A History to Be Written

Bill Knott
A History to Be Written

At a moment of unprecedented disruption in all things global, there is a natural sense of gratitude—and relief—that attends the record of the Adventist Church’s recently completed 61st General Conference Session. The simple fact of having conducted an in-person and virtual gathering of more than 2,500 delegates to do the business of a world denomination is remarkable enough as war rages, economies teeter, travel is snarled, and disease has paralyzed the planet for more than two years. In the normal course of things, we would be closing the book just now on the story of this GC Session.

But the fuller history of this gathering remains to be written. The Church’s all-encompassing mission, including evangelism, worship, teaching, and faithful discipleship, will have the final say about the gathering held June 6-11 in St. Louis. It’s in the name of that mission that we expended such effort and expense, traveled all those miles, elected leaders, and adopted policy proposals.

The stories of what followed the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15 give us key metrics by which to assess what was accomplished at this Session, the first of which is this: The value of the gathering is proportional to the increase in mission resulting from the gathering.

In the biblical account, months of division and disagreement among honest followers of Jesus resulted in a church council that consciously streamlined the movement to expand mission to places where the gospel had never been preached. Thus, by analogy, the lasting importance of the Session in St. Louis will be measured in ten thousand places not named St. Louis, and won’t be known for some time yet.

We will search for answers to these questions: Were the believers subsequently strengthened and encouraged, as happened after the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:32)? Did strong, biblical teaching grow up in congregations around the globe (verse 35)? Were barriers to mission—in language, culture, traditions, and practices—taken down (Acts 17), allowing all whom the Spirit is calling to find a home in a rapidly growing community of faith? Did mission spring up in new places (Acts 16:10), with new leaders (like Apollos and the Ephesian elders), and following new methods? Did women (like Lydia, Priscilla, and Philip’s daughters) and youth (like Timothy) find warm welcome for the gifts given them by the Spirit?

The answers to these questions won’t be known for months or years—perhaps not until uncounted multitudes gather one day beside that sea that looks like glass (Rev. 15:2). It is what happens in this interval—between St. Louis and that one at which we sing the songs of Moses and the Lamb—that will be decisive for heaven’s record of our recent Session.

That is a history yet to be written, and that first must be lived by millions of believers who never traveled to St. Louis or cast their votes as delegates. On them—on all of us—rests the true significance of the gathering we held in June.

Pray for the part the Spirit is calling you to play in the history of mission. Your service will help to write the new Book of Acts.

Bill Knott