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Transformational Evangelism
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Transformational Pastors and Congregations
 
By: Ken Denslow

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About a year and a half ago, NAD president, Elder Dan Jackson, came to the administrative team with a list of six areas of emphasis for us to consider as the basis for the NAD agenda going into the next few years. These were unpacked, discussed, tweaked and became the Building Blocks of the NAD strategic plan that were shared with division leaders at the 2012 NAD Year End Meetings. They are:
 
  • Adventist Learning Community
  • Emerging Immigrant Groups
  • Retention of Young Adults
  • Social Media
  • Transformational Evangelism
  • Women in Ministry
 
Subsequently, these were discussed and voted by the NAD Executive Committee. It seems to me that the most far-reaching, all-encompassing of the Building Blocks is Transformational Evangelism. It takes in the very reason for the existence of the church. It is the fulfillment of the last command of Jesus before His ascension – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18 – 20. In a sense, it is the glue that holds the other five building blocks together.
 
It has been over a year since the vote to pursue these building blocks. The NAD Ministerial Department and I have been charged with the development of this Transformational Evangelism block. The one thing that I can say for sure at this point is that we have taken on a huge task – one that is much bigger than any of us imagined. Let me give you a little history of the development of this building block.
 
As the Transformational Evangelism Building Block was originally conceived it was to be the NAD articulation of the General Conference initiative, Mission to the Cities. But as we talked there arose a desire to do more than just create plans to stimulate more baptisms in large urban areas. What we really need is a movement that is all about discipleship. We don’t want to just baptize people, we want to see them retained in the Church – Kingdom growth. We talked about what it would look like for the church to REALLY be a presence in the community. What would it take to get people out of the comfort of the walls of the church building? In what ways could we impact our world?
 
We have all been involved in public evangelism and it continues to be the largest producer of baptisms, by far. And yet, we lose far too many people from the church rolls after their baptism. Transformational Evangelism will continue to support public evangelism but it is all about creating a congregational life and context that is conducive to keeping and growing members. In the best scenario, people who take their stand for Christ and His Church at a public evangelistic meeting already have a relationship with the local congregation. But sadly, that is often not the case. I remember a young man who was baptized and completely wrapped up in his new friendship with Jesus. One day, I overheard a couple of the church ladies in the foyer of the church talking about him. One said, “All he ever wants to talk about is Jesus.” The other one replied, “Don’t worry, he’ll get over it.” Happily, thirty years later, he is still talking about Jesus!
 
So, what we are really talking about now is a change of culture. Recognition of this is found in the world church emphasis on Revival and Reformation (in the NAD referred to as Revival and Transformation, one of our core values). The huge challenge that we face is how do you change a church culture that is spread over an entire continent, very diverse and, in many places, inert.
 
What is Transformational Evangelism? In Luke 13:18 – 21, Jesus says, through the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven, that the Kingdom of God grows and transforms the world. When conversion happens in my life all things change, I am transformed. A new seed is planted in me that grows throughout my lifetime. I produce the fruit of the spirit. I am not the same and because I am not the same. The space around me changes – for good.
 
When I first met Joe he was illiterate, obese, unemployed and pathologically shy. He came to an evangelistic series and there came to know Jesus and as a result his life was transformed. Miraculously through prayer, he learned to read for the first time because, as he put, it: “I wanted to be able to read the Bible so that I could know Jesus better.” Over time he lost a LOT of weight because, “I thought I could be a better witness for Jesus if I was healthy.” Eventually he became an elder in his church. A new man, transformed by the grace of God! That is what we mean by Transformational Evangelism.
 
In a sentence, here is what it comes down to. Transformational Evangelism happens in a transformational congregation, which is led by a transformational pastor.
 
If it is the grace of God through Christ and the Holy Spirit that transforms people, it is vital that the “body of Christ” reflect that transforming grace. If we are going to experience lasting and transforming evangelism it must be in the context of a community that reflects transforming grace--A healthy congregation. We think that there are good resources available to help us assess the health of the local congregation such as Natural Church Development. Through the Transformational Evangelism Building Block we want to push for congregations to assess their health and their ability to forward healthy evangelism.
 
Healthy, transforming churches are led by healthy, transformed and well-equipped pastors. Over the last two years, the NAD Ministerial Department has been working hard at the development of a list of core competencies for the Adventist pastor. There has been a lot of study, prayer, and vetting in this process. These competencies will be the basis for evaluating how we should go about selecting, training and equipping our pastors in the North American Division.
 
Funding Initiatives Taken in 2013
At the NAD Year End Meeting this fall, we reported the following initiatives in pursuit of the goals of Transformational Evangelism.
 
Project stimulus grants ($400,000)
The Church already has a program, Global Mission, that funds church planting projects in unreached areas or among unreached people groups. But there are many areas that have a church presence but growth is not happening. Sometimes the lack of growth is simply because there is a lack of financial or human resources. Sometimes it is due to a lack of ideas. This program addresses those areas.
 
Eight of the nine Unions (Atlantic Union has already received its funding as part of NY13) will receive grants of $50,000 to undertake a conference-proposed sustainable transformational evangelism model. The intent is to especially focus on under-resourced territories. The hardest money to find is that with which to try new, untested and sometimes risky ideas. These funds are for that purpose. This is, in essence, research and development money.
 
To qualify for the funding from the NAD, the local Union will need to match at least 50% of the $50,000 grant. Conferences will be invited to submit proposals to their union for consideration. Each union will select a project to receive these funds. Project proposals will need to be at the local union no later than April 1, 2014. The funding will be available from the NAD on April 30, 2014.
 
Those conferences that submit proposals are encouraged to use whatever Union or NAD departmental support available in planning and implementation. There are other resources within our division that should not be overlooked in the process, the North American Division Evangelism Institute, Seminars Unlimited, the media ministries, our colleges and universities, Adventist healthcare, Adventist Information Ministry (surely, I am forgetting somebody). All of these stand ready to collaborate, but it will be at the initiation of the local field.
 
Here are some suggested project criteria:
  1. locations with a low member to non-member ratio
  2. incarnational – members reside and are involved in the targeted area
  3. the congregation has a voted plan for engaging in a transformational evangelism cycle which will include assessment of community needs and matching with church resources with the goal to transform some aspect of the local community.

Conferences will complete an NAD supplied reporting form Conferences that receive this funding will be required to give annual reports to the NAD for three years. The purpose of the reporting is both for accountability and so that the stories can be shared throughout the field.
 
Transformational Evangelism Conventions - $60,000
As part of the General Conference program, Mission to the Cities, each of the nine unions has designated a city to emphasize for evangelism. A couple of unions have already concluded their meetings but most have not. Here is a Union by Union listing of target cities:
 
Atlantic Union                        New York City
Columbia Union                    TBD
Lake Union                             Indianapolis
Mid-America Union               St. Louis
North Pacific Union               Seattle
Pacific Union                          San Francisco Bay Area
SDA Church in Canada         Edmonton
Southern Union                     Memphis
Southwestern Union             San Antonio
 
This initiative is about supporting the congregations that are in the target cities of Mission to the cities. During the next year, the NAD will work with three unions and the congregations and conferences in their targeted cities to provide a planning and training event for members in outreach ministry.
 
The ministries of the NAD, Adult, Community Services, Health, Youth, etc., are anxious to collaborate in this initiative.
 
Every two or three years the NAD conducts a Ministries Convention. It is always well done and much appreciated by those who attend. Its targeted to conference and union ministries directors. There are lay church members who attend but many are not able to come because of time and cost.  This initiative provides for training that is aimed directly at the local church member. The convention will be in their backyard. And most importantly, it will be tailored by the local field to meet the local needs.
 
Here are some criteria:
  1. Unions to select the cities (already done)
  2. Community assessment to be completed at least three months prior to determine what sorts of needs are to be met (the NAD Assessment office can be a resource for this)
  3. Event facilities to be coordinated and funded by the local committee
  4. Cost of training and materials to be funded from the $20,000 grant.
  5. Travel costs for NAD personnel will be covered by their travel budgets not the grant
 

Doctor of Ministry Project Grants - $40,000
One way to stimulate thinking about Transformational Evangelism and new approaches to is to have thought leaders studying, writing and experimenting on the topic. Through this initiative we wish to stimulate research of urban needs and ministry throughout our division to the creation and implementation of a variety of models of sustainable Transformational Evangelism.
 
This initiative provides sixteen employed pastors who are in the Doctor of Ministry program at Andrews University with a grant of $2500 toward their project. This is a cooperative effort between the Adventist Theological Seminary and the NAD Ministerial Department.


Here are the criteria:
  1. The pastors must implement these projects in partnership with their conferences.
  2.  There will be a limit of one pastor and one grant per conference.
  3. A copy to the completed project will be submitted to the NAD Transformational Evangelism office.