April 22, 2013


"Before people benefit from the Good News, they're likely to be bothered by the bad news. If our goal is to avoid conflict, we need a different message. If, on the other hand, our goal is to be truthful (something more difficult than open-minded) and loving (something far better than tolerant), then we have the perfect message and the ideal model of how to proclaim it."  
- Randy Newman
Content Still King
Post Christian America?
Seven Mistakes in Public Speaking
NY13: Compassion March
NY13: Revelation of Hope Website Open
NETS Express Under Way
George Beverly Shea Dies
Refugee Relief
Spurgeon Fan?
Coptic Evangelism
Don't Tweet Like This
Sharing the Good News
Follow us on Twitter
You Know You Want To...
iTunes U
Editorial: Content Still King 
I wish the internet had been available when I was a kid. Apart from limited television and radio offerings, access to the outside world only came once a week when I pedaled my way across town to the library. In the summer, I'd often read through a significant portion of the night because darkness only lasted a couple of hours in northern latitudes. I strongly suspect that my early reading habits have contributed to poor sleeping patterns. I can only imagine little sleep I might have accumulated if podcasts had been available.

Today, my nights are still short, because they're filled with streaming audio. Often, I listen to podcasts created by people with a passion for evangelism.  Recently, I listened to a short podcast (less than ten minutes) dealing with why first time visitors to a church may not return. The usual suggestions quickly surfaced: the congregation wasn't friendly, the seating was poor, the service was confusing, felt needs were not met. All of these things, naturally, can lead to a lousy first experience and significantly dampen the likelihood of a repeat visit. Churches that pay attention to such details naturally improve the odds that they will building lasting relationships with members of the community.


There was something missing from the list of suggestions, however, and as I review a lot of the current material dealing with guest retention, I find it surprising how often this item is missing from the suggestions: content. What about what's said from the pulpit?  Does it play a role in winning guests back for a second visit?


Think about it.  You'll put up with a static-filled radio broadcast and a snowy TV picture (think back to pre-digital TV) if you think the content is important. You'll listen to someone with a poor speaking voice and a lack of stage presence if you sense that what's being said is vital. J. Vernon McGee had one of the worst radio voices in broadcasting history-yet he pulled massive audience numbers by simply teaching his way through the Bible. 


Sinners in need of a Savior will put up with a less-than-perfect curb appeal if the content from the pulpit is biblical, Christ-centered and life-changing. I'm not suggesting that you can do away with the niceties and the personal touches; you dare not. But if you are not offering the Bread of Life from the pulpit, you will also, in the long term, struggle to keep guests coming back. 

What you do doesn't have to be elaborate. You don't have to stun the congregation with your oratorical prowess. But you do have to offer sinners what they need most. "One sentence of Scripture is of more value than ten thousand of man's ideas or arguments," Ellen White reminds us (7 T 71).  


My ministering brethren, as you stand before the people, speak of those things that are essential, those things that will instruct. Teach the great practical truths that must be brought into the life. Teach the saving power of Jesus, "in whom we have redemption,... even the forgiveness of sins." Strive to make your hearers comprehend the power of truth. (GW 147)

It's amazing how tolerant an audience will be of oratorical style (or lack thereof) if you are humbly and honestly sharing from the Word.  A man sitting next to me on a plane recently expressed it well: "I'd rather hear a plumber talk honestly about what Christ has done for him and back it up with a simple, humble Bible study than hear another vacant thesis from the pulpit." 


Let's face it: there will always be somebody with better music. There will always be somebody with a nicer building and a wider variety of programs. But given the rich understanding of scripture bestowed on Seventh-day Adventists, there should be nobody else in your town who presents Christ more clearly from the pulpit.   


Is America Post-Christian?
Don't be too quick to declare American Christianity dead.  

A Rasmussen poll taken last Easter (2012) suggests that the vast majority-86%, in fact-of American adults polled believe that Jesus was a real historical figure. More importantly, 77% said that they believe that Jesus rose from the dead. A recent Pew Forum survey suggested that 36% attend church weekly, and only 16% of the American public say that religion is not an important part of their lives.  By comparison, only 17% of the American public regularly attended church at the end of the 18th century, when the nation was founded.
Add to that the unstoppable popularity of History Channel's The Bible, which is shattering records, and you have at least anecdotal indications that the general public in North America is far from done with Christianity and Christian themes. Apparently, God's Book is popular: Entertainment Weekly reports that the series sold a "stunning" 525,000 units in its first week of release on home video.  It beat out such popular offerings as HBO's Game of ThronesBand of Brothers and NBC's The Office.  The series closed over Easter Weekend with nearly 12 million viewers.   
Another statistic, this time from The Week: 34% of American adults favor making Christianity their state's official religion; 32% favor making it the national religion.  One third of the public still favoring an official blend of church and state is not only an indication that Christianity is far from dead; it should also be interesting to students of Revelation 13.  
To the probable chagrine of atheist prosyletizers like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, et al, atheism appears to be unpopular with the U.S. Postal service.  Atheist Shoes is a German shoe company that makes footwear "for people who don't believe in god(s)."  Their products are shipped to America sealed with branded tape: the word atheist is splashed across the package. The company claims that their packages take longer to deliver and are ten times more likely to disappear than when the word isn't displayed. Naturally, if their packages really are being targeted, that's utterly wrong and someone needs to answer for it-but the fact that European mail doesn't seem to disappear on the company is telling.  Is misguided religion the cause?   
From the other side of the pond: Speaking of Dawkins, a recent Spectator article indicates that his brand of polemics is falling out of fashion with the next generation of atheists: some are beginning to feel uncomfortable as they listen to his cut-and-dried attacks on religion. His caricatures of religion as the source of humanity's greatest ills are starting to bother some of his followers, who are beginning to admit that religion has done a lot of good.   
Seven Common Public Speaking Mistakes
Chuck Lawless
Chuck Lawless`

If you haven't been tracking Thom Rainer's blog, you might want to start: it's rich with practical suggestions that are easily adapted transported into a Seventh-day Adventist context.  

A recent feature article written by Chuck Lawless (Professor of Evangelism at Southeastern Seminary), for example, underscored seven key mistakes that public speakers often make.  

"I understand that humility may be the driving force behind [statements that emphasize the speakers' weakness]," Lawless writes. "Nevertheless, don't be surprised if the audience is uninterested after you've told them you're unexciting, unprepared, and/or unqualified. Let your hearers make that assessment without your help.  They might find you engaging and enlightening."
Click here to read all seven suggestions.  
NY13: Compassion March
Compassion resonated throughout New York city on the weekend of March 22-24, not just in words, but also in actions.  Jose Cortes, Jr., director for Youth Ministeries at the Atlantic Union points out that since March 22, "thousands of youth and young adults ... have been volunteering their time and provided 20 to 30,000 of voluntary service and love."  

The weekend involved young people volunteering their time showing compassion across New York City's boroughs and suburbs. The highlight of the weekend was the Compassion Rally, which involved a march against violence across the Brooklyn Bridge.  

You can read more about this inspiring event at the Greater New York Conference's website.  

There are YouTube videos documenting the Compassion rally here and here.    

NY13: Revelation of Hope Website Now Live
The Revelation of Hope website is now live. Church members can use this new website to invite friends and family to one of the more than 400 meetings taking place in metro NY in 2013.

Please take some time to browse the site and share with those you know in the greater New York City area. More evangelistic meeting sites are constantly being added daily. Search by your zip code to find a meeting, health seminar, youth, or Impacto 2013 event near you.
NETS Express
The Northeast Evangelism Training School (NETS) opened April 14 at the Jackson Heights Church in Woodside, New York.  It was the kick-off for a three-weekend, 15-hour NETS Express training experience-a key part of the NY13 comprehensive strategy.

NETS is an evangelistic training school that prepares soul-winners who are cross-trained in Bible work, health evangelism and public evangelism. Graduates are prepared for an entry level career in lay ministry or to more effectively serve God in their own churches, communities or schools.  You can read more about the program at their website.  

George Beverly Shea Dies
Legendary gospel singer George Beverly Shea, whose career spanned much of the 20th century and who long served the Rev. Billy Graham, died Tuesday, April 16 at the age of 104 in Asheville, North Carolina after a short illness.  His signature voice, for decades, inspired Billy Graham evangelistic audiences around the world. 
Shea will be interred today at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association released this official obituary last week.
USA Today remembers his long-time career in this article.  Time Magazine remembers him here, and the New York Times here.    
Refugee Relief: A Powerful Update
Imagine that you have no family, no home-no country! What would you do? Thousands of people find themselves in such a place-in the United States. They get off a plane or a boat with nothing.  A few months ago, we shared how the Paradise Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church (National City, CA) is reaching out to the refugee community and seeing amazing results, not only in the lives of those they help, but also in the growth of the church.  Under the direction of Pastor Will James, the program continues to flourish.  

Have a look at a recent video report from the program: you'll be powerfully inspired. In the words of Pastor James, "This is what makes ministry fun!"  

Are You a Spurgeon Fan?
Did you know that a woman gave her heart to Jesus after reading a single page of Spurgeon sermon wrapped around a brick of butter she'd purchased?   The prince of preachers is an evangelistic legend for a reason: he preached an average of ten sermons per week, bringing countless thousands to believe in Christ. Some estimate that his lifetime audience exceeding ten million people.  
Untold numbers of pastors with a passion for public evangelism seem to become fans of Charles Haddon Spurgeon along the way -including our own prince of preachers, H.M.S. Richards, Sr.  Thanks to Stephen McCaskill, who operates the website  www.chspurgeonquotes.com, here are 32 things you didn't know about Spurgeon.  

Coptic Evangelism
Coptic Evangelism
Evangelism among Muslims is a hot topic: how will we approach more than 1.6 billion adherents with the gospel of Jesus Christ?  An understanding of Islam and its relationship to Christianity in Middle Eastern countries is a useful tool to put in your kit; to that end, you may find this article recently published in Christianity Today quite useful. Authors Jayson Casper and Khalid Fahmi describe the challenges faced by Coptic Christians trying to live their faith against tremendous odds in Egypt. 
While you're in that frame of mind, have a look through this story, which hits a little closer to home because it involves Seventh-day Adventist families living in Pakistan. Christian homes in Lahore were recently destroyed by an angry mob because their occupants had allegedly blasphemed Mohammed.  The Adventist church was also attacked, but firefighters managed to save the building.  
How Not to Tweet
B2B Marketing
Last month, we presented tips on blog writing.  As a follow-up, we present tips from Alex Aspinall (head of digital content at B2B Marketing) on how to improve the impression you're making with Twitter. Pastors, evangelists and church members spend a lot of time wondering how they might be able to tap into the connectedness of Twitter (and other social networks) to share the gospel of Christ and introduce people to their churches-and this article may help you get started by reminding you what not to do. 
One of the best suggestions he offers is good advice no matter what platform you're using to share our message: Don't forget to be human
Jesus, after all, became fully human ... and we'd probably fare best if we appear human with our audiences.  
Register now for a FREE Webinar: Sharing the Good News in the 21st Century
Sung Kwon.
This month's webinar presentation will take place Tuesday, May 21 at 1:30pm EST.  Sung Kwon, Director of NAD Adventist Community Services and Co-founder of the Nonprofit Leadership Certification Program, will present Sharing the Good News in the 21st Century.
Because community outreach is the essence of our mission, Dr. Kwon will address why we have dualistic piety in our approach to community and church. He will focus on the essentials of community connectedness and share examples of church growth addressing these essentials. He also will share a better understanding of serving God and His people in Isaiah 58. Join us as we discuss the real essence of reaching communities around our churches.  
Find more information and register at our website.  

Follow NAD Ministerial on Twitter

If you haven't started following NAD Ministerial on Twitter, you haven't lived! OK, perhaps it's not as earth-shattering as that, but we would love to keep in touch and let you know what we're up to.  And it's easy.  Just click the link to follow.  

C'mon - you know you want to help!
Helping Hand

Remember what it was like when you got started with public evangelism?  How challenging it seemed?  Then remember how, later on, you discovered that someone had already discovered solutions to some of the problems that plagued you most - years ago?    

Someone out there is just getting started.  You have already faced a number of challenges, and God has blessed you with ideas to make life easier.  Don't let them discover - years from now - that you've already solved some of their biggest problems.  Let them discover it now!

Find out how to contribute to the discussion here.

Please write as if you are writing for an audience.  We're happy to do some light editing, but if you address it personally to the editors or submit it in the form of bullet points, it's not nearly as useful. 

Tools of the Trade: iTunes U

History classes are very useful if you're involved in public evangelism. Christianity, is, after all, an historical religion.  Consider opening a file somewhere and start keeping track of amazing stories from the world's past that bring the prophetic passages of Daniel and Revelation to life.  

Consider taking a course on Alexander the Great to broaden your understanding of who he was.  Spend some time in ancient Roman society. Understand what it meant to be a Persian in the ancient past, and broaden your understanding of life in the Middle Ages.  There are so many stories available to the evangelist that there is no excuse not be forever fresh in the pulpit.

Many of the leading universities are now making some their materials available-absolutely free-to the general public, and a good place to start is with Apple's iTunes U.  If you happen to own an iPad, you'll find the experience particularly rewarding, because that platform keeps your educational media organized in an app separate from your music.  But if you have no iPad, no worries: you can still access iTunes U through the iTunes store, which is available on both Mac and PC platforms.  
Best Practices for Adventist Ministry is published by NAD Ministerial. Editor: Shawn Boonstra; Managing Editor:  Dave Gemmell. Copyright 2012 North American Division Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists. v(301) 680-6418