The 20th anniversary of the historic global satellite evangelistic event dubbed “NET ’98” was celebrated at Pioneer Memorial Church (PMC) during their Oct. 6 worship services.
During the service, PMC Pastor Dwight K. Nelson recalled the moment when the uplink went live from the church located on the campus of Andrews University for the five-week preaching series: “Twenty years ago, Oct. 9, 7:15 in the evening, somebody in that mezzanine level hit a switch and at the speed of light a beam from two satellite trucks shot up to a bevy of satellites belting the planet. One signal from here, six continents, more than 100 nations, 40 languages, and 7,600 downlink sites, all watching simultaneously.”
NET ’98 ran from Oct. 9 through Nov. 14, uplinked to satellite from its host site at PMC in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
With $1.6 million invested by the North American Division, an estimated two million people worldwide tuned into the live satellite event. Nelson stood each evening preaching, while 39 pastors stationed in soundproof cubicles translated his message into the languages of the world.
Nelson’s “NeXt Millenium Seminars” series approached the books of Daniel and Revelation from a fresh relational aspect in the hopes of helping people discover a forever friendship with the Savior.
NET '98 followed on the heels of other satellite evangelism programs, NET ’95 and NET ’96. When it aired, it was considered tobe the “greatest single Adventist evangelistic thrust” in the world.
One major objective of NET ’98 was to target those born during the years 1965 through 1980, known as Generation X or “Gen X.” In order to make the series more appealing to young adults, two Andrews graduate students served as on-air hosts, Gen X musicians performed each evening, and Nelson, an evangelist and pastor from Pioneer Memorial (the Andrews University campus church) presented the nightly message.
Remembering NET ’98
Through reports at the time, from Adventist News Network and Adventist Review, it was estimated that 30-40,000 baptisms resulted from NET ’98 worldwide, while the total accessions to the church in North America was estimated to be around 8,000 (baptisms and professionals of faith).
During the 20thanniversary celebration, Nelson shared several riveting testimonies emerging from the evangelistic series, including that of Jason Canfield, a backslidden Mormon. Canfield was invited to attend the satellite event at a local church and shared that while listening he became convicted of the Sabbath. “NET ’98challenged me,” he said via video conference. “Initially, I did not like it. I actually tried to disprove the Adventist teaching of the Sabbath by looking for evidence but couldn’t find anything.” Shortly after the meetings, he was baptized and currently serves as a pastor at the Lacey Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington.
Skip McCarty, retired pastor, shared that prior to NET ’98, a group of Andrews University students, as part of the relational component of the evangelistic series, went door-to-door to pray with people in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Soon, a small community was formed and when NET ’98 was launched, the same group of students did not want their newly-founded community to miss out on the powerful messages.
McCarty said, “At that time, we didn’t have a downlink capability, so every morning after each meeting the University students would receive a VHS tape and bicycle it up to Benton Harbor, where they would share it each evening with a packed room of people from the community. This resulted in several baptisms.” After NET ’98, the church planted the Harbor of Hope Church, which is still in existence today.
An evangelistic meeting of this magnitude needed an organized infrastructure that would allow the meetings to flow harmoniously. There were 1,500 volunteers and 50 ministries which worked tirelessly throughout the month to keep the evangelistic meetings afloat. Llona Chapman managed a separate program for the 11 and 12 year olds, where she planned for 35 to 40 children but ended up with 75 each night. A curriculum specially designed for NET ’98 called “Come Meet Jesus” took the children on a journey from creation to Jesus’ second coming.
Chapman, in her interview, said, “That last Friday night we were concentrating on Jesus’ crucifixion. I prayed and asked God to give me one child. As I talked with the children about Jesus being crucified I saw a 12-year-old boy with his head in his hands sobbing and it happened to be a little boy who had given us problems. Towards the end of the meetings, we gave the kids a baptismal card and this same 12-year-old boy was the first one to return it. I was fortunate enough to watch him get baptized and cried afterward.”
— Felicia Tonga writes for the Lake Union Herald; additional reporting by the NAD Office of Communication. CLICK HERE to read the original online Herald article.