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Creating a Logical Sequence of Topics in a Short Series Part 1
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By Russell Burrill

Through the years Adventists have varied greatly on how many sermons should be in a series of meetings so that people end up joining the Adventist church. Back in the early part of the 20th century, our forefathers conducted meetings every night for 6 months with nearly 180 sermons. They felt that was essential. In the 1950’s evangelist Fortyce Detamore shocked everyone by beginning to conduct 3 week meetings targeted to former Adventists. Later that got extended to four or five week meetings.
           
For over 50 years the expectation has been that you need 25-30 meetings to cover the message and see people make lasting decisions for Jesus. I have written extensively on how to conduct that type of meeting.[1]

However, in recent years the time frame has shortened again with many conducting meetings of two weeks duration or a maximum of 12 sermons, counting Sabbath morning.
           
The question that surfaces with this reduced series is what subjects do you cover and which subjects do you leave out? The purpose of this article is to suggest a logical sequence for a 12 message series of meetings.
           
In Adventist Evangelistic Preaching I lay out a basic philosophical foundation for the order in which you place subjects. The reader is urged to read that book for a detailed explanation.  The basic premise suggested there still applies to a short series. That premise is that there are three basic decisions one is seeking in an evangelistic meeting. The first is a decision for Jesus as one’s personal Savior. The second is an acceptance of the unique biblical message as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The third is the decision to become a part of the Adventist family.
           
That basic principle is what guides you in determining how you organize the topics for an evangelistic series, no matter how short or long the series is to be. This order does not and cannot change. Therefore at the beginning of the series you focus on leading people to Jesus, then on the basic testing truths and finally call for a decision to join the church and be baptized.
           
A short series operates on the assumption that the people who are attending have a basic understanding of the Adventist message. Perhaps they have been given Bible studies or have already been attending church. For this short series you assume that people are reviewing truths rather than being exposed to truths for the first time.
           
As you prepare this short series, you operate under this basic assumption. However you still must progress with people through the three stages. Because the audience already has basic exposure to the message, you should be short on stage one and two. Your primary focus is for the third decision to join the church. You cannot ignore the other two stages, but your whole purpose in the short series is for stage three.
           
There are various themes you can build as you put the series together. If you choose to do the series with a prophetic approach, then you must root each subject in Daniel or Revelation. If you choose another approach then you tie each subject to that approach. There are various ways to present the series in whatever format you desire, but you must arrange your topics in an order that leads people to Christ, to biblical truth, and finally to a decision to join the church.
           
Below is a suggest order of topics. This is one way to do it, but there can be others as well. I have listed the topic and then indicated whether that subject would be used to bring people to Christ, truth, or church. Remember the same topic can be used for different phases. It is all about how you use that topic.
 
      Jesus as the triune divine Son of God                               Christ
      Salvation by grace through acceptance of Jesus               Christ
      The Judgment beginning in 1844                                      Truth
      The Law of God                                                               Truth
      The Sabbath                                                                      Truth
      State of the Dead and Hell                                                Truth
      The Apostasy (Daniel 7, Revelation 13)                          Truth/Church
      The Mark of the Beast and Seal of God                           Church
      The US in Bible Prophecy                                                Church
      The Remnant Church                                                        Church
      The Ministry of Ellen White                                            Church
      A Final Appeal Sermon                                                    Church
 
You will notice there are only two sermons on bringing people to Jesus because that is assumed since these people have previous contact. There are then 4 or 5 sermons on the basic message that covers the law, Sabbath and state of the dead. Then there are 5 or 6 sermons on calling people to join the church. Because of the short series your emphasis must be on the decision to join the church. That is seen in the emphasis demonstrated above.
           
Recognizing that people who would attend this series already have a basic background in the message as taught by the Adventist church, this is a possible order of topics that enables you to progress logically with these people to a final decision to join the Adventist family. In that sense this is a true reaping series.
           
Russell Burrill, Professor Emeritus of Church Growth, SDA Seminary, Andrews University
 
 
 
[1] The reader is referred to the books, Adventist Evangelistic Preaching, Pacific Press. 2014 and the book Reaping the Harvest, HART books, 2007