The points of order are finished. The lines at the microphones are gone. The screens no longer display endless lines of policy text, the obsolete portions stricken through. That which is to be referred back to committee has already gone back. The leadership of the General Conference divisions has been affirmed.
The business of the church, in other words, has concluded.
On Friday morning, there was a distinctly different flavor to the goings-on at the Dome. The technicalbusiness of the church was complete; it was now time to celebrate the real business of the church—mission. One can only imagine what might transpire if we could bring the pioneers of this global movement back from the dead for just a moment to witness what they could only dream about. Once upon a time, a handful of nineteenth-century visionaries gathered to speak excitedly about the fact that the remnant church had been born and its mission was to reach every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. On June 10, 2022, they would have been bowled over by what they heard.
It is telling that the reports from the church—thirteen divisions, plus attached missions and fields—took all day to deliver. Beginning with the North American Division, which reported shortly after morning worship, and ending with the Southern-Asia Pacific Division near the very end of the day, the reports of God’s people at work across the face of the entire globe were the only thing on Friday’s agenda. Each division received only 15 minutes to report on seven years of breathtaking missionary activity, which meant there was a little adrenaline behind the pace of the good news being delivered to the auditorium.
It was a festival of sight and sound as delegates witnessed what John only saw in vision: God’s final message of mercy going to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. One can only wonder if John might not have seen some of the same faces we saw on Friday as he witnessed earth’s closing scenes.
It served as a powerful reminder that none of us is alone even though the work of preaching the three angels’ messages can be incredibly lonely for those laboring in obscure fields or remote locations. We may all be laboring in relative isolation, connected only to a few local Adventists, but we are each firmly tethered to the Lamb on Zion, whose heart beats with increasing anticipation for the moment when the cries of the angels are finished and the kingdom can commence.
Each report revealed that the church continues to grow. Some divisions were able to report tens (even hundreds!) of thousands of baptisms; others reported some—and that some was like the widow’s mites, in that they represented incredible sacrifice on the part of Adventists who are laboring in places where our work seems, to the outside eye, utterly impossible. And speaking of impossible, the reports finished with a deeply encouraging appearance from our brothers and sisters in the now war-torn Ukraine, where the work, incredibly, continues in spite of rocket-damaged churches and lost church members.
In addition to the encouraging growth of the church, another persistent theme was the pandemic. Our worldwide church was united not only by mission but also by the challenge of continuing the work of Revelation 14 in the face of a global crisis that made traditional outreach methods all but impossible. The solution? Digital missionaries, usually young people. We saw the incredible Spirit-breathed ingenuity of God’s people as they scrambled, in an endless variety of contexts, to figure out how God’s work could triumph over a near-global lockdown. We did not just baptize between 2015 and 2020; the last two years have proved incredibly fruitful.
It is only right: the week began with a declaration of mission, reminding all of us that in the business in the hours ahead we would be handling holy things and that the mission of the remnant church must be the lens through which we viewed every discussion, every decision, every policy. Then, when the business finally ended, we returned to that focus by celebrating what God has done through our meager efforts.
There are a lot of churches in this world but only one global movement that satisfactorily answers to the descriptions found in the three angels’ messages. One must suppose that when John was isolated on Patmos, he was permitted a quick glimpse of this day in vision: the endless variety of colors, languages, accents, and cultures—some of which were completely unknown to the Mediterranean world of John’s day—that gave robust testimony to the fact that God intended to keep His word after John was laid to rest.
Imagine the reports on the sea of glass; perhaps that’s why it takes days to ascend to the kingdom when Jesus comes.