have some burdens on my heart, some concerns about the church I would like to share with you this morning,” said General Conference president Jan Paulsen as he began his message titled “Service—An Attitude” on Sabbath morning, October 7, to the nearly 300 church leaders at the church’s world headquarters for Annual Council 2006. One of those burdens, he explained, is Adventist youth.
“Over half of our global community is under 30 years of age, and they need to be heard and have an active presence in our church,” Paulsen said. “They need to be listened to about what lies on their hearts. I am anxious to know . . . what they are willing to live for and willing to die for. . . . We need to pay particular attention to what the young professionals are saying, for among them we should look for both today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.”
He went on to note the need for youth and young adults to take an active role in the mission of the church.
Asking the tough questions
Paulsen, who has engaged in about a dozen televised conversations with youth and young adults during the past three years with his “Let’s Talk” series, said he has learned that once they get past the more “superficial questions,” youth are very concerned about “weighty” issues and ask tough questions. “Does leadership nurture a church that is so focused on spirituality and eternity that they have no feelings in their hearts for what is happening to society today, except to condemn decaying morality?” Paulsen said he’s been asked. The environment, HIV and AIDS, and poverty are some of the “current burning issues” he described as being on the hearts of young adults.
Paulsen also depicted young adults as “very observant, with a deep sense of fairness,” and said they question how leaders feel about “differences within the church.”
“Diversity is a word we often use,” he said. “It covers many things, and it is more than racial. The Seventh-day Adventist Church must not only tolerate differences, we must also exercise discipline to accommodate them.”
Paulsen also stressed the importance of integrity, which he described as being “in short supply in society.” He added that integrity and honesty are rated very highly by youth as they look to church leadership. “They don’t expect you to be perfect, but they expect you to be honest,” he said.
Older members too
Emphasizing that he realized the church is also made up of middle-aged and elderly members, he said, “I recognize that the mainstay of our church, financially and otherwise, are those who are late middle-aged and older. And I really respect and praise them for the care and loyalty they carry for the church. . . . I honor them for their labor of love, which does not go unrecognized and will not go unrewarded.”
Paulsen described his desire that the church not fragment, “which would be a fatal error. We are meant to hold together, and everything we say and do must contribute to the unity of the church. . . . The church takes priority over any one of us individually. . . . Unity must be maintained to accomplish the mission of the church.”
It’s all about attitude
Summing up the many questions he has been asked by young adults, Paulsen noted that they were all about mind-sets and attitudes. “It’s about the thinking that drives our behaviors and decisions,” he said.
“And then there is all the politicking that goes on with favors being owed left and right,” he added. “Political thinking, even political correctness, is an extremely unsafe and unfulfilling basis on which to make decisions about the future of our church and our personal roles in it.”
“Attitudes—who defines our attitudes?” Paulsen concluded. “Clearly Jesus Christ and He alone. . . . Our attitudes should be the same as His.”
Other morning activities included a Bible lesson study lead by CQ editor Lyndelle Chiomenti, GC Health Ministries director Allan Handysides, and GC vice president Pardon Mwansa; mission reports by GC Sabbath School and Personal Ministries director Jonathan Kuntaraf and assistant director May-
Ellen Colon; and musical numbers by NAD Stewardship administrative assistant Lori Bryan, as well as the Ebenezer Choir from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The afternoon program featured reports on mission activities throughout the world field presented by the Office of Adventist Mission.
The Hope Channel, the church’s satellite television network, broadcast the Sabbath services internationally.
Delegates Welcome Evangelist Pearson as Sabbath Begins
Annual Council 2006 opened on Friday evening, October 6, with a warm blend of information, inspiration, and testimony.
The six-day annual gathering of the church’s international leadership was called to order by General Conference secretary Matthew Bediako for a brief business session at the GC headquarters an hour before sunset on Friday evening.
At 7:00 p.m. the 400 delegates and guests in attendance joined a live television audience of tens of thousands as the church’s own Hope Channel broadcast a program focused on lay-driven ministries that support the mission of the church. Sponsored by the Office of Adventist Mission, the hour-long telecast introduced viewers to such organizations as Lightbearers International, an evangelistic ministry centered in the northwestern United States; Adventist World Aviation, which currently owns and operates 10 mission aircraft worldwide; and the media ministry of the Quiet Hour, now in its seventieth year of evangelism on radio, television, and in public campaigns.
Debbie Young, president of Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI), and the driving force behind a lay-operated radio ministry in Michigan, was interviewed by church vice president Michael Ryan about how the organization coordinates and focuses the mission efforts of nearly 300 separate ministries and entities.
One highlight of the evening came early, as evangelist and Breath of Life director/speaker Walter Pearson walked onto the auditorium stage for one of his first public appearances since a major stroke nearly claimed his life in February 2006. His prayer of gratitude and appreciation opened an evening rich with warm testimonies to God’s goodness and transforming power.
Evangelism as Lifestyle Is “Tell the World” Theme
“Jesus has not called us to convert the world, but He has called us to give them an opportunity to be converted,” declared evangelist Mark Finley, a general vice president of the Adventist world church and director of its Center of Global Evangelism, in remarks opening a 2006 Annual Council session highlighting the church’s outreach vision, “Tell the World.”
Finley added, “In a sentence, the primary mission of the ‘Tell the World’ initiative is to provide a way for every human being in the world to hear the gospel within the next five years.”
A huge wall display in the General Conference auditorium succinctly addressed each of the seven areas in which the world church will be engaged. “Jesus calls us . . . to grow in God, to reach the cities, to evangelize; to personally witness; to go into communities; to start new groups of believers; and to use every media.”
A mission-driven church
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has long been—and remains—a mission-driven church. For half a day, world leaders focused on how the global church community would unite to meet the biblical challenge to “Tell the World.”
The means: Prepare major evangelistic outreaches in 27 major cities around the world; add 20,000 new churches; conduct 400,000 evangelistic meetings; implement “Go 5 Million,” where five million laypeople each bring one soul to Christ and invite them to church; encourage church members to increase their involvement in community service outreach; get every church member involved in personal, daily Bible study and prayer; and use media—including the Internet—to reach the world.
In the church’s Euro-Africa Division, a highly secularized region, the Adventist church in Germany is planning a national evangelistic outreach for 2006-2007. The unique series, Take Jesus, is expected to involve 150 churches.
The Southern Asia Pacific Division views its focus as centering on urban ministry; the area has 22 major cities with a population of more than 1 million. Approximately half the division’s population lives in cities. Although Jakarta, Indonesia, and Bangkok, Thailand, are target cities for the “Tell the World” initiative, the goal is to undertake outreach in cities throughout the region, bringing the message of hope to a population that is not Christian.
Outreach through media
Benjamin Schoun, Adventist World Radio (AWR) president, reported on the state of the church’s media outreach. The Hope Channel currently uses eight satellites for its 24/7 coverage, and programs are available in up to 13 languages. In the past four months more than 1,600 cities in Brazil have applied to retransmit Hope Channel-Portuguese, and in 2007 a full-time Romanian channel is slated to begin. In certain markets of the world, Hope Channel is being positioned to be part of the developing cell phone viewing option.
AWR is another major media outlet of the world church, broadcasting in more than 67 languages in unentered areas of the world.
The Internet is the newest and the most rapidly developing means of media in the world today. The latest statistics indicate that there are 1.1 billion users, and this number is growing. Adventist use of the Internet is reflected by more than 7,000 known Adventist Web sites in 118 countries. A General Conference Coordinating Committee for Internet Ministries (CCIM) has been formed, and guidelines for Adventist church Web sites are being considered by this Annual Council.
“Share a Book . . . Tell the World” is the theme for a literature evangelism program designed to distribute one million copies of The Great Controversy, voted to be the 2006 Missionary Book of the Year by the South American Division. The book is being circulated by church members.
Heart of the vision
Church leaders say church planting remains the heart of the “Tell the World” vision. This is true in North America and Europe, where there is a postmodern culture, and it is true in Laos and areas of the world where there is no church presence.
Seventh-day Adventist world church president Jan Paulsen reminded delegates that the church’s mission to “Tell the World” can be accomplished only “through a reconsecration of ourselves and our mission to God through prayer.”
Secretary’s Report Highlights Evangelism
On Sunday afternoon of the session, GC secretary Matthew A. Bediako shared with the Annual Council delegates world membership statistics that depict rapid growth and an emphasis on evangelism by church leaders and laymembers in all 13 world divisions.
According to Bediako, more than 1 million people joined the Adventist Church by baptism and profession of faith between July 1, 2005, and June 30, 2006—barely 1,000 short of last year’s total.
“This is the fourth time total accessions have exceeded 1 million,” said Bediako. “With a net membership increase of 497,770, the world membership now comes to 14,754,022.”
“I personally believe that in some areas we have more people attending church services on Sabbaths than the number on our books,” he added.
Four divisions now have memberships of more than 2 million, Bediako explained: Inter-American Division—2.8 million; South American Division—2.6 million; East-Central Africa Division—2.2 million; and Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division—2 million. He also noted that about 36 percent of the members of the Adventist Church are in Inter-America and South America, and 34 percent in Africa.
Reports from all divisions were also given by Bediako and division church leaders. Highlights included:
• An Adventist/Muslim Relations Convention was held in June 2006 in the East-Central Africa Division to create awareness of the need to enter into a meaningful dialogue with Muslims.
• Fourteen young pastors were ordained to the gospel ministry in the Romania Union (Euro-Africa Division), which illustrates a rapid change to a younger ministerial team. Television is also being used extensively to reach the European, northern African, and west Asian countries with the gospel.
• The one hundred twentieth anniversary of Adventism in the Euro-Asia Division was celebrated at the Zaoksky Adventist University. Moldova, also in ESD, will be implementing an outreach project with 800 volunteer missionaries using DVD players to conduct 800 evangelistic programs to win 1,600 souls for the Lord. In January 2006, a group of 870 volunteer missionaries was consecrated to evangelistic ministry in the Moldova Union.
• The first-ever World Youth Prayer Conference, sponsored by the North American Division, will be held this spring in Texas.
• The conversion of an Evangelical pastor in the New Caledonia Mission, South Pacific Division, along with 20 of his church members who belong to the unentered territories of the Wallis and Fortuna Island group, helped contribute to exponential membership growth in that region.
• In the Zambia Union, Southern Africa-Indian Ocean
Division, an illiterate blind lay evangelist travels from village to village conducting Bible studies and evangelistic meetings. These efforts have resulted in 30 baptisms.
• The South American
Division is preparing an unprecedented promotional campaign to mobilize the greatest number possible of credentialed denominational employees and church members, using TV, radio, and articles in Revista Adventista (Adventist Review) and other church publications.
• An outreach program called LIFEdevelopment, designed to reach secularized people, is being conducted with much success in the Trans-European Division.
Outpouring of God’s Spirit
“I am confident that we are rapidly approaching the greatest period of soul-winning in our history as a denomination,” concluded Bediako. “I am also confident that we shall see what we have hoped for so long—the outpouring of the Spirit of God in all His fullness, with the result that multitudes will soon take their stand for the truth and will join the remnant church of God in its march to the kingdom.”
Adventist World Helps Unite Global Church, Says Editor
One year after the new global church publication Adventist World was launched, editor William G. Johnsson reported to the delegates that “while there have been challenges, the experience has been rich in the Lord’s blessings.” Describing the venture as an enormous task, Johnsson noted that the most challenging goal was to connect the church in message and mission through the new church paper.
“As a church we have grown from small beginnings to more than 14 million members. But in this growth there is the risk of separation,” he said. “Adventist World was to bring us together by placing in the hands of members worldwide our distinct message found in the fundamental beliefs, mission emphasis, Spirit of Prophecy, and Bible study.”
Using a multimedia presentation, Johnsson shared letters of appreciation from readers in many of the church’s 13 divisions who say they have been “blessed” and “strengthened” by the new paper. Johnsson also explained to the delegates that by January 2007, two Adventist World Web sites will be online—one based at the church’s world headquarters and available in English, Spanish, and French; and the second in Korea in the Korean language, and soon after in Chinese.
“Through this experience we’ve learned to take off our North American glasses and see our church as it should be viewed—from a worldwide perspective,” concluded Johnsson. “Yes, we are connected. We are brothers and sisters in Christ; a church united in service to Him. We are one family. And the Adventist World is the voice of this one people.”
Nurturing New Believers
Many conferences in the North America Division have chosen to partner with the Adventist Review to send the publication for one year to individuals who join the Adventist Church either through profession of faith or baptism. The Adventist Review serves to ground new believers in their faith and nurture them during their first year in membership. Members often become better acquainted with the church and are appreciative to their conference for this inspirational gift.
News Editor: Sandra Blackmer E-mail: [email protected] Web site: www.adventistreview.org