Touching Hearts, Meeting Needs, Adventists’ Evangelism Continues
No place beyond reach, it seems – even Tulsa, Oklahoma
BY MARK A KELLNER, news editor, Adventist World
ccording to Bill McClendon, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, “Jesus never said, ‘Go Ye into all the world and hold church.’” Instead, the Master’s mandate was to “Go, teach, baptize, and teach some more.”
That formula–what McClendon calls “non-stop evangelism”–appears to have worked for the eight-year-old Adventist Fellowship in Tulsa, which went from 17 members of that city’s 90-year-old Adventist congregation to between 750 and 800 people attending each week. The start-up has three “campuses,” two English-speaking and one worshipping in Spanish, and has baptized 550 people over the years.
“Tulsa is a very religious community, but there’s also a very secular part of society,” McClendon explained. “We are seeing a whole segment of society that has been raised without knowing about the Bible and Christianity.”
McClendon’s report was one of several highlights for the 2009 spring meeting of the Council on Evangelism and Witness; a panel comprised of global General Conference leadership and lay members. According to Lowell Cooper, a general vice president of the world church and co-chair of the council, it’s “purpose is not to come and vote a particular agenda, but spend some time in exploration of ideas and a pattern of thoughts that might stimulate growth in the church.”
The full-day event included numerous reports on world church activities, and more than a few challenges to the movement’s leadership. Along with McClendon’s bracing call to non-stop evangelism–echoed by Euro-Asia Division president Artur Stele, whose region is also engaged in continuous outreach efforts–there was a succinct statement of the relationship of Adventism to other world religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism among them, by Ganoune Diop, director of the church’s Global Mission Study Centers.
“Each world religion, at best, only presents a partial diagnosis of the human problem,” he said, while “Christianity and, specifically, Seventh-day Adventism, offers a solution to the problem. … The good news in its comprehensive and multifaceted expression is missing in [the] world’s religions and philosophies.”
Diop asserted that the goal of Adventist outreach is not merely “to make Hindus into better Hindus, Buddhists into better Buddhists, or Muslims into better Muslims,” but rather to bring those in world religions into a saving relationship with Christ.
“In reality,” he said, “Jesus is the yearning of every human heart.”
Other presentations highlighted the progress of “Follow the Bible,” which has passed through three divisions and is now in its fourth of 13 Seventh-day Adventist world church areas. In many divisions, “replica” Bibles are being kept and used at special events in order to continue promotion of the Bible-reading effort in the months leading up to the 2010 General Conference Session in Atlanta, Georgia.
In the Trans-European Division, president Bertil Wiklander reported, growth is being seen in Norway and Sweden, the latter recording the first membership growth in 20 years. In south Sudan, an Anglican priest was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist, and is now sharing the message among his people. And in Beirut, a media center expects to begin production of Arabic-language programming in 2010.
Erton Koehler, president of the church’s South America Division, reports that May 30 will be a territory-wide day of “friendship evangelism,” during which 600,000 Adventist homes are expected to have non-Adventists over for lunch and a video presentation. Visitors will also receive a sharing book and be invited to follow-up Bible studies.
In the West-Central Africa division, president Gilbert Wari reports, a satellite evangelism campaign headquartered at Babcock University in Nigeria is expected to reap a total of 50,000 baptisms. Moreover, some 47 percent of Babcock students are now Adventist Church members, up significantly over when the campaign began.