Happy St. Patrick’s Day! – Learn about the Real St. Patrick

St. Patrick was not Irish or Catholic. He was a British, Bible-believing Sabbath-keeping Church Planter in Ireland in the 5th Century! Here’s more about the real St. Patrick rather than the legends and fairy tales…

  1. Watch a video about Patrick and the Sabbath.
  2. Read Patrick’s personal testimony (“Confession”) about his conversion, faithfulness to the Bible and missionary work.
  3. Read about the Roman Church leaders threatening the Bible believing Irish in the 6th Century here in The Great Controversy.
  4. Today the ratio of Seventh-day Adventists to the population in the Irish Mission territory is 1:10,069.
  5. If you’d like to take a mission trip to help in Ireland or some other major mission field you might be able to get some assistance here.
  6. Other items
    1. Download a free copy of The Celtic Church in Britain by Leslie Hardinge.
    2. Download a free copy of Truth Triumphant by Benjamin George Wilkinson. See Chapter 7.
    3. Sites to see on an Irish church history tour.
    4. Pictures from an Irish church history tour.

May we all be faithful to both God’s Word and His Global Mission!

Blessings to you,

Dan Serns

Posted in Bible Study, Changed Lives, Church Planting, Church School, Global Missions, Prayer, Sabbath, Soul Winning, Why Not Try This...? | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Baptizing During a Pandemic!

(An abbreviated form of this article is the Evangelism & Sabbath School Report to the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Mid-term Constituency in May 2021.)

Jesus is transforming people’s lives all over Texas, but how do you baptize them during a pandemic?

Verna was cutting a young man’s hair in the salon where she worked when they started talking about Jesus and the Bible. At the end of the conversation the young man, Pastor Jacob Serns, asked if she would like Bible studies and she agreed. As she learned Bible truths she put them into practice. Then she went through a testing time when her boss fired her for not working on the Sabbath any more. But she was determined to follow Jesus in every part of her life, including keeping His Sabbath holy. In August 2020, Pastor Jacob baptized her in the back of a pick up truck because there was no baptistry in the church the newly planted Benbrook Seventh-day Adventist church was renting.

The Lerma family had been receiving Bible studies from Pastor Marlon Wallace ever since they attended a public evangelistic meeting in Brownsville. They were now ready for baptism but what could they do with church buildings closed? They headed out to the Gulf of Mexico where the four of them were baptized in September 2020. Melissa, the mom, is now preparing to be one of the 100+ Volunteer Evangelists who will have their own evangelist meetings this spring.

Emir and Destiney didn’t want to wait any longer to publicly unite with Jesus and the Seventh-day Adventist movement in spite of COVID concerns. So in October 2020, with Destiny nine months pregnant, they were baptized by Pastor Enoc Garcia in the swimming pool of a member of the Magnolia Park Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Jaqui, as a student at Southwestern Adventist University, was surrounded by teachers and students who were praying for her, including Religion Professor Michael Campbell. In November 2020 she was baptized and united with the Seventh-day Adventist movement to show she belongs fully to Jesus and wants to use the talents He has given her to help others be ready for His return.

This fall the Longview English Seventh-day Adventist Church hosted two online Bible seminars – Unlocking Bible Prophecies by Cami Oetman and Revelation NOW by Doug Batchelor. Those who were comfortable could watch on the screen in the sanctuary with social distancing and those who weren’t comfortable could watch online and have the Bible lessons delivered to their homes. In December 2020 Pastor Omar Rodriguez baptized 17 precious people, including one who had been watching online 300 hundred miles away and drove all the way there because he didn’t want to miss out. Church member Patricia Lohman, who organized much of the series, is preparing to be a Volunteer Evangelist this spring.

There is a new church group growing up among Cambodians and Laotians south of Houston in Rosharon, Texas. Two new members were baptized by Pastor Scott Griswold in January 2021, both from Buddhist backgrounds. After Hurricane Harvey in 2017 a team from Reach the World Next Door, a ministry to reach the least reached in the Houston area and beyond, began working in the community to meet needs and share Jesus. This baptism and group are a result of building relationships with this refugee community.

A pandemic may force us to use different methods but it will never stop Jesus’ message and mission!

What can you do to take the Adventist message to all your world? Here are a few simple ideas. 

You can use your…

  1. Eyes – to watch for Divine appointments.
  2. Mouth – to say something good about Jesus each day and be a prayer warrior.
  3. Hands – to give out GLOW tracts and feed the hungry.
  4. Smart Phone – to send notes of encouragement and be a cell phone evangelist
  5. Computer – to be a Zoom Group Leader to build a sense of community, meet needs and give Bible studies.
  6. Home – to show hospitality and host a small group.
  7. Friendships – to get together for planning and prayer then be Volunteer Evangelists in your neighborhood or place of work/study. 
  8. Mind – to come up with other ways to let the whole world know that Jesus loves them and He’s coming again soon!

—————

Sidebar

2019-2020 Texas Evangelism Activities

  • Baptisms & Professions of Faith – 2019 – 2,451; 2020 (Covid) – 1,435
  • About 3,000 members participated in Total Member Involvement Area Trainings
  • 650 zoom groups initiated (500 Spanish, 150 English)
  • About 12 Southwestern Adventist University students participated in the SWORD (Soul Winning, Outreach, Discipleship) program each semester
  • Reach the World Next Door trained dozens of members in how to share their faith with refugees, immigrants and international students
  • God’s Final Message small group materials produced for Texas and beyond
  • Many churches participated in online and in-person evangelism and interest follow up with series such as Hope Awakens by John Bradshaw, Unlocking Bible Prophecies by Cami Oetman, Revelation NOW by Doug Batchelor and the Conectados series in Spanish churches
  • Completed Multiply Tarrant County Church Planting Project; Began Multiply Cameron County
  • Texas Waldenses Project (2015-2020) to assist Middle East North Africa
    • 13 Short term trips involving 39 people
    • 7 Medium and long term volunteers/workers
    • Training for 45 people in English conversation ministry

2021 Plans

  • Provide materials, mentoring and money to Pastoral Districts to take the Adventist message to new people, new communities and new parts of the world
  • In partnership with Adventist World Radio, Southwestern Union, Southwest Region
    • Spring (May 1-15) – Volunteer Evangelists
    • Fall (September 11-18) – Guest Evangelists in every DFW & Houston/Bay Area church and company
  • In partnership with Communications Department
    • Produce “28 Pictures of Jesus” video clips (3-5 minutes) on each of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs in a Jesus-centered way
    • Produce “Let’s Go Adventist Podcast” on how to share your faith in Jesus with others
  • In partnership with Hispanic Ministries & Church Planting
    • Multiply Cameron County – continue church planting efforts
  • In partnership with Literature Ministries and Young Adults Campus Ministries
    • Continue SWORD program to establish Adventist work in the TCU area
  • In partnership with Stewardship and Trust Ministries
    • Develop a Donor Menu for special gifts for Evangelism in Texas

——————–

Sabbath School

  • Training provided at Total Member Involvement area trainings
  • Subsidized zoom accounts provided for all Sabbath School groups if desired
  • Sabbath School Quarterly app by Adventech available free in app stores 
  • Mission offerings given in 2019 and 2020 help support global mission
Posted in Adventist Education, Bible Study, Changed Lives, Church Planting, Global Missions, Outreach, Pastoring, Sabbath, Soul Winning, Why Not Try This...? | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pastoral Visitation Made Easier

I once saw a cartoon. In the first frame a pastor was visiting with someone in their home but thinking “I really should be working on my sermon.” In the second frame the same pastor was working on his sermon and thinking “I really should be out visiting.”

Is it possible to balance both? Or will visitation always take a back seat to preaching because there isn’t a weekly deadline? (See Inspired Insights below.)

Here are three keys that have helped me in pastoral visitation. Feel free to use or adapt them to your situation.

  1. Don’t do it alone.

I was going to a new district and wanted to get into as many homes as possible. So I blocked off nineteen evenings for visitation in my first two months. I sent the dates to the first elder Rich Cavaness and asked him to work with the other elders to set up a schedule where they would go visiting with me. I would meet the designated elder at the church building at 6:30pm and have them back by 9pm. They could pick who we visited that evening or if they didn’t have anyone I would pick some families from the church directory. When female elders were involved we always worked in a team of three so there would never be a question of healthy relationship boundaries within the church. As we made our visits to families of members and interests my elders and I were bonding because of our on-the-job ministry together. By the end of the two months I knew all of my elders well and many of our members and interests.

One evening while visiting with elders Trudy Dant and Joni Steinberg we stopped by a care home for the elderly owned by some church members. When it was time to go I invited the family to join us for prayer along with several residents in the room.

Joni looked at one of the residents and all of a sudden almost shouted “Is that you Ruth?”

The elderly lady looked up quizzically. “My name is Ruth. Do you know me?”

“Twenty years ago did you live in that apartment complex downtown?” Joni described the apartment complex.

“Yes I did.”

“Ruth, you were the cookie lady!” Ruth smiled and nodded. “You often made cookies for those of us who lived there and you were always so kind. Back then I was far, far from God but you were always so sweet.”

The care home owners said “Ruth is one of our church members but she doesn’t get out much any more.”

I smiled at Ruth and said “All those years ago God worked through your kindness and the kindness of others so that Joni surrendered her life to Jesus and united with His final movement. She is now one of the elders in your church family.”

What an amazing providential reunion! But it never would have happened if I had been making the visits alone.

2. Make it high priority your first 90 days in a district.

It was my first Sabbath in a new district. After potluck I met with the Elders to talk about our mission of reaching the 1.5 million people in the metro area where God had placed us. I told them my first priority was to strengthen the connections within the church family and between each family and the Lord. I told them I would be sending a letter to every household on our church records letting them know they would be contacted by a church leader within the next 90 days to arrange for a simple survey if possible. The letter would state that if they did not hear from a church leader within 90 days they could call the church office and I as pastor would take them out to eat within ten days.

“But pastor, you’ll go broke!” one said jokingly.

“You don’t expect me to pay for all the meals if the church leaders aren’t doing their job, do you?” I teased back.

“Well how are you going to do it?” another asked.

“I’m glad you asked! I want each of you to pick ten families in our church directory to survey. One of the questions on the survey is ‘Are you willing to help with this survey of our church family?’ Pick families who you think will be likely to say ‘yes.'” I had the master church directory and they began a good-natured draft of picking names, bantering for those they thought would be most likely to become involved. “Twice a month we will meet after a potluck to talk about our experiences. Invite everyone you survey who is willing to be involved so they can come, participate in the meeting and pick their ten families.”

At that first meeting there were eight elders. At the next meeting there were about 15 people. By our last meeting of the 90 days we had almost fifty willing people to survey a church of around 400 members. One elder told me “I’ve known Russ for ten years, but after the survey I know him ten times better!” Another elder said “We’ve always been told as elders we should be visiting the members but this survey makes it easy and fun.” Another leader said “I had no idea there were so many members willing to get involved in something like this.”

After the 90 days were over four families called the church office to say they had been missed and they were looking forward to going out to eat with the pastor. I had a good time with each of them. During one of those meals I discovered that Steve Leslie’s wife Karen had never become a Seventh-day Adventist even though she had been attending church for years. Within two months she joined on Profession of Faith and a year or two later became the secretary at the local academy. In visiting over a meal with Chris and Cindy Christensen I discovered their interests and gifts. Within a year she was Head Deaconess and he was leading a small group.

What about visitation after the first 90 days in a district? One evening a week I continued visiting with one of the elders on a rotating basis. We would focus on short visits to new members and new interests. And because the members knew each other much better after the initial survey there was a lot of informal visiting that continued on.

I have found doorstep visits to be very effective in my ministry even while pastoring a 900+ member church. Monday evening I would meet with a team of lay people and give out names of interests and inactive members so they could go two by two to make doorstep visits along with me. If people are regular attenders then I tried to schedule the visits. But if they aren’t, then a doorstep visit oftentimes gave us a chance to connect them stronger with the church. If no one answers the door we just left a simple note saying we’re sorry we missed them with our names and phone number, the date & time and a Bible verse. We also gave spiritual growth packets (See item #2 at this link) to every church family each quarter, delivering packets to the doorsteps of those who didn’t pick up theirs at the church. During COVID a doorstep visit may be the only kind you can make in some situations.

Recently my wife and I made a doorstep visit to somebody who had visited the church we are helping plant two Sabbaths in a row but then didn’t come back for a month. When we got there we were invited in and discovered the crisis they were dealing with. On our way home we both talked about how God had led us there.

3. Remember why you are visiting.

Visitation is not just socializing. It has an eternal purpose. I teach those visiting to pray for the people before going to their house, identify yourself at the door, find a quick way to connect with the person you’re visiting and then include these things…

  1. Listen briefly to their story. Ask questions such as “How has God brought you to this place in your life?” “How did you become a Seventh-day Adventist?” “What is your favorite Bible story, Bible promise and/or Christian song?”
  2. Read a promise from their Bible. Ask “May I read you something from your Bible?” Share a verse or two and some encouraging words about God’s love and care.
  3. Connect them with a group or ministry if they aren’t already. Ask “Have you found a Sabbath School class you enjoy?” “Have you found a ministry you enjoy?”
  4. Pray for their needs, family, friends and neighborhood. Ask “What prayer requests do you have?” “Who are some people you would like to see surrender their lives fully to Jesus?” Then say “Let’s pray for them right now.” Pray a faith-filled, positive, Christ-centered prayer.
  5. Leave a piece of literature with them by their open Bible.

It isn’t necessary to make long visits. Sometimes a doorstep visit is all that is needed. Sometimes you are invited in. But if you need a longer follow up visit you can schedule it right then, at their home or over lunch or during a break at their work.

Someday, at the end of our ministry here on earth, we need to be able to say to our church leaders and members “You know, from the first day that I came to [this district], in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me…; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.” Acts 20:18-20

Blessings to you,

Dan Serns

Inspired Insights on Visitation

  1. Hundreds of men and women now idle could do acceptable service. By carrying the truth into the homes of their neighbors and friends, they could do a great work for the Master. God is no respecter of persons. He will use humble, devoted Christians who have the love of the truth in their hearts. Let such ones engage in service for him by doing house-to-house work. Sitting by the fireside, such men—if humble, discreet, and godly—can do more to meet the real needs of families than could a minister.—The Review and Herald, August 26, 1902. {Pastoral Ministry 133.4}
  2. There are those who think it is their duty to preach the truth, but they dare not venture from the shore, and they catch no fish. They will choose to go among the churches, over and over the same ground. They report a good time, a pleasant visit, but we look in vain for the souls that are converted to the truth through their instrumentality. These ministers hug the shore too closely. Let them launch out into the deep, and cast their net where the fish are. There is no lack of work to be done. There could be hundreds employed in the vineyard of the Lord where there is now one.— Evangelism p. 59.3
  3. A minister may enjoy sermonizing; for it is the pleasant part of the work, and is comparatively easy; but no minister should be measured by his ability as a speaker. The harder part comes after he leaves the desk, in watering the seed sown. The interest awakened should be followed up by personal labor,—visiting, holding Bible readings, teaching how to search the Scriptures, praying with families and interested ones, seeking to deepen the impression made upon hearts and consciences.—Testimonies for the Church 5:255. {Pastoral Ministry 133.1}
  4. Let him visit his hearers at their homes, not waiting for invitations, but going as one sent of God. Let him invite himself to the people’s homes, in meekness and humbleness of mind seeking admission, and then present to them a sin-pardoning Saviour. The minister, when visiting at the homes of the people, is not to spend the precious time in mere talk upon common themes of conversation, but he is to watch for an opportunity to introduce them to his best Friend. Too often men and women are indifferent and careless in regard to that which concerns their spiritual interests, but even to this class, a word in season may be as seed dropped into good soil.—The Review and Herald, March 11, 1902. {Pastoral Ministry 132.2}
  5. But there is another point that I had almost forgotten. It is the influence which the preacher should exert in his ministry. His work is not merely to stand in the desk. It is but just begun there. He should enter the different families, and carry Christ there, carry his sermons there, carry them out in his actions and his words. As he visits a family he should inquire into their condition. Is he the shepherd of the flock? The work of a shepherd is not all done in the desk. He should talk with all the members of the flock, with the parents to learn their standing, and with the children to learn theirs. A minister should feed the flock over which God has made him overseer. It would be agreeable to go into the house and study; but if you do this to the neglect of the work which God has commissioned you to perform, you do wrong. Never enter a family without inviting them together, and bowing down and praying with them before you leave. Inquire into the health of their souls. What does a skillful physician do? He inquires into the particulars of the case, then seeks to administer remedies. Just so the physician of the soul should inquire into the spiritual maladies with which the members of his flock are afflicted, then go to work to administer the proper remedies, and ask the Great Physician to come to his aid. Give them the help that they need. Such ministers will receive all that respect and honor which is due them as ministers of Christ. And in doing for others their own souls will be kept alive. They must be drawing strength from God in order to impart strength to those to whom they shall minister.—Testimonies for the Church 2:618. {Pastoral Ministry 230.1}
  6. Those who labor for God have but just begun the work when they have given a discourse in the desk. After this comes the real labor, the visiting from house to house, conversing with members of families, praying with them, and coming close in sympathy to those whom we wish to benefit. It will not detract from the dignity of a minister of Christ to be awake to see and realize the temporal burdens and cares of the families he visits, and to be useful, seeking to relieve them where he can by engaging in physical labor. In this way he can have a power of influence to disarm opposition and break down prejudice, that he would fail to have if he were in every other respect fully efficient as a minister of Christ. {Testimonies, volume 3, page 558.3}

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Great Controversy Project- The Waldenses

Chapter Title: The Waldenses

Read online

Favorite Quotation: “The persecutions visited for many centuries upon this God-fearing people [the Waldenses] were endured by them with a patience and constancy that honored their Redeemer. Notwithstanding the crusades against them, and the inhuman butchery to which they were subjected, they continued to send out their missionaries to scatter the precious truth. They were hunted to death; yet their blood watered the seed sown, and it failed not of yielding fruit. Thus the Waldenses witnessed for God centuries before the birth of Luther. Scattered over many lands, they planted the seeds of the Reformation that began in the time of Wycliffe, grew broad and deep in the days of Luther, and is to be carried forward to the close of time by those who also are willing to suffer all things for “the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 1:9.” P. 78.

Lessons I’ve Learned:

  1. Among the Waldenses of the early Dark Ages, the Bible was the final authority in all of life, including worship, lifestyle, mission and the training of youth. It was studied, copied, and applied to the life even if it meant persecution and death.
  2. Young people were taught to recognize God in nature, to endure hardship, to think for themselves, to submit to their parents’ authority and to copy and memorize large portions of the Bible.
  3. In addition to the regular training every Waldensian youth received, each future pastor learned a trade to support himself. He spent three years in evangelistic mission service with an older, more experienced worker to teach him a spirit of self-denial and sacrifice before being assigned a church at home. This “missionary internship” also gave him experience in his future responsibilities of preaching the gospel, visiting the sick, training the children, counseling the wayward and settling differences among believers to promote unity within the church.
  4. The Waldenses did not simply hide out in the valleys where they lived. As they studied the Bible, accepted the gospel and the Bible truths, and saw the prophecies being fulfilled they devised every means possible to tell the entire world about the hope in their hearts. Children and youth were trained from their mother’s knee to share Jesus and the Bible for the rest of their lives.
  5. Although persecuted off and on for centuries, the Waldenses would rather lose possessions, property, comfort and even life itself than to participate in false religion or abandon their Bible faith.
  6. For additional lessons click here.

Comments: As the Roman Empire morphed into the Roman Church Empire, a religious and political union, the Roman armies took the Roman brand of Christianity wherever they went. This led to a separation from the Roman Church system by many groups throughout the former Roman Empire who gave priority to the Bible over church tradition and papal decrees. The Waldenses (”people of the valleys”) were one of these groups. For centuries during the Dark Ages the Waldenses kept truth alive by copying the Bible and taking its precious truth throughout Europe, sometimes at the cost of their lives. They trained their young people from their earliest years to be missionaries, later sending them under the guidance of more experienced workers into the cities as college students or merchants. Always looking for interested people they would share promises from God’s Word and sometimes portions of the Bible they had copied or memorized, before going on their way. Only in heaven will we learn the full impact of their faithful ministry.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What role did the Bible play in the lives of the Waldenses? What role does the Bible play in your life?
  2. What were some of the methods used for training Waldensian youth? Do you have children/youth in your home, church or school who could benefit from some of the training methods of the Waldenses?
  3. How were future Waldensian pastors mentored? What are you doing to mentor a young person in Bible study, service, ministry and witnessing?
  4. What were some of the Bible promises the Waldenses shared with others to bring them hope and freedom from the papal lies? What are some of your favorite Bible promises?
  5. What motivated the Waldenses to have missionary zeal? Do you have missionary zeal? Can you remember how wonderful it was the first time you understood the plan of redemption and the blessings of Bible truths and prophecy? How can you step out of your comfort zone this week to share Jesus and Bible truth with someone else?
  6. How did one of the popes motivate people to destroy the Waldenses? Do you love Jesus enough to die for Him? Do you value the truths of the Bible enough to follow them no matter what the cost? Do you realize that there is a life and death struggle for your soul going on every day and you can choose to place yourself on the side of Jesus?

Family Worship Activity: The Waldenses copied the Bible in the days before printing. Since it was God’s Word it was very important to copy each word very carefully and accurately. As a family choose a section from the Bible to carefully copy. Assign a number of verses to each person, taking into account their age. Each person copies his section perhaps with sacred music playing in the background. Exchange papers and check for accuracy, making corrections as needed. When finished staple the pages together so the entire Bible passage can be read page by page. Add an attractive homemade cover if desired. Materials needed: a sheet of paper, pen and Bible for each person, stapler, sacred background music if desired.

Hi there! I’m Dan Serns. I grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist pastor’s home but strayed from God in my younger days. But after a re-conversion during my junior year of college I went to Korea as a Student Missionary. That experience put in my heart a passion for Jesus, soul winning, missions, and leadership development that is still burning today. God has given me a wonderful family. I serve as the Evangelism Director at Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

The Great Controversy Project- Read It! Share It!

The Great Controversy is a book that gives a Bible-based outline of church history and Bible prophecy stretching from the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD to the final events of earth and beyond.

Since it was written in the 1800s it has been published in many languages and titles.

Read or listen to it online at www.egwwritings.org

Share it with friends. You can purchase copies at www.adventistbookcenter.com.

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Pray for and Reach out to Religious Leaders in Your Area

Sihk Temple Leader who received a book from Pastor Adam

In 2012 the Richardson Seventh-day Adventist Church initiated “The Great Controversy Project (Read It! Share It!).”  As part of the project Pastors Dan Serns and Adam Keating distributed God’s Holy Word: Is It Still Worth Dying For? (a portion of The Great Controversy) to religious leaders in the Richardson/Dallas area in February. We made some great friends and we continue to pray for the religious leaders of these organizations that the Lord will impress them at the right time to read the book and share its message with those in their circle of influence if they haven’t done so already. Why not try something like this in your area?

  1. World Mission Society Church of God
  2. Christian Science Church
  3. St. Luke’s Lutheran
  4. St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church
  5. Tzu Chi Buddhist Center & Day Care Center
  6. Grace Church of Richardson
  7. Arabic Christian Church
  8. Creekside Baptist & Vietnamese Churches
  9. Calvary Petecostal Church
  10. Neema Gospel Church
  11. Richardson First Baptist Church
  12. Watermark Community Church
  13. The Heights Baptist Church
  14. Richardson United Methodist Church
  15. Islamic Association of North Texas, Seminary & School
  16. Christian World
  17. Bo Hyun Temple Zen Center
  18. Sikh Temple
  19. Bennerri Korean Presbyterian Church
  20. Trinity Fellowship Church
  21. Greenville Avenue Church of Christ & Day Care Center
  22. Waterview Baptist Church
  23. Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue

“There are now true Christians in every church, not excepting the Roman Catholic communion.” The Great Controversy p. 449

“Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ’s messengers we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock.” Testimonies vol. 6, p. 78

Posted in Bible Study, Global Missions, Harvest Cycles, Outreach, Pastoring, Prayer, Religious Liberty, Why Not Try This...? | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Reclaiming Former & Inactive Church Members

“Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world…” 2 Timothy 4:10.

How tragic! Paul’s close friend and fellow worker (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24) abandoned Paul at the time Paul needed him most. Not only that. Demas abandoned the message and mission of Jesus.

Sometimes we’ll lose people to the church family permanently, no matter how hard we try to keep or reclaim them. Jesus lost Judas (Matthew 10:4, etc). The apostle John said some never really were part of the church family (1 John 2:19). Some must receive healthy Biblical church discipline with the hope they will repent and return.

But the best Biblical models for reclaiming are probably found in Luke 15.

  1. The Lost Sheep (v1-7). The sheep wandered away. It was lost. It was scared. It didn’t know what to do. It would have died if the Shepherd had not gone looking for it. Some people wander away from Jesus and/or the church family. They don’t know what to do to find their way back. The church family must go looking for them, help them, love them, and carry them back home. It is never enough to say “They know where we are. They can come back whenever they want.”
  2. The Lost Coin (v8-10). The coin was lost in the house. It didn’t know it was lost. The only way it could be found was for the lamp (Bible – Psalm 119:105) to be lit and the broom (Holy Spirit – John 16:7-11) to do some sweeping. There are people who attend church services regularly – maybe they are members or even leaders – who are lost and won’t know it until the Bible is clearly taught and the Holy Spirit is allowed to transform lives. This is why people are not to be removed from Seventh-day Adventist church membership records based on non-attendance, because sometimes those who don’t attend are more connected to the Lord than those who do (e.g. the Church in the Wilderness which was persecuted by the Organized Church in the Dark Ages – Revelation 12:6, 13-17).
  3. The Lost Son(s) (v11-32). The younger son hated being in the house so he left, went to a far country, wasted his life and resources. He was lost. He knew the way home. But he didn’t think he would be welcomed if he came home. He was right, and wrong. His father ran to welcome him. His older brother, the other son, did not welcome him. There are people who have misunderstood or hated the rules of God and have left the church and messed up their lives. They know where the church building is and when the services are. But they aren’t sure if they will be welcomed if they come back. Those who have experienced the love of the Father God will welcome them. Those who haven’t, won’t welcome them back.

As a pastor and church leader here are the things I have tried in reclaiming people who are lost sheep, lost coins or lost sons (both types).

  1. Strengthen the Church Family by putting in place healthy systems for…
    1. Preaching. Since we like a variety of speakers, often developing teams of new and young preachers, we make sure each speaker has healthy attitudes when they stand up to preach, that the messages are Christ-centered, Bible-based, practical and have a call to action, and are simple but powerful.
    2. Mentoring Relationships. The church leaders need to be developed as mentors for group leaders, starting in huddles at Church Board Meetings. As new groups are added, the group leaders are mentored and they mentor those in their groups.
    3. Entry/Re-entry into the Church Family. If we bring people into the church family in a healthy way, clearly identifying what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist in the last days, mentoring them after membership, they are far more likely to stay and to become involved in the mission Jesus gave us.
  2. Distribute Spiritual Growth Packets. Here’s what worked for us and why.
    1. Why give packets?
      1. Help member families strengthen their relationship with the Lord.
      2. Connect with all member families whether attending or not. It is an opportunity to contact inactive members in a friendly, encouraging way, listening to their stories and pointing them to Jesus while inviting them to reconnect with other believers.
      3. Help connect with guests.
      4. The packets are especially helpful when the resources are coordinated with the preaching theme(s).
    2. Who give packets to?
      1. Every family on the church membership list.
      2. Guests.
    3. How often and how to give out packets?
      1. At least once a year but preferably quarterly.
      2. For 2 weeks – Packets in lobby for people to pick up their own and to take to distribute (usually organized alphabetically).
      3. The Following 2 weeks – Organize packets by geography and ask Sabbath School class members to distribute. Mail to out-of-towners.
      4. Have extra packets for guests. Ask them to fill out info card and exchange it for a spiritual growth packet.
      5. Have extra missionary books in stacks of 5 for people to use to start a group.
    4. What to include in the packet?
      1. Missionary book on same theme as sermons that quarter.
      2. Letter from pastor/elder including positive updates.
      3. Bible Reading Bookmarks (see www.TexasEvangelism.com/epic).
      4. Response Card (to help out-of-towners and inactives connect).
      5. Item from church school.
      6. Stewardship Commitment Card and Tithe & Offering envelope.
  3. Add groups, especially ministry, mission and Sabbath School groups. Each group becomes a landing place for new and reclaimed members.

Gayle had grown up in an Adventist home and when she graduated from Adventist academy she also graduated from the church. For 26 years she chased her dreams and watched her relationships crumble as her addictions destroyed her life. She moved to another state and enrolled her children in the Adventist church school. It was five years before she had the courage set foot inside the church building next door. On the Sabbath she stopped by, she found a warm welcome and friendly people. Within six months she was baptized along with her husband who was happy to see the change in her. She discovered that a Sabbath School group was just starting a ministry to the homeless in a park, many of whom had struggles with addictions. She knew she could help because she had been through some of the same struggles they were going through. As the ministry became consistent, inactive members started showing up at the park to help. Some said “This is what the church is supposed to be doing. Count us in.” Some of the homeless were baptized, including Wally, the worst alcoholic in the area, and became powerful witnesses throughout the city.

Today Gayle is serving on the staff of one of our conferences, after having served with her husband as a volunteer Bible worker, volunteer evangelist, Bible Worker trainer, Church Planter and prayer coordinator.

There are thousands of other Gayles, wanting to come home, hoping for a warm welcome. There are thousands of Wallys, lost and waiting for someone to lead them home. And there are thousands of people “in church,” waiting to really hear the Adventist message clearly and to become involved in the mission.

What is your first step in reclaiming them?

Blessings to you,

Dan Serns

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Inspired Insights on Reclaiming

When the mind dwells upon self, it is turned away from Christ, the source of strength and life. Hence it is Satan’s constant effort to keep the attention diverted from the Saviour and thus prevent the union and communion of the soul with Christ. The pleasures of the world, life’s cares and perplexities and sorrows, the faults of others, or your own faults and imperfections—to any or all of these he will seek to divert the mind. Do not be misled by his devices.   {Steps to Christ p. 71}

“Without unceasing prayer, without diligent watching, we are in danger of growing careless, and of deviating from the right path. Our backsliding may be so gradual that we may fancy ourselves in a good spiritual condition when we are surely on the enemy’s ground. The adversary seeks continually to obstruct the way to the mercy-seat, that we may not by earnest supplication and faith obtain supplies of grace and power to resist temptation.”     {Signs of the Times December 23, 1889, par. 5}

“It would be vastly better for their children, for themselves, and for the cause of God, if they would remain in the smaller churches, where their help is needed, instead of going to the larger churches, where, because they are not needed, there is a constant temptation to fall into spiritual inactivity.”     {Child Guidance p. 307.1}

“Those who profess to believe the truth, but feel no burden for the souls of others, will be continually backsliding, and it will require time and strength on the part of the minister to keep them from making shipwreck of faith, when they should be laboring with all their might to present the way of life and salvation to their friends and neighbors. Hundreds of men and women who at the present time are professedly engaged in the work of God, are not doing one-tenth that they might do if they would only improve all the powers God has given them. Some are doing literally nothing for the truth, and by their example of indifference are bringing others into the same position of uselessness, and thus are scattering from Christ. This latter class includes by far the greater number. They are thinking and planning only for themselves. Fathers and mothers with their little ones around them make their little circle their world. Every power of their being is centered on “me and mine,” and they are becoming narrower and more circumscribed every year of their lives. They do not open their hearts to the grace and love of Christ, and liberalize their nature and ennoble their being by placing themselves in sympathy with their fellow-men.—The Review and Herald, June 10, 1880.” {Pastoral Ministry p. 146.3}

“When one who has wandered far in sin seeks to return to God, he will encounter criticism and distrust. There are those who will doubt whether his repentance is genuine, or will whisper, “He has no stability; I do not believe that he will hold out.” These persons are doing not the work of God but the work of Satan, who is the accuser of the brethren. Through their criticisms the wicked one hopes to discourage that soul, and to drive him still farther from hope and from God. Let the repenting sinner contemplate the rejoicing in heaven over the return of the one that was lost. Let him rest in the love of God and in no case be disheartened by the scorn and suspicion of the Pharisees.” {Christ’s Object Lessons p. 190.2}

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Hasty, Immature and Forbidden Marriages

Marriage and the Sabbath are two of the greatest gifts given to mankind by our Loving Heavenly Father (Genesis 2). So it’s no surprise that Satan will do all he can to destroy both!

How do we avoid the pain, misunderstanding and depression that come from twisted marriages? How do we avoid hasty, immature and forbidden marriages?

That was my assigned topic when I recently participated in a series of presentations on “Christian Families in Crisis” based on the Bible and The Adventist Home by Ellen White, sponsored by the Houston United African Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Here are some key thoughts from the presentation from this time of Bible study and storytelling.

  1. Jesus loves marriage!
  2. Jesus wants you to have a happy home!
  3. Jesus can bring joy out of confusion, sadness & pain.

May the Lord help you have a wonderful Christ-centered, Bible-based home and family.

Blessings to you,

Dan Serns

Keys to a Happy Marriage

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Lockdown Victories

There is a good chance you have been in lockdown this year. Use nicer terms if you like – quarantine, shelter in place, hunker down, stay home 2 save lives – but it’s all the same. Severe limits on your activities and friendships and budget.

But what if lockdown was just what we needed to deal with unresolved emotional and spiritual issues we had long overlooked or ignored? What if lockdown, with its forced restrictions, was a God-given opportunity for victory in our life? Consider some well known Bible examples who experienced their own types of lockdowns and the victories that came as a result.

Joseph    

  1. Rejection (In the “pit” – Genesis 37:24)

Joseph was rejected by his own brothers. First they wanted to kill him but because of Ruben’s and later Judah’s intervention he was sold as a slave instead. How did he deal with rejection? As he was taken down to Egypt he wept and wept. But then his thoughts turned to his father’s God. He remembered the stories his father Jacob had told of his dream of the ladder reaching to heaven. He wondered if his own dreams might become true. He determined to prove himself faithful to God.[1] He didn’t realize at the time that being rejected was a blessing and not a curse. If he hadn’t been rejected by his wicked brothers[2] he may have been overwhelmed by their evil influence and he would not have been able to bless millions of people in Egypt and many other nations.[3]

All of us have experienced rejection at some time in our lives. Maybe it started when you were picked last for the team on the playground, or rejected by the cute girl you asked to the banquet. Perhaps it goes deeper, like when your parents divorced and dad said he would keep in touch then disappeared from your life. Or when you thought marriage was forever but the love of your life was unfaithful to you.

As with Joseph the Lord may allow a time of lockdown for you so you can deal with rejection you have experienced in your life. He may allow a quarantine to remove you from an illicit relationship, a bad environment or peer pressure that was about to make you cave in. Thank Him for lockdown and the victories He can give you.

  1. Temptation (In the “house” – Genesis 39:2)

When Joseph arrived in Egypt he was sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s elite guard. Potiphar was gone a lot and his lonely wife noticed the good looking young slave, probably in his late teens or early twenties. She became more and more bold in her advances and Joseph had a big decision to make. He was in a foreign land. Nobody knew his religious background. Nobody would ever know what he did in the house. He was a slave and was expected to obey. If he resisted he knew he would be in big trouble so why not go along with the opportunity?

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7 Areas Every Adventist Educator Should Evaluate

Seventh-day Adventists operate one of the largest Protestant school systems in the world. Why is so much time, money and creativity invested in this?

Here’s a quick quiz.

What is the most important purpose of Adventist schools?

a. To employ Adventist teachers.

b. To save our children.

c. To save the world.

How you answer will dictate what kind of school you operate, what teachers you seek to employ, what curriculum you emphasize, what type of extra-curricular activities you highlight, what kind of field trips you take and a host of other decisions.

Recently I spent an enjoyable couple of hours with Adventist School Board Chairs in Texas on zoom talking about focusing on the most important things. We went in depth on these seven action steps.

  1. Evaluate Yourself!
  2. Know Your Mission!
  3. Love Your Network!
  4. Build Your Team!
  5. Enjoy Your Meetings!
  6. Check Your Resources!
  7. Celebrate Your Successes!

If you are involved with Adventist Education I hope you find this seminar (below) challenging and rewarding. Here’s the PowerPoint outline and the manual and rules of order referred to in the discussion.

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Adventist World Radio to Support Texas Churches in Multiple 2020-2021 Evangelistic Endeavors

What a time to be alive! As uncertainty and upheaval continue to ravage our planet, God has opened so many new opportunities to reach the world with His end-time messages.

Adventist World Radio has plans to reach the 100 largest metro areas in the world over the next five years, and what better places to start than Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston?

For some time now, Adventist World Radio—in coordination with the Southwestern Union—has been prayerfully and strategically planning to pilot a brand-new program in Texas starting this year and continuing through 2021—specifically targeting the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston metro areas.

The plan is fourfold:

• To encourage churches and church members to share the online Unlocking Bible Prophecies 2.0 series, which will take place October 3-17 on awr.org/bible as well as on AWR’s Unlocking Bible Prophecies YouTube page. Not only will this series include additional content, but it will also be translated into 26 languages. Given that Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, this will be perfect for reaching people in their mother tongues.

When the first version of this series ran in June 2020, it quickly received more than 2 million views, and many of its videos are now in the top five listed on Google and YouTube when people search for terms like “Second Coming” and “Bible Prophecy.”

As these undiluted prophetic messages are preached around the world, people are invited to connect with AWR, at which point they receive information about the Adventist church closest to them. In June, this resulted in tens of thousands of comments like:

“I wish to be baptized into the Adventist Church. Is there anything that can be done to expedite this?”

• Beginning next year, AWR will broadcast English and Spanish programming on different radio stations in order to reach the masses in Texas. These radio programs will share the distinctive Three Angels’ Messages across Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston. The goal is to prepare them for Jesus’ soon coming through baptism and discipleship and connect them with their local Seventh-day Adventist Church.

• AWR will also support the Texas-based, lay-led evangelistic efforts that will take place this winter as well as in April 2021 as people try to reach their communities for Christ.

• Then from Sept. 24 – Oct. 9, 2021, AWR will work with the Texas Conference and the Southwest Region Conference to hold 400-500 evangelistic campaigns conducted by pastors, laypeople and guest speakers. This will be one of the largest evangelistic thrusts ever embarked upon in Texas!

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