The beautiful thing about God’s Word and the Bible truth is that it cuts through all cultures.
Despite his many administrative responsibilities, Adventist Church president Ted N. C. Wilson spends at least a couple weeks each year leading revival and evangelistic meetings around the world. During a recent stint as lead speaker at evangelistic meetings in southern Asia, Adventist World senior news correspondent Marcos Paseggi sat with Wilson to ask him what motivates him to engage in evangelism, why it’s important for every member to get involved, and whether we can do it better.—Editors.
After so many years of taking part and leading in revival and evangelistic meetings around the world, people sometimes wonder why you keep doing it. What’s your motivation? What drives a busy church administrator to stay actively involved in evangelism?
There are two reasons to hold evangelistic meetings and help people understand the Bible better. The first one is that Jesus is coming very soon, and all of us are supposed to be involved in some kind of service to people. It’s an opportunity for me and [my wife] Nancy to participate in very direct evangelism. I am usually involved with lots of administrative activities and many official meetings, but this brings us to a very frontline operation. It’s so exciting and so wonderful to be part of it! I love to teach these [biblical] messages! I am preaching The Revelation of Hope series, by Mark Finley. I have preached it many times. But every time I do, I am essentially reconverted again, reaffirmed in my faith in the Bible and its precious message.
The second reason is to help all church leaders and members to recognize that we need to be actively participating in sharing the gospel ourselves.
So the first is to assist this whole process through the power of the Holy Spirit and do whatever we can to touch the lives of people. And the second is to set an example, to say simply, “It’s possible to do this, and it’s something that will refresh you as an administrator.” Traveling to meetings and chairing meetings—there are all kinds of things you spend your time on almost 50 weeks out of the year. But you can take two, three weeks, and participate in frontline evangelistic activities. It will be so rewarding; it is for me every time.
You mentioned that you’ve preached the same message in different places. Do you think that “one size fits all” in evangelism? Do you ever see a need for adapting the message to a specific culture?
The beautiful thing about the gospel message is that the core of it is found in the key denominator of all cultures, and that is the holy Word of God. So yes, in terms of illustrations, of how you explain it, how it may be formatted—to some extent, you can adapt that to culture. But the beautiful thing about God’s Word and the Bible truth is that it cuts through all cultures, all language groups, all people groups, because it’s a message from heaven.
I read some time ago that other regions where you preached in the past got so energized that now they are organizing evangelistic meetings by themselves, even in places where public evangelism was not often practiced before. Do you think this is common to all places? Yes. I believe the same thing can happen in any place where people are truly dedicated to sharing the Lord. It occurs when people allow God to work through them and use their creative energy to reach out in every possible way, using comprehensive health ministry, community service, ADRA [Adventist Development and Relief Agency], approaches to young people and families, helping people with different seminars that give them a better life. Depending on the culture, you have to find ways to rub shoulders with people, establishing centers of influence in the cities, helping young people to do literature evangelism work. All these different contexts are to be used so that people may know that there is truth, and that there are people willing to help them.
Technology today is amazingly helpful. Even through telephone evangelism now, through different websites that help people. All of this works together. And the Holy Spirit binds it to touch the hearts of people who are seeking the Lord.
The main thing is: In the name of Jesus, do something! We shouldn’t just sit back and say, “It won’t work in our culture,” or “This is inappropriate.” If that specific method is inappropriate, what could be appropriate? Find out, and do it!
As you reflect on what our church is doing, do you think we’re working to the best of our abilities? Is there something we’re not doing, something we could do better?
Looking forward, I see that many more churches and organizations need to at least understand and contextualize the whole concept of Total Member Involvement [an initiative of the world Adventist Church that seeks to get every member involved in sharing Jesus with their friends and neighbors]. It’s not professional ministry or church [leadership] directions that are going to accomplish the work. It’s everybody working together, and laypeople feeling just as much a part of this great work as those who get paid to do it. Everyone is to be involved.
On a specific note, we need to implement for the cities more of the plan that the Spirit of Prophecy outlines for working the cities, which includes “outpost centers.” We are developing these city centers of influence. But connected to them is supposed to be organizations outside the city where you have a place where city workers and others can live, where you have training schools for people who are working for the Lord in the city. In those places you can have a small lifestyle health center, where you can bring people from the city, help them to clear their minds, and learn what it really means to live a healthy life, including a spiritual life. Then we introduce them in some way to mission work.
I can see where we could do better. At the same time, do you think of anything we’re simply missing in our outreach and evangelistic endeavors?
One very important aspect, as we come to the end of time, is that we need to pray for the latter rain, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Even though the Adventist Church is growing around the world, the world population continues to grow at an even faster pace. We will never finish the work by ourselves. We need to realize that it’s only going to be the Lord preparing
our hearts, helping us to fully be conformed to His will, that will make us ready to receive God’s Holy Spirit. Then the message will go out like wildfire.
We must get ready, because when the Holy Spirit is poured down on us, it’s going to be unbelievable!