by Adventist Today News Team
Two decades ago the Seventh-day Adventist Church began to use new technology to make seminars on the Bible book of Revelation more widely available. Net 95, Net 96 and Net 98 linked live sessions to hundreds of locations and amassed audiences of more than 100,000 at a time. Although much of Adventist evangelism has turned to methods that involve face-to-face relationships, other Christian groups are now using the same technology.
Pastor David Platt, a Baptist preacher in Birmingham, Alabama, used the Internet for a simulcast on Good Friday last week to “answer questions about the Apocalypse as described in the book of Revelation.” The theme for the six-hour live event was “Heaven, Hell and the End of the World.” Thousands of Evangelical churches and small groups participated.
“There is so much confusion about the end times, so many opinions fighting for our attention,” said Maciej Wolfart, pastor of Apex Community Church in Kettering, Ohio, according to the Dayton Daily News. “I want my friends and the people I serve to know exactly what the living and transforming Word of God has to say about these realities.” Apex was one of the participating sites.
Small groups meeting in homes paid $59 and churches with 100 members or more paid $850 to participate in the event. This included a password to connect via the Internet and handout materials to distribute to the local participants. Platt has held similar events twice a year since 2006.
A video series being used in congregations of many denominations was released in March. It is entitled, “Apocalypse … When?” The five segments take a multi-faith approach to the topic with presentations by astronomer and physicist Marcelo Gleiser, Christian environmentalist Bill McKibben, and theologians Andrew Newberg, Barbara Rossing and Kahleel Mohammed. Group discussion guides are available for churches using the documentaries.
According to a news release from the producers, “Episode 2 looks at the Book of Revelation and … Episode 3 is the story of an archetypal American prophet, William Miller, who convinced thousands of devoted followers the ‘second coming’ would occur on October 22, 1844.” It states that this segment explores “what happens in the aftermath of a failed prophecy? How do people maintain belief in the face of constant failure?”
Other segments focus on the Old Testament prophets, 20th century “harbingers of doom, nuclear weapons, religious intolerance, corporate greed, environmental degradation” and “contemporary forecasts of impending doom” such as “the Mayan calendar, solar flares, tsunamis, a global financial system on the verge of collapse,” etc. It is produced by a media company in British Columbia that does not identify itself with any particular religion.
Adventist pastors and lay leaders continue to be split over whether the emphasis on apocalyptic topics is helpful in drawing potential converts or sidetracks people from the central focus of the gospel. A 2009 survey conducted by the Institute of Church Ministry at Andrews University for the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church showed that 21 percent of active church members reported assisting with a Revelation Seminar in the prior 12 months, while 24 percent indicated they assisted with some other kind of Bible seminar.