February 11, 2016

In Repositioning Move, Adventist Radio Ministry to Spotlight Local Congregations

One of the oldest Seventh-day Adventist broadcast ministries is repositioning itself to promote local congregations as a point of contact for listeners, beginning with a four-day streaming evangelistic series.

"We’ve moved away [from the] traditional approach to media ministry, where a local church is there to support the media ministry," Shawn Boonstra, speaker/director of the Voice of Prophecy, or VOP, said in a telephone interview. "The new Voice of Prophecy is there to support the outreach ministry of the local church," he added.

Founded in 1929 by pioneering Adventist pastor H.M.S. Richards, Sr., the 86-year-old ministry is credited with bringing tens of thousands into church membership. Now, Boonstra said, VOP is committed to helping congregations "find people in the community who are ready to join the church today. We will provide them with everything from initial outreach projects, moving towards reaping campaigns … all the way down to providing a local VOP broadcast" in which the pastor will be the speaker.

Towards that end, Boonstra said VOP will host a live-streamed four-part outreach series beginning April 28 designed for viewing in local Adventist churches. Called "Shadow Empire," the series will focus on the roots and life of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who married his understanding of the Christian faith with civil society, with far-reaching consequences.

Instead of a multi-week evangelistic campaign, Boonstra wrote in a letter to churches the series, is "a short event designed to bring [a] congregation’s Bible study interests (and other members of the community) through the doors."

Boonstra said the format will place a lot of emphasis on local presentations, since he believes those visiting a local church for the first time should get to know the pastor and the congregation, rather than a remote speaker.

"I’ll present for 30 or 35 minutes, and then the local pastor will present," Boonstra explained. He said the series should "appeal to history buffs, prophecy buffs and tap into the larger discussion about religious liberty" taking place in many quarters today. He added, "It’s really a get-to-know-you-event using a topic that people will find engaging."

The series will blend on-location videos — Boonstra and his production team had what they said was "free rein" to film at Constantine's birthplace in Naissus, now Niš, Serbia — with Bible studies designed to reinforce key themes on church history, prophecy and freedom of religion. Promotional material for the event cites a 2015 Barna Group study noting "a significant rise in Americans’ belief that religious freedom is worse today than 10 years ago."

Supporting material for the series include a book and specially designed Bible study notes. Both are available from the Voice of Prophecy via the Shadow Empire website.

Boonstra emphasized that the series is not designed for home Bible study groups, but specifically for congregations. He said the aim is for viewings "to be tied to a Seventh-day Adventist Church. We want to help churches become the kind of place where it is easy and comfortable to invite folks."