Our man in San Francisco: The evangelist offered 100 dollars to anyone who brings 10 people

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Published:
September 11, 2006

By Trevan Osborn
Morning:
The morning
consisted of a few hours of class time. Yes, in good academic fashion,
learning by doing is not good enough but we still have to sit and get
theoretical discussion (Excuse the sarcasm. Maybe my dad will respond
and defend academia). Actually, I think the class time will actually be
very beneficial because we will be able to immediately implement the
theory. We’ll be having class for a few hours on Sunday and
Tuesday-Thursday. We will have Monday completely off which I can
already tell will be much appreciated. Our teachers are very
knowledgeable and will provide us with not only what has already been
done, but challenge us to explore what hasn’t been done but should be
done in the future.
Opening Night:
Everything
has been set up and it's time for the meeting. Thursday was a long day
of getting the gym ready for the meetings and trying to iron out the
kinks. The group is excited and ready to finally experience the fruit
of our labor. Setting up chairs doesn’t do much for the soul. We have
all been working really hard and we have already developed a great
chemistry and enjoy working side-by-side. The leaders know what they
are doing and have been providing steady leadership to make sure
everything will fall into place.
As people started trickling
in early, we realized that maybe we set up too many chairs. Everyone
was sitting in the last few rows which seems to be the law for
attendance at church functions. So, we got rid of the last few rows
which turned out to be a wise decision. I can’t tell you how good it is
to have people around who have led through these kinds of events many
times before to make quick and smart decisions.
We started
late as we tried to work out some of the opening night kinks as well as
let the late stragglers come in. I got a chance to talk to J while
waiting. He was the only white guy there, besides me, and turned out to
be Irish. He works in the area and saw the sign outside and decided to
come in. He has a bit of a church background but isn’t very active. I
could smell the cigarette smoke on his clothes and he told me he
decided to come here instead of going out drinking. We had a great
conversation about all kinds of stuff. I was happy because one of the
leaders came up and asked if he was a pastor because he saw us talking
like we were old buddies so he assumed I knew him or we had the instant
connection of both being pastors. Neither was the case but made me feel
good because I don’t think I’m very good at meeting new people and
socializing but must have done okay with John.
I took up the
challenge of running the PowerPoint presentations. We had words to the
songs as well as the sermon to project. I have done this many times
before so it is no problem. However, sometimes things happen that are
completely out of your control that will make you look bad. When
PowerPoint goes wrong, it REALLY goes wrong.
I don’t like
getting caught up in the numbers game but it really is impossible not
to when you are having a meeting like this. You want to see the seats
filled. I was happy with the attendance which was about 100 people of
which at least half were Adventists and there seemed to be probably
30-40 non-Adventists there. This doesn’t include the children who have
their own special programming every night as well. I didn’t get a great
feel since I was busy with the PowerPoint. Actually, they have a really
cool registration system. They give you a little swipe card with a bar
code on it (like the ones you get at a grocery store and put on your
key chain). So every night, all you have to do is swipe the card and it
records your attendance (Insert your own mark of the beast joke here).
The
crowd is lively and into the meeting. It’s always good to have the
church members pumped up and saying a lot of “Amen’s” to get everyone
going. We sang a few songs and our theme song called, “I Want a
Revival.” The police chief in charge of the area came and spoke. He’s a
Christian and he started preaching himself as he quoted Hebrews 11:1-2
and talked about how we needed to have faith and hope in the community
that it can get better. Then, we had special music by a men’s group of
7 guys. They were from a local church. Any guesses what denomination?
CATHOLIC. WHAT?????????? Man, I was really shocked they would do that.
I guess they wanted to get them in early before the 666 message. I was
really glad they did it though.
The evangelist is perfect for
the area. He used to be a drug dealer, pimp, and ended up in jail with
a 40 year sentence. He miraculously got out after 4 years and has
become an evangelist since getting out. You can tell that many visitors
are struggling with many of the issues he dealt with in the past so he
is the right man to reach the people.
For the series we are
doing the classic Amazing Facts lineup of topics. At the end of each
program we are handing out the AF Bible study guides for them to do at
home and bring back their answers the next night. The first night is
about the second coming and what happens to the “wicked” and
“righteous.” There also is an extended time where he debunked the “Left
Behind” theology. Throughout the sermon, the evangelist does a great
job of using relevant illustrations and weaving his personal testimony
through it all. I can tell immediately that his personal story is what
connects the most with people and will be the major drawing card for
the series. At the end he made a general appeal which almost everyone
came forward for, even J.
One of the ways they try to get
people to come, invite people, and turn in lessons is by providing
incentives. The evangelist offered 100 dollars to anyone who brings 10
people. They also are giving away an iPod and two computers based on
attendance and completion of lessons. Small gifts are given to anyone
who brings a friend and a raffle drawing is held each night. The YMCA
director also was able to get 30 tickets to the 49ers game in a few
weeks of which we will be giving many away to people (I hope I get to
go though).
Everything went well and we all feel good. No
major glitches. PowerPoint went smoothly. Good attendance and a strong
message. The only problem: I’m already feeling drained, we all are.
This is going to be a marathon.
Commentary:
I
figured that I would write what happened with little commentary above
but then give some critiques, challenges, and new possibilities in this
section. So, feel free to not read this part if you aren’t interested.
I
have thought about how to politely write about the topics and order
that is pre-determined by Amazing Facts and has been used for decades
by virtually everyone in the church. Here’s my attempt: I cannot help
but realize that I am going to have major issues with the content and
order of the presentations. We are doing great work here with the
paradigm we are using and I love all the leaders involved. However, I
just have real issues with the paradigm and messages.
The
opening night was on the Second Coming and what happens to the wicked
and righteous at that time. The sermon basically jumps right into that
which presupposes that the people here have a Christian background.
What if they don’t? However, even if they do have the Christian
background, shouldn’t we start with a sermon on who God is? Talk about
God’s love and take it to the Cross and talk about what God did for
them there. Tell them that it doesn’t matter what they’ve done in the
past, God is offering a new start today. What I love about our
evangelist is that through his story he is able to get there and does
it powerfully. However, the sermon in its pure A.F. form doesn’t really
do that.
I also fear that we try to do way to much stuff in
the sermon. One of the comments everyone at the meetings is saying is
how much they are learning. This is great, but I wonder how much they
are going to retain. Would it be better to keep them simpler with less
information so they can master a small amount of info instead of having
a general knowledge of a lot of things?
The other weakness I
found was that the definition of who is wicked and righteous ends up
being very works-based. The wicked are defined as those who smoke,
drink, commit adultery, and listen to rap music. The righteous are
those who don’t do that. The evangelist was able to bring it around
later when he started in with his testimony but while doing the A.F.
sermon material it was very works-based and I found the definition of
sin to be too limited while also including things that aren’t
necessarily a sin like listening to rap music.
Final
discussion point: What do you think about “bribing” people to come,
invite people, and do lessons by offering them incentives? It is really
shameless and I don’t think I’m against it but do feel a tinge of
discomfort about it.

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