Pulling Together in Las Vegas
A new vision for cooperative effort is about to grab hold of the Adventist Church—especially its ministries and members who faithfully embrace the gospel commission to “Go ye into all the world.” On paper, it’s happening under the working title, “Saving Las Vegas.” In reality, it’s a campaign to reach every nation, kindred and tongue. At present, more than twelve ministry groups have stepped forward to place their hands on the rope and start pulling their weight. ASI and various ASI member organizations are on that growing list.
No one can pinpoint when this “movement” began. For some time, a pastor had been driving each week to the top of a mountain overlooking Las Vegas, asking God to bring revival to that place. After It Is Written’s successful campaigns in “impossible places” like Portland, Los Angeles and Rome, the IIW team prayed, “Lord, where to next?” and received the answer—Las Vegas. During an ASI Mid-America spring rally, ASI vice president for evangelism Terry Anderson met with a group of lay ministry leaders and local church pastors in Las Vegas to talk about their shared conviction that an evangelistic series should be held there. Meanwhile, the Nevada-Utah Conference had been praying about holding an evangelistic series in Las Vegas and invited IIW to the table. At some point, they all found each other, and the forward momentum began.
At ASI conventions and rallies, a diverse variety of ministry leaders and teams commonly interact with one another, gathering at tables or in corners for friendly discussion. There’s a comfortable congeniality among them. They understand one another’s vision and challenges, as well as the personal sacrifices inherent in working in the trenches of evangelism. As time passes, their desire for Christ’s return increases. You can see it in their eyes.
It’s not uncommon for them to work together on large-scale outreach events. In fact, cooperative effort is becoming more and more a hallmark of what ASI stands for as an organization. As time goes by, it’s less “To each his own” and more “Let’s pull together and make this happen.”
There is Biblical precedent for this development. The Apostle Paul urged Christ’s followers “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:1-6, NKJV).
With so many ministries—all with their own leaders, teams, websites, literature and mission statements—it’s hard sometimes to envision what genuine cooperative effort might actually look like. Certainly it’s something more than warm handshakes and encouraging back pats. It must go beyond “I’ll pray for you” and “I know what you mean; our giving is down, too.”
“There’s been a definite paradigm shift in how we’re doing evangelism,” says Yves Monnier, a California pastor who helped organize IIW’s Rome campaign. “We’ve started going to places where no one else wants to go.” Monnier is transitioning to serve as IIW’s fulltime coordinator for the “Saving Las Vegas” effort.
“This campaign is unique,” Monnier says. “For one thing, Las Vegas is known for being a very immoral and sinful city. For another, we’re seeing unprecedented cooperation between the North American Division, the local conference, ASI, and its lay ministries. There’s a synergy that’s never before been experienced.”
Although ministries generally work independently in their occasionally overlapping spheres, many are starting to sense God calling them to collaborate and to achieve exponentially more by pooling their efforts and resources. Beyond expectations in terms of outcome, the IIW team sees the real goal as restoring belief among church members that public evangelism is still one of the best ways to proclaim the everlasting gospel. After all, if it can be done in Las Vegas, it can be done anywhere, says Monnier.
In a November teleconference, then IIW speaker/ director Shawn Boonstra laid out the roster and general plan, asking each ministry to share what it envisioned doing in Las Vegas, and when. With the campaign still in its seminal stages, participants are busy trying to figure out where they fit into the big picture. Boonstra has since passed the IIW leadership torch to John Bradshaw, another seasoned media evangelist who is equally excited about joining forces with the many Las Vegas project team members.
Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism director Don Mackintosh says, “We’re used to working as part of a team. The trick is to make sure we’re in step with each other’s methods and goals. We’re all part of the Adventist Church. If we’re not working together to bring people to Christ, we’re not helping anybody.”
For instance, some evangelists use the prophecies of Daniel as a warm-up, while others use Daniel as the main fare, says Mackintosh. Such differences in approach can raise challenges—or present opportunities for the body of Christ to exhibit loving, cooperative behavior that represents the mind of Christ.
Maybe that’s the challenge Ellen White was referring to when she wrote, “There are always a few who think, when their brethren are pulling forward, that it is their duty to pull back. They object to everything that is proposed, and make war on every plan that they have not themselves originated…. They have never learned in the school of Christ the precious and all-important lesson of becoming meek and lowly. There is nothing harder for those who possess a strong will than to give up their own way, and submit to the judgment of others” (Gospel Workers, pp. 446, 447).
So far, each of the various teams are expressing humble and enthusiastic readiness to collaborate. “This level of cooperation between these ministries has not existed in recent memory,” says Mike Tucker of Faith For Today.
Team leaders are standing by, awaiting their marching orders. Ty Gibson of Light Bearers Ministry says, “We’ve had various meetings about the event, and we’re waiting for word on exactly what part we’re to play. I know it will have to do with literature distribution.”
“This is a great concept,” says ARISE director David Asscherick. “We’re totally supportive. If it’s training they need, we just need to know the dates. If they want Bible workers, we need to know the expectations and to make sure any Bible workers we provide will be actively supported by and involved in the local churches.”
Technology also sets this effort apart from every other. With the world of traditional broadcast television in steady decline, the technology team will take full advantage of the power of the Internet, designing virtually every aspect of the campaign to reach a generation accustomed to getting its information on laptops and smart phones. Meetings will be webcast with interactive elements for small groups meeting in homes, businesses, and churches around the world. An online resource and training center will provide support for church members wanting courses in personal evangelism and needing answers to difficult questions. The goal is not only to reach Las Vegas, but also to interact simultaneously with 1 million people worldwide.
Accomplishing this goal is simply a matter of getting enough hands firmly on the rope, ready to pull with choreographed rhythm and momentum. It’s the kind of effort that only the Lord can sustain as His people humbly die to self and yield to His will. “Without Me,” says Christ, “ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).