August 25, 2020

An evangelism model that works

In early March, when COVID-19 was an unknown threat in the U.S., a group embarked on a unique type of retreat, one that would end up transforming the lives of several hundred people.

The weekend was an experiment that ended as a divinely innovative break-through in personal and public evangelism. Focused on “Christ’s method alone” for reaching the heart, it created an opportunity for any Michigan lay member to bring a non-Adventist friend and enjoy a relaxing retreat and an opportunity to study the Bible together. 

The registration fee was simple: invite and bring a non-member friend, family member, neighbor, co-worker or church-attending visitor, and both would enjoy the weekend for free. For the first time in history, Camp Au Sable was banned to church members who weren’t accompanied by someone not of our faith!

Wes Peppers, Michigan Conference Evangelism coordinator, wasn’t sure how many would respond. He was hoping for a total of 50 to 75 people. However, the Lord brought almost 300, with nearly 200 non-Adventists! For some, this was the first “vacation” they had ever taken in their lives.

Attendees ranged from lifelong Christians of many denominations to agnostics and even atheists. Some had read the Bible through every year of their life, while others were reading it for the first time. “Camp Au Sable was packed to capacity for Jesus!” remarked Peppers, who also serves as Michigan’s associate Ministerial director.

One of the most significant things that happened is that guests willingly kept coming back to the meetings. They weren’t required, but the auditorium was packed every session. People were hungry for the Bible truth they were learning, and the friendship they had with those who brought them broke down most every barrier. They were in a relaxed environment without the stress of daily life, and received with gladness the truth presented to them. 

A young adult member from mid-Michigan invited several members in her family. They asked if they could also invite others, so a crew of about seven ladies came! Throughout the weekend, they were amazed as they learned Bible truth that they had never heard before including the Sabbath, the heavenly Sanctuary, and several prophecies. They were especially thankful as each topic was completely Bible-based and Christ-centered. Several of the ladies made commitments to follow Jesus fully and decided to begin keeping the Sabbath. Many others experienced miracles and freedom from many challenges from their past as they yielded their lives to Christ. The weekend was filled with the Holy Spirit and God’s grace. 

Through each meeting, decisions were called for, and people responded. Invitations also were given for people to enroll in Bible Study Offer. Appeals were made to the members to continue studying with their friend once they returned home. Both were accepted joyfully. By the end of the weekend,

  • 21 people had accepted Christ for the first time. 
  • 35 people made decisions to be baptized. 
  • 52 people decided to begin keeping the Sabbath. 
  • 28 people enrolled in a Bible study course. 
  • We broke the ice in Lake Shellenberger to baptize a sister who was ready for baptism! 

Peppers said he believes this is a model that can be duplicated in every local church. “It doesn’t take much to create an environment where people can be ministered to and open their hearts to truth,” he said, offering that they plan to do more of these weekends.

Wes Peppers, Michigan Conference, associate Ministerial director|Evangelism coordinator, with Lake Union Herald staff.