This will be a two part series about an amazing event I attended recently. I think we witnessed the rebirth of the Evangelism Conference (EC3 for short) in Daytona Beach, Florida.
To give you some background, this event used to be called the Evangelism Council. It began many years ago in the 1970s and was primarily for full-time evangelists who specialized in conducting series that were 4-6 weeks long and met several nights a week in a venue like a church or a community center. These series focused primarily on prophecy, doctrine, or general revival. The Evangelism Council was held at the end of the year in order to share and celebrate all the success that had been witness throughout 12 months.
Yet, from the 500 full-time evangelists around the North American Division at the time of the inception of the (then) Evangelism Council in the 1970s, the number today in the NAD hovers around 25 (12 of whom are in the Southern Union where I work). This is evidence of a deeper reality, namely, that the world that birthed the Evangelism Council is not the world we live in today.
Statistically, evidence tells us that our society is becoming more secular with every passing year, and in some cases hostile or totally indifferent to religion.
Anecdotal evidence tells us that this traditional evangelism, while still enjoying a measure of success in the United States. is not reaching native-born populations of any racial background (White, Black, Hispanic and Asian). This traditional approach is also having challenges in reaching and keeping our 2nd and 3rd generation children of immigrant families.
Again, although there are still some people in these mentioned groups that are being reached through these efforts, we would be foolish to think that this kind of outreach is the only method that will give us success.
Plus, because we’re no longer baptizing 100 or even 50 people on a regular basis in these types of traditional evangelistic meetings, many churches have abandoned evangelism altogether and think “Evangelism no longer works.”
Even pastors have abandoned Jesus’ call to become “fishers of men” and have settled. They have settled instead for simply being “keepers of the aquarium.”
So, a committee was brought together to re-imagine and reinvent this event. We began by defining the end goal. We chose to expand the definition and scope of public evangelism for the 21st century.
For starters, we renamed these meetings from the Evangelism Council to the Evangelism Conference because we eventually want this conference to be THE go-to Evangelism-specific event in the North American Division.
You might be thinking, “Wait, then why isn’t this called the Evangelism Conference, Why name it EC3?”
Because therein lies our new mission. Above all, we are committed and passionate about accomplishing 3 objectives (this is where the 3 in EC3 comes in). We want this event to help students, evangelists, pastors, lay pastors, bible workers, and church administrators think of ways to prepare, proclaim, and propel a culture of evangelism in their context. Here are some of the other changes we implemented:
- We set a limit to the amount of people that could attend. From the 100 or so people that attended last year, we initially allowed only the first 200 people to register. However, because of the amount of interest, we had mercy and allowed some wiggle room. We capped the limit at 250 people, all of whom attend this year.
- We incorporated and highlighted successful church plants that are using innovative evangelism methods in reaching their communities. This year we highlighted The Ridge, Journey Fellowship, and Life Spring SDA.
- We brought in speakers who were passionate and knowledgeable about modern evangelistic methods. We had a great group which included engaging speakers like Mark Mittleberg, Debleaire Snell, Ester Knott, Alan Parker, and many more.
- We introduced the Ron Halvorsen, Sr. Lifetime Evangelism Award, which honors the service of those who have contributed greatly to evangelism. This year’s winner was Ralph Ringer, longtime evangelist for the Southern Union.
- We had seminar presenters give 15 minute TED Talk-style presentations on their topic. This turned out to be a double-edged sword because although the talks were short and to the point, the audience wanted more.
- We incorporated a new initiative entitled Project Genesis. Each year the Southern Union will set aside $10,000 of its evangelism funds for 10 pastors to try new, innovative, intentional ways of reaching their community for Jesus.
- We donated all the proceeds that were collected from the sales of CDs/DVDs to a worthy community-focused organization. This year, around $5,000 was given to SelahFreedom, an organization that exists to end sex trafficking and bring freedom to those exploited by it. See more at www.selahfreedom.com.
Next year, we will be making EC3 bigger and better. For starters, we are relocating the event to a more central location in the Southern Union. Southern Adventist University has been chosen as the location to bring younger generations into direct contact with this conference to help them catch this new vision.
- We are doubling the registration limit to the first 500 people.
- We will include many new vendors and sponsors, and now include community activism in the program.
- We will have new prizes and giveaways and will also bring back Project Genesis, as well as many of the most loved parts of this year’s event.
- One important point to note now is that we will begin charging for this event from now on, which will be a nominal registration fee of $29. We have decided to use a significant portion of all the registration proceeds next year in the same way we did for the CD/DVD sales this year: we will give something significant back to the greater Chattanooga, TN area where this event will be held.
We learned a lot from our event and, with a few key changes, we believe that we are on the edge of something big.
Do you want to learn how to make your church more evangelically oriented, community focused and culturally relevant (no matter the size)? Then come join us next year.
Save the date of November 6-9, 2016!
Now that this promo is over, what are some take away’s that I learned for making outreach practical in the 21st century? Tune in next time to find out.