Seventh-day Adventist leaders are planning a milestone evangelistic campaign in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, that they hope will energize church members across the African country as well as in faraway Europe.
Church leaders, meeting in Lusaka this week, agreed to hold evangelistic meetings at 1,000 sites across the city of nearly 2 million people on June 8-23, 2018. This would be the Adventist Church’s largest evangelistic campaign in a single city and represent a significant ramp-up in Total Member Involvement (TMI) evangelism, a world church initiative that encourages every church member to find a way to share Jesus with others.
“God is going to do something special in Lusaka next year,” Duane McKey, TMI coordinator for the word church, said by e-mail after attending the Lusaka meeting.
In addition to hundreds of Zambian speakers, 100 European pastors and lay leaders will lead evangelistic meetings, many for the first time, McKey said. The hope is that the Europeans will return to home enthused to implement TMI evangelism there.
“We are expecting that when they preach their first evangelistic meeting, they will have tremendous results,” McKey said. “When they experience the fire of evangelism here in Africa, they will then take the coals of the fire back to Europe and start the fire burning in their own churches.”
TMI evangelism has swept several countries over the past year, yielding a record 110,000 baptisms in Rwanda in May 2016 and 73,000 baptisms in Kenya in March 2017. In Europe, more than 2,600 people are preparing for baptism in Romania after evangelistic meetings last February. The campaign in Romania, which has a highly secular society like the rest of Europe, defied expectations and prompted the Adventist Church’s Inter-European Division to pledge to carry out similar campaigns across its territory.
The Lusaka preparations come as the Adventist Church implements a plan to hold evangelistic meetings at an unprecedented 113,000 sites worldwide in 2017. Major evangelistic meetings also are being planned for 2018, including at 150 sites across Japan.
TMI in Lusaka
Ahead of the Lusaka meetings, the city’s 200,000 Adventists will be rallied to participate in TMI activities such as literature distribution, small-group evangelism, humanitarian projects, and medical, prayer, and Bible study groups, church leaders said. In addition, Adventist World Radio plans to broadcast for two hours daily on Lusaka’s most-popular radio station for the next year.
“In this way ‘AWR360: From Broadcast to Baptism’ will help advance the work in Africa and Europe,” said McKey, who also is the president of Adventist World Radio.
“AWR360: From Broadcast to Baptism” is the slogan of the church-owned broadcaster.
The planned outreach in Lusaka promises to provide a major boost to another world church initiative, Mission to the Cities, which aims to spread the gospel in the world’s biggest cities.
TMI will need to continue in Lusaka long after the evangelistic meetings end because it is a way of life, said Gary Krause, director of the world church's Office of Adventist Mission, which oversees Mission to the Cities.
“TMI in the cities is a call for all church members to use the gifts and talents God has given them,” Krause said. “It’s a team effort with evangelists, teachers, nurses, pastors, car mechanics, students, engineers, doctors, cleaners, doctors, and day laborers — each serving as a witness in the spheres of influence where they operate. Each is needed; each is just as vital as the other.”
Zambia, which has a population of 16 million, is one of a few countries in the world where the official Adventist membership tops 1 million people. The Adventist Church in Zambia celebrated that milestone in April 2015, which put it in the ranks of Brazil (1.5 million), India (1.5 million), and the United States (1.2 million). Kenya’s Adventists hope to baptize 400,000 people this year, which would propel their membership to 1.2 million.
Path to 1,000 Sites
McKey didn’t expect to discuss a landmark evangelistic campaign when he entered this week’s meeting with Harrington S. Akombwa, president of the Southern Zambia Union Conference, and other church leaders.
McKey initially asked local church leaders whether they could provide 100 sites for European speakers next year, according to his account of the meeting. When they agreed, he asked whether the number of sites could be expanded to 300, or one meeting at each of the 300 Adventist churches in Lusaka.
Additional sites meant that Zambian speakers also would need to preach, and the local church leaders eagerly embraced the idea.
“We could do 450!” they told McKey.
Then McKey said, “How about 500?”
At that point, Akombwa interjected, “That is what I was thinking, 500!”
Akombwa then stepped out for a phone call, and the other church leaders conversed among themselves. Finally, they told McKey, “We will do at least 1,000!”
When Akombwa returned, McKey broke the news to him.
“He was extremely happy,” McKey said. “He said the excitement will spill over into areas outside Lusaka as well, and they will also want to get involved.”