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  1. avenger
    06 September 2012 @ 12:42 am

    Does PNG Adventism  support WO?

    • Kevin Riley
      06 September 2012 @ 1:34 am

      Yes, no, and maybe 🙂  It depends who you talk to and where they come from, etc, much like the rest of the world.  There are women working as pastors in some churches, so that indicates they are not solidly against the idea.

      It used to be the practice not to baptise people until they had spent 6-12 months in a baptismal class.  But exceptions have always been made for foreign evangelists who want to see the results of their campaign.  It will be interesting to see how many remain in a year. 

  2. Edwin A. Schwisow
    06 September 2012 @ 3:28 pm

    While conducting and coordinating soul-winning events abroad and in some cases translating for English-speaking guest speakers, I recognized that it is very possible to "maximize baptismal count" by using certain motivating methodology that accentuates the moment. Billy Graham modeled this approach and to some degree the Detamore method of public evangelism ("the short series") adapted elements of this approach for Adventism. (In earlier times, series of Adventist meetings might continue for several months, occasionally for as long as a year in difficult areas.) Public evangelists such as Elder Carter won many souls on paper in Russia, but attrition in some cases was reportedly nearly 100%. We cannot say absolutely that all effort is lost when masses of people become baptized, then never again show up in an Adventist worship setting. But the Adventist people in America and in other net-donative divisions have been conditioned to believe that our evangelistic program is geared to winning long-term converts, and we must recognize that the attrition levels for these increasingly abbreviated events are at times very high indeed. Yet little or no publicity on the matter of retention is ordinarily shared with the Adventist public. This is not to denigrate the overall need for outreach and evangelism—it's absolutely essential. But for a story such as this one to cover the bigger picture, it should include at least one line to the effect  that (for example), "In mass-evangelistic programs conducted in recent times, about XX% of those baptized typically remain involved in church activities for at least two years." Perhaps a figure of between 15-30 percent would be a realistic number for a crusade like this one in PNG. I would be extremely encouraged if someone could show me that my projections are too low.
    Does the Adventist Today news team have access to any up-to-date figures? During the time I served in union-level church public relations, such figures were made available from time to time for internal, strategic purposes—but discouragingly enough, the percentage of retention seemed to be on the decline and were not included in stories for the general Adventist public.

    • William Noel
      06 September 2012 @ 3:59 pm


      Retention of the new members is a critical issue.  Getting into the baptistry is far easier than discipling them into  a secure and lasting relationship with God.  This is a major challenge area for the church.  Success depends on having older members who are connected with the Holy Spirit and involved in gift-based ministry so they can nurture that connection in new members. 

      • Edwin A. Schwisow
        06 September 2012 @ 4:38 pm

        Levels of retention do vary by locale and situation, but I have personally seen at least one case in which upwards of 100 evangelism attendees were baptized into a highly organized, highly spiritualized church program in which seasoned members and a personable and caring pastor did everything they could to welcome and encourage bonding of the newly baptized individuals. Yet not one of those newly baptized people chose to return to worship with them even once, following the baptismal event—the attrition was 100 percent and immediate.

        I have not analyzed why this occurred and I tend to look at it in somewhat the same way I look at an Adventist couple with many children, none of whom grow up to be practicing church members. I do not blame the parents—their children made adult choices; likewise those who stayed by to enjoy the entirety of the evangelistic series and were joyfully baptized, but failed to bond to the denomination as an institution. My hunch is that they bonded with the speaker (a very charismatic and entertaining fellow), and when the speaker left town, the baptized people lost their motivation to continue attending the Adventist church. Yet I suspect that if interviewed today, those same people would say attending those meetings brought them a wonderful Christian blessing, and by the way, whatever happened to that speaker who entertained them so ably and brought them back night after night?

        I'm sure the cause and effect is more complicated than this, but it would seem that this may be a flaw in need of serious remediation, if we are to invest our church dollars in this kind of outreach as a prime method of stimulating membership grown. That said, I would not be an Adventist today (or might not have been conceived at all) had my mother as a teenager not attended a series of evangelism and been baptized—on her own, without the general support of her family—which in turn led to her meeting my father and their being married a few years later. Much of the character of Adventism today—most good, but some unfortunate—is attributable to the evangelistic methods employed diligently through the years by dedicated public evangelists, pastors, and conference leaders in the public arenas of our towns and cities.

    • Elaine Nelson
      06 September 2012 @ 6:18 pm

      Perhaps we should be content to "baptize" much as Billy Graham's crusades have the "altar calls."  Those who come forward and accept Christ are handed over to the many various churches in the area which participated in the crusade, and with each church with members there, they at least can be taken under the wings of one of the churches.

      The fallacy of the Adventist evangelistic meetings is to assume that all those who are baptized have become members; rather than accepting Christ as in the early church:  no lengthy after sessions which took much longer to "explain" what they had been baptized INTO.  "Numbers baptized" is the sole criteria  to proclaim success, and each evangelist keeps tabs of the number he has baptized in his whole career.  Any business with salesmen who counted only "first-time buyers" and never was concerned about return customers would soon go out of business.

      This is why it is kept from the members:  if they truly knew the attrition rates for such widely advertised meetings and page layouts in the Review, the giving would greatly decrease.  So keep the members in the dark, and keep telling them of the great successes. 

      • Stephen Ferguson
        09 September 2012 @ 2:39 am

        The SDA Church doesn't recognise the difference between baptism and membership.  Thus, there are no 'Christ-only' baptisms.  Whether that is an appropriate stance is another matter.

  3. Kevin Riley
    06 September 2012 @ 11:26 pm

    The attrition rate in our church is high, but I don't know that there has been a study of which methods actually lead to the best results long-term.  In PNG, ex-SDAs outnumber SDAs – in some areas 2 to 1 or higher.  PNG has about 7 million people, of whom around 700,000 claim to be SDA.  That is 440,000 more than our membership figures of 260,000.  I do not have a great deal of faith in membership figures to start with after 3 years in PNG.  Many – probably most – of those ex-SDAs would have gone through year-long baptismal classes, and many were born into SDA homes.  There were whole islands that were SDA where now the attendance at church is around 10% of the population.  The problem is not just retaining converts, but retaining the scond and third generation.  I have not heard of anywhere where we are doing that well.  We were overjoyed with the figures for baptisms coming from places like PNG, South and Central America and Africa in the 1980s and '90s, but now the children of those converts have to be persuaded to stay and become active members.  I suspect we are not doing too well with that, and that will become apparent as the conversion rate starts to slow as it has in PNG.  Eventually we will have to stop putting most of our money into making new converts and start seriously looking at how to keep the succeeding generations.

    • Elaine Nelson
      06 September 2012 @ 11:50 pm

      We should never, never, question the message for high attrition.  Simply question the method.  Did it ever occur that messages of apocalyptic doom do not attract the average person today?

      That is, from the first world countries.  I do not know the level of education in PNG, so evidently, what has seemingly been so fruitful there should not be the same messge and method for the entire world.  Certain people and their situations are impressed by different messages and methods. 


      This must be true, as when has a similar crusade in the first world had even 1/4th of the results?

      • Ella M
        09 September 2012 @ 2:12 am

            Agreed.  This certainly does not work in the western world.  

      • Edwin A. Schwisow
        09 September 2012 @ 8:29 pm

        Though I am not a professional evangelist, I have participated in a speaking and organizational capacity in series of meetings both in first-world and third-world nations. I held my very first in South America, speaking in Spanish in 1999, with an outline of topics recommended to me by a professional evangelist of long experience. I dutifully opened with Daniel 2 but sensed a horrible lack of connectivity with the audience (the topic failed to engage the people). So that evening I put away all apocalyptic sermons and concentrated on relational topics for the next 14 evenings (this was a two-week series of 15 presentations). Attendance began to rebound and I personally felt so much more comfortable dealing with topics that seriously addressed the needs of the people, as we prepared to baptize 28 candidates. Through my overall experience in evangelism, I have concluded that about 3 percent of the general population in most countries will indeed show an interest in apocalyptic subjects (and 3 percent is a not inconsequential number, by the way), because of the nature of their personalities and mind sets. But to reach the other 97% we must use a diversity of "entry events." One consideration is that Adventists have been preaching apocalyptic for nearly two centuries (if you include William Miller as an Adventist, which I do) and the novelty has worn off, as we've saturated communities time and again with this kind of messaging. There are some good things happening in public evangelism, but not as frequently or as pervasively as some of us would like. On the positive side, evangelists such as Don and Marge Gray have done wonders with some of the old apocalyptic topics, adding human interest and relational elements once lacking, and developing accompanying visuals and video to illustrate the topics more effectively. It's very likely that a good share of the visual material used in the PNG can be traced back to the Grays' earnest work in the 1970s and 1980s. Many times public evangelism is vituperated for its shortcomings. Rather, we should recognize both its strengths and limitations and constantly be working to rejuvenate its messaging and style, to fit a changing world. I think the topic of public evangelism resonates nicely with Columnist Mark Gutman's most recent posting on the site, "I Need to Hear Amens"….

  4. Stephen Ferguson
    09 September 2012 @ 2:42 am

    Agree with the general comments that retention is as big if not the biggest concern – not just our focus on recruitment. I also agree with the general comment that the sense of impending apocalyptic doom has a bit of a 'boy who cried wolf' feel to it for 2nd and 3rd generations.  That said, it was no different for the 2nd and 3rd generations of NT Christianity either.

  5. Truth Seeker
    14 September 2012 @ 1:26 am

    It's hard to believe that persons can really become Bible believing SDA Christians after a few short weeks. At an earlier time in the SDA church I have read that there was a period of a year before baptism.

    "How much better it would have been if the first messenger of truth had faithfully and thoroughly educated these converts in regard to all essential matters, even if fewer had been added to the church under his labors. God would be better pleased to have six thoroughly converted to the truth than to have sixty make a profession and yet not be truly converted." {CS 104.3}

    • Kevin Riley
      14 September 2012 @ 2:17 am

      A year is not unusual when people come to the church through family or friends.  Big evangelism programs with foreign evangelists tend to be the exception.  Many of the people baptised were probably former SDAs who have been through the doctrines before, so I would not be unduly concerned.  Almost all would have had a background in Christinaity – over 98% of people in PNG do.  The evangelist would have covered any doctrines where we disagree with other Christian churches.

      • Elaine Nelson
        14 September 2012 @ 2:34 am

        We really know little about the conditions there and those who were baptized.
        What is the educational level and did the parents read SDA info along with the meetings?  The article reported that the people there are the poorest in the area. Is it possible that baptisms there are when someone accepts the SDA message and afterward are in classes to learn the doctrines, unlike in the states where baptismal candidates spend time studying all the doctrines before baptizing.  People here are not eager "joiners," but in a country that is "dirt poor" according to the report, there is nothing to lose by joining this church.

        So many unanswered questions.  Would love to know more.  They should "count their chickens after they've hatched"–meaning a year afterward, then report how many are still attending church.

        • Howard Flynn
          30 September 2012 @ 12:54 am

          You need to read what the state department has to say about that place.

    • Stephen Ferguson
      30 September 2012 @ 7:45 am

      I think these are all really good points.  Our own Church recently started a ministry that reached out to assylum seekers, mainly young 20-30 year old men from Iran.  It was exceptionally succesful – at least at first – PTL.  However, there were concerns by a number on the Board, myself included, because these men were then being baptised after only 4 or 5 study sessions, through an interpreter (they didn't really speak much English).

      The big debate was whether these young were sufficiently prepared for baptism, especially since these men were from an Islamic background and thus new little of Christianity.  Some argued the examle of the Eithiopian, who was baptised on the spot.  Others, myself included, is that we were perhaps misleading them a little, insofar as they didn't know what they were signing up to, especially not really knowing about the SDA Church as distinct from other types of Christian denominations.  Moreover, there were concerns that after baptism, inevitably perhaps not the same level of fervour will be shown in their ongoing discipleship as would ordinarily occur leading up to baptism.  

      The whole problem was exaccerbated because many of these men were likely to be transferred to other detention centres around the country, so it was presented as a now or never scenario for their baptism.  The other huge problem is that by becoming a Christian, these men risked death by the Iranian Government is returned to Iran, so it was doubly important that they really knew what they were signing up to.

      Long story short, there seemed to be a flurry of baptisms for a while.  Whilst there have been a few sucesses, the programme doesn't have seemed to have produced too many long-term results. 

  6. Trevor Hammond [22oct1844]
    14 September 2012 @ 7:24 pm

    The Bible says that the harvest is plenty but the labourers are few.  It’s such good news to see so many souls baptised.  The John Carter team are dedicated, loving and well organised, even starting two years ahead in preparation for a campaign from what I have gathered.  Attrition is also affected by the lack of diligent labourers to nurture these new souls in Christ.  This team would have already had a trained group of workers to train and nurture the newly baptised.  If only we had more labourers like this instead of labour disputes.

  7. Elaine Nelson
    14 September 2012 @ 11:48 pm

    If they're hens or roosters it will soon be known:  hens produce eggs; roosters simply crow, believing they bring the sunrise.

    • Trevor Hammond [22oct1844]
      15 September 2012 @ 3:47 am

      I'm sure all those newly baptized souls, the evangelistic team and the angels in heaven will appreciate such kind words of encouragement.

      • Edwin A. Schwisow
        30 September 2012 @ 3:32 am

        To show concern for the discipling of such an enormous influx of new members is certainly an encouraging expression of empathy and Christian goodwill. We frequently read of evangelists who "reap" great numbers—this is more than heresay, I have been there and seen it with my own eyes—yet, most of those baptized return quickly to their former ways. The Great Commission calls on us not only to baptize, but to make disciples—and the first is often far more readily accomplished than the latter….

        • Stephen Ferguson
          30 September 2012 @ 7:36 am

          Didn't Jesus explain all this in His parable about the sower and the four seeds?  

        • Stephen Ferguson
          30 September 2012 @ 7:49 am

          Yes very good point also in noting Jesus' Great Commission doesn't just call us to baptise all nations, but also to teach and make disciples!  I agree we can become too focused on the baptism, becaust that is the more spectacular KPI, rather than the hard slog of long term discipleship, which is very much based on relationship and not merely knowledge of a few proof texts.  

          People might become Adventists because of the 'truth' of our biblical knowledge, and with few exceptions they leave because of no longer believing in that biblical knowledge; rather they tend to leave because lasting relationships have not been formed in the Church.

    • Howard Flynn
      01 October 2012 @ 2:39 am

      "roosters simply crow"
      You need to review your biology. Roosters do a lot more than crow.
      [just kidding]

  8. Elaine Nelson
    30 September 2012 @ 9:26 pm

    The results that long-time members who continue to hear this amazing results, become jaded and cynical.  They know from experience closer at hand and are not too excited about such huge numbers half way around the world, knowing that there will not be a count next year to determine the "staying power" of those meetings.

  9. Edwin A. Schwisow
    01 October 2012 @ 3:19 am

    Yet there are some, especially older folks, who are very moved and encouraged by evidences of miracles, such as these large baptisms. I have spoken with some who say, "When I see miracles such as these, I know Jesus is coming soon, even in my lifetime—oh, I hope so! We have waited so long; surely this is a sign that He is very near, even at the door."

    I agree that orchestrating these big events borders on the miraculous at times, but I do know that leadership purposely plans for these big events, not to tempt God, but the better to move the church emotionally and confirm faith of the wavering, while providing an emotional high of immense proportions.