Do Surge Or Do Something

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“What do you think about this Surge thing?” We were having a camp meeting conversation a week ago and an old question took on a new life.
I had to pause and think because frankly, in the Huntsville area Surge has not been the Sabbath dinner super-subject that it seems be across the Adventist landscape. It’s a Huntsville hot topic to be sure, but perhaps we’re close enough to the situation to separate rumor from reality–fact from fiction.

So what do I think about Surge? To be honest I have one huge problem with Surge and it’s difficult for me to get around it or past it. But I’m big enough to admit it. Here it is.

My problem with Surge is that Pastor Snell and the First SDA Church of Huntsville launched it before my church did!

There it is. I said it. I feel so much better!

As a staff we saw the possibilities. We discussed the annual Easter Sundays that presented perfect outreach opportunities—not to mention the opportunity to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection. Most of us spend Easter on the campus of Oakwood University celebrating Alumni Weekend. No problem with Alumni Weekend and Easter colliding, but how about an Easter sunrise service that celebrates arguably the most important date on the Christian calendar? Some of us even remembered enjoying Sunday morning and evening Adventist services years ago.

For the record, I can’t think of a more biblical, practical and historical outreach idea than Surge.

A Sunday morning outreach service that explores the fundamental beliefs of the Adventist church.
An entry point to reach the masses that see Sunday as the normal day of worship.
A creative, informal setting that is designed for discipleship and fellowship.
An evangelistic approach that is both old and new.
Now, for me it’s impossible to miss the the biblical and Spirit of Prophecy support for the ministry:

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:19,22).

“Whenever it is possible, let religious services be held on Sunday. Make these meetings intensely interesting. Sing genuine revival hymns, and speak with power and assurance of the Savior’s love.” Testimonies for the Church Volume 9, p. 23

“Means will be devised to reach hearts. Some of the methods used in this work will be different from the methods used in the work in the past; but let no one, because of this, block the way by criticism.” Review and Herald, September 30, 1902

“Men are needed who pray to God for wisdom and who, under the guidance of God, can put new life into old methods of labor and can invent new plans and new methods of awakening the interest of church members and reaching the men and women of the world.” Manuscript 117, 1907

And the results have been amazing; positive coverage from the Huntsville press, weeks of careful study of the Bible, and souls of various colors and cultures accepting Christ and embracing the Advent message. One highlight was a Baptist minister who testified of accepting the truth of the Sabbath and joining the church, no matter what the cost.

I appreciate the First Seventh-day Adventist Church for the evangelistic passion they have demonstrated for decades. The Lord has added over 500 new members to their fellowship in the last 5 years! With growth has come scrutiny and criticism, but they’ve done it the old fashioned way.

“When divine power is combined with human effort, the work will spread like fire in the stubble.” Selected Messages p. 118

I appreciate Pastor Snell. He’s an old man in young skin. His pastoral and preaching gifts are unusual for a minister his age. Surge has almost overshadowed the fine work he and his staff have been doing for years. He has taken and continues to take personal and public hits and stands his ground. Good for him.

I appreciate the president of the South Central Conference, Dana Edmond, for the thoughtful leadership he has demonstrated as news of Surge has exploded. His blog entitled, “Why I Didn’t Just Say No to Surge,” was as good as it gets. What more could a pastor want in a fight than a president who weighs the issues and decides on principle rather than pressure.

But listen, I’m not confused for one moment that Surge is a success in everyone’s mind. For many it’s just the opposite. They have read every text and quotation used to support Surge—including mine—and they still disagree. Many read the quotations and see a different context altogether. They see the sacredness of the Sabbath diminished. They see the church confusing the minds and endangering the lives of members and non-members who must face the Sabbath/Sunday conflict. I get it and I respect it.

But here’s the thing. If you’re not reaching out to lost neighbors and relatives through ideas like Surge, what are you doing? That’s my question.

To be fair, that’s a question for Surge detractors and supporters alike. Our church in North America is not doing well at all in obeying the Lord’s commission to go and make disciples. The cruel reality is that in many areas we are losing more members than we gain and even our children seem reluctant to stick around.

The Surge discussion is a good example of where many of us invest our greatest energy and passion—in debate. I’ve noticed that much of the criticism of Surge has come from independent ministries and members who are not the least bit invested in the lives of non-Adventists. To you I would say, “DO Surge, DO something or DO me a favor and be quiet!”

I’m fine with the disagreement. That’s ok. I can respect that. None of us are faultless and we can learn from both the left and right. What I’m not fine with are the endless dinner debates that are disconnected from our mission to reach people. The first sentence of the book Acts of the Apostles says it well, “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.”

I’ll be conducting meetings in Atlanta and Memphis this summer. Frankly, it’s easier teaching evangelism in an air-conditioned classroom than it is preaching evangelism in the sweltering summer, but that’s what I do. I’m crazy like that. The question is, what do you do?

We probably don’t need more public evangelists; we need more public witnesses. It’s easy to debate in the church. The question is, can you connect in the marketplace? It’s one thing to talk to me about a gospel that we’ve both heard. It’s another thing to share the gospel with a neighbor who has never heard. And it really doesn’t start with a bible study. It starts with simply showing love to our neighbors and friends. Something we often show too little of in our debates.

So my rambling will stop, but my challenge remains, “DO Surge, DO Something or DO me a favor…”

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