Hundreds baptized during Chattanooga evangelistic campaign held by GC vice president Mark Finley
ark Finley, a General Conference vice president and director of the church’s Center for Global Evangelism, returned to Tennessee and the Chattanooga Convention Center for a major evangelistic series held in May and June. The series resulted in more than 400 people committing their lives to Jesus.
|[Credit for all photos: Ernestine Finley]
Eleven years ago Finley conducted the first satellite evangelistic series in the history of the Adventist Church¯downlinked to 676 sites across North America from a home site in Chattanooga. In the last decade more than 100 satellite events have been held internationally. Estimates count more than one million new converts through satellite evangelism.
Finley’s six-week series last month in Chattanooga also broke new ground. He explained: “Our goal was to involve, equip, and mobilize as many pastors, theology students, and church members as possible to make an impact for Christ and His kingdom. Rather than a single, central evangelistic series, however, we opted to conduct meetings at multiple sites.”
Preparations for the series, called Revelation of Hope 2006, began nearly two years ago. Ernestine Finley, wife of the evangelist and director of the preparation work for the series, trained more than 300 laypeople as Bible instructors. They followed up hundreds of Bible study interests. One hundred home groups throughout the Greater Chattanooga/Cleveland area invited friends to participate in a weekly series of prophetic studies called, “Unveiling Daniel’s Mysteries.” A comprehensive health outreach program under the direction of Chuck Cleveland, who is affiliated with Wildwood Lifestyle Center and Hospital, attracted scores of people. Ernestine’s Natural Lifestyle Cooking series opened with more than 200 people in attendance. Michael Hasel, professor of archaeology at Southern Adventist University (SAU), joined Finley for a five-night seminar series on biblical archeology. More than 700 people packed the Hamilton Community Adventist Church to learn how discoveries in the Middle East confirm the authenticity of God’s Word.
| ALWAYS ROOM FOR MORE: Nearly 2,000 people crowded into the Chattanooga Convention Center for the opening night meeting.
General Conference vice president Armando Miranda coordinated a comprehensive outreach for the Spanish-speaking people of the Chattanooga area. Ivan Leigh Warden, an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate, worked with Chattanooga’s African-American Adventist churches.
Southern Adventist University students and faculty participated in each phase of the Revelation of Hope outreach by distributing literature, giving Bible studies, providing special music, and preaching at 14 evangelistic series sites. Their meetings were held simultaneously with Finley’s in the Chattanooga Convention Center. Commenting on the Revelation of Hope experience for SAU students, Doug Jacobs, university theology professor, said, “Participating in the Revelation of Hope series by actually conducting an evangelistic series was an invaluable experience for our students.” On Tuesdays and Wednesdays the students attended Finley’s public evangelism classes and his evening meetings in the convention center. Other nights during the week they preached at their own sites.
The Revelation of Hope evangelistic series was also conducted at the Bradley Square Mall in Cleveland, Tennessee, about 30 miles east of the convention center, by Finley and one of the university’s senior theology students, Sean Reed.
“Sean is a gifted, powerful preacher with outstanding potential,” said Finley. “When I see bright, articulate young people with a passion for souls like these theology students have, I know the future of evangelism is in good hands.”
The Chattanooga series brought together different languages, cultures, and ethnic groups for an evangelistic thrust centered in Chattanooga but also spread out to neighboring communities. Local conferences represented by participating churches included Carolina, Georgia-Cumberland, Gulf States, and South Central conferences.
The series at the main site in the convention center opened May 19. Nearly 2,000 crowded into the convention center to hear Finley’s opening night presentation, “Revelation’s Predictions for the 21st Century.” Almost 1,000 more people attended the outlying meetings.
But the event did not proceed without incident. “On the second night at the convention center, protestors showed up,” said Finley. “They picketed with signs on the public streets. The signs read, ‘Seventh-day Adventists are a cult. Ellen White is a liar. So don’t go there.’ The third weekend of the series a group of dissidents brought in a busload of their followers to Chattanooga to distribute contradictory literature.”
In spite of the protests, hundreds came forward in response to the appeals both at the convention center and in the outlying sites.
“God’s Spirit was mightily poured out in Chattanooga,” said Ernestine. “More than 1,000 guests attended the meetings at least once. By June 24, 307 people were baptized with 145 more preparing for baptism. We praise God for what He has done and give Him the glory.”
|JOY IN THE LORD: The baptisms were held in the lake at Cohutta Springs Adventist Center in Crandall, Georgia.
Finley described the experience of one attendee, named Linda, who had been battling alcohol and drug addiction. “One night after three days of continuous alcohol and drug use, Linda sat on the floor of her apartment feeling totally depressed,” explained Finley. “A Bible lay open on the floor on the other side of the room, and, miraculously, she noticed it. It was open to Psalm 25:1, 2 [NIV]: ‘To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.’ This passage spoke to her heart because she associated drugs and alcohol as enemies. But she believed God would in some way enable her to triumph over them. This began a journey leading her to the Revelation of Hope series, the Adventist Church, and her baptism.” On June 24 Linda was baptized in the lake at Cohutta Springs Adventist Center in Crandall, Georgia.
Darron Boyd, Georgia-Cumberland coordinator for the evangelistic series and local church pastor, said, “Evangelism is alive in North America and is effective when it is viewed as a process, not simply an event. What God did in Chattanooga was the result of pastors and lay people praying and laboring together. To reach America’s cities today requires a united effort on the part of the entire church body.”
The Chattanooga Revelation of Hope series was part of the General Conference’s evangelism initiative called Tell the World, a comprehensive strategy to take the gospel to every person on the planet by 2010. It involves spiritual renewal, lay training, community outreach, public evangelism, and nurture and follow-up. It envisions 5 million laypeople winning at least one soul for Christ in the next five years, and encourages each Seventh-day Adventist church to hold a minimum of one reaping event each year. It challenges Adventist young adults to conduct 100,000 evangelistic meetings in the next four years. Tell the World urges every ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to unite in an all-out effort to share the good news with the entire world.
“The multilayered evangelism series in the Greater Chattanooga area demonstrates what is possible if all entities of the church put aside personal agendas and focus on mission,” says Finley. “Think of what might happen if the entire church placed priority on the one thing that really matters to God—reaching souls for Christ’s kingdom.”
--GeneralConferenceCenter for Global Evangelism staff