Para aquellos que hemos asistido a algunos de los congresos de la Asociación General anteriores, fue algo chocante ver el inicio de este congreso en St. Louis con las gradas del lugar de reuniones semivacías. Claro, todos entendemos el contexto. Una pandemia que ha matado a unos 6,5 millones de personas, devastado naciones, despertado crisis económicas en diferentes rincones del mundo, y también afectado el normal funcionamiento de nuestra iglesia. Dos veces este congreso fue pospuesto. Muchos de los delegados han podido viajar, casi 2.000 están presentes, pero otros 400 están participando online. Tampoco estarán los stand de exhibición que daban color a los anteriores congresos. Sí, podríamos pensar que este congreso tiene menos brillo, pero con certeza no carece del fuego de la presencia del Espíritu Santo. 

El informe del presidente hoy, que encabezó las reuniones hoy en el primer día del evento, lo dejó bien en claro. Son tiempos sin precedentes y las crisis y las guerras estallan aquí y allá, pero la iglesia no ha quedado paralizada. En su informe, el Pr. Ted Wilson mencionó tres testimonios que me impactaron: El equipo de Hope Channel de Ucrania, que ha continuado transmitiendo programas llenos de esperanza, basados en la Biblia, a pesar del conflicto que los rodea, incluso cuando el día que iban a comenzar a transmitir, el edificio en el que se encontraban fue bombardeado. 

Otro testimonio fue la experiencia de perdón y reconciliación de Melissa DePaiva Gibson. DePaiva Gibson tenía solo 8 años cuando ella y su familia se mudaron a Palau [nación insular del Pacífico], donde su padre sirvió como pastor adventista del séptimo día y su madre trabajó en la escuela adventista. En 2003, solo 18 meses después de llegar a Palau, el padre de Melissa, el pastor Ruimar DePaiva; su madre, Margareth; y su hermano, Larisson, fueron brutalmente asesinados. Melissa fue secuestrada, golpeada, arrojada a un barranco y dada por muerta. Providencialmente, ella sobrevivió. El perpetrador, Justin Hirosi, fue sentenciado a tres cadenas perpetuas por sus crímenes. En el funeral de Estado celebrado en el Gimnasio Nacional del Palau, Ruth DePaiva, madre del pastor asesinado, invitó a la madre del agresor a pasar al frente. Poniendo su brazo alrededor de la madre de Hirosi, DePaiva dijo: “Aquí estamos, dos madres. Estoy seguro de que la madre de Justin ha orado tantas veces por su hijo, y estoy seguro de que está terriblemente herida en su corazón. Los criamos, los educamos, pero toman sus propias decisiones”. DePaiva, quien visitó a Hirosi en la cárcel, ofreciéndole perdón y esperanza en Cristo, instó a que nadie reprochara este crimen a su familia, sino que alentó la reconciliación. Sus acciones cambiaron y sanaron el corazón de la nación. Quince años después, en 2018, DePaiva Gibson, ahora casada y enfermera, siguió los pasos de su abuela, regresando a Palau donde fue a la prisión y se encontró cara a cara con Hirosi, extendiendo su perdón. Esta historia es representada en la película, Return to Palau [Regreso a Palau] que se estrenó el 16 de marzo de 2022 en Palau.

El otro testimonio sucedió en Filipinas. Durante medio siglo, la guerra estalló entre el Nuevo Ejército del Pueblo (NPA) del Partido Comunista de Filipinas y el gobierno filipino, causando la muerte de más de 40.000 personas. En las remotas montañas de Mindoro, una de las muchas islas filipinas, los rebeldes comunistas planearon y se entrenaron para la guerra que habían emprendido. En 2017, Radio Mundial Adventista (AWR) comenzó a transmitir sermones evangelísticos y estudios bíblicos en Mindoro, en preparación para una serie evangelística de Todo miembro involucrado. Para 2019, incluso los rebeldes que se escondían en la jungla estaban escuchando estos programas. El Espíritu Santo obró profundamente y, en 2020, los rebeldes entregaron su corazón a Dios y sus armas al gobierno filipino. Se produjo una reconciliación increíble cuando los exrebeldes y los soldados filipinos se abrazaron. El gobierno otorgó amnistía a los exrebeldes y el 13 de noviembre de 2021, 2.000 exrebeldes del NPA, junto con su líder y su esposa, fueron bautizados. Estos nuevos creyentes regresaron a sus antiguos escondites en la jungla, donde predicaron a sus camaradas rebeldes. Nuevamente, el Señor se movió poderosamente cuando otros 1.219 rebeldes del NPA fueron bautizados el 9 de abril de 2022. Al final de su informe, el Pr. Wilson bautizó a Eric Guevara, coronel del ejército de Filipinas, quien se bautizó al ver la manera en que Dios transformó la vida de aquellos exrebeldes a quienes había estado combatiendo. 

Sí, quizá este congreso tenga menos brillo, pero estoy seguro de que la luz del evangelio ha estado brillando con poder por intermedio de nuestra iglesia en medio de las crisis de este oscuro mundo. 

Marcos Blanco es Gerente de Redacción de la Asociación Casa Editora Sudamericana (Buenos Aires) y director de la Revista Adventista para Sudamérica. 

Recuerdo el día que leí por primera vez la frase de E. G. White en la que señala que la Asociación General reunida en Asamblea es “la máxima autoridad” sobre la tierra. Más allá de las implicaciones teológicas o eclesiológicas, esa declaración despertó mi curiosidad por el aspecto práctico y experimental que encierra. ¿Cómo ocurre ese proceso a través del cual la voz de Dios se abre paso en medio de este mundo y sigue dirigiendo a un pueblo reunido en Asamblea desde todos los rincones del planeta?

Con esa curiosidad en mente, y sin haber asistido nunca a un Congreso de la Asociación General, hace unos meses recibí la invitación del Dr. Bill Knott para formar parte del equipo de la Adventist Review y contar mi primera experiencia en el Congreso para el mundo hispanohablante, algo que acepté con igual sorpresa, ilusión y humildad. 

Los meses pasaron y finalmente llegó el día. El viaje de los catorce miembros de la delegación española comenzó la madrugada el domingo 5 de junio en el Aeropuerto de Madrid Barajas. Nos reunimos a las 4:00 para tomar un vuelo que saldría a las 6:00 hacia Frankfurt y posteriormente hasta Saint Louis. Nuestro vuelo también transportaba a delegados de varias delegaciones como Italia, Austria, Rumanía o Sudáfrica. 

Nada más llegar a Saint Luis nos dimos cuenta del impacto que un Congreso así tiene en una ciudad. A pesar de ser una sesión “reducida” por la ausencia de Stands de instituciones y visitantes de todos los lugares del mundo, como suele ocurrir en otros años, la numerosa asistencia de visitantes adventistas se notó en las autoridades migratorias del Aeropuerto, que al reconocernos como tales fueron muy cordiales.

Desplazarse en Estados Unidos no es tarea fácil. La única opción con la que contábamos fue un “Uber”. Así conocimos a José, un amable conductor descendiente de inmigrantes que mientras nos trasladaba nos dijo que llevaba varios días transportando a Adventistas al congreso. Mientras avanzábamos por las amplias calles junto al río Mississippi, no pasaron desapercibidas las banderas que la organización desplegó por la ciudad dando la bienvenida a los delegados de la Iglesia. 

Al llegar a nuestro hotel (uno de los muchos totalmente ocupados por delegados), hubo dos cosas que llamaron mi atención: Por un lado, la diversidad de la Iglesia Adventista. Allí se alojaba gente de -literalmente- todo el mundo.  Y por otro, fue inspirador percibir que presidentes, secretarios y tesoreros de múltiples divisiones estaban personalmente involucrados en la recepción y dando la bienvenida a todos los delegados. 

Fue curioso también que todos los alojados, sin importar nuestra tarea o rol nos vimos con necesidades similares, como pude comprobar en el supermercado junto al hotel donde líderes de la iglesia mundial, pastores de experiencia y delegados de todos los rincones del mundo comprábamos comida para los desayunos durante estos días. Creo que compré la última granola que quedaba. 

Hoy lunes 6 de junio de 2022, por fin ha empezado oficialmente la Sesión de la Conferencia general y ha empezado de la mejor forma posible. Durante las casi dos horas de canciones y meditaciones dirigidas por el pastor Mark Finley, Jerry Page (Ministerial de la CG), Dwight Nelson (Pastor de Pioneer Memorial Church, Andrews University) y Barry Black (Capellán del Senado de EE.UU) nos han recordado la clave en la que reside la esencia de la Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día: la necesidad del bautismo diario del Espíritu Santo de cada uno de nosotros. Y es que no hay más secretos. En la medida en la que cada creyente se pone en manos de Dios y pide que el Espíritu Santo guíe su vida, se puede cumplir el deseo divino de guiar a su pueblo en la misión de compartir el evangelio hasta lo último de la tierra. 

Este precioso momento de matutina me ha recordado la frase con la que comencé este artículo. Sin duda Dios se hace presente, especialmente, cuando los representantes de su pueblo se reúnen en Asamblea pidiendo su dirección. A través de la influencia de cada uno de los delegados que pide ser guiado por el Espíritu Santo, Dios se puede abrir paso más allá de las limitaciones, preferencias, prejuicios de cada uno, y puede conformar una comunidad de creyentes especialmente convertida en un instrumento útil en sus manos. 

Para eso se han reunido miles de personas de todo el mundo aquí. Estoy seguro de que lo que ocurra en este rincón del planeta va a ser especial objeto de atención y cuidado por parte de nuestro Padre celestial. Va a ser emocionante durante estos días sentir en primera persona, el valor de formar la familia de la iglesia del mundo que esté orando por la presencia especial del Espíritu de Dios. Será un privilegio que lo que vaya compartiendo en estas líneas sirva para acercar a los lectores la maravillosa experiencia de ser parte de una iglesia mundial.

Es mi oración que Dios se haga presente en este lugar, y pueda definir el rumbo de la Iglesia para los próximos años de acuerdo con Su voluntad. 

Que así sea.

Приветствуем каждого из вас в первый день 61-й Сессии Генеральной Конференции Церкви Христиан Адвентистов Седьмого Дня! Цель этого блока статей не в том, чтобы осветить фактические новости этого удивительного по своим масштабам и значению для Всемирной Церкви события, но в том, чтобы придать его восприятию некую эмоциональную окраску и обрамить его личными впечатлениями. Я приглашаю каждого из вас окунуться в эту атмосферу. Каждый день мы будем представлять одну небольшую статью, чтобы те из вас, кто не смог приехать лично, могли пережить то, что чувствуют делегаты и персонал, принимающие непосредственное участие в этом событии на месте.

Итак, начнем… Каковы первые впечатления? Сначала это суета – заселение в гостиницу, решение некоторых бытовых вопросов, но уже с первых минут подъезда к отелю невозможно отделить пребывание на Сессии ГК от радостных встреч с близкими людьми. Ты подъезжаешь к гостинице, а там только что приехавшая делегация из Украинского униона с чудесными опытами о том, как им удалось попасть на эту Сессию. После регистрации в гостинице ты встречаешь делегатов из Москвы. Лифты в отеле работают по своему усмотрению, поэтому при нажатии на цифру 4 приезжаешь на 18 этаж, пока пытаешься сориентироваться, встречаешь руководителей Церкви в Беларуси. При регистрации уже непосредственно на месте проведения встреч – разные люди с разных стран, которых ты когда-то встречал, с кем общался, кого хорошо знаешь, а кого-то пока что чуть хуже, все они вносят свой особый колорит в общую атмосферу Сессии. Объятия, слова поддержки и обещания непременно наверстать упущенное в общении в самое ближайшее время. Но пока это все-таки еще суета – каждый куда-то спешит, что-то нужно решить, где-то зарегистрироваться. Время, которое требуется на то, чтобы дойти до нужного места, при планировании своего расписания нужно как минимум умножать на пять в первые дни своего пребывания здесь. Это встречи с друзьями, которые в силу последних событий не могли выехать из своей страны, с теми братьями и сестрами из ЕАД, кому пришлось выехать на некоторое время за пределы дивизиона, коллегами по служению из разных дивизионов, объятия и опять-таки обещания встретиться в ближайшее время и все обсудить, поэтому на то, что обычно заняло бы пять минут, теперь уходит не меньше получаса.

События, подобные этому, объединяют Церковь, помогают почувствовать пульс Церкви. И главное в них, наверное, даже не сами деловые встречи и принятие решений, хотя это безусловно важно, но люди, их опыты, их переживания, то служение, за которое они несут ответственность, их жизнь. 

Конечно, все мы с болью в сердце переживаем ужасные события в прекрасной стране Украине. Мы все молимся о наступлении мира и поддерживаем наших братьев и сестер в разговорах, переписках и другими возможными способами. Здесь это ощущается как ни в каком другом месте. Встреча с нашими братьями из Украины по-настоящему принесла радость каждому из участников. Слава Богу, что Он ведет нашу Церковь даже в трудные времена!

Церковь в разных уголках планеты переживает свои вызовы, но имеет большие успехи. В отчете Президента Генеральной Конференции, мы могли увидеть и услышать то, чем живут члены Церкви АСД в разных уголках мира. 

В Послании к Римлянам в 12 главе в 5 стихе мы читаем: «Так и мы, сколь ни много нас, во Христе составляем одно тело и как части его соединены друг с другом» (ИПБ). 

Давайте сегодня, в первый день 61-й Сессии Генеральной Конференции, поставим во главу угла в своем сердце смирение перед Господом, служение людям и поддержку тех из нас, кто сегодня переживает трудные времена. Церковь молится, молится о каждом регионе, молится о предстоящих выборах и решениях. Давайте не останемся в стороне – давайте активно включаться в жизнь Церкви, в дело спасения людей! 

Церковь – это люди, и эти люди нуждаются в поддержке, улыбке, молитве и искренней заинтересованности в их жизни! Пусть Господь благословит всех нас не остаться равнодушными и наполнит Своим Святым Духом!

Official notice is hereby given that the postponed sixty-first session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists will be held June 6-11, 2022, in the America's Center in St. Louis, Missouri, United States.

The first meeting will begin at 8:00 am, June 6, 2022. All duly accredited delegates are urged to be present at that time. This Session will also be accessible for delegates remotely by electronic means.

Ted N C Wilson, General Conference President
Erton C Köhler, General Conference Secretary

A trio of Seventh-day Adventist entrepreneur friends shared down-to-earth tips for entrepreneurship success, during a panel discussion at the 2017 Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries Convention in Houston, Texas, United States, earlier this month. The bottom line? Ruben Dias, Danny Houghton, and Jared Thurmon—all under 50—believe the Bible and the writings of church co-founder Ellen G. White should inform our business practices.

“Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy [White’s writings, which Adventists believe to be inspired] are great business books,” said Dias, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” from Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, who in the last 25 years started more than ten companies and sold four of them. “Their practical principles have a lot of potential.”

“Religion and business are not two separate things; they are one,”[1] said Thurmon, an entrepreneur currently working as the Adventist Review Ministries Director of Innovation, quoting a statement by Adventist church co-founder Ellen G. White. “We firmly believe that.”

Christian Seventh-day Adventist entrepreneurs Jared Thurmon, Ruben Dias, and Danny Houghton discussed sound business principles derived from their experience, the Bible, and the writings of church co-founder Ellen G. White. [Photo: Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review]

In little over an hour, the three entrepreneurs shared 15 tips, based on their business experience, which have helped them in the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Below is a brief description of each principle.

1. Set Goals. It is important to develop a list with “anchor points,” said Dias, adding that each goal needs to be quantified. “You need to know how much, and when you want to achieve it,” he said. Houghton, owner of One Degree Organic Foods in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, shared that some years back, his business saw the “farm to table” movement coming. “So we decided to do something different, ahead of the curve,” he said. “We set out to be the first brand to trace every single product ingredient to its farmer.”

2. Focus. If you don’t focus, you die, said Dias. “Certain things you cannot multitask,” he said. “And if you don’t commit, results won’t come.” Thurmon agreed. Quoting Ecclesiastes 9:10, where Solomon wrote “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,” he said that the key question is, “How do I become the best in what the Lord called me to do?”

3. Constantly Persevere. “Success is not the result of chance or destiny; it is the outworking of God’s providence, the reward of faith and discretion, of virtue and persevering effort,” wrote White[2]. It is a principle worthy of following, said Dias.

4. Embrace Risk. Success is not the only outcome. The higher the risk, the higher the reward. The question you should ask is, How much risk are you willing to take? “You learn from your failures,” said Thurmon. “If you don’t have failures to share, you are not risking enough.”

5. Understand Time. Dias believes understanding the times or stages of your undertakings is something critical in business. The trio quoted Ecclesiastes 9:11, where Solomon wrote, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.”

6. Never stop learning. White wrote, “Do not borrow the productions of other men’s brains and pens, and recite them as a lesson; but make the most of the talents, the brain power, that God has given you.”[3] “I always win in every deal, either money or experience,” said Dias. “We should never stop learning, even from our mistakes.”

7. Welcome Any Outcome. You need to be prepared for “a rainy day,” for the worst to happen, said the three entrepreneurs. At the same time, you need to ask yourself beforehand, what can I afford if things don’t turn out as I was expecting? How far am I willing to go?

8. Delay Gratification. In a society that fosters instant gratification, it is important for Christian entrepreneurs to learn how to delay gratification. “In business, it is important to learn not only what to do and when—‘timing’—but also learning closely what not to do,” said Thurmon. “Sometimes you need to resist a desire for enjoying a positive outcome ahead of time.”

9. Delegate (Almost) Everything: Delegation is part of successful entrepreneurship. In Exodus 18:17-26, Scripture tells the story of Jethro’s advice to his son-in-law Moses, which effectively allowed the latter to find a more efficient way of conducting business. “You should never delegate what is critical for your business and you do better than others,” said Dias. “But other than that, delegation is key for business success.”

10. Oxygenate Your Brain: Physical activity improves a person’s ability to think. Dias commented that usually, he gets his best business ideas when he is out in nature. Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy advice about taking care of our bodies is something we’d do well in following.

11. Seek Wisdom First: The three entrepreneurs agreed that we should not only have wisdom as a priority but go to the true Source of wisdom. Solomon’s example in 1 Kings 3—he asked for “an understanding heart”—is something we should strive to follow, they said.

12. Schedule Health: No business enterprise will be successful if you do not take care of your health, said the three business panelists. And to keep up, it is important that health checkups become a regular part of your schedule. Believing our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19, 20) implies keeping this important point in mind.

13. Create Disruption: If you always do things the same way, you are going to get the same results. Being disruptive implies discussing novel ways of doing things, asking yourself, “How can I get ahead of the pack?” said Dias. “Disruption can create wonderful opportunities.”

14. Be Agile: As the biblical example of Abigail shows (1 Sam. 25:2-42), in an ever-changing business environment, it is essential to adapt to circumstances. Being agile means being ready to change course as soon and as fast as needed.

15. Nuanced Witnessing: Finding ways of witnessing is the bread and butter of every Christian entrepreneur. While witnessing may involve different tools and methods than traditional ways of sharing your faith, it is through those nuances that Christian business people can make a difference.

Thurmon closed by reminding listeners that as Christians, we should not run away from the possibility of creating wealth, or show aversion to discussing it.

“As Ellen White wrote in Counsels on Stewardship, ‘the desire to accumulate wealth is an original affection of our nature, implanted there by our heavenly Father for nobler ends,’” he said.[4]

[1] Christ Object’s Lessons, p. 349.

[2] Ibid., p. 352.

[3] Review and Herald, April 6, 1886, par. 8.

[4]Counsels on Stewarship, p. 148.

Q. Andre, why did Adventist Review and Adventist World create ARtv? Does the world really need more video content?

A. What's driving us is the realization that we can no longer expect people to come to us to view our content in the format we may prefer. We have to go to them. We also realized that many prefer visual content to reading these days. The Lord impressed James White with the unction to give Present Truth to God's people. This was pre-Adventist church mind you. So we feel we need to up our game and become as innovative as possible in how we tell stories and build people’s faith. What better way than through video, especially short-form video.

Jared Thurmon, Strategic Partnerships Liaison

Q. Do you have a specific target audience, or is ARtv for everyone?

A. I have a passion for the billions of people living in large cities around the world. The cities are becoming the place where we must engage with the world, and specifically, with Millennials. More than 50% of the population now living in cities around the world are Millennials. In less than 10 years, they’ll represent the majority of people in the workforce.

Q. So what’s new about how ARtv will reach Millennials living in these cities?

A. Having worked in Adventist media for a long time, it became evident that there was a niche for media that would reach busy people. Our team has spent countless hours discovering ways to insert the vision of the Advent Movement into the lives of these individuals. What we did was we began to put ourselves in their shoes. Where do they live? Do they own a car? Are they using public transportation? What media channels are they currently engaging with? What do the studies show? Short, on-demand content on convenient platforms seems to be the answer for delivering content that fits into the lives of such individuals.

Q. How does ARtv relate with the redesign last year of the Adventist Review magazine and website?

A. Adventist Review Ministries began this journey by redesigning the monthly issues of AR and how often they are published. For decades we published three times per month: now we publish once a month, with an expanded edition and a completely new look. The response has been very positive.

Andre Brink, Associate Editor for Digital Media

About a year ago, we began to increase the attention we’re giving to digital platforms. That’s really the reason why I’m now here on this team. It began with our mobile-friendly Adventist Review website and now continues with our mobile-friendly Adventist World website being launched in October in at least 9 languages.

Q. So in light of Adventist Review’s intention to engage with Millennials in large cities, or others with an interest in media on demand, what types of platforms will ARtv be available on?

A. It is a well-known fact that there are more mobile devices in the world than people. For many, this is their main form of communication and social interaction. No other technology has impacted us like the mobile phone. You know, this even goes beyond the cities into the remote corners of the earth. We simply have to go where they are.

One of the biggest drivers of our content on the Adventist Review and Adventist World websites is that now more than 70% of our traffic is via mobile devices.

Knowing that more and more people—and especially Millennials—are "cord cutters," we had to find a way to get into their lives via that mobile device and the streaming platforms they’re engaging with. These include Apple TV, Roku and Samsung TV primarily. We are also currently developing an Amazon Fire TV app. We arrived at a model like a Netflix full of short-form, on-demand, sharable content. The average viewing length of videos viewed on mobile today is less than 3 minutes. We’re seeking to populate this realm with great Adventist content. The church has an amazing ministry with the Hope Channel, and ARtv will be a wonderful complement to the tremendous work that Hope is doing. We’re distinguishing our product by going after those who may not have satellite or television but are engaging with short form mobile-ready, on-demand videos.

Q. What about those who are too busy to sit down and watch or read something? Anything for the listeners of the world?

A. Fair enough! So we realized that in addition to print and video, many would be able to engage with us via audio and podcast episodes. Imagine the moments now available to someone in a car, on a jog, or on a train listening to a podcast from Adventist Review or Adventist World. In fact, just in the last few months, we’ve begun producing some podcasts with Adventist World Radio. We have several new podcast shows in development.

Andre Brink working behind the scenes of "Animal Encounters"

Q. How are you gathering content? From the looks of it, there are hundreds of videos already available on ARtv.

A. We’ve only posted a portion of what we already have. New episodes will be released weekly. But we’re not doing this by ourselves. We’ve formed agreements and relationships with as many Adventist entities around the world as possible who are already creating amazing content. We’ve also reached out to ministries here at the General Conference as well as supporting ministries around the church. The list is simply amazing: there are more than 40 ministries we’re working closely with and getting content from. Many independent filmmakers are producing content for us and providing their content too.

Our vision is to use the most effective media to reach our target demographic with the best on-demand video content available. To do that, we’ve got to work closely with every other Adventist media outlet to create and curate content.

As we’ve shared our vision with others, we’ve seen an amazingly enthusiastic response of collaboration and cooperation.

We also realize that to grow this to the scale of mission effectiveness, we can’t expect the church to underwrite all the expense, so we’ve sought and found advertising and content creation partners. We’re making great strides. We’re seeking to become a financially self-sustaining ministry inside the unified church structure.

Q. Ok last question. What’s the most exciting project you see coming out on ARtv in the next few months?

A. The much acclaimed series – Animal Encounters, Season 1—which was filmed mostly in South Africa can be viewed on ARtv. But in December, we’re filming a couple of short videos, this time in Virtual Reality. The most exciting episode may end up being the cage dive with Great White Sharks. We’re doing all we can to bring the most engaging content we can to the most cutting edge digital platforms available to us. I'm convinced that there are hundreds of thousands of Adventists—and their friends—who will enjoy and be blessed by ARtv. Click here to check out ARtv. 

Ever heard the expression “Numbers don’t lie”? I put that line in the same file as “…but names will never hurt me”.

The truth is that numbers can tell more than one story. Take Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Both are “followed” by tens of thousands on Twitter, but only 60% of their Twitter followers are believed to represent real people. On the social media surface, it may seem they are winning the popularity battles because they enjoy the highest number of followers.

But if we judge the success of a movement or a cause only by the numbers, we may not discover the whole story.

Speaking of numbers, Seventh-day Adventists are a people founded on numbers. We were founded on the belief that Daniel’s prophecy of 2300 days/years would end about this time of year – October 22, 1844.

If you have belonged to this movement for even a year, you know many important numbers—7, 12, 70, 490, 1260, 1290, 1335, 2300.

Seventh-day Adventists are known for other numbers as well. One of us is running for president – Ben Carson. We live longer than the rest of North Americans—an average of 10 years. We are the largest not-for-profit Protestant healthcare provider in the U.S. We are the most diverse religious group in America. Last but not least, we have been known in recent years as the fastest growing denomination in the United States. Two people join the Adventist Church every minute. Each day, Pentecost-worthy numbers—3000+ — join God’s last-day remnant.

It would be convenient to end here, with a “Well done, good and faithful servant,” but honesty prevents it.

From October 8-13, the Seventh-day Adventist Church held its Annual Council. Leaders from around the world met to discuss plans and share ideas for the next year. During this event, newly-gathered research data and statistics were shared by Dr. David Trim, director of Archives, Statistics, and Research (ASTR).

It’s hard to see these numbers as other than grim.

Remember that actual number of “real” followers of Trump and Clinton – 60%? It appears as that the retention rate of the church for the last 50 years is almost exactly the same.

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Based on the chart below, supplied by the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics and Research, in 2014, the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church added 1.28 million new members during the calendar year through baptism and profession of faith. At the same time those “lost” by being dropped from membership or registered as “missing” through standard church processes or division-wide memberships audits (a process that is still on-going in most divisions) totaled 950,000. That equates to a net gain of only 330,000 members in 2014, a 1.7% net growth rate.

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Numbers like these should lead us to say, “Houston, we have a problem.”

If baptized members are the metric of “success” on which we focus, we will almost inevitably lower the standard of what constitutes readiness for baptism—and thus count those inadequately prepared persons as new members. This is natural enough: If your boss is pressuring you to meet the “quota” at work, you do what it takes to meet the quota. If incentives and opportunities for professional advancement in ministry and larger responsibilities are based—even informally--on numbers of baptisms, then why wouldn’t a gifted ministry professional reach for celebrities, musicians, and media coverage that could help achieve those results?

It isn’t cynicism that notes the reality of these pressures and the systems that develop because of them. Speaking honestly about the potential for misuse of a system should never be interpreted as faithlessness. Leadership expert Max de Pree has reminded us, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”

Why would a minister or layperson work diligently to ensure that a baptismal candidate agrees with nearly 30 unique beliefs—knowing that at least a few of these will step on their toes and infringe on their lifestyle—if the metric is not discipleship, but baptismal count?

This circumstance isn’t far-fetched. Here’s a testimony:

JT took $10,000 to the mission field to build a church. He preached for three weeks, laboring to convince individuals who believed in thousands of other gods that the One god JT was there to tell them about was worthy of all their trust and devotion.

But JT told them more about “truth” than the one who called Himself the Truth. Both are vitally important, but the order in which they are presented is even more important. Accurately representing Jesus—the Truth—often requires acting as He did—loving as He did—and not only echoing His teaching.

The reality came home as I (JT) met with 70 sincere individuals baptized as Seventh-day Adventists after patiently listening to my preaching for three weeks. When some of the newly baptized revealed that they still were holding on to their symbolic representations of their many gods, and would adhere to old practices to appease Vishnu, I was confused—and shaken. (Insert jaw drop)

What went wrong? It may be that I didn't adequately introduce them to the One from whom all truth comes. I introduced 28 compelling beliefs and lifestyle changes, and I naively expected them to be ready to make a complete spiritual U-turn after three short weeks. Years later, I was told that the church structure I had put my hard-earned money into building was now a barn. I had sought success, measured by persons responding through baptism to my preaching. Perhaps I should have built them a barn or a business, helping them by demonstrating love applied to their life circumstances. When they experienced success in meeting basic life needs, they would have been more ready to hear what I was preaching. They would have had their own reasons to build their own church building, and almost certainly valued it more.

I didn’t know Christ’s metric.

I think the metrics of success are key to determining if we are doing the will of Jesus, or as Picasso observed, on the road to sterility.

I believe with all my heart—and my wallet--in the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I still believe that the Church’s best days are just ahead of us. But it’s time to reconsider what lasting success as defined by Jesus will look like.

Does public evangelism have a part to play in the proclamation of the everlasting gospel? Both Scripture and experience resoundingly say “Yes!” Millions of men and women are won—lastingly—to Jesus Christ through a process that includes public preaching and public responding. The apostle Paul preached powerfully in the cities of Asia to large crowds of interested hearers with Spirit-blessed results. Scripture teaches us to believe that the Holy Spirit is present and working with people before we ever mingle with them, befriend them, or act kindly toward them. God may prepare people for our witness in a variety of ways. The Spirit is not limited to any one method of witness. But is numerical success through public evangelism the metric we should be emphasizing at this moment in the progress of God’s remnant church?

The answer—respectfully, but clearly—is “No.”

We can do this simply and effectively by applying a new metric to measure mission success.

What if, instead of stressing out pastors and conference workers with numbers of baptisms, we changed the metric? What if we asked, not “How many did you baptize?” but “How engaged are your members in outreach, community service, health seminars, Bible studies, practicing pure religion to orphans, the hungry, the discouraged, and the imprisoned?

It’s called user engagement.

As an entrepreneur, marketer and Adventist “brand evangelist”, I’ve been digging into what makes for a successful social media strategy. The answer from the data is unmistakable: It’s not the number of likes or followers, but user engagement! How engaged are your followers with your organization? Do they actively share the information you are sharing with them? Do they engage when you share new information with them? Do they bring new followers to you?

Counting total “followers” is a hollow metric, for it cannot measure the depth of engagement that is crucial for any successful business, cause or movement. When a “follower” is engaged enough to invite someone they care about to share the experience with them, you have the first and most obvious metric of loyalty and true mission success.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has some truly valuable assets. We have an understanding of Bible prophecy more comprehensive and biblically-reasoned than any other faith. We understand more about the great controversy between Christ and Satan and all of the angels than many do. We have a message of health and wholeness that is poised to bless the world in both community health and improved personal lifestyle practices. We are increasingly good at marketing our message through attractive and well designed media—handbills, billboards, TV, radio, websites, podcasts, and apps.

How well are we succeeding at the mission Jesus has given us? The numbers recently shared with church leaders illustrate a stark reality that has been trending for decades.

WWJM: What Would Jesus Measure?

Fortunately, we don’t have to guess at which metric Christ would use—and does use. In fact, He tells us in both Matthew 25 and Isaiah 58—and in many other passages of Scripture—the exact metric He will use in the judgment.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me'

Matthew 25:34-36

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
    to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
     and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Isaiah 58:6-7

Why would we be measuring anything different?

Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God

Desire of Ages, p. 638

Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, "Follow Me."

The Ministry of Healing, p. 143

Both “Christ’s method” and “Christ’s metric” must somehow connect people with people. If we really thought our product and mission was to share information with the world to usher in the endtime, we would likely sell all assets and buy global airtime to give one sermon, believing we had fulfilled our calling. Sharing high-quality information about Jesus and His teachings can never be a substitute for introducing men and women around the globe to a Saviour who seeks a personal relationship with them over time. While warning the world of the soon coming of Jesus will always be a part of the mission, we have not achieved success or responded to Christ’s metric by merely warning seven billion human beings. Will people know us for our warmth or our warning?

Do we think the gospel is a 70-minute sermon rather than a 70-year life?

If sharing information was the mission and simply hearing the metric, Jesus could have preached the Sermon on the Mount, leaving a high-water mark on ethical content, and an implicit call to decide about His claims. But the reality brought to life in the Gospels is that He spent time—amazing amounts of time—mingling with men as one who desired their good.

Apple and the Evangelist

Mark Kawano, formerly Apple’s User Experience Evangelist, recently shared some common Myths about Apple. One of those was particularly profound.

Myth #1 - Apple has the best ___________!

Business leaders commonly believe that to achieve success, you must employ the best people. There’s pragmatic wisdom here, but Mark Kawano’s interview revealed that this wasn’t the “secret sauce” of Apple. The secret, he said, was in the corporate culture and organizational structure, specifically the embedded focus on design in every division of the company. Every employee had a common goal in mind as each thought about their particular piece of the project. This common goal? The end design and user experience with the product are supreme.

What can we learn from Apple in relation to sharing the gospel?

While the church will always seek to employ more talented and consecrated preachers, evangelists and witnesses on every level, human talent won’t be the secret of mission success. Shouldn’t we better measure the manner in which the gospel is received—the user experience? If the goal is to find, develop and mature men and women as faithful disciples of Jesus who become engaged in the same mission that reached them, shouldn’t we ask better questions about both Christ’s methods and His metrics?

Did the world need an iPhone?

No.

Did the world want an iPhone?

No.

When asked why he didn’t put more resources into market research, Steve Jobs would say that “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it
to them.”

People didn’t need a smartphone until they saw how much better their life could be if they had Apple’s product in their lives.

Today do people need the gospel?

Yes.

Do they think they need it?

Not really.

In fact, some think they have seen the product of the everlasting gospel and they don’t want it.

So how do we take our product to the world in light of this? Though we aren’t accustomed to taking gospel pointers from Steve Jobs, one of his is pertinent: "Show it to them."

Consider these statements from a century-old volume, The Ministry of Healing:

The world needs today what it needed nineteen hundred years ago—a revelation of Christ… it is only through the grace of Christ that the work of restoration, physical, mental, and spiritual, can be accomplished.

The Ministry of Healing p. 143

So how do we share Christ—and specifically the grace of Christ that leads to a total transformation—with the world? There is—there can be—only one successful method. It was demonstrated in the life of Christ, and in the succinct phrasing of Ellen White’s The Ministry of Healing, it is known as “Christ’s Method Alone.”

We begin to assess mission success in a new way. We adopt a different standard to determine whether disciples—as individuals or as the Body of Christ—are, in fact, following the One they have pledged to follow. We ask new questions of a church that needs new energy and focus: “How much is this church?—How much is this pastor?—How much are these members engaged with the method announced by Jesus?”.

This is the new metric. This is #ChristsMetricAlone.

This is the secret sauce of faithful Adventism and biblical Christianity.

“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143).

#1 - This is the only way to have long term, enduring effects on a person’s life. This was His method to reach people with the good news of the kingdom of God, and it will be the method of all who claim His name.

“The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good.”

#2 - Jesus mingled with broken men and women as a friend, companion, brother, teacher, mentor, and healer. Mingling can’t be done by proxy, by email, or via an app, television, radio or satellite. Jesus was making it clear to all who shared His presence that He cared for them at that moment, not contingent on a behavior change—that He desired the best “good” for them.

“He showed His sympathy for them.”

#3 – When Jesus shared His time and attention with a new friend, His heart of sympathy for them was obvious . You can’t show sympathy for someone unless you listen to their situation and discover areas in which they are seeking help or support. Once you listen, Christ-like compassion causes you to sympathize with their needs—even if those needs differ from the purposes you initially have to share a message of truth with them.

“He ministered to their needs.”

#4 – When we have both heard and listened—when we have allowed the needs of the other to become central to our interaction with them—we bend our efforts to actually bring the support, encouragement, or assistance that they need. We may initially understand their need as the thing we have in our hand—the book, the Bible study, the sermon—but Christ-like other-centeredness causes us to take their prompts and enter by the door that they have opened. This is where as followers of Jesus we learn to lay down our lives and take up the crosses others bear.. This is where we learn to bear the burdens of the weak, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

“He won their confidence.”

#5 - If the relationship has been growing through the method Christ employed, you will have won the confidence and laid the foundation for a relationship. You will have truly helped them with something they consider important, and thus actually ministered to them. The other now believes that you have their best interests at heart, that you have put them and their interests before your own. This is profound—the stuff that moves the world! They will need to know what motivates you to do this.

…Then He bade them, “Follow Me.” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143)

#6 – If you have discovered joy in following Jesus, it will be natural to tell another broken sinner where you have found healing and salvation. You aren’t winning them to you, or adding to the trophies in some Witnessing Hall of Fame. You are sharing the unmistakable delight that always moves you to both praise and gratitude.

“For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

It is this love, this grace from Christ that allows you to invite a new disciple to share the journey with you. “Come, follow Him,” you say to them. “Come, walk with me, as I follow Him.” Your commitment to walk and talk and pray with one just starting on the journey is the tangible relationship they can see as they build a friendship with the Lord they cannot see.

There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counseled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit

The Ministry of Healing, p. 143

When we love the world as He has loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven; for we have heaven in our hearts

Desire of Ages, p. 641

Jesus offers us both a method and metric for assessing our discipleship. If we insist on being disciples according to our own preferences and markers, we will miss the footprints that we claim to be following. Tens of thousands—millions—who could be following Jesus will end up wandering on desolate paths that lead to sadness and destruction.

If we choose other ways to go about what we insist is His mission, we are on a path of our own choosing, not on the path He trod—and we will continue to lament the losses that the Spirit never intended.

If we measure other things—even good things—more than we measure obedience to “Christ’s method alone,” we are simply inventing games at which we think we can win.

It’s time we aligned our discipleship with #ChristsMetricAlone.

I would love to continue the discussion - @thurmon or [email protected]

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