What Is ARISE Trying To Accomplish - David Asscherick

What is ARISE Trying to Accomplish?

by David Asscherick  |  September 17, 2012

Someone told me that someone had a friend who was told by someone else that, “ARISE Bibleworkers don’t get results.” Sure, a rumor is a rumor, but the alleged statement does actually raise an important question, one that I’ve been asking for more than a decade: What is ARISE trying to accomplish? 

The answer starts with a little history.

ARISE began in 2002 when Pastor Nathan Renner and myself partnered with the Michigan Conference and the Troy Seventh-day Adventist church to start “an evangelism school.” Our first class had 28 students who attended the 16-week program. We did our best, but I do cringe a bit when I think of some of the things we said and did in that inaugural session. Compared to the quality of ARISE’s current programs, in both content and presentation, those early sessions aren’t even in the same league. We did our best, yes, but our best has gotten better. This is to be expected.

Going back further still, in 1997, as fresh-faced converts, Nathan and I both graduated from a similar program, a 16-week “mission college.” The emphasis of that program was evangelism––the what, how to, how not to, when, and where. The goal was to graduate “soulwinners” many of whom, it was understood, would go on to become “Bibleworkers.” As a recent believer, all of this language was new to me. The program was a solid program, and was just what I needed in those nascent months.

Being a dutiful graduate, I went straight from the program into Biblework and evangelism, a position I would occupy for five years. Nathan had a similar experience. In 2002, I accepted a call to pastor the Troy, Michigan Seventh-day Adventist Church. Nathan had already accepted a call to pastor in Michigan the year before.

Then we were given the opportunity of a lifetime by Michigan Conference leadership: start a school of evangelism ourselves. We jumped at the opportunity.

Predictably, we taught a combination of what we’d been taught five years earlier and what we ourselves had gleaned in the intervening decade of combined ministry. In that first program we worked ourselves to the bone with the help of others, one Mary Bernt (cook-administrator-secretary-mentor-health educator-mom) in particular.

We were gearing much of our instruction to those who wanted to become Bibleworkers, but most didn’t want to become Bibleworkers.

ARISE’s acronym, A Resource-Institute for Soulwinning and Evangelism, aptly communicated what we were all about. We were in the business, largely, of training Bibleworkers for the Michigan Conference. Some of those Bibleworkers faired really well. Others struggled.

A note on Biblework is now in order. First, Biblework––finding, giving, facilitating, and managing community Bible studies––is hard, hard work. I know from both experience and observation. It is not easy to be a Bibleworker, particularly in a dead or dying church, and more particularly still if the Bibleworker is working alone, without a team. Very often, the pay is low and the expectations are high. Some are placed in good situations and prosper, while others are placed in less than ideal situations and languish. Not all Bibleworkers are created equal and neither are all situations in which they can be placed. Thus, not all “results” are the same.

I’ll return to this momentarily, but, for now, back to ARISE.

After we had a few programs under our belt, Nathan and I began to realize that most of those who were attending ARISE had no desire or ambition to enter full-time ministry, either as a Bibleworker or a pastor. Many, perhaps most, already knew what they wanted to do professionally or academically. Nurses, teachers, doctors, tradesmen, social workers, students and more made up the majority of those who who were attending ARISE. To put a number on it, 30% or less of any given class had any developed or intentional interest in full-time ministry.

So we had a problem.

We were gearing much of our instruction to those who wanted to become Bibleworkers, but most didn’t want to become Bibleworkers.

This realization did not happen in a moment, but, like the dawning day, became clearer and clearer over time. So what did we do? Naturally, we shifted the program’s focus. That shift involved a movement away from a Biblework and full-time ministry preparation, and toward personal conversion and discipleship. Now we were scratching where everybody was itching, those with full-time ministry ambitions and those without them.

Over time the “Biblework” language and emphasis began to fade from ARISE’s vernacular and focus. It’s not that Biblework isn’t important, or that it isn’t a noble pursuit to run a program designed around that end. ARISE had just evolved. (Yes, I just wrote that sentence.)

So what about “results”?

This is, in my view, a wrongheaded and ultimately ambiguous concept without a meaningful metric.

Here at ARISE we’re not trying to produce Bibleworkers.

As someone who has spent years in Biblework and has conducted dozens of evangelistic campaigns, I can say with certainty that the whole concept of “results” in an evangelistic context is slippery and inexact. I’ve seen evangelists and Bibleworkers artificially inflate their ever-important “numbers” to impress an employer, church, or colleague. I’ve held meetings where hundreds have been baptized, and I’ve held meetings where, despite my biblical preaching and impassioned pleas, no one was baptized.

“Results” are tricky. Consider Jesus‘ ministry. Was His ministry successful? Certainly. Was it “successful” in a way that could’ve been easily apprehended by some kind of “results” metric? Certainly not.

Examples could be multiplied.

So, has ARISE, over the last decade, trained and mentored many astoundingly “successful” full-time ministers, including Bibleworkers, pastors, evangelists, and even conference officers? Yes, it has.

Has ARISE, over the last decade, trained and mentored some less “successful” ministry workers? Yes it has. But why weren’t the “results” there? The answer is rarely easy. It could be a hundred things. And one of those things is this: the “results” may actually be there, unseen to our human eyes, but evident and beautiful to the eyes of Him who sees all things as they actually are.

Here at ARISE we’re not trying to produce Bibleworkers. We haven’t been for years now.

So then, What is ARISE trying to accomplish?

That’s an easy one.

We’re laboring––in mind, body, soul, and example––to lift up Jesus Christ in the context of the Three Angels’ Messages and to teach our students how to do the same. Our consistent and insistent refrain is the personal conversion and discipleship of our students.

Some will become Bibleworkers and pastors.

Most will not.

And ultimately God alone will measure all of their “results”, which, really, are His “results” anyway.

David Asscherick Speaker
Light Bearers
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