February 20, 2008

Reaching and Discipling People

2008 1505 page22 caplaces exist where the Seventh-day Adventist Church is well known, highly respected, and growth is occurring at such a fast rate that denominational leadership is hard-pressed to keep up with the statistics. In other regions, however, the opposite appears to be true. Regular Bible study is not prevalent among church members in these areas, and most people in the community have never heard of the Adventist Church. If people do recognize the name, they do not know much, if anything, about the Adventist message.

Adventists in Europe have developed new materials designed to connect with unchurched postmodern audiences. A discipleship pathway called LIFEdevelopment, introduced in the United Kingdom and implemented across Europe, was created by Miroslav Pujic, director of the Centre for Secular and Postmodern Studies (CSPS) for the General Conference Adventist Mission Office. Pujic spent 12 years as communication director of the Trans-European Division (TED), and 15 years as a pastor. While directing the global ministry of CSPS, he also continues to serve as Media and Worship director at the TED.

2008 1505 page22LIFEdevelopment (LD) starts with a 100-page handbook titled The Missionary: Third Millennium A.D. It opens with a chapter called “Why Are Most Churches Struggling?” and explains how to use other LD materials. LD resources currently available include two DVD sets with 10 programs each that share basic biblical and Christian values through a wholistic approach. A companion book for small group use is included.

Evidence, the first DVD set, focuses on basic biblical values. It uses a news/reality/documentary style for the first 30 minutes, then shifts to a 20-minute lecture. It is set in a café church with a live audience. The show is hosted by BBC news anchor Gillian Joseph, and Dwight Nelson, senior pastor at Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Music is contemporary and widely varied. Topics include love, relationships, rest, forgiveness, peace, hope, death, suffering, and justice.

Mind the Gap, the second DVD set, comes with a companion book. Each segment starts with street interviews, then shifts to a small-group discussion in a living room, hosted by Nelson. The topics discussed focus on basic Christian values: faith, the Bible, prayer, the resurrection of Christ, the Second Coming, the Holy Spirit, healing, and community. The companion book offers true thought questions easily used in discussion or conversation. Video segments from both DVD sets may be viewed on the LD outreach site: www.lifedevelopment.info

Sharing tools include a magazine, LIFE.info (available in single or bulk subscription at www.lifemag.info), and “meet people” invitation cards.

These are the first materials produced by the Adventist Church that make a serious attempt at presenting the biblical message in a manner appropriate to the postmodern world. While European in origin, LIFEdevelopment is distributed internationally through the CSPS office in a growing variety of languages. Requests for information and orders should be directed to CSPS through [email protected].

Impacting Your Community for Christ
“How can my church reach out to the community?” Several people have written to me recently with some variation of this question. They all shared stories of how standard outreach materials or a seminar package no longer work very well in their communities. “Only the church members came out,” some said. “We mailed out thousands of brochures, but just 32 people returned the card requesting lessons. None of them actually finished the series,” one person explained. This is a common finding. One size no longer fits all. The world has become much more complex than when some standard approaches were invented.

2008 1505 page22Resources are now available that help you comprehend your community and guide you to specific tools that are most likely to work. Understanding Your Community includes both a book and a CD-ROM with many tools, including basic demographics for every community in the United States. It tells you how to obtain specific information and how to use that information to understand the needs and cultural patterns you are dealing with. It points you to evangelistic materials published by Adventists for each particular context.

Ministries of Compassion includes chapters on all types of needs-
oriented outreach, as well as sections on how to begin a project, where to get funding, and how to recruit and train volunteers. It also describes successful Adventist ministries that touch on unemployment, AIDS, immigration, health, family life, hunger, homelessness, and inner-city children.

The Community Action Leadership seminar is designed to walk a local church leader through the entire process of developing a community-based ministry and teach the skills of community organizing. It includes a textbook and 12 lectures on DVD. It also provides a toll-free number if you need help with coaching and problem-solving.

All three resources can be obtained online from AdventSource or at (800) 328-0525. 

Monte Sahlin is director of research and special proj-ects for the Ohio Conference. His new book is titled Mission in Metropolis: The Adventist Movement in an Urban World. You can suggest resources to him at [email protected] or (800) 272-4664.