The Invercargill Church Story
Recognizing that the church was in decline, the Invercargill Seventh-day Adventist Church embarked on a journey some years ago to work through some tough issues. "First, we began to take the spirituality of the members seriously. Next, with a continuing focus on discipleship, we initiated a number of on-going community projects to connect the church with the community. As a result, we were able to move closer to our desired vision of being ‘that caring church where you and your family are empowered to have an abundant life through a transforming relationship with Jesus,’ and for the purpose of ‘leading people in the city of Invercargill and surrounding area into a transforming relationship with Jesus.’ The road has not been easy, but the church lived with anticipation of a brighter and rewarding future. It was at this point that Pastor Jean Noel Adeline arrived to run an evangelistic campaign, Discover Hope.
“We needed–as a church and as individuals–to get right with God,” Pastor Adeline said. Toward this goal, each time we had a gospel presentation for the community, we also held an early morning, hour-long prayer meeting. The meeting was divided into two parts: 20 minutes meditating upon the Word, and 40 minutes interceding for ourselves, families, church and community. During those meetings, we were fed in an amazing way and were challenged to the core about our own walk with God. It was like being a New Testament church–we lived in each other’s pockets and thrived. We were able to be open about our past deficiencies and how we needed to change, and yet we felt safe in these admissions. Our church became a loving and warm sanctuary where we could meet together to pray, learn, and spend time together. We were truly prepared to meet and befriend new people! God’s Spirit moved at those prayer meetings in a powerful way and we all were uplifted spiritually.
"From the first night of the Discover Hope series, more than 40 members of our community heard completely Christ-centered messages, presented in the power of God by Pastor Jean Noel. Our church members, alongside new friends from the community, heard for the first time in their lives the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church clothed in pure gospel. The people who were attending fell in love with Jesus, including a practicing Hindu lady and also a Russian man, who was a life-long atheist. This lady has become very strong in her new faith and her knowledge of the Bible, and so has the Russian brother.
For the final 1.5 weeks, Jean Noel concentrated in more depth on the beliefs of our church and the need to make a decision now. He spoke to the mind and the heart of those attending. When he made an appeal asking people to come forward to express their commitment to Jesus, half of the people in the auditorium went forward, stepping out confidently, rejoicing! They were drawn to make a full commitment because they were drawn to Jesus, who was vividly presented in every topic. Our church members were totally blown away, and humbled, seeing the joy of people committing their lives to Jesus. We had a baptism on the final Sabbath with 14 baptisms and 1 joining by profession of faith. These people understood the Bible and wanted to follow Jesus all the way. It was a day when we rejoiced in the goodness of God and the faith of these new people! No one minded that we had a three-hour worship service, as well as seminars.
"The new followers of Christ are making some tremendous changes in their lives. One gentleman quit smoking on the spot as we lead him through the 5-minute plan. Another gentleman came home after one of the Discover Hope sessions and poured all of his alcohol into the sink to his wife’s utter amazement. A number of people went to their bosses to inform them that they would no longer work on Saturdays, as they are now Seventh-day Adventists. They have been blessed as God has answered their prayers for solutions.
"After the conclusion of the major series, Pastor Jean Noel has maintained his connection with us, presenting further follow-up sessions over several weekends, resulting in even more baptisms. Since last August, we have had more than 40 people join our Invercargill church by baptism or profession of faith. This would have been unheard of in past decades, in a church used to just 5 baptisms a year!
"We are still praying as a church, doing studies with our new members and giving them tools to reach others, as well as following up with those who have Bible questions. We fully expect more amazing things to happen as we encourage the spiritual journey of the new members and friends of our church. The church continues to have at least one baptism every other month. In April the church had 4 more people keen to make their stand. We are so grateful that Pastor Jean Noel has shown us a new way of “growing church” through revival and reformation. We are excited about winning new people for Jesus and don’t want to stop–ever."
By Pastor Victor Kulakov, the Senior Pastor of the Invercargill Seventh-day Adventist Church in New Zealand.