings several years earlier in Coldwater, Michigan. It was at this point in his testimony that James off-handedly mentioned how the series his mother attended was preached by the very co-host of that afternoon’s soul-winning program, Pastor Mark Howard! As James continued, he explained how the truths his mother shared with him led him to search for more light online where he discovered Adventist preachers like Doug Batchelor and Mark Finley. Eventually both James and his mother took their stand for the Lord and joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church through baptism.
Furthermore, James was on stage that day not only to share his own conversion story but to tell how God had used him to reach another young man named Al, who, by studying the Bible with James, was now ready to get baptized, too. But there’s still more to the story! Later that afternoon, Al introduced us to Ondre, a co-worker friend of his who he had invited to camp meeting and who just that week had responded to an appeal to give his heart to the Lord and begin preparing for baptism, as well!
You can imagine how eager Pastor Howard was to find James, Al, and Ondre after the program and to hear more of their amazing testimony. Believe it or not, James’s off-handed comment on that camp meeting stage about his mom recounting what she learned from those meetings in Coldwater was the first time that Pastor Howard learned that an evangelistic series he preached 15 years earlier had been a major factor in the conversion of this young man and his mother.
Almost any time we discuss public evangelism, the conversation tends to revolve around whether a series of meetings was “successful.” But what does evangelistic success mean? What is our objective in evangelism? Is our goal to have a high number of non-Adventist attendees? Do we look at the number of baptisms at the end of the series? Or is the most important metric the efficient expenditure of funds relative to the number of commitments made? While all those are important and certainly worthy of consideration, I would submit that there is a more basic and perhaps even more significant measure of evangelism success—the commitment to conduct a series at all, regardless of measurable “success.”
The Apostle Paul told the believers in Corinth that “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 1:17). While Paul doubtless rejoiced to baptize new believers, he understood that ultimately, he was only accountable for his duty to preach the Gospel. Later in the same letter he explained how “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6). He recognized that his primary objective was to faithfully preach the present truth. What people did with it was up to them and often their commitments weren’t made until long after he had moved on to another field of labor. But did that make his evangelistic labor unsuccessful? Of course not! Did he lament that evangelism doesn’t work? Never! Paul’s confidence was not rooted in the power of his presentations nor the immediate response of his audience, but in the fact that “God gave the increase.”
Friends, an absence of immediate results does not discredit your efforts to win souls. The same God who “gave the increase” to Paul long after he had moved on, the same God who “gave the increase” to Pastor Howard some 15 years after he preached that series in Coldwater, is the same God who is ultimately responsible for the success of each of our upcoming Discovering Revelation sites. While we always want to do our best work for the Master, I would urge us all to focus less on what we might regard as effectiveness in evangelism and more on what God regards as faithfulness in evangelism.
With confidence in Christ’s responsibility to make our labors successful, let’s re-double our efforts even now to reach all those we can with the invitation to hear God’s last day message. We’re only weeks away from the opening night of Discovering Revelation. This is one of the most critical times to pray for divine appointments to invite people to the upcoming meetings. One such opportunity is coming later this month with Operation Andrew.
Named after the Apostle Peter’s brother who was always bringing someone to Jesus, Operation Andrew emphasizes the vital work of personally inviting people to hear the message of truth. This is the time to begin praying in earnest for the friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members that you could bring to the upcoming series of meetings. Beseech the Lord to give you courage to ask and to give them the spiritual interest to respond positively to your invitation.
We have been told that the combined force of our personal labor is one of the most potent tools for reaching souls. “The secret of our success in the work of God will be found in the harmonious working of our people. There must be concentrated action. Every member of the body of Christ must act his part in the cause of God, according to the ability that God has given him” (Christian Service, p. 75).
There is a lot we don’t know when it comes to winning souls. We don’t know who is already sensing the pull of the Holy Spirit on their heart. We don’t know which presentation will convict the mind of which hearer. We don’t know the people in our life who may already be interested in spiritual things. In fact, all we know for sure is that God is ultimately responsible for His work and that He calls us to be His co-laborers. Thus, Scripture outlines our duty in simple terms: “In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (Eccl. 11:6).
I’m looking forward to the miracles God will provide as we partner with Him in laboring for souls. May the Lord richly bless each one of us as we consecrate ourselves to Him and His cause.