The largest mass baptism in the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s history is poised to grow a lot bigger.
Just weeks after inviting Adventist believers worldwide to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on a major evangelistic initiative in Rwanda, church leaders announced that the initiative is now expected to result in 100,000 baptisms in May, nearly double the previously projected 60,000.
Interest from church members and possible baptismal candidates has soared to unprecedented levels, said Duane McKey, a coordinator for the Rwanda event and a special assistant to Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson.
“Yes, I think they can do it,” McKey, who just wrapped up a visit to Rwanda, said of local church leaders’ expectations of baptizing 100,000. “With all the prayer conferences that Jerry and Janet Page did across the country and then with the ASI DVD training that we did last week, churches are very excited.”
Crowds of church members flocked to 15 days of prayer and revival conferences led by Jerry Page, secretary of the Adventist world church’s Ministerial Association, and his wife, Janet Page, associate secretary, in each of the church’s seven conferences, missions, and fields in Rwanda in February. The intensive meetings were organized to prepare 2,300 people to conduct two-week evangelistic programs at 2,300 sites across the African country, culminating with the mass baptism on Sabbath, May 28.
But McKey said the number of people who had sought and received training reached at least 50 percent more than the anticipated 2,300, and all were eager to prepare friends and neighbors for baptism.
Last week McKey and ASI leaders visited Rwanda to distribute 2,500 sermon presentations on DVD and in printed form for the two-week evangelistic meetings. The materials were supplied by ASI, a supporting ministry of the Adventist Church.
The united prayers of church members, including Adventist Review readers, could well be playing a role in the revival currently under way in Rwanda. McKey, speaking in an article published on the Adventist Review website in early February, asked members to pray for Rwanda.
“We are asking God to pour out His Spirit on the country like never before,” he said.
Rwanda is the latest country where the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, has placed a renewed emphasis on large-scale evangelism. More than 10,000 people were baptized in the Philippine capital, Manila, and other places in May 2014 after months of Bible studies and community programs culminated in two final weeks of evangelistic meetings. A similar effort unfolded in Zimbabwe, resulting in 30,000 baptisms in May 2015, and the U.S. city of San Antonio, resulting in several hundred baptisms last summer.
The Zimbabwe baptisms represent the largest group baptism in the church’s 153-year history. The Adventist Church, founded with just 3,500 members in 1863, currently has nearly 19 million members worldwide.
The mass baptisms have drawn comparisons to the Day of Pentecost in the biblical book of Acts, when an outpouring of the Holy Spirit resulted in 3,000 baptisms. The Bible also speaks about a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days of Earth’s history.
“God is blessing beyond imagination as church members and pastors prepare for the enormous evangelistic series,” said Wilson, who will lead meetings at one of the 2,300 sites in Rwanda. “I am very excited to see what God will do through dedicated members inviting and working with those who will attend the meetings.”
In the run-up to two weeks of evangelistic meetings, thousands of local pastors and church members are giving Voice of Prophecy Bible study lessons, organizing health seminars, doing community service, and engaging in other forms of outreach aimed at touching people’s hearts with the Advent message.
The efforts are part of Adventist Church’s Total Member Involvement initiative, which encourages each church member to find ways to actively share Jesus in the local community.
Wilson appealed for church members to continue to pray for Rwanda’s population of 12 million and for each of the 645,000 Adventist believers in the country.
“Please pray for Rwanda and our church members as they work in a united way to proclaim the good news of Christ’s coming,” he said. “As we see the world around us disintegrating, let us lift up the great hope of Jesus our coming King.”