On 3 May, the much anticipated, The Last Empire series opened in 29 different venues throughout Sydney. The opening night saw more than 1500 community members attend. “We’re excited by the number of contacts that have been coming along to the presentations,” says Pr Michael Worker, coordinator of The Last Empire. “We’re continuing to uphold the presenters and the people attending the presentations before the Lord, as the series continues to develop and unfold.”
Four motorway billboards, 1.25 million brochures and more than 100 television advertisements have generated publicity for this series. The use of the Daniel 2 statue, the key image in the marketing, saw a lot of interest from the Middle Eastern community. The Last Empire has also had a large online presence and impact. Close to 80 per cent of the people booked through the website <www.lastempire.com.au>, which had about 14,000 unique visitors over the two weeks leading up to the series. In the same period, almost 5,000 people directly viewed the Last Empire Facebook page.
The English locations, hosted by Sydney-based presenters, used the same slides and scripting. Some of the venues, reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of Sydney, offered the program in other languages such as Portuguese, Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, Mandarin and Arabic. “The pastors who have been trained and equipped to present this Last Empire series now have a greater confidence in their ministry and feel more equipped to go out and engage with their community,” says Pr Worker. “Pastors have told me how much they appreciate the opportunity to be involved in this program, as they are growing and developing their own pastoral skills in the process. This will be our first campaign, not our last.”
Pr Worker explains that the Conference began with the “desire to present something that our members could be excited about and proud of and that would also reach the secular, consumer driven society such is Sydney. It was an opt-in arrangement with pastors and churches. The invitation was extended and any pastor or church that desired to be involved were encouraged. We wanted those who were enthusiastic and keen and we gave them permission to try ‘something different’, alongside the traditional approach.”
The concept of running numerous local presentations, simultaneously across the city, was developed by Pr Worker in partnership with the South Pacific Division’s Institute of Public Evangelism Director, Pr Gary Webster. “This series is about proclaiming the good news of Jesus in a prophetic context, relating to people’s lives and what is happening in society, using updated, contemporary materials,” says Pr Webster. Pr Webster had trialed a similar approach on a smaller scale in Adelaide in 2011 and developed the scripts for The Last Empire with Pastors Lyle Southwell, Garth Bainbridge and Graeme Christian. Kel Naughton of M24Media created the brand/theme—The Last Empire.
The presentations will continue throughout the month of May. Local churches will follow up with programs such as Beyond, Prophetic Code, Secrets of Prophecy and a range of other initiatives.
In the 18 months leading up to The Last Empire, church members were encouraged to prepare themselves and their congregations for a series of this nature. “We have been encouraging members to pray for five people for the year leading up to the series. They were also encouraged to invite family, friends and colleagues to one of the venues,” says Pr Worker. 20 April was designated as a Conference-wide day of prayer and fasting to seek the leading and involvement of the Holy Spirit in this series.
One church had a unique way to get attention of their community. Talk-back radio and social media were abuzz with news of a 30-meter image, standing in the Hoxton Park churchyard. The air-filled statue, affectionally known as Edgar, from Daniel 2 as seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream – the same image depicted in all of The Last Empire advertising. According to Pr Lyle Southwell, evangelist and director of the South Pacific Division’s Discovery Centre, the image is the world’s largest freestanding, air filled image.
Pr Worker has already seen changes in the church in Sydney and says the most important outcome of this series will be changed lives. “As a conference, we would love to see the people who have been touched by this program become part of our churches.”
“We hope to see this stronger partnership continue between local Adventist churches as we work together to spread the gospel. We had a much bigger ‘buy in’ from churches than we expected. It has highlighted the latent desire in our members to be equipped and resourced to share the gospel with those who need it most,” adds Pr Worker.
“This program has increased the mission focus in our conference and the level of enthusiasm our members have to share their faith.”