In 1978 Ministry, an international journal for Seventh-day Adventist pastors, began a program called PREACH. This program included sending Ministry to non—Seventhday Adventist ministers as well as promoting local PREACH seminars. At first it was subsidized in North America by the General Conference and the North American Division, and the list of subscribers grew. Because of financial pressures, the program lost both subsidies in 1989. In other countries PREACH continues to be subsidized by divisions and unions.
Since 1989 the PREACH program endures in North America (with a smaller circulation) because of donations by lay members and the generosity of some local conferences. The purpose of the program is to break down barriers of prejudice, and this has happened for those who receive the magazine. PREACH continues to be one of the church's most successful public relations projects. But for further outreach we need person-to-person contact. The Conyers Seventh-day Adventist Church in Conyers, Georgia, sponsors 161 subscriptions to Ministry for non—Seventh-day Adventist ministers. Church elder Clyde Brooks tells how he follows up these subscriptions with a visit. The Editor
teachers of the gospel whose minds have not been called to the special truths for this time . . . should be among the first to hear the call. To them the invitation must be given" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 230). What better way to share these special truths with the religious leaders of other faiths than by sending them Ministry] Because we believe this, the Conyers Seventh-day Adventist Church sends Ministry to 161 pastors in three counties near our church.
I am an elder, semi-retired and have more time than some of our other members. I thought it might be well to visit personally as many of these pastors as I could. I wanted to know if they were receiving the magazine, get their reactions to it, and become acquainted with them.
I did not call for an appointment, but dropped by the church office. I introduced myself as a member of the Conyers Seventhday Adventist Church and one of the elders. I did not dress in a suit, as I thought this would make the atmosphere of the visit more casual and comfortable. I did not want them to think I was there to argue doctrine, so at once I made it clear that this was a friendly gesture to get to know them.
Many pastors were not in, especially those in outlying areas. But those whom I did find in received me warmly. I stated that my purpose in visiting was to get acquainted with them and to be sure they were receiving Ministry, a gift from our church.
Most of the pastors said they had been receiving the magazine and enjoyed reading it. Only one pastor did not read the journal because he disagreed with the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He requested that we cancel his subscription. But even this pastor was open to having prayer with me.
My prayers were simple. I asked God to bless these pastors in their important responsibilities, to bless their members, and to bless them as the shepherds of their flocks. I asked God to give them a double portion of His Holy Spirit.
Some also prayed. (It would be respectful to ask the pastor to pray first.) One pastor said he especially liked the idea of my coming and our praying together. Another said he did not know much about Seventh-day Adventists, but after my visit he planned to find out more about them. He was so open and friendly that I gave him some books. With another pastor I had the opportunity to discuss the Sabbath message and was able to leave a book with him.
After our prayer a number of pastors arose and embraced me, telling me how much they appreciated my visit. One woman pastor was in the parking lot of her church when I arrived. Even though she was leaving her office, she stopped to talk and pray with me.
As I leave their office, I give each minister a tract entitled "Diet for a Longer Life," which offers a complimentary copy of The Ministry of Healing. This is not a time to present doctrinal material. Unless a pastor shows a special interest in a particular theological subject, leaving a tract or other material on health makes a nice reminder of your visit.
What to Do When Pastors Are Out
As I stated previously, many of the pastors were not in their church office. Anticipating this, I prepared a letter written on our church stationery. In the letter I stated that I was sorry I did not get to meet them, but had stopped to get acquainted and see if they had been receiving the Ministry subscription that our church was sending to them. I also left the tract on healthful living. If the church was open, I put the letter and tract inside. If it was not open, I left them on the door handle. Many of the churches are so scattered I did not want to go back, perhaps repeatedly, to try to catch them in.
These visits took me several days, but they gave me some of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had. I recommend visiting PREACH subscribers to other elders.
I am reminded of further counsel: "Our ministers [and lay ministers] should seek to come near to the ministers of the other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ's messengers, we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock" (Evangelism, p. 562). Ministry provides the opening wedge in getting to know these pastors.
If your church would like more information on the PREACH program and how you can help, write for "Evangelism That Goes Beyond Monastery Walls" at Ministry, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904.
Clyde Brooks is a retired pastor and elder of the Conyers Seventh-day Adventist Church, Conyers, Georgia.