As scores of world leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church gathered in the General Conference headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, at the beginning of the Sabbath on September 27, the executive secretary of the General Conference urged increased ministry in the world’s cities.
“While Ellen G. White is emphatic about the evils of city living, she is equally emphatic about the critical need for urban missions.” G.T. Ng said in a plenary address to delegates at the movement's Urban Mission Conference. He drew extensively from the writings and addresses of White, a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist movement, to illustrate his points.
Ng urged that the church needs to resolve its “love/hate” relationship with cities and with urban ministry. Many Seventh-day Adventists point to Ellen White statements about the perils of urban environments, but Ng reminded the audience of 200 leaders that White spent decades urging Adventist leadership and laity to enter urban areas in order to perform evangelistic work.
He quoted White: “We are far behind in following the light God has given regarding the working of our large cities.” “When I think of the many cities yet unwarned, I can not rest. It is distressing to think that they have been neglected so long. For many, many years the cities of America, including the cities in the South, have been set before our people as places needing special attention.”
Noting that White also called for a great diversity of methods to reach urban dwellers with the gospel—health ministry, vegetarian restuarants, home visitation, and small group Bible studies, among others—Ng smiled and observed to a room filled with preachers, “I have a feeling we preach too much!” While most efforts to launch city ministries have focused on large public evangelistic events, Ng urged his hearers to plan numerous lower-key activities. “When we go fishing as Jesus told us to, we have to use many types of methods.”
The four-day Urban Mission Conference is designed to raise and address issues of entering cities for evangelism, said Mike Ryan, a general vice president of the world church who greeted attendees at the meeting’s start.
“We have come to this conference to look at this issue and to see what we can do to reach the cities,” Ryan said.
After Ng spoke, the award-winning Aeolian choir of Oakwood University, a General Conference institution in Huntsville, Alabama, presented several powerful worship songs, including a dramatic rendition of “How Great Thou Art.”
The Urban Mission Conference will continue through October 1, 2013, and will feature many church leaders, including General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson; church Education director Lisa Beardsley-Hardy; general vice-president Ella Simmons; longtime evangelist and Adventist Review editor-at-large Mark Finley; Washington Adventist University urban ministries professor Gaspar Colon, and MINISTRY magazine editor Derek Morris.