April 9, 2014

Creative Outreach Projects Highlighted at Council on Evangelism and Witness

Top regional leaders of
the Seventh-day Adventist world church heard urban evangelism updates and examples
of creative outreach yesterday during the Council on Evangelism and Witness
report to Spring Meeting.

During a presentation
led by Mike Ryan, a general vice president of the Adventist world church, and
David Trim, director of the church’s Office of Archives, Statistics and
Research, several division presidents offered updates on the Mission to the Cities initiative.

Trim noted that there
are 396 people per Adventist worldwide. That ratio, he said, jumps to 547
people per Adventist in urban regions. Some cities of a million or more fare
much worse, while Lusaka, Zambia is a bright spot, with the best
population-to-member ratio of any large city worldwide—one Adventist per 19

Paul Ratsara, president
of the church’s Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, which oversees Zambia,
said small groups are the key to evangelism in the region. “If we are not
reaching the grassroots, then we are just talking to ourselves,” he said.

The church’s South
American Division, under the leadership of President Erton Kohler, is taking a
similar approach. The region’s goal is to plant an Adventist church in every one
of nearly 7,000 neighborhoods in major cities. Currently there are 2,000
Adventist churches established in these neighborhoods.

In Europe, the
Adventist Church is focusing on Geneva. While the city isn’t home to millions,
it is influential in the eyes of the international community, said Bruno
Vertallier, president of the church’s Inter-European Division. A team of
Adventist young people is working in Geneva in what Vertallier said he hopes
becomes a model of outreach for the region. The group has already planted a
church attended by 60 new believers and former Adventists.

Ryan steered many of the
presentations toward planning and accountability. The Adventist world church,
he said, pledged to carry out an
evangelism plan in every city with a population of over a million, and results
are mandatory. “We want to track progress intentionally,” he said.

Blasious Ruguri,
president of the church’s East-Central Africa Division, told the story of an
Adventist pastor in the region who was beaten for his faith and hospitalized.
The pastor’s first move post-recovery, Ruguri said, was to visit the man
responsible for the attack and forgive him. The man, then a clergy member of
another faith, was so impressed by the pastor’s spirit of reconciliation that
he accepted an invitation to study the Bible. Later the man accepted the
Adventist faith. He now directs an inter-faith ministry in Nairobi, Kenya,
Ruguri said.

In Korea, a growing
number of Adventist churches are launching nearby vegetarian restaurants—ideal settings
to spur conversations about health, wellness and ultimately spiritual wholeness,
said Jairong Lee, president of the church’s Northern Asia-Pacific Division.

Elsewhere in the
region, Lee said, a fledgling chain of pizza restaurants is doubling as a gathering
place for Adventist believers. “During the week, this is a pizza restaurant,
but on Sabbath, this is a church,” he said, gesturing to a picture of the
flagship restaurant. The restaurants employ Adventist young people and serve as
centers of influence. At least 50 people worship in one location every

Dan Jackson, president
of the church’s North American Division, offered a new perspective on the 10/40
Window, a region spanning Northern Africa, Middle East and Asia where less than
2 percent of the population is Christian. “[The 10/40 Window] just moved next
door,” Jackson said, referring to a massive influx of immigrants and refugees
to some American cities. Now home to 90,000 refugees, the southern California
city of San Diego is considered the refugee capital of the world, Jackson said.

There, the Paradise
Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church counts members from 51 nationalities. While
worship services are conducted in English, headset translations and Sabbath
School classes are available in Arabic, Laotian, Tagalog, Nepalese, Swahili, French
and Spanish. The church’s refugee ministry also serves food to some 500 people
every week, at church and through a delivery service led by a former Buddhist
priest who accepted Adventism. A bus from Paradise Valley makes Saturday
morning stops in local refugee communities to pick up residents who want to
attend church but don’t have a means of transportation.

Will James, senior
pastor of the church, said refugees often battle feelings of isolation and
loneliness. “Our church has become the loving, caring community that they
crave,” he said.

Spring Meeting
delegates also watched the trailer for a film that dramatizes the life of
evangelical theologian Edward Fudge and debunks misconceptions about the character
of God and the eternal destiny of unbelievers.

Top church
administrators endorsed “Hell and Mr. Fudge” (LLT Productions) and called on
regional church leaders to distribute DVDs of the film, host church-sponsored
screenings in public venues and share copies with family and friends.

“This is a powerful
evangelistic tool,” said Mark Finley, special assistant for evangelism to
Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson.

Another resource church
leaders plan to use for outreach—especially in 2015—is a book on comprehensive
health outreach edited by Finley and Peter Landless, director of the Adventist
world church’s Health Ministries department. “Health and Wellness: Secrets That
Will Change Your Life” (Review & Herald Publishing Association) offers
simple ways to avoid chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

But “resources without
the Source are not enough,” Landless said, referring to the spiritual component
of wholeness. With chapters on topics such as forgiveness, relationships and
mental health, the book covers the spectrum of holistic living.

Wilson closed today’s
Council on Evangelism and Witness with a call for outreach that finds
expression beyond the margins of plans and PowerPoint presentations.

“I want to encourage
all of you not to just talk about evangelism, but to participate in it,” Wilson
said. “Be a visible leader in evangelism in your church and in your