“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” — Matthew 28:19, 20
“The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers.” — Gospel Workers, p. 352
This past May, for the first time in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, an outreach event took place in Rwanda that is changing the way we look at evangelism.
It is not so much revolutionary as all-inclusive, and it yielded astounding results — more than 100,000 baptisms in one climactic month!
What made the difference?
Something as simple as a heavenly inspired approach to a well-known method: Total Member Involvement.
In 2004, Adventist evangelist Mark Finley preached to a live audience of 30,000 people when he led the first historic satellite meetings in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. This was unprecedented, as were the 10,000 people baptized following the meetings. Many felt we had found the key to reaching the world with the gospel message.
But this was only the beginning.
So how did we go from 10,000 baptisms in one event to 100,000 a little more than a decade later? The answer is simple: through Total Member Involvement, a bold new General Conference initiative whose goal is to include and involve all church members in the work of reaching out to others with the gospel message.
For the Rwanda project, instead of focusing on one preaching site with one preacher, we planned for multiple sites with multiple preachers. People from all over the world were invited to participate. Amazingly, a total of 2,227 people volunteered — both young and old, male and female, with and without prior experience. Anyone willing to be used by God. And they were welcomed in Rwanda with open arms. A total of 860 people were lay preachers.
Churches across Rwanda hosted one or more preaching sites. The volunteer preachers were asked to do just that — preach and pray. All the preachers had to realize was that in preaching it is not about them but about God. The local churches took care of the rest: preparatory Bible studies, visitation and invitations, nurturing, health and community events, and many other duties. Outdoor tents were rented, camp-meeting style, and people came every night to watch a clip from a movie about Jesus and the presentations.
And the 100,000? It was a modest average of 45 baptisms per site. Some sites had many more, some had less; but God blessed them all. With each person doing a little — as contrasted with one person doing a lot — astounding numbers were reached, and Rwanda was lighted with the glory of God’s truth.
We realize that what happened in Rwanda is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. However, there are certain wonderful principles that can be found in this experience that apply to most parts of the world and in most other situations.
There may not be 100,000 baptisms every time. However, TMI is about everyone working together in a planned, committed way, in difficult areas or other areas not as challenging. It’s about expecting and experiencing God’s blessings.
Total Member Involvement can be implemented at any level, in any church, conference, union, or division. It is more than an event: It is a lifestyle.
“It is a year-round outreach approach with many different outreach activities, and with everyone doing something for Jesus,” said Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson. “Public evangelism is only a part of TMI — a periodic public presentation resulting from the many personal and public outreach activities and the power of the Holy Spirit.”
In TMI, every part or gift or ministry matters. Everyone matters, and everything needs to be connected — every effort made, individual or corporate, needs to ultimately connect people with the Source of all power and truth. Evangelism is part of that process, not a stand-alone event. Prayer, food banks, literature distribution, health seminars, and other similar events are all part of the continuous process preceding and following an evangelistic series or other reaping events. Ultimately, Total Member Involvement is more than an event or a series of events. It is a way of life.
As Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White wrote in the book Ministry of Healing: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me’” (p. 143).
Here are a few practical strategies that any church, organization or ministry may follow:
“Extreme praying” done by church members across conferences and unions will have a tremendous impact on outreach events and any upcoming meetings. Prayer events were held all across Rwanda. Ellen Whites says, “At the sound of fervent prayer, Satan’s whole host trembles” (Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 346).
A “10 Days of Prayer” event may be planned prior to any reaping event. TMI prayer cards in English are available from the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries department and can be adapted to the local needs. They can be reprinted by local churches so that all members may have access to them. Each member should have an opportunity to write down names of people that they will do four things for:
It is important to first set a date for the major reaping evangelistic event. Once that date is fixed, then the other activities leading up to the pivotal event are calendared in. This will include prayer, sowing and preparation activities before the reaping event, and integration and retention activities after the event. Then repeat the process. New members will want to hear the message again and have an opportunity to share their new experience with Jesus! If done correctly, most new members will be retained. It takes planning and dedication, but God blesses any effort made for the salvation of others.
The key to keeping both new and current members active is to get them involved with TMI. In the Rwanda TMI event, each new person who made a decision to be baptized was asked to win someone else for Jesus. One woman in the north Rwandan city of Gisenyi responded by saying, “No, I will win four,” because she had already been witnessing to four others. And she did. God rewarded her efforts. This woman’s decision to win someone for Jesus was a powerful commitment which prompted her to remain in the church as she shared her newfound faith with others.
In the end, TMI is also TCI — Total Church Involvement — and TPI — Total Pastor Involvement. In other words, for the synergy to be built, all the churches in the conference and/or union must be involved, and all the pastors must be involved.
The excitement and energy created all across Rwanda cannot be understood unless a person was there to witness and feel the synergy. There were cows, sheep, goats, and houses given away to the needy; people prayed for and studied with; health events; and TMI banners all across Rwanda. One person said, “Even the non-Adventists know about TMI!” Their motto — and the motto of TMI — was “Each one reach one, lose none, disciple all!” The excitement and energy built and built and the Holy Spirit moved across Rwanda! All that happened there was a God thing!
Before the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, a free mega clinic organized by Your Best Pathway to Health made a major impact on the city. This mega clinic was followed by health seminars, including Depression Recovery, Overcoming Diabetes, Smoking Cessation, Celebration Health (from the General Conference Health Ministries department), and vegetarian cooking schools, resulting in seven new churches.
In Harare, Zimbabwe, a mega clinic was held in May 2015 that gave medical services to more than 30,000 people. The interests were then invited to health seminars and to the evangelistic meetings.
For more information about comprehensive health evangelism, contact assistant Beth Pettit ([email protected]) at the General Conference Health Ministries department.
The Adventist world church has pinpointed seven resources that are useful for Total Member Involvement. They are:
For more information about the World Bible School Discovery Lessons, contact Kurt Johnson ([email protected]) at Voice of Prophecy.
Small Groups or Sabbath School Action Units can also use Daniel seminar lessons or Revelation lessons or other Bible studies. Carl Johnson ([email protected]) at Revelation Seminars may be contacted to purchase these materials. Carl can customize anything needed for TMI.
Seminars that “bridge” from health events to the evangelistic meetings have just now been developed by Don Macintosh from Weimar ([email protected]).
The most important thing, after prayer, is getting members committed and involved in making friends for Jesus and in bringing them to the planned meetings and events. This is TMI.
Encourage your church to commit to pray for a certain number of people, that they will give their hearts to Jesus and be baptized. When people make a decision to be baptized, they should immediately be asked to commit to work for several of their own friends or family members so that they, too, will join them in accepting and following Jesus.
One woman in Rwanda was told — as were all — that she needed to win at least one person to Jesus after she was baptized. She brought three friends that she had been witnessing to and the next Sabbath all three were baptized. This again is TMI.
TMI involves Total Church Involvement. All churches in a given conference, union, or division will want to get on board for TMI projects, TMI meetings, and TMI follow-up projects. This will build synergy, and it will just keep going until the gospel message is spread to the entire world. Only when we have a story to tell of what God has done for us, do we become enthusiastic about sharing it with others. And if others do the same, it becomes an unbreakable chain. People may argue beliefs and doctrines, but nobody will dispute a first-hand personal testimony.
It is important to remember that in Total Member Involvement no event stands alone. Yes, churches can do just a food bank, a health seminar, or an evangelistic meeting, but an event by itself will fail in the long run, or have very little results. TMI is about connecting the dots — planning a yearly calendar, giving everyone a job, and praying a lot — because everyone can do something. When everyone stands together in unity, then the Holy Spirit can work in full measure. It is about discipleship and discipling.
TMI is an all year-round outreach involving multiple outreach activities. Everyone can do something for Jesus in a concerted effort. The evangelistic meeting or other reaping event is only a periodic public presentation resulting from the many personal and public outreach activities and power of the Holy Spirit.
The next General Conference-sponsored TMI project will take place in February 2017, with preaching sites in Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria and neighboring countries. Right now volunteers are being sought to fill the available preaching slots, which includes 200 sites in Ukraine and Romania, and 100 sites in Moldova and Bulgaria.
All over the world, people are ready and eager to hear Bible truth. They sense that something big is about to happen, and God’s Spirit is at work, going ahead of the meetings, opening doors and hearts. Everyone can do something for Jesus through TMI.
If you would like to participate with the world church this coming February, or in one of the upcoming TMI mission projects, please visit the TMI website at tmi.adventist.org. You may sign up by registering for the event where indicated.
You also can “reach one, lose none, disciple all!”
Duane McKey is assistant to the General Conference president for Total Member Involvement, and director of the General Conference’s Sabbath School and personal ministries department.