01 Jun


I grew up in a home that ate, drank, and breathed “evangelism.” It was important to us because evangelism introduced the Gospel to my family which completely changed the trajectory of our lives for the better. It was from this experience of the Gospel finding us through evangelism that our burden for evangelism was born.

My father and mother worked in evangelism for more than 50 years and have participated in close to 230 evangelistic events. I also now have the privilege of working in evangelism. Because of this, I have heard a lot of ideas, thoughts, opinions and criticisms on evangelism over the years. I, myself, have wrestled with some of the realities of change and cultural shifts and whether the way we are doing evangelism is the most effective way. I’ve often felt like someone without a tribe when it comes to evangelism. Because on one hand, I am passionate about it. I believe in it. But I do see the need for modification, innovation, etc. and I could be viewed as being anti-evangelism.

However, on the other extreme, there are those who love throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They want to downplay/discredit all public evangelism and group anyone who preaches prophecy or Revelation as being old-fashioned and non-relevant. I do find it interesting that many of the greatest critics of evangelism have engaged in very little of it. Look, there are evangelists that have done an incredible disservice to “evangelism”. I have heard too many “Christless” prophecy seminars (which is a bit odd seeing that Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy, and that Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ). So, in the rest of the article, I would like to explore what evangelism is, what works, what needs to change, and where we go from here.

First, what is evangelism? This word has been used so much, especially in Adventism, that it’s become a bit of a non-word. Everybody has different ideas. It conjures up different images for everyone. So, I do believe it’s important to at least establish what I view as evangelism as it sets the context for the rest of this article. We do not have time to create an exhaustive definition but will do our best to give something we can work from.

We get the word evangelism from the Greek word for gospel, “evangelion”. So first and foremost, evangelism is about sharing the Gospel (good news). Which is another one of those phrases that can mean very different things for different people. For some, Gospel means telling people they better get their life together so that when Jesus returns, they’re ready. However, the Gospel and Scripture are not telling us that Jesus is coming, but that Jesus has come. The kingdom of God has arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. Now there is certainly a second coming component to the Gospel, a very important component. But Jesus’ second coming means nothing were it not for His first coming.

Matthew 4:23 – He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

Mark 16:15 (ESV) – And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation…”

εὐαγγελίζω ‘to tell the good news’, ‘for I am not ashamed of the gospel’ Romans 1:16. In several languages, the expression ‘the Gospel’ or ‘the good news’ must be rendered by a phrase, for example, ‘news that makes one happy’ or ‘information that causes one joy’ or ‘words that bring smiles’ or ‘a message that causes the heart to be sweet.’[1]

So, without spending all our time here, let’s embrace evangelism as the intentional act/process of proclaiming, publicly and personally, the arrival of the Kingdom of God, Christ Jesus, His plan of salvation, transformation, and His second coming and restoration in such a way that gives people hope, assurance, an accurate portrayal of God’s love.

This brings us to our second point. This type of evangelism works. John 12:32 (NLT) “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” When Jesus is lifted up, that’s when everyone starts to show up. The principle of public evangelism– lifting up the healing and hope found in Christ–changes lives. People are thirsting for a liberating Gospel. Something radically different than the “strings-attached” world that we live in.

Evangelism works when it is relevant to everyday life. It speaks to the hopes, fears, and dreams of seekers. Connecting the Gospel to relevant subjects that are in the news, and on the minds of people, is where transformation happens. It must meet real needs. It does not matter how informative your 2300 Days prophecy sermon is if it does not meet the needs of people. When our evangelism does not confront, confirm, and give hope to people in their daily walk, it never becomes personal.

Does your evangelism give hope to married couples, singles, young people, seniors? Start speaking the everlasting Gospel to the job losses and the divorces, to the frustrations, doubts and depressions of people, and see the eyes of your congregation begin to light up. Share a gospel that never changes to the people and predicaments that are constantly changing. Evangelism that works is not about information; it’s about transformation. If it is going to be powerful, it must be personal and practical. When I do evangelism, whether it be personal or public, I imagine I am trying to reach 200 Richies (me).  I know if it reaches my heart, chances are it’s going to reach the hearts of others. People want to know that, although at times their situations seem hopeless, there is a power greater than themselves that thrives in hopeless cases, empty tombs and rugged crosses. He called disciples who had problems with ego, cussed like sailors, and had terrible tempers. If God could transform them, He can transform me. Good evangelism is not about information; it is about transformation, which comes through the Incarnation–the Gospel must become flesh and blood in our evangelism. It is touching people where they are yet challenging them to give a greater piece of their heart to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

So, what needs to change? Any evangelism that puts all the emphasis on me, instead of on God, falls short, because we all fall short. We need greater gospel clarity. The Bible is not a set of rules about how people can find God.

The Bible is a story of how God found us. The Gospel is NOT about how we can work our way up to heaven, but how heaven worked its way down to us. I hear too many Christ-less evangelistic messages. It’s all about what we must do in order to be saved, instead about what Jesus did in order to save us.

The greatest evangelism ever done was from Calvary and the central claim was not “do, do, do,” but “done, done, done!” If the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ is not the beginning, and indeed, everything in between, of your evangelism, do everybody a favor and stop it. The Gospel is NOT “you are saved by grace through faith plus plus, plus.” It is, “you’ve been saved by grace through faith, PERIOD. Is this the Good News in your evangelism? Is it, “follow all the right rules or follow the right Person? I don’t know how people can make good news sound like bad news, but I’ve met some Seventh-day Adventists who can. We have such a beautiful, holistic, message. The question is, “Is it coming through your evangelism?”

Another very important thing that must change with our evangelism is making serving the community and building relationship an integral part of it. There was a time when most Americans identified as Christian, when just “having the truth” was enough. But people need more than that today. They need to see the truth in you. Theodore Roosevelt was one of the people who said, “People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.” Just hearing the truth wasn’t enough for Thomas. He needed to experience it. Studies show that people aren’t coming to the church for information—they’ve got all the information they could ever want at their fingertips.

According to Barna Research, “People are coming to the church for two things: experience and connection”. Like Thomas, people need to touch, see, feel Jesus in us before they’ll ever come to our church, or an evangelistic event. Who knows, maybe we had to stop going to church (during COVID) so that we could finally start becoming the church.

John 20:25 – Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe. What’s amazing about this is although Thomas’s request seems unrealistic, Jesus still gives it to him. Because that’s what Thomas needed. When we start giving people what they need, some of our greatest skeptics, like Thomas, can become some of our greatest advocates. What’s interesting about Thomas–doubting Thomas–is that he makes the biggest profession of faith out of everyone in John 20:28 after he touched Jesus: “My Lord and my God!”

Where do we go from here? It’s not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are some evangelists that place too much emphasis on the beasts of Revelation and not enough on the Lamb. There have been a lot of evangelistic meetings that I left feeling like I would never ever measure up. That evangelism needs to stop. People should leave our presence, and our preaching, feeling better than when they showed up. There are organizations and individuals out there that seem to preach and promote an evangelism that is missing the most vital component–Jesus.

However, just because some evangelism does not work does not mean we should abandon evangelism altogether. In Twelve Step recovery, people often say. “The program works when you work it.” The same goes for evangelism. Evangelism works when we work it the right way. The right way is keeping Christ at the center, meeting needs, speaking to the hopes and dreams of people, and building community. We cannot get ready for heaven while watching our community go to hell. Love must be the center of everything we do.

The apostle Paul, formally Saul, is proof that you can follow the right rules and still be lost, but you can never follow the right Person without being led into New Life. Let’s make the Gospel great again. I’m not suggesting that we disregard or not deliver our doctrines. On the contrary, we need to, but let’s make it beautiful and only share it through the lens of the Gospel.

Our evangelism should paint a picture of beauty that creates hope and yearning, not a picture of destruction that creates fear and loathing. The Gospel isn’t bad news; it is good news. Let’s keep it that way.

Richie Halversen is director of church growth & revitalization, Southern Union of Seventh-day Adventists. Email him at: [email protected]

[1] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 412). New York: United Bible Societies.

01 Jun

SHARING THE GOSPEL WITH THE ENTIRE WORLD: Will the job ever be finished?

In some parts of the world, traditional forms of Adventist evangelism still “work”. A nation-wide evangelistic campaign was held in 2016 in the Central-African country of Rwanda. Within a few months, about 110 000 newly baptized members joined the church. However, in other parts of the globe—notably in the Western world—similar evangelistic methods have lost their effectiveness. In recent times, despite generous budgets and extensive advertising, few people come to a public evangelistic series, and keep attending after the first meeting. Other forms of traditional evangelism, likewise, fail to produce significant results.


The Seventh-day Adventist Church has always believed that Christ’s commission to proclaim the gospel “to all nations” must be taken with utter seriousness, and that “the end” will not come until this task has been accomplished (Matthew 24:14). Until quite recently, it seemed that the Adventist mission was a real “success story”. In 1970, there was one Adventist in this world for about 3,000 people. In 2020, just fifty years later, the ratio of Adventists to non-Adventists had improved to 1:308.  However, lately the growth of the world-wide Adventist Church is stagnating. The dream of further exponential growth that would result in reaching the 50 million-member-mark within another decade or so, now seems unrealistic. One of the sad reasons is a dramatically poor retention rate. The church’s statistical office tells us that we lose over 40 percent of our new members relatively soon after their entry into the church!

The growth of our denomination reflects a pattern that many other denominations are also experiencing. There is a general trend that Christianity is moving “south”, that is: away from the more developed countries to the developing world. The western world is becoming more and more secular, and no longer interested in institutionalized Christianity. Many denominations in Europe see a steady decrease in their membership, and an even more dramatic decline in church attendance. In part, this trend is camouflaged by the arrival of Christian immigrants—refugees, students, and millions who are looking for a more prosperous future for themselves and their loved ones. In several countries, the Adventist Church would have no future, were it not for a reinforcement by brothers and sisters from “the south.”

Any Adventist who follows the official church media regularly meets the expression “10-40 window”. It is a missiological term which refers to the segment of our globe between roughly 10 degrees and 40 degrees north of the Equator. Most people in this part of the world are Muslims or belong to one of the other major non-Christian world-religions. The Adventist world leadership considers this “10-40 window” to be one of the greatest mission challenges. However, despite all recent evangelistic initiatives, the church-growth results remain rather paltry.

Another enormous challenge is presented by the large cities of our world. The percentage of the world’s population that lives in an urbanized environment keeps growing and has risen to about 68 percent. But Christian missionary work—that of Adventists included—in the ever-growing urban centers, remains to a large extent, a matter of “plowing” and “sowing” on the rocks.

Will the job ever be completed?

Around the year 1900 about thirty percent of the people in the world identified themselves as Christians. A century later the population of the world had vastly increased, but the percentage of Christians remained virtually the same. Two decades into the twenty-first century, mission experts report that the percentage of Christians in the world has slightly increased—from around 30 to just over 32 percent. But, as the world population keeps growing, this means that the number of non-Christian people in the world, in actual fact, keeps going up. Each minute 266 persons are born, which makes for a total of 400.,000 extra people per day—all of whom must be reached with the gospel.

Looking at these and other key mission statistics, one wonders whether the job of preaching the gospel to “the whole world” will ever be completed. And, if it is true that Christ will not come until the mission mandate has been fully implemented, one wonders whether He will ever be able to return . . .

Together, but with a special responsibility

I have no answers to many of the questions concerning the completion of the gospel commission, and how this relates to the Second Coming of Christ. However, let me share a few thoughts that may help those who, like me, struggle with these issues.

Let’s remind ourselves that the gospel mandate has not only been given solely to the Adventist denomination. All Christians share in the task of “proclaiming” the message of Christ and of telling others of what He has done for us. It has never been the official position of the Adventist Church that Adventists are the only agents in the preaching of the gospel. As early as 1926, a very significant statement was included in the GC Working Policy book. It can still be found in the ever-growing “black book.” Policy number O 100 reads: “We recognize those agencies that lift up Christ before men as a part of the divine plan for the evangelization of the world, and we hold in high esteem Christian men and women in other communions who are engaged in winning souls to Christ.”

This does not mean that the Adventist Church is simply one voice among a plethora of other Christian voices. While we recognize that we hold many of our beliefs in common with other Christians, we believe we enrich the Christian testimony by our emphasis on several “special truths”. The Adventist focus is found specifically in the messages of the three angels of Revelation 14. The first message underscores the importance of our worship of God as the Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of all that is. The second message contains a stern warning about a progressive disregard, all around us, for biblical principles and ethical norms, while the third message concludes that all men and women in this world must ultimately make a choice: Who will they serve? How will they live? Will they decide to follow God’s instructions with all their heart?

Is it all about doctrine?

For many Seventh-day Adventists, proclaiming the gospel message equals giving doctrinal instruction. And, certainly, doctrines are not unimportant! They help us to provide structure to our faith and to our witness, just as grammar gives structure to our communication through language. The famous American theologian Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962) underlined, in a frequently-quoted statement, that the gospel proclamation has often lacked the substance that it should have: ‘A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgement, through the ministry of a Christ without a cross.[1] As Adventist Christians, we must, however, not just focus on the doctrinal correctness of what we bring to the Christian table, but more than ever, on its relevance. Postmodern people want to know—more than the modern generation before them—what the Christian message can do for them. What can the words of Christ mean during the week for our daily life of work and recreation? How do “fundamental beliefs” translate into a life of meaning and true happiness? How do doctrinal truths nurture the relationship with the One who is Life and Truth? When Jesus spoke about the Truth, He told his disciples that the Truth would make them free (John 8:31). The Truth must do something for us. In other words, it must be relevant and relate to all aspects of who, and what, we are. This realization adds a vital dimension to an already gargantuan task.

God’s project

So, will this assignment of bringing the message of Christ to “all the world” ever be accomplished? The answer is: Yes, it will. Somehow, and at God’s time. We must allow God to surprise us. In the meantime, it is our responsibility to do all we can to share our faith with others in ways that are relevant to them. It means that we must translate our message in ways that remain true to the essence of God’s Word, but can be understood and will be appreciated by the secular, postmodern men and women of today.

While we do this, let us ever remember that we are not dealing with something we can refer to as our project. It is God’s project. The words of George E. Ladd, who was a prominent teacher at Fuller Theological Seminary (1911-1982), seem particularly apt for the present generation of Adventists in the western world: “Christ has not yet returned; therefore, the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come . . . So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.” [2]

Reinder Bruinsma, PhD, has served the Seventh-day Adventist Church in publishing, education, and church administration on three continents. He writes from the Netherlands where he lives with his wife Aafie. Among his latest books is I Have a Future: Christ’s Resurrection and Mine. Email him at: [email protected]  

[1]  Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America, (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988 ed.), p. 193.

[2]  George E. Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1959), p. 137.


01 Jun


Good news! Jesus wants to grow the church. His strategy is simple: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32 [ESV])

The fulfillment of this happened 2000 years ago when Jesus was lifted up on Calvary, followed by His resurrection when He was lifted up from Earth to Heaven. Many were drawn to Jesus as a result. The Book of Acts records the phenomenal church growth that took place and is the fruit of Jesus being lifted up.

I believe John 12:32 will also be fulfilled when we lift Him up. We often think of this being done through preaching and teaching; however, it is not the only way.

When we treat others with the same compassion that Jesus displayed in His life, we can exemplify lifting up Jesus. When people are loved, they are given a taste of Jesus’ love. It is like a magnet that pulls a paper clip. This display of compassion draws and attracts them to the Jesus, they see living in us.

Thirty-five years ago, a group of Adventists established a church on the east side of Richmond, Virginia. They had a great pastor who made it a point to lift up Jesus in his preaching and teaching. The members also had compassion for their neighbors.

Among those attending the new church was a young man who had lost his way in life. The one thing he knew was that when his life on Earth was done, he wasn’t going to Heaven.

While attending church one Sabbath morning, this man was introduced to Jesus. For the first time in his life, he realized his life’s value was struggling with low self-worth. The thought that Jesus loved Him so much that He would have left Heaven just for him, was really good news. The more he heard, the more he wanted.

The preaching of the gospel was not the only good news. The people of the church modeled the life of Jesus. They were compassionate and it could be seen in how they treated him. They made it a point to:

  • Greet him with a smile.
  • Take an interest in getting acquainted.
  • Invite him to serve.

As a result, this man gave his life to Jesus Christ. Amen!

He was so excited with what he found that he eventually decided to go into full-time ministry so he could spend the rest of his life lifting up Jesus. Amazingly today, he is lifting up Jesus as the Rocky Mountain Conference ministerial director (yours truly).

As I think of church growth strategy, I can’t but think of the same strategy that helped me become a Seventh-day Adventist Christian.

When we focus on Jesus in our preaching and teaching and combine it with compassion for the community, people are impacted for eternity.

Is there someone in your sphere of influence who needs to hear and see the Good News. God is already working in their heart, and they are on the verge of giving their life to Jesus.

Will you join me in praying that Jesus will be lifted up in EVERYthing we do? For “Many are on the verge of the kingdom, waiting only to be gathered in.”  (Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 109).

Mick Mallory is RMC ministerial director. Email him at: [email protected]