Annual Council 2015—Where Is The Real Mission Field?

Now that 92 percent of the 18.8 million Seventh-day Adventists live in the Global South, where are the mission fields today? In the secular north? In the 10/40 window? In countries like Somalia and Yemen that have few if any Christians?

Missions were the topic of the day for the General Conference Executive Committee, and presentations were made about the Global Mission Centers that are offering new ways to reach Buddhists, Hindus, Secular/Postmoderns, Muslims, Jews, and Urbanites. Many population percentages were shared. Two-thirds (69%) of the world’s population is not Christian. That was a major number. What are we going to do to reach the 69 percent? One in 14 people worldwide is a Buddhist. Islam is the fastest-growing major religion worldwide. Hinduism is the world’s third-largest religion.

General Conference Secretary GT Ng noted that most of our converts come from a Christian background. He said, “We need a greater degree of intentionality to embark on cross-cultural mission. There will always be insufficient funds and personnel to engage in global mission. We, therefore, need a new paradigm that has the goal of aligning every available resource with mission.”

But it was the report on the major losses of church membership over the past 50 years that took the question of mission to a different level. What about the mission field in our own homes and churches?

In a report on retention and reclamation, director of the General Conference Department of Archives, Statistics and Research David Trim reported on the number of members who have been dropped from church membership roles or are missing. “We have 50 years of data on this now,“ he said. In that time period we baptized 33,202,016. Of those we lost 13,026,925.” Doing the math, he said we lose 1 in 4.

Recent quantitative and qualitative studies have been done on these losses. The complete reports on these studies are available on the Archives web site. He noted several things such as that, of those surveyed about why they left the church, 40% said that after they left no one contacted them. Also, 58% said that under the right circumstances, perhaps they would consider coming back.

This was the one topic of the day on which there was actual discussion by the delegates. Robert Folkenberg, Jr. came to the microphone and described a plan that is being used in some areas in the Northern Asia Pacific Division. Churches there are going through their old baptismal records. They make a list of all the people that were baptized ten years ago and invite them to a birthday party celebrating their baptism. This has proven to be a good way to make contact with people who may not have been in the church in some time.

Paul Ratsara described a Fishers of Men program that is in place in South Africa. There newly baptized members are placed in a special class for three months, and they are encouraged to win a soul during that period of time to provide friendship, also a congress is held where only the newly baptized and the elders are invited.

A pastor from the Trans-European Division talked about the spiritual mentoring process they have adopted for newly baptized members.

It was noted that the Strategic Plan with its elements of Reaching Up, Reaching Out, and Reaching In with God has specific programs in place to support members in reaching up to God through the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy reading program, and that the Global Mission and other evangelistic programs facilitate reaching across to our neighbors, but that we are in need of a plan to prompt reaching in, to be in touch with our own members.

It seems there are many mission fields calling for attention both at home and elsewhere in the world. “What is your response to this overwhelming challenge?” President Wilson asked the delegates. “We can’t do it, but God can.”

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7124

People have left the church because this church has decided over and over again to keep on discriminating against women. The amount of members who believe it is their task to cleanse the church from everybody who doesn’t share their specific interpretation of certain verses in the Bible has also caused quite a few very old members to leave. They say they are leaving a place where the love between Jesus’s followers is invisible.
I’m wondering if this was even mentioned??

7 Likes

I’m so tired of this false accusation. The reasonable explanations from Scripture have fallen on deaf ears among those for whom WO is the only issue that matters. If you want to see real discrimination against women, go to the Middle East and hang out ins some Muslim countries. Saudi Arabia (one of our staunch allies), for example, won’t let women drive cars. And then there is the requirement that women cannot go out in public unaccompanied by a male family member. And you’re whining about us not ordaining women? Time for a reality check.

And if people are leaving the church over this one issue, one has to wonder about their level of commitment to the truth. The truth has not changed because WO was voted down in San Antonio. The Sabbath is still valid; the State of the Dead has not changed; the Second Coming is still expected. If one still believes the pillars of our faith, where would they go upon leaving? If Jesus and the apostles had had the attitude of some of the whiners and complainers in the SDA Church, there would never have been a Christian church.

2 Likes

When the church’s evangelism historically was with the focus of calling others our of Babylon (in their thinking at the time, fallen Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant), coupled with the fact that historically the church has been slow, very slow, to adapt the message, it isn’t a wonder that we have been most effective with people already acquainted with Christ. I pray we can learn how to best reach those who have no familiarity with Jesus. No easy task.

6 Likes

I don’t know about anyone else out there, but the last 3 Sabbaths, when I sat in church the audience was on the receiving end of being called Laodicea during the Sabbath school class or sermon. Who wants to outreach to others , just so they can become part of the remnant church of lukewarm Laodicea? I emailed one of the persons, a pastor, who used the label, telling him it was brow beating and verbal abuse and actually received a reply expressing an apology.

9 Likes

book sales evangelism is dead, health evangelist is concerned only with the bottom line. tent evangelism was swallowed by cable. Doug Batcheler preaches only to the self righteous. The post master of Evans Georgia was convertered by two ladies who received their mail which included, the review, life And Health, Ministry, and Southern Tidings. they were so pleasant that he started reading their magazines. one laby was Rick Rices mother , the other my wife.

Christain behavior sells. but what we are experiencing is a cull mentality. Tom Z

13 Likes

Although you cannot fathom it, Birder, discriminating against women IS a moral issue to some of your brothers and sisters in Christ who are not “whining,” but who are deeply disappointed in second class treatment of others in Christ.

10 Likes

The “mission field” is right where you live! It’s that simple.

4 Likes

There are many issues over which people leave the church. Some are cumulative. While a person may have left the church because of a slight, or something like that, the disconnection may have commenced when the person first discovered that an injustice was occurring, or a truth didn’t stack up.

As for a claim to the truth, Adventists only have a portion of it, and no-one has all of it. And it is not possible for me to be an arbiter of who has it and who hasn’t got it. We look through a glass dimly. People who claim to have the full truth are arrogant.

9 Likes

No Easy Task"

It is interesting that in early 1930s, just 2 men. Bill Wilson, Dr. “Bob” Smith met. Supported each other. Invited others at a later time.
Now Alcoholics Anonymous is a World Wide Program.
It addresses persons of all religions, person of no religion.
And yet, the Keystone of their Message, is reliance on their Higher Power through prayer and meditation and frequent fellowship of sharing.
It has ONLY 12 Doctrines.
Other programs have copied the AA model, and are effective.
Perhaps Seventh day Adventists could take a lesson from Mr. Bill and Dr. Bob on how to reach the unchurched, the down and out who feel hopeless and powerless.
There are no paid preachers. Only a few support staff receive wages. It is a total volunteer organization. No “owned” buildings. Rent is paid by donations of the attendees. Meetings are 7 days a week, all hours of the day and evenings. No advertising except by mostly word of mouth from one person to another.
Attending one of their week-end regional conventions is like going to an Adventist Camp meeting. Wonderful stories of deliverance by God are told all weekend.
Hearing the count down of time of sobriety has to be experienced. Begin with 40-50 years down to on year. and watching persons stand up. Then 12 months to 1 month. Then 30 days to 1 day.
Seeing all those persons who have chosen their Higher Power. Indescribable.
Again, perhaps the SDA church could learn something from Mr. Bill and Dr. Bob.

3 Likes

Observations or perception are not accusations, Bird. Perception is very important and needs to be considered seriously even when it is not accurate. If perception is inaccurate, then there is a significant image problem for the organization that needs to be addressed if it hopes for future success.

I expect, unfortunately, that 20 years from now a similar report will be given at Annual Council. However, then, it will be said that beginning in 2015 the rate of loss in the NAD and Western Europe accelerated notably. Reasons won’t be given, although conclusions will be made.

6 Likes

And Steve, there’s no dues, or fees, but as you have shown, there are expenses. Voluntary contributions of not only money, but time. Getting sober is the initial point of the program, but the spiritual blessing is the gift that one receives from it. I’ve heard a friend of mine often say “If you want to keep what you’ve received, you have to give it away”. In gratitude, they embark on a mission to reach others that they too can find deliverance and have like experience in a Higher Power.

4 Likes

As chair of the GC Secretariat, in charge of placing cross-cultural missionaries, aka Inter-division Employees or IDE’s, Dr Ng is in a unique position to fulfill his own vision for a new paradigm in missions. What has he done and what are the steps he plans to take to accomplish the same?

How can one be committed to “truth” (as we understand it) when both promoters and deniers of WO are mutually Scripturally convinced? The sound rule leadership should have taken—was to leave consciences un-trampled. To promote an open culture of dialog. Instead, leadership publically sided against WO, choosing to let the majority decide which was a given outcome. They should have known from history that sharply divided issues that involve Scriptural convictions are not resolved by a vote.

The lifeblood of the Adventist church is that we possess the “everlasting gospel” for all nations. We appeal to conscience to keep the Sabbath through Scriptures for which we claim there is no appeal. Thus the church should be very careful how they form policy or acceptable standards in regard to WO, when Scripture cannot be presented without reasonable doubt on either side.

5 Likes

[quote=“frankpeachamvt, post:14, topic:9712”]
The lifeblood of the Adventist church is that we possess the “everlasting gospel” for all nations.
[/quote]This caught my eye. How is the everlasting gospel that (we) Adventist’s possess, different than the gospel that other Christians possess?

5 Likes

Regarding lost members. I was part of a Southern Calif. Church that had grown in the '90s to over a thousand members on the books and about 400-500 regular attending (pretty good numbers). Then a pastoral scandal, followed by another scandal, followed by another. I was involved in lay leadership during much of this.

As each new pastor came in, I made a few suggestions including that the pastor call everyone on the rolls, introduce himself and simply listen to them. In my 16 years at that church, this had never been done before. On all 3 instances the pastors elected not to do so. Instead all insisted that the way to grow the church was to spend money on updating the facility (to make it more like a modern, tilt-up/warehouse type church) and to spend money hiring staff. In short, they choose flashiness over the hard work of contacting and listening to people complain.

When I finally stopped attending that church, it had average weekly attendance of about 120 people but it had a Sr. Pastor, Assoc. Pastor and multiple other people on partial salary. Every year or so it goes through a “visioning” process to determine mission, outreach, etc. And every year it’s grand plans revolve around spending money. What it doesn’t revolve around is ministering to the needs of it’s members and it’s community (in spite of saying that is what they do).

In my view, if any of those pastors had taken the effort to call and just listen. Listen to members complain about how bad they were treated and about how “so & so, did them wrong”, and simply express that they (the pastor) were there to minister. Here is what I would have believed would have happened; 60% of those 1,100 members wouldn’t come back for many reasons (deceased, moved away, can’t find them, etc.). 40% would at least stop by to look. Of those 1/3rd would stay. If that occurred the church would have doubled it’s active, attending members - without spending any money. Back that up with programming that meets their needs and you’d have a growing church.

4 Likes

How many churches have gained members with no evangelistic outreach? I attended a church that began with less than 50 members, and many new members said that when they attended the first time, there was such acceptance and a welcome spirit, that they decided to become members. In less than 25 years membership is now close to 400, all who have remained. How many churches could say that?

1 Like

The answer is to link it with the following verse.
“The hour of his judgment has come.” That means the investigative judgment has come in 1844.
“Worship him who made the heavens…” That refers to the creation week and means the sabbath.
That is what makes our gospel so different to other gospels.
It’s so clear, isn’t it, if you read between the lines?

3 Likes

you mean we preach a different Gospel? The Gospel of the right doctrine on creation and Sabbath? I am afraid you might be right in too many cases…
Go and read the true Gospel of the cross and salvation not through being right but through the one who chose to die for us.

4 Likes

I didn’t see anywhere Marianne_Faust mentioning WO. Yes, the way women are treated in many parts of the world is terrible; however this a direct result of headship theology, where women and children are “owned” and treated as a possession not as a child of the King.
A major correction; the vote at GC15 was not yes or no to WO, but on who controls
who is ordained and who is not. As Elder Wilson said, things are as they were before GC15, meaning the decision is at the union level…study church structure and what level is responsible for various decisions. This structure was one of the first things reviewed, clarified and ratified by annual council under Elder Wilson. This WO issue is not one of our FB. And in fact how it currently stands is contrary to at least two of our FB. I do believe a major reason people leave the church is over how un-Christian we treat each other.

3 Likes