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Discussion with Alan Parker -- 1

As I said before, Alan Parker, VP for Evangelism for Amazing Facts has agreed to have a interview/dialogue with me. I sent him a few questions which he answered and is posted below. I'll be responding to him and asking a few more questions in future posts. Here is his reponse:

I think you’re asking good questions and I hope my responses will help to dispel some of the confusion over who Amazing Facts is and what it does. I’m choosing not to answer in an “official” capacity here, but rather in personal terms appropriate to this kind of dialogue. I recognize that I have my own unique perspective on Amazing Facts and that not everyone at Amazing Facts sees our role in the same light. I think that this kind of diverse thinking is probably true of any healthy organization.

1. If you met someone who had never heard of Amazing Facts before and they asked you what it was, how would you describe it?

For a person who knows nothing about Amazing Facts, the answer is fairly simple: Amazing Facts is a Christian media ministry with an evangelism focus. Our president-speaker, Doug Batchelor, is a fairly well known media personality who has a humorous and Bible-based teaching style (and a rather unique story of living in a cave). Our name comes from the first speaker of Amazing Facts, Joe Crews, who 40 years ago started a radio broadcast that always began with an “Amazing Fact.”

For most Adventists, however, they’re not completely ignorant of Amazing Facts. Some of their perceptions are less than positive and often based on a view of Amazing Facts that is radically conservative, traditional and even arrogant. There is even an archaic view of evangelism that people still attach to Amazing Facts that has the evangelist coming into town in his white Cadillac – shooting up the town with his gospel gun – and leaving baptismal robes strewn across the floor as he drives out hat in hand and Bible still smoking. I probably shared some of these perceptions when I came to Amazing Facts. However, I have found Amazing Facts to be highly professional, caring, tolerant and deeply concerned about people. For instance, we have a Bible correspondence school with over 100,000 students (of which 20% are inmates) where they personally respond to every question that is sent in. Staff members personally pray over every single prayer request and often email each other when they receive a call about someone who needs special prayer. In the school of evangelism, there is a strong focus on relational evangelism where evangelism is seen as a process and not an event and we focus on reaching the entire person and not simply getting them to make decisions. Some of our products are definitely cutting-edge and our Final Events DVD has sold nearly one million copies. Our twelve evangelists are radically committed to saving souls not just putting on programs and, in general, they are caring professionals and not pushy salesmen. We have theological differences among our team – we debate some of the texts we use, the interpretations we come up with and issues of salvation. It’s not a staid, “think only this way” kind of organization. Doug will sometimes say things that I don’t agree with and vice versa. I think we are generally “conservative” although I hate to use that term since it means different things to different people. In a positive sense we’re committed to historical Adventist values and not hysterical historicism.

2. Is A.F. an official organization of the SDA church? How is A.F. funded?

Yes, we are an official organization of the SDA church and we are constituted under the Northern California Conference. Our employees all hold a service record with the main church. However, although we are a part of the SDA church we are independently funded through donations, trusts and wills and the sale of products.

3. There seems to be a set of PowerPoint slides that virtually all evangelists use when doing an evangelistic series. Does A.F. have a set of PowerPoint slides they produce and distribute to evangelists that use the A.F. material?

No, we don’t have a set of PowerPoint slides that we distribute. It Is Written and Hart Institute in collaboration with ASI funding put together the New Beginnings DVD set that has found it’s way into most evangelists hands. Most of our evangelists will begin with the New Beginnings DVD set, but then develop their own. They collect and share slides and each of them has developed a unique set and structure of evangelistic sermons. I have heard nearly all of the evangelists and not one of them has the same sermon order.

4. What kind of person is the A.F. material most effective at reaching? EX: Age, Religious background, Economic status, Education level, Location (City or Country)

Our materials are generally for Christians, especially nominal or growing Christians. As any evangelist will tell you, evangelism is usually most effective at reaching lower economic groups. The greater a person’s salary and education, the less they seem to need religion (except perhaps in an esoteric sense). However, in spite of this natural ‘leaning’ of evangelism, we do reach people of all socio-economic groups. We largely target the United States, although we certainly have a worldwide impact.

It’s said that 92% of people believe in God (Time magazine) in North America. It’s been said that people have not rejected God, simply religion. What we recognize is that people do not reject gods of their own choosing. At Amazing Facts we don’t subscribe to the idea of a pure marketing approach to evangelism – find out what people want and give them that. If we did that, we would spend more time on issues that Joel Olsteen and other media evangelists focus on such as success and happiness. We try to give people a Bible-based, sacrificial view of religion that is focused on Christ and His call to commitment.

We don’t generally try to reach post-modern people. A truly postmodern person doesn’t accept any kind of foundationalism, which means that they are unlikely to accept the Bible as a point of reference. And if we don’t have the Bible as a point of reference, it’s hard to introduce people to Christ and the Adventist message. A postmodern person has to become dissatisfied with the relativism of the postmodern world in order to be open to establishing their point of reference in Christ and the Bible.

5. The tagline on your website is, "Reaching the World With God's End-Time Message?" What is God's end-time message that A.F. is sharing?

We see the end-time message as being the three angels’ messages of Revelation. Mostly this is about the “good news” of the everlasting gospel as shown in God’s provision for salvation, the Sabbath, the Sanctuary, etc. as indicated in the first angel’s message. However, the second angel’s message does call people out of worldly and false religions while the third angel’s message gives a warning about the mark of the beast. So, while all of our evangelists and our products deal with the good news, we don’t shy away from talking about the beast and its mark, Babylon, Daniel 7, etc. We also preach that God has a fallible group of people who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. So the “end-time message” of Amazing Facts is grounded in the Adventist understanding of salvation and prophecy. We feel responsible for sharing the unique holistic, great controversy perspective that Adventists have been blessed with.

I hope this helps!


Anonymous said…
A truly postmodern person doesn’t accept any kind of foundationalism, which means that they are unlikely to accept the Bible as a point of reference. And if we don’t have the Bible as a point of reference, it’s hard to introduce people to Christ and the Adventist message. A postmodern person has to become dissatisfied with the relativism of the postmodern world in order to be open to establishing their point of reference in Christ and the Bible.

I have two thoughts related to the comment above:

1) I'm not fully sure about the definition of postmodernism; however, one similarity between all the people I know who say they are postmodern (Christians or otherwise) are under the age of 35. So if A.F. is not relevant to (what I assume to be be) the majority of young people, then shouldn't some of A.F.'s budget be going towards finding ways to be relevant to the next generation so that it doesn't die out with the current A.F. supporters?

2) I have found that people who are not Christian in general do not accept the Bible as a point of reference. Even Jesus, who was mainly appealing to the Jews around Him used more than the Jewish scripture to draw people closer to the truth, so I would argue that perhaps if we use some of Jesus' methods for reaching people (e.g. spending time with people, meeting the human needs of people before getting into their spiritual needs,) we wouldn't be so "hard to introduce people to Christ and the Adventist message."

Sorry, if I sound so angry, Dr. Parker. I really do appreciate your responses and they certainly are a lot more balanced than I was expecting. I just wish more people would see that A.F. isn't the only form of evangelism, especially if the church is trying to attract a younger crowd.
The Writer said…
I'm going to pick on the same part that Selin did. I really think Foundationalism is a key part of the problem that needs to be addressed in the church. In Adventism, however, it goes unquestioned. The topic is so politicized that I'm sure we can't even discuss it at any offical level, but just in the past few weeks this has been reinfored. 1)The new SS Quarterly for Adults is on Genesis. I actually really like the title, "Beginnings and Belongings." But the opening lesson is guessed it - Foundations. 2)Then, today I get Ministry Magazine and on the cover, "Scripture: Foundation of Adventist Theology." What I would love to see a few of us wrestle with is this: What would a non-foundational understanding of Adventism look like, remembering that foundationalism is a purely modern notion? The writers of the Bible were in no way philosophical foundationalists so there must be a non-foundational reading of the same scripture that is admissable, right?

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