special contributor to the Adventist Review
General Conference Executive Secretary GT Ng in his July 3 report presented the following numbers: in 1960 27 out of every 100 Seventh-day Adventists were from North America, by far the largest division in the world. Today, in 2015, Dr. NG told us, there are now seven North American Adventists for every 100 Adventists in the world (the actual number is 6.5). If that fact was lost on the North American Division in the past, it is coming through loud and clear at the 60th General Conference Session.
In vote after vote North America is voting in a manner different than the majority of the world church. Has this caused some frustration among the North American delegates? Absolutely! Is that frustration permissible? Absolutely! Is it acceptable for this frustration to be expressed? In a Christian manner and at the appropriate meetings? Disagreement with kindness is an acceptable practice among Christian sisters and brothers.
But once the disagreements have been stated—once the frustration has been expressed—it is time to do what the rest of the world was doing while we in North America were “running” the church. It is time for us to focus on growth!
Not growth for the sake of a vote, but growth because the gospel commission is, has, and always will be our mission. Some decisions we will agree with, some we won’t. I’m sure it was this way for the world church while North America was “in control;” but since we cannot alter the reality that this church has become a global South church, why spend unnecessary hours fighting it?
Instead let us focus on what realities we can change—a less than 3% growth rate among non-immigrant North Americans. Let us focus on the realities we must focus on—the bleeding of our youth out the back doors of our church at a rate of more than 50%. Instead of being irritated by what the world votes we may or may not do, let us be irritated to the point of action by the fact that there are an estimated 1 million former Adventists we must love back into the church. Instead of debating incessantly for change outside of the appropriate places for those debates, let us debate among ourselves how we can re-engage a largely inactive membership, so that our church attendance numbers are equal to our reported numbers.
While we’re here at the 60th General Conference we’ll pray, we’ll push, and we’ll fight (in a Jesus way) for what we believe in.
Maybe we’ll find the world is gracious towards our positions . . . .
Yet, even if they are not, we can still pray, push, and fight (in a Jesus way) for every soul in North America.
No vote unwelcome to North America can stop us from doing that.
No vote against the ideals held by a large majority of the NAD can stop us from maintaining our highest ideal of making Jesus better known and better loved in North America and our world.