Ethical Considerations in Prophecy-focused Adventist Evangelism
Prophecy-focused Adventist evangelism is in need of reform. In our zeal to teach the “truth” we have resorted to questionable, if not downright unethical, methods. In this paper, Daniel McFeeters develops an ethical framework based on Biblical principles to use as a guide in evaluating evangelist practices and methods. This paper identifies common methods that raise ethical questions, such as bait-and-switch advertising, “proof-texting,” and methods that marginalize or condemn groups of people with whom we disagree. Finally, it suggests ways to improve prophecy-focused evangelism and to diversify our message to reach people who may be turned off by traditional methods.
I wrote this paper back in 2020 for a class in Biblical Ethics at Southern Adventist University. After submitting it for class, I sat on it for a long time debating whether I should post it anywhere else. I realize the wording is strong, and I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing evangelism. But I believe the issues are important, so I’m posting it here for our consideration. I welcome any feedback you may have!
After sharing the link to this page on social media, I received numerous relevant comments and feedback. One from Dr. Alan Parker adds insight and context to my paper:
A well-written and insightful paper, Daniel. We do need to be ethical in our approach and also think about new methods for sharing the Adventist message and bringing people into loving communities. A few comments.
Firstly, it’s important to note that most of Adventism doesn’t actually follow this four to six week prophecy-based approach that you describe. It’s largely an Anglo-American strategy. The Hispanic, African, and Asian contexts have other approaches.
Secondly, outside of media ministries, when the prophecy-based approach is used, most series these days tend to be in a local church, where people know what they are coming to.
Thirdly, the best way to get a crowd is not by advertising but by following the cycle of evangelism, which is also taught by most evangelists.
Lastly, I do believe a Christ-centered approach to prophecy in a public setting has a way of reaching people. It shouldn’t be our only approach, but time and again, we do see people joining the church and having a transformational conversion experience through this method. Since not many other denominations talk about prophecy, it does reach a certain crowd.
We also have to make a distinction between persuasion and manipulation. Evangelistic methods and preaching should be persuasive without being manipulative. The same goes for what is considered sensational. We need to “arouse attention” without resorting to click bait approaches. In today’s media-saturated environment, that’s more and more difficult.
On a side note, I’m working on a new series that largely takes a contextual approach to prophecy, where each message is unpacking a single Bible passage/prophecy in the light of the rest of Scripture, rather than a proof-text approach. My goal is to be relational and practical, showing the power of the gospel and the hope it brings. We will see how it goes!