June 28, 2010

Five Years of Progress

Don Schneider, PresidentPresented Saturday, June 26, 2010

capIronically, a church that was founded in North America because of a “Great Disappointment” has grown exponentially. Only the blessing and direction of God could explain the success of the Seventh-day Adventist movement worldwide.

For decades the church in North America has grown steadily. The North American Division (NAD) closed the decade with a major effort to “share the hope” of Jesus by setting a goal of a 10 percent membership increase.

Membership and Growth
This quinquennium the North American Division reached the 1 million membership mark! The membership now st2010 1520 page36ands at 1,097,217. There have been 631 new churches planted and 194,486 people baptized in the division this term.

Membership in the North American Division grows about 2 percent annually. Nearly one quarter of the total membership is between the ages of 11 and 35. In a 2008 survey only 7 percent of the division’s members joined the church more than 20 years ago.

We have 5,243 churches and 760 companies in the three countries that make up the NAD—Bermuda, Canada, and the United States. During the Year of Evangelism in 2009, we experienced the largest number of baptisms in our history, the largest percentage increase since the early 1900s. This means more than numbers, however. This Year of Evangelism awakened the spirit of evangelism and created an environment that renews our belief that God can and will do something special in North America.

Share the Hope, 2009 Year of ?Evangelism
Share the Hope was the largest, boldest divisionwide soul-winning initiative in the NAD’s history. It attracted the attention of church members, lay leaders, and pastors and unleashed their passion for reaching the unreached.

Reports from pastors and evangelists had a common thread: God is blessing with an urgency to finish the work. Churches were encouraged to adopt a lifestyle of evangelism. A large percentage of congregations held public meetings in 2009, with some conferences doubling the number that normally participate. Some churches held as many as five series in one year.

God added more than 46,000 precious souls for the kingdom by the end of 2009. As we continue to Share the Hope Again in 2010, we plan to reach our goal of 100,000. In churches where there had been no growth for years, congregations tried public meetings with thrilling results. They discovered new friends in the community, and churches are growing!

Bermuda reports that the Year of Evangelism was a great blessing to its conference as they had the greatest number of baptisms in 25 years! Several conferences reported record-?breaking numbers of baptisms.

The Share the Hope initiative, Share the Hope Again, continues into 2010 with increased enthusiasm for the great work God has given each of us to do.

Divisionwide NET Evangelism
The founding goal of satellite evangelism was to preach the gospel in a more rapid and effective way. The NAD has used this method to beam first-class evangelistic meetings to its churches, making it possible for congregations with limited budgets to host quality public meetings. During the past quinquennium there have been four major English NET events.

GC link divreportsIn 2005 Doug Batchelor of Amazing Facts held a series in the General Conference auditorium. “The Prophecy Code” collaborated with area churches to reach far beyond the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

In 2006 It Is Written hosted “Revelation Speaks Peace.” Shawn Boonstra spoke from Arizona, successfully reaching audiences in both English and Spanish. More than 550 people were baptized in Phoenix, Arizona, alone, in addition to thousands more around the world.

Mike Tucker and Faith for Today presented “HeartQuest” in 2007, a unique approach to reach people in the postmodern world.

The next year, Mark Finley, one of ?the most experienced NET speakers, launched “Discoveries ’08” from Orlando, Florida. All new sermons and graphics provided a fresh approach to the study of prophecy. More than 2,000 churches participated.

The past five years have seen annual Spanish-language satellite efforts—La Reds—featuring Alejandro Bullón and Jose Cortez. The Quebec Conference will host the first French NET event this fall with evangelist Bernard Sauvagnat.

The North American Division Hispanic NET energized the Hispanic community/constituency of this division. Since 2006, membership among Hispanics has increased significantly. Thousands of Hispanic homes transformed themselves into small evangelistic centers, where friends, neighbors, and relatives gathered to participate in the NET series.

Financial Report
The past five years can be likened to a financial roller-coaster ride. The year 2005 began with a good start, then the NAD suffered financial dips in 2008 caused by the world economic crisis.

Tithe in the North American Division for the five years totaled more than $4.3 billion, which is a substantial portion of tithe received worldwide. In addition, members contributed about $115 million to Sabbath school and mission offerings.

Significant Advances
Though certainly not comprehensive, the following provides a snapshot of the activities of the NAD that have increased the church’s vitality in its territory.

Education: NAD Education is committed to providing Adventist tenets and values to our school children. Therefore, we are developing a faith-based, Christian curriculum to replace secular textbooks in the classroom. The first project is a grades 1-8 Bible-based, Creation Science curriculum.

At the same time, a highly effective curriculum called REACH focuses on students who learn differently, while a new language arts program called “Pathways” integrates reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, etc., into one process.

Ultimately, we are committed to helping every child know Jesus better. NAD Education has been instrumental in the many baptisms occurring each year.

Family Life Ministries: Between 2006 and 2010 the department cosponsored 19 “From This Day Forward” marriage conferences and 21 “Journey Toward Intimacy” marriage retreats, where couples learned skills to strengthen their marriages and prevent divorce. Of the estimated 2,000 participating couples, about 250 people requested Bible studies.

Youth Ministries: The department hosted five major leadership/youth training conventions, with more than 43,000 teens, young adults, and youth ministries leaders attending. In youth evangelism nearly 2,500 youth/young adult meetings and GODencounters were held, resulting in more than 17,000 baptisms. Youth reaching youth has become part of our church culture in North America.

Several new initiatives have been launched, such as Mission Life Guard (reclaiming and equipping missing youth/young adults), Certified Lay Youth Pastors (CLYP) Training, Recharge Leadership Training, and Adventist Youth Space (23,000 members).

Philanthropic Service for Institutions
: In the past five years Philanthropic Service for Institutions (PSI) has provided professional development conferences and training opportunities to more than 1,500 fund-raising and administrative church leaders.

In addition to awarding more than $20,000 in scholarships to fund-raisers, PSI has conducted more than 52 hours of training at the world headquarters for 61 fund-raising professionals throughout the NAD.

Larry Caviness, president of the Southern California Conference, baptizes Eufricina Palaganas at the 2009 International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Moreover, as part of its National Philanthropy Day events, PSI partnered with ADRA and in-house staff at headquarters to raise more than $14,000 for ADRA’s “Keep Girls Safe” project.

Women’s Ministries: With the theme “A Ministry for Every Woman,” NAD Women’s Ministries encourages women to engage in service ministry within their communities. “God in Shoes,” a highly effective ministry to women in shelters and in impoverished communities, was involved in a Dallas Women’s Convention that drew 2,200 women.

Children’s Ministries: In the past five years the Adventist Children’s Ministries Association (ACMA) has increased its membership from 400 to more than 1,200. In the past two years it has offered workshops that train children to do outreach ministry, such as Bible studies, Vacation Bible School, and street evangelism.

Jewish Ministries: Strives to plant five new Jewish congregations in the NAD in 2010. They have been planting about two to three every year.

Muslim Ministries: Commits to hold at least 18 seminars to train members to witness to Muslims, and also plans to open two new ministries in Detroit and Chicago in 2010.

Portuguese Ministries: Most of the congregations have been involved in a spiritual revival through 40 days of intercessory prayer. Seminars to help churches develop their own discipleship system, discover spiritual gifts, and build small group ministries have been conducted.

Stewardship: The new Faith and Finance stewardship resource is a 12-lesson practical study about biblical principles of money management. A cross section of personal finance is ?covered, from getting an education ?to making end-of-life decisions. Faith and Finance is available in both English ?and Spanish from AdventSource and ?Adventist Book Centers.

Adventist Community Services: Adventist Community Services ?(ACS) continues to come to the aid of members and the community during disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 is a prime example. Other advances in this area include:

The Nonprofit Leadership Certification Program, which equips pastors ?and lay leaders with the latest strategies and professional skills for community service. Workshops include: “Nonprofit Management/Leadership,” “Community Development Outreach Ministry,” and “Biblical Principles of Social Evangelism.”

ACS has developed simple, Web-based software that allows one to record services provided, clients, volunteer information, and basic income and expense data.

Adult Ministries: To facilitate the movement of members from membership to discipleship in the areas of ?Sabbath school, prison, and personal ministries, three training initiatives were held and made accessible through the Internet.

Modern Technology
Information Technology Services is the technology behind a strong suite of Web programs.

AdventistGiving allows people to give tithe and offerings online.

Adventist School Pay allows tuition/fee payments and donations to be made online.

Adventist Church Connect and Adventist School Connect have made Web sites for every church and school, respectively, and can be easily accessed on Internet search engines.

Media Milestones
Faith for Today celebrates its sixtieth anniversary in 2010. Mike and Gayle Tucker cohost the award-winning Lifestyle Magazine seen on the Hope Channel and TBN.

It Is Written celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2006. Shawn Boonstra continues to preach the gospel on television and around the world in evangelistic campaigns. The “Road to Rome” meetings concluded in March.

Just Make Overs!, a community service project of the Just Claim It Youth Prayer Conference, was specifically designed to assist low-income homeowners with outdoor home repairs.

Voice of Prophecy celebrated its eightieth anniversary in 2009. Under the leadership of Fred Kinsey, Voice of Prophecy is expanding its reach not only through its Bible school and innovative new radio programs, but also through Internet radio and an iPhone App. In December 2009 the 1 millionth graduate of the headquarters Bible school was baptized.

Liberty magazine is supplemented by a leading-edge Web site. A pilot program of Liberty magazine in French will soon be joined by a Spanish version.

In 2007 The Adventist Channel (theadventistchannel.org) was launched—the first 24-7 inspirational global broadband digital network.

Though not produced by the church, the documentary film The Adventists was released on public television in April, providing significant exposure for the church, its theology, Ellen White’s ministry, and its health message.

Yes, the story of the Seventh-day Adventist Church begins with a great disappointment in 1844, but ends much differently—with Jesus’ glorious return!