April 5, 2024

In-Person Evangelism Allows for Personalized Interaction, Prayer in St. Croix

Two-week series in four venues is not being livestreamed for a reason, leaders say.

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review
Guest speaker James Doggette Jr. prays for people who walked to the front to surrender their lives to God at the Bethel Seventh-day Adventist Church in St. Croix. [Photo: Caribbean Union Conference]

When the coordinating team of the Impact 24 evangelistic series in St. Croix, US Virgins Islands, defined how the March 30-April 13 initiative would take place, everyone agreed on one thing: the meetings would not be livestreamed.

At first, many thought it was a mistake. After the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid online/in-person events became the preferred way of rolling out church events, regional leaders acknowledged. Many local and regional church members didn’t like the idea of no livestream. “My phone would not stop with calls and messages from church members protesting our decision,” North Caribbean Conference president Desmond James said.

But the organizing team, which comprises leaders from the General Conference Treasury, Inter-American Division, Caribbean Union, North Caribbean Conference, and local pastors, stayed firm. “We wanted people to leave their homes and come to church to listen to the Word, be prayed for, and make connections with other guests and members,” they explained. “We wanted to acknowledge their effort to come and motivate church members to invite and bring a relative, neighbor, or friend.”

The launch of the series at the Bethel Seventh-day Adventist Church on March 30 attracted dozens of visitors, including U.S. Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett. Plaskett, who represents the At-Large Congressional District of the United States Virgin Islands in the House of Representatives, is serving her fifth term in Congress.

And a day later, the Bethel church was ready to welcome guests to the first evening meeting of the series. The congregation is one of the four venues where guest preachers will share the Word of God under the theme “Your Journey to Joy.”

Inviting Them to Attend

Anna Barnes is one of the church members who took to heart inviting other people to the series. “I invited my neighbor, and she is here with me,” Barnes said. “I also brought my daughters, who are not church members, and one of my grandchildren also decided to come along.” Before the preaching of James Doggette Jr., who is director of young adult ministry at the Lake Region Conference in the United States, Barnes was recognized with a special gift for being the person who brought the most guests to the meeting that evening.

But Barnes was not the only one who brought more than one person to the meeting. Several others Bethel church members did the same. The church had also engaged deliberately with the community before the series began, with the assistance of Bible instructors.

One of the instructors is Theresa Morton, who often serves as a music evangelist and Bible counselor in Atlanta, Georgia. Morton found out about the Impact 24 series in St. Croix and decided to get involved. “I contacted the organizers and made arrangements to come and help prepare the community for the series,” Morton shared.

Morton arrived on March 13, more than two weeks before the series launch, and didn’t waste a single day. “I knocked on doors, I made calls, and I prayed a lot,” she said. “In short, I did all I could and used various means to help people decide to attend the series. My goal was to bring them to church to listen to the Word.”

The Bethel church also focused on a well-coordinated prayer program where people can request special prayers with the assurance that a team from the congregation will step up to intercede with God on their behalf. And God has been blessing their efforts, Morton said. On March 30, the very first day of the evangelistic series, the Bethel church witnessed a first baptismal ceremony. “Four were already baptized, and with God’s help, more will follow,” Morton said.

Praying for Deliverance

On March 31, Doggette invited his audience to ask God to deliver them from anything that is holding them back or keeping them enslaved. Based on the Bible story of the plague of frogs in Egypt (Exodus 8:1-15), he called everyone present — church member or guest — to cling to God’s power to get rid of the “frogs” that might be present in their lives.

“When Moses told Pharaoh when he wanted to be freed from the frogs [v. 9], Pharaoh answered, ‘Tomorrow [verse 10],’ ” Doggette said. “Let’s not be like Pharaoh. Remember that God wants to deliver you, but Satan wants to delay you. Let’s ask God to deliver us from our ‘frogs’ today and right now!” he emphasized.

In the last part of the meeting, Doggette invited church members and guests to write the names of their “frogs” on pieces of water-dissolving paper. Then, he further invited them to come to the front to throw their “frogs” in a container with water to witness the pieces dissolve, as a symbol of what God wants to do for every person. “God is powerful to grant us deliverance right here, right now,” Doggette said. “Thank you, Lord, for granting us deliverance.”