“I want to talk with you about the priority and the burden of evangelism and the blessings that are afforded to us, even in this very rare and strange season in which we find ourselves.”
Thus began Debleaire Snell, pastor of the First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Huntsville, AL, as he shared the keynote address during Evangelism Impact 2021 held February 19-20. Indeed, this is a “rare and strange season.” Merely 12 months ago, the Carolina Ministerial Department hosted over 1,000 attendees at the 4th annual Impact at the Landmark Resort in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Leaders Glen Altermatt, Samuel Romero and Haskell Williams were determined that Evangelism Impact must continue in 2021, even during a pandemic.
“How can we effectively minister in these uncertain times?” Glen Altermatt, Evangelism Director, asked. “I believe this is a question all churches have been asking this past year. So we asked our presenters to wrestle with this question, and we weren’t disappointed.”
The decision was made to present the 5th annual Evangelism Impact virtually. While our message remains the same, the methods needed to be modified to meet the needs and the times.
“When this thing hit us, none of us were prepared for it,” Pastor Snell shared candidly. “We couldn’t rightly predict what was going to happen. And we all found ourselves in a season of having to adjust, having to adapt.”
‘Learning as we go’ was a consistent theme of each of the speakers. Pastor Richie Halversen, pastor of the Bowman Hills Church in Cleveland, TN, concurred, “We’re all figuring this out. We don’t have all the answers. But we do know Who does have all of the answers.”
Even in this uncertainty, Pastor Snell offered a word of encouragement. Parodying
a biblical truism in Ecclesiastes 9:11, he said, “The race isn’t given to the swift, or the battle to the strong, but to those who endure to the end.”
He continues, “The most impactful thing that can happen to somebody is not education; it is not for them to receive wealth; it is not for them to be a part of social programs. The most transforming, powerful thing that can happen to a man or a woman is for them to encounter the power of Jesus Christ, and to have the truth of the Living God anchor their hearts and their souls. We have a truth that is designed to reach the world in these dark and evil days.”
The production team, led by digital specialist and Pastor Ruben Casabona, included Communication Director Becky Carpenter, ITS director Elias Sandoval, and Tank Brooks, building operations manager, along with the ministerial Department, were a multi-discipline unit.
English and Spanish tracks were taking place simultaneously in the same studio and streamed
on YouTube and Facebook. Additionally, the Spanish presentation was carried on the Carolinabased internet channel,Luz Para Hoy.
With the multiple outlets, it is difficult to determine viewership, but the numbers reached close to last year’s in-person meetings, and keeps climbing due to online arciving of the messages.
Hispanic presenters were: Henry Barrios, Ministerial Associate for Hispanic Ministries, Florida Conference; Abdiel Del Toro, General Vice-President, Florida Conference; and Roger Hernandez, Evangelism & Ministerial Director, Southern Union, who also spoke for the English
Most of the sessions featured a question & answer session as the final portion of each
Referring to the Disciples’ experience on the Lake of Galilee (Luke 5:5), Halversen reflected,
“Maybe you’ve toiled all year and taken nothing. Maybe nothing your church tried (even before COVID) ever seemed to work. I believe Jesus is telling us what He told Peter, ‘I want you to let down your net again.’”
In his welcome Sabbath morning, Leslie Louis referenced Joseph Kidder’s book, The Big
Four, and underscored prayer as the key element of four big factors in church growth. Sharing
from Ellen White in Selected Messages, Book 1, P. 121, he quoted, “A revival need be expected only in answer to prayer. While the people are so destitute of God’s Holy Spirit, they cannot appreciate the preaching of the Word, but when the Spirit’s power touches their hearts, then the discourses given will not be without effect.”
Roger Hernandez emphasized the same theme, “Prayer does not guarantee that the other person is going to change. But it does make it harder for them to remain the same, because we are deploying heaven’s army. Start your day with a focus on reaching lost people. When you scan your social media feed, when you interact with people that cut your hair, or the person at the gas station—you’re going recognize people who are hurting. It’s ‘other-centered’ ministry. Prayer puts us in touch with God’s heart. And the prayer that God always answers is the prayer for lost people.”
“There is a direct connection between revivals in human history and prayer,” Hernandez continued. “If you want to be effective about evangelism, it’s about time we pray. Just start praying. Just pray!”
Snell concluded with a prayer, “May this gathering be that moment that we would look back and say this is where Pentecost happened. This is where things changed. This is where the history of our Conference was rewritten.”
As evangelism director, Glen Altermatt invites: “I hope to see you in person next year in Myrtle Beach!” Until next year’s Evangelism Impact on January 27-30—or our Lord Jesus comes—may we keep these messages in our hearts and actions.
If you missed this year’s presentations you can view them on our Conference website. Just click the YouTube link.
— by Haskell Williams