In Europe, church member numbers don’t tell the whole story. And Europe’s 2022 Adventist Youth Congress (AYC22) has come to Lahti, Finland, to prove it. I believe AYC22 has provided evidence that on this continent, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is alive and well, and still has ample untapped resources in the quality of its young members.
Many of the 2,500 Adventist young people who have gathered in Lahti from all over Europe are faithful to the Adventist heritage. They love singing and praising the Lord. They trust, meditate, and study His Word. They find solace and comfort in praying without ceasing. They wait on God for Him to tell them what to do with their lives. Meanwhile, they are eager to serve others and make a difference in their communities. Above all, they love Jesus, and they are looking forward to Jesus’ return.
Young Adventist members in Europe are a happy bunch, with an untiring desire to be a light and fulfill the plans and dreams God has for each one of them. As they walk back and forth to the venue through downtown Lahti, they stand out from other young residents walking the streets. There seems to be a glow around them as they chat, laugh, and hug. They are a living testimony that a life with Jesus is neither miserable, nor lame, nor dull.
They love music and praising through song. They enjoy not only singing but also playing musical instruments. Many show they have a gift that is probably above average across church regions. Many of them love witnessing, as they tell the story about what God has accomplished in their lives.
No. In Europe, numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Granted, the job of Adventist young people in Europe is not easy. Some of them live in a society where even mentioning God triggers negative associations, stonewalling, and ostracizing. Others live in small churches, where people their age are scarce, and, in some cases, uncommitted.
As young European Adventists grow and follow advanced studies, some of them face bullying, incomprehension, or lack of support. They sometimes find it hard to enjoy or see much happening in their local church. In increasing numbers, Adventist young people are resorting to Adventist dating apps to find a partner for their life journey.
It is not an easy road. Adventist young people in Europe sometimes endure psychological pulling and shoving as they try to share their faith with classmates, professors, or neighbors who hold a radically different worldview.
Yet, they persist.
An increasing number of young European Adventists are ready to do their part to increase God’s kingdom. They are always there, ready to answer the call to reach out, serve, and shine in one of the darkest of continents. If someone ever thought that the Adventist Church could somehow dispense with such an inspiring army, it is time to think again.
These young people move around in places where there are too many others who have never heard about the Adventist Church or understood the beauty of the gospel. They are facing seemingly unsurmountable odds. Still, they trudge on.
Adventist young people in Europe are, in one Adventist leader’s words, “the lab that is letting church leaders know what the church in other regions will soon have to face.”
Against that backdrop, AYC22 gives away glimpses of the fact that many young Adventist people in Europe are passing this acid test with flying colors.
In view of this and the increasing complexities of living the Christian faith in the 21st century, the Adventist Church as a whole should go to any length to tap the unassailable potential of Europe’s young members.
Any other response can be done only at its own peril.