Just as the generosity of pioneering members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church helped spread the everlasting gospel message around the globe, the first quarter 2017 Thirteenth Sabbath offerings of today's church members will help share the word with unreached and underreached people in the church's Trans-European Division, one of the world's most secular regions.
TED leadership has chosen to focus on five key areas of church growth and evangelism: Leadership development, Youth, Family, Children and Mission-Outreach.
“They are the starting points for all that we do,” said Raafat Kamal, TED President. “They are the priorities in our strategic planning because they are also the main challenges that we face across Europe.”
While the TED may be the smallest of the 13 world Divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, it is potentially also the most diverse. Many of the 22 countries that make up the TED have become very secular, some with as few as 4 percent of the population attending church. These contrast with countries in the south and east of the region where Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism or Islam have a significant influence within the culture.
Nordic Camporee - 2016
Within that context innovative evangelism and programs like Pathfindering are making a difference. Mads Kivikoski, Pathfinder director in Denmark, stated recently that in the Nordic countries Pathfindering is one of the best outreach opportunities they have. That is also true in the Baltic States where over half of the children that come to their summer camps are from non-Adventist backgrounds.
Even in very secular countries such as the Netherlands, success can be found with contemporary church plants that are tailored to the needs of a community. They are aiming to plant one new church each year.
Countries such as Poland and Hungary–both with staunchly Catholic populations, have taken advantage of the recent ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ film release to engage with their communities via youth outreach, magazine and media publications, and opportunities to represent the church within the media. In Poland, this has already resulted in more than 100 Bible study opportunities, and people walking into an Adventist Church for the very first time.
Daniel Duda, TED Field Secretary states, “The challenge for Europe is to preserve the core of the Adventist message without compromising its eternal values, yet to move on in forms of contemporary Adventism so that it reflects how people think and live in today’s multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-national Europe with all its diversity.”
Can this work? It does in Finland, where Tampere Christian School is over-subscribed by residents who appreciate the core values and ethos of the institution. Even home prices are higher in the area and families move to be in the school's enrollment area. Only forty of the 260 students are Adventist, but many more openly identify with the values of the school and roughly 100 come to the monthly Saturday night 'pizza church' program!
First in Denmark, and now in Finland, ‘Happy Hand’ have set up thrift shops that also operate as a drop-in center. At weekends they become a place of worship.
Health Club in Novi Sad, Serbia
In the South East European Union, members have discovered that while their neighbors may not be interested in religion, they are keen to improve their health. One church plant in Novi Sad, Serbia, is even set up first as a health club, and then as a church. In the summer the Union organizes health camps–with participants from around the various local health clubs coming and gaining more insights into not just physical health, but also mental and spiritual well-being.
While the challenge of secularism is great, Adventists in the TED are continuing to find ways to make a difference in their community. That difference ultimately allows them to share Christ.
More information on the Trans-European Division and its mission emphases is available online at www.ted-adventist.org.