How many of us remember how evangelism was done back in the early 80’s? How many of us remember how evangelism was planned? How many of us remember whether one of these seminars brought us to the Lord? The Bible mentions in Matthew 13:1-9 the parable of the sower, and later Matthew 13:18-23 explains the significance of hearing and receiving the word of God. I personally like how Ellen G. White explains this parable by saying: “Because of its simplicity the parable of the sower has not been valued as it should be. From the natural seed cast into the soil, Christ desires to lead our minds to the gospel seed, the sowing of which results in bringing man back to his loyalty to God.” COL 33.
Let’s focus on the last sentence: “…the sowing of which results in bringing man back to his loyalty to God” – As mentioned before in regards how evangelism was done back in the early 80’s and whether one of these seminars brought us to the Lord, I can personally testify to this type of evangelism and whether a seed can stay in our hearts until the Lord finds us. I remember when I was 13 years old, my family was invited to one of these seminars, and it was amazing how the message of God was presented and where the seminar took place. Of course, I cannot tell you how it was planned, but I can tell you that this experience changed my life forever.
First of all, the setting was very unusual because it was done under “white tents.” Yes, I said: “tents”- there were hundreds of people and the church worked together to bring as many people as they knew to the Lord. People were not ashamed nor embarrassed to pass flyers or sell Adventist books from door to door. The message of the second coming and the truth about the Sabbath was clear and delivered without fear. There was a certain type of unity that these members had with one another and their fellow man. I am sure that there was planning and money involved, but based on what I remember, I can tell you that it didn’t have to cost as much to spread the Word of God as it is done today.
Today, I am proudly married to Pr. Carlos Rodriguez, and the gaps of planning and the effort that it takes to organize an Evangelistic series have been filled in. I can tell you that my husband also remembers how it was done before because he experienced it through his father, who also organized evangelistic series the way I remember. Because of his father and the good memories those times, today my husband takes the best techniques from the past and combines them with the best skills of today and makes an evangelistic series an unforgettable moment for all involved. He truly believes that planting seeds is the most important part of evangelism and that we are called to spread the Word of God, and that baptisms are only the result of bringing man back to God. He says: “We’ve planted the seed, now it is up to the Lord.”
Another evangelistic series was organized by Pr. Rodriguez at the Cambridge SDA church. Another opportunity was presented for another church to work together and show unity and love for the fellow man. The Cambridge church was called to spread the Word of God and plant seeds as per Matthew 28 commissions.
It started like any other evangelistic series he organizes and prepares. He started by equipping the church members with training classes weeks before the evangelistic series. His training teaches how the church can be involved and help plant seeds. After their hearts and minds were ready to what was to come, the serious work began. Night after night the members were willing to work and put in their time, from helping with setting up the stage and equipment to welcoming guests. The members of the Cambridge church truly displayed a sense of unity and took ownership towards their responsibility.
Planting seeds never became as clear as it did for us this time around. In the beginning, the visitors were impressed with the flyers they received and how nicely and professionally they were done. They wondered why all of the study materials were free. Visitors were wondering why we were not asking for any money! “There has to be a catch,” they mentioned. The visitors waited and waited, but no offering was picked up. Finally, some of the visitors started to ask and we kindly replied: “We are just doing the Lord’s work.” They couldn’t believe the thoughtfulness and love we have towards our fellow man! – I mention this because we also experienced love towards us. Sherman McCormick, our MN Conference Ministerial Director was visiting us one evening to obtain feedback in regards to how the evangelistic series was coming along and needless to say; he experienced it himself. Elder McCormick decided to spend a relaxing evening talking to Pr. Rodriguez and perhaps giving him some moral support because sometimes these evangelistic series can be stressful and physically exhausting. When they arrived at the restaurant they ran into a few of the visitors who were faithfully attending every night. The visitors approached them and complimented the approach towards delivering the message of God and how the Lord was using Pr. Rodriguez in regards to their personal relationship with God. The comments of course were flattering and humbly accepted, but that was not the highlight of the evening. When elder McCormick and Pr. Rodriguez were ready to pay for their meal, the waitress informed them that the bill was already taken care of by the visitors they encountered at the restaurant. What a way to experience “love for your neighbor!” The deed spoke louder than words. We were experiencing the Holy Spirit working in every person attending the seminar.
The Cambridge church was also contributing towards the fellow men. There was prayer every night in almost all corners of the facility. Visitors were bringing friends and marketing the event for us. We even had newly baptized members working for the Lord in a mighty way. One member in particular who was a four month old baby in Christ, was continuously bringing from 5 to 8 visitors every night. She was truly a gladiator and was experiencing her “first love” for Christ. She was bursting with love for the fellow man; she was truly living Matthew 28 and planting seeds.
We were blessed to have baptized a total of 4 visitors and followers of Christ. Actually, the number was supposed to have been 5. This is where “the sowing of which results in bringing man back to his loyalty to God” comes into play. You see, the 5th visitor had passed away on the day the baptisms took place. Pr. Rodriguez was informed of the situation that morning and the message before the baptism was bittersweet for everyone. Pr. Rodriguez started by quoting Philippians 2:12: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” He started it this way because, the visitor who had passed away was truly working out her salvation as well as planting seeds. She was taking the message received each evening and was evangelizing to her family! She was talking about what she had learned to her children, and close ones. She was experiencing that first love, and wanted for everyone who was close to her to make it to heaven. Her fiancée, who was also attending the seminar with her, was baptized on the last evening of the seminar, and brought her whole family to witness the event. It was very hard for everyone involved because of the sadness and tears that surrounded the last night of the evangelistic series, but it was another opportunity for our church to come through and become a pillar of strength and hope for this family. We planted seeds that evening by giving each of them a Bible and just being there for them and showing our support.
Yes, it is unfortunate that our evangelistic series had a nostalgic ending but God does not give us what we cannot handle. The Cambridge church was ready for this event. Each of the members had been equipped with the message of hope. Our members no longer possessed seeds in their hearts, they all had sprouts and fruit that had been growing in their hearts through their walk with Christ and were ready to share with their fellow man. Perhaps, this was not what it was like in the early 80’s and we did not have a tent, but the atmosphere and church unity felt the same way as it was back then. The Cambridge church planted many seeds during this seminar, especially that last evening. Only this time, it felt good to hear my husband say one more time: “We’ve planted the Seed, now it is up to the Lord.”
Elizabeth D. Rodriguez Principal, Capital City Adventist Christian School
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