Many people in today’s secular culture, disappointed by far-fetched ideologies and the economic and environmental chaos, find fewer and fewer reasons to belong to a community of faith. They are seeking spiritual depth, but religion has lost its charm, and sometimes seems incompatible with modern trends of freedom and personal satisfaction. To “live it up” with no concern for the future has become a nonnegotiable position. Everyone is seizing their own moment, their own way, and establishing the values that are most convenient in an attempt to “live life to the full.” In the quest for spirituality, each one grasps for personal happiness.
Surveys indicate that Quebec is one of the most secular regions in North America; so local church leaders, pastors, and administrators have launched a plan to reach those who have turned away from traditional Christian values. The idea of a progressive approach has led to what we call “One Soul for Christ,” a year-long, annual program of friendship evangelism.
In order to reap positive results, we first had to accomplish two things: (1) find a method that has a strong impact on the secular mind, and (2) develop a strategy that shows our members that evangelism isn’t a burden, and that a believer can find joy and satisfaction in the proclamation of the everlasting gospel.
Here’s the process we developed and used in 2008, which can be adapted easily and implemented in other contexts:
1. January, the Month of Genuine Love—To be a true witness for the good news of salvation, one has to first choose friends to whom they will show the authenticity of God’s love. To say that we love 2 million people in Montreal is simply a declaration of intent and not a tangible reality. Jesus didn’t spread Himself thinly in His mission. He healed a lot of people and preached on many occasions, but He chose the twelve to show them the depth of His Father’s love. Secularists can be moved only by sacrificial love that expresses itself in meaningful ways. Without a definite action plan and a few friends we won’t be able to fully show this love. The first month is set aside for meditation and reflection on the selection of those whom the Lord wants us to reach. Make up a list of acquaintances (the number seven is a balanced starting point): baker, coworkers, vacation contacts, etc. The list should be updated regularly, depending on the response of each person.
2. February, the Month of Prayer—Prayer leads to evangelism, and evangelism leads to prayer. Effective Christian witnessing can’t be conceived without God, who goes ahead of us in our action. We submit to Him our seven friends so that He may guide everything according to His wisdom. Consequently, Quebec churches organized four weekends of prayer and a special day of fasting on February 24, 2008.
3. March, the Month of Kindness—Secular people don’t necessarily seek new doctrines or counsels on health. They need to feel loved. Health and doctrines will come in due time. It’s through our acts of kindness that we create avenues to their hearts. Consequently, the first action isn’t the proclamation of a message. Instead, we look at their lives and assess their needs.
4. April, the Month of Hospitality—Another aspect of our commitment to our new friends is an invitation to come to our homes. By opening our doors, we show that we want to be their friends and that they are welcome in our inner circle. The time spent together will help us to know them better and discover the best way to present them to our heavenly Father. Friendship then becomes an essential tool to help build strong ties.
5. May, the Month of the Bible—Gift giving is one way to express love and appreciation to our friends, especially when the gift is something of exceptional value. That’s how we should present the Bible, the most precious book there is. When we deliver the gift we shouldn’t stay long. A bookmark indicating the Sermon on the Mount or the Gospel of John is a good idea. Our experience shows that these Bibles should be accompanied by our prayers and the certainty that God will see that His Word “shall not return to [Him] void” (Isa. 55:11).
6. June, the Month of Personal Witnessing—The testimony of personal transformation is the most powerful tool that God uses to touch the heart. Remember that “it is the grace of Christ in us that makes us His witnesses” (Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 170). Without Him we can do nothing. It is Jesus, the faithful and true Witness, who speaks through us.
7. July and August, Months of Intercession—We prayed for our friends in February. During the summer months pray with them, asking God to meet their felt needs. If the testimony of our lives convinces them that prayer works, they won’t refuse this golden opportunity. This will be the beginning of their relationship with divine power.
8. September, the Month of Visitation—Our visits, brief and informal, allow us to tell our friends that they mean a lot to us and that we want to know them better, to understand their needs, and to strengthen our spiritual bonds through prayer.
9. October, the Month of the Invitation—After completing the above eight stages successfully, an invitation to attend some “neutral” meetings in your local church is much easier to arrange. Health seminars, cooking classes, and family life workshops can be the stepping stones that show the value of a balanced life and help those who are looking for ways to improve the quality of their lives and stay healthy.
10. November, the Month of Attachment to Jesus—It’s time to suggest several ways to help our friends know Jesus better, perhaps through a Bible correspondence course or the It Is Written television program. We must find the proper ways and insist that religion isn’t a system but a relationship, the attachment to Someone, as well as the knowledge that through Jesus we find the way that leads to eternal life.
11. December, the Month of Commitment—This final step isn’t the end of the story, but actually the preparation for what will follow. During this month invite your friends to their first spiritual meeting (or series of meetings) that emphasizes the importance of a lifelong study of Scripture. In other words, promote small groups, which are best suited for the spiritual growth of the secular mind.
The Quebec Conference is pleased with the outcome of this venture. Evangelism gets better results with the group effect that the program creates. We can easily do the follow-up and provide the motivation. First, members’ testimonies are a valuable incentive for the whole church. Second, prayer ministry is vital to the success of the project. Third, the future of the small groups depends on friendship evangelism. The revitalization of these witnessing units is the core of their survival. The One Soul for Christ program allows the groups to renew themselves easily. That’s why Adventist churches in the province have created an increasing number of small groups, allowing members in the Quebec Conference to do evangelism according to the method of the One who cannot make mistakes.
By God’s grace we have seen progress. There is room for improvement, but in 2007, before this project was implemented, 203 people were baptized (in a conference with a membership of 5,200). In 2008 God gave us the joy of preparing 312 people for baptism, more than a 50 percent increase in the harvest.
Glory to His name!
Dragan Stojanovic is president of theQuebec Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Canada.
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