[January 22, 2008] BY MICHELE STOTZ, Public Relations director, It Is Written
Seventh-day Adventist television ministry is teaming up with a local Adventist Church conference to reach a major North American city for Christ.
In February, It Is Written will hold a month long series of meeting at the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland. The effort will link local church pastors with the international Adventist television ministry and its current speaker/director, Shawn Boonstra. The outreach is the culmination of more than a year’s worth of work in the area, which is part of the Pacific Northwestern United States, a region noted for low overall church attendance.
The Revelation Speaks Peace event will be held Feb. 1 – March 1, and the media ministry and conference are employing creative means of advertising to get the word out in the community, including airing the It Is Written broadcast six days a week on KRCW-TV, a local station. Tech-savvy Portland, in whose suburbs are the headquarters of Intel Corp., is also getting targeted Internet advertising for “A Better Way to Live,” the ministry’s daily video podcast.
The outreach project began more than two years ago in a most remarkable way. After spending a day in prayer, the It Is Written team concluded that Portland would be the perfect choice for the ministry’s next citywide focus. When the team arrived in the office later that day, an invitation from the Oregon Conference was waiting, even though both sides had not yet spoken about the idea.
“This was a prayed-for partnership,” said Boonstra. “We were in awe when we discovered that both teams had been on their knees—seeking God’s direction—at the same time!”
Conference officials, local pastors and It Is Written staff members then began extensive planning for the event. However, the pre-work has not been limited to church employees—church members are really getting into the action and, according to Joe Cirigliano, It Is Written’s evangelism coordinator, that has been one of the most exciting aspects of the preparation.
“After Pastor Boonstra spoke at the last [Oregon Conference] camp meeting, we held a training session in the afternoon,” said Cirigliano. “When we asked people to sign up to become Bible instructors, so many people swarmed the booth that someone exclaimed ‘This is like a sale at Macy’s!’”
Don Livesay, president of the Oregon Conference, has been incredibly supportive of getting laypeople involved in this effort, and has been stressing an evangelistic “commission culture.”
“Commission culture refers to a movement of people who have the Gospel Commission at the core of their existence,” said Livesay. “It is a way of life…the constant sharing of joy in Jesus with others.”
Some of the conference initiatives in place to support this commission culture plan include a “God’s Prayer Force” program, a “Prayer Warriors” seminar in January, and “ShareHim” rallies around the state.
“Bible Worker Boot Camps” are also a major component. One of the first outreach exercises for attendees involved a study in which church members found out how their families originally learned about the Adventist message. Many weren’t aware of their origins in the church. One man discovered that his family came to the church thanks to a lady who had left a Bible study invitation in a grocery store. Further research found that 95 new church members had become Adventists as a result of that lady’s efforts at the local market.
In another case, a woman was hesitant to give Bible studies because she was afraid she wouldn’t have all the answers. During one of her first studies, a student asked her, “What does 2 mean?” Further questions revealed that the student was confused by the “2” in “2 Peter.” The instructor later told the team that her ready answer to this simple question gave her the confidence she needed to help other people study the Bible.
“These exercises have really stoked the fire of the church members and shown them just how easy it is to share their faith,” said Cirigliano.
As of early December 2007, Portland residents had already requested 1,200 Bible studies. But it doesn’t stop there. In November 2007, It Is Written placed a unique ad in local Portland newspapers. The ad simply read, “Did you stop going to church? Tell me why you quit.”
Respondents visited a website where they filled out a short survey and, in their own words, described why they left church. Within a month, the campaign had resulted in 700 responses from people who were hurt, angry, confused or lost. The team in Portland is currently corresponding with many of those who filled out a survey, and respondents will be invited to the meetings.
In anticipation of the event, It Is Written and the Oregon Conference are blanketing the city with invitations to the series. They are sending handbills to every home within 25 miles of the Oregon Convention Center. At least 26 billboards are announcing the event. And even buses are getting in on the action with advertisements making their way down the city streets.
Additional events held before the series were expected to include a citywide day of prayer and fasting (Jan. 12), an archeology school (Jan. 25), and a health expo (Jan. 27).