With the families of the Executive Committee in attendance for Sabbath services, the General Conference auditorium became a more lively place. The presence of small children brightened the room, and made it feel more like church.
During the Sabbath School hour, Audrey Andersson, Executive Secretary of the Trans European Division, led a panel discussion of the weekly lesson. Derek Morris, editor of Ministry, and Lael Caesar, associate editor of the Adventist Review, joined her in conversation on the perfect topic for the occasion and the audience—authority. Morris was very direct in his comments. “To whom is our service directed,” he asked. “To people, to get elected—oops, did I say that—or to serve God?”
From the audience came a response to Morris’ implied emphasis on service to God, “O, I wish that were true, I wish that were true.”
For the worship service, the "Singing Secretaries," as President Ted N.C. Wilson called them, gave a rousing rendition of “Jesus is Coming Again” with multiple languages woven into the familiar song. Gordon Christo, Vladimir Krupskyi, Solomon Maphosa, and Magdiel Perez Schulz each serve as the executive secretary in their divisions, thus Wilson’s nickname for them. Their warm sound as a quartet, so reminiscent of the King’s Herald, blended with the many languages in the joyous song nicely connected the past and present of Adventism.
For his sermon, Wilson chose this occasion to introduce an initiative to evangelize the world’s major cities—a topic close to his heart. He told of his desire as a young minister to go to New York and do the work that he found described so extensively in the Spirit of Prophecy. It is the topic on which he wrote his doctoral dissertation. And the first seven years of his ministry were in New York.
The biblical basis of his sermon began with the story in Luke 19 where Christ looked out over the city and wept for it. “How many of us are weeping with Jesus today?” he asked. “If ever there was a time to weep for the people of the cities and suburbs, it is now,” he said.
“I have a heavy burden on my heart for the people of the cities and I want to lay that burden on your heart today.”
To illustrate the daunting challenge of reaching out to the people of the cities, he first cited Jonah’s reluctance to go to Nineveh—a real story with a real fish. “Don’t discount this story as allegorical,” he added. “The stories of the Bible are true.”
And then there was the story of General Conference President A.G. Daniels who in 1909 frustrated Ellen G. White by his timid response to her call for more effort to be spent on the cities. Daniels made the trip out to Elmshaven to talk with her about the situation, and she refused to see him.
“When the General Conference President is converted he will know what to do,” said White.
The conclusion of that story was that Daniels humbled himself and put together an extensive program for the cities that included having him take a year’s sabbatical from the presidency to work in the city.
“Comprehensive” was the word that Wilson repeated over and over as he cast his vision for city work. And he drew extensively on quotations from the Spirit of Prophecy to illustrate his point. He turned to the July 5, 1906 issue of the Adventist Review where Mrs. White described a “beehive” of activity in San Francisco that included visiting the sick, finding homes for the homeless, classes on health, school for the children, treatment rooms, a vegetarian café.
“We need a strategic plan for every city around the world,” Wilson said.
New York is where he wants to begin this work in 2013 with evangelistic campaigns in every neighborhood. He noted that 800 languages are spoken in New York and said that evangelists from every division will be invited to come to New York to present an evangelistic series. And he pledged to preach one, also. He called on unions, conferences, pastors, institutions, and lay people to be involved in this project. And he called to the platform the presidents of the unions, and conferences surrounding New York for special prayer.
And this New York effort in 2013 will only be the beginning. The evangelists will go home to their divisions and hold a series in every major city, so that 650 cities will be covered before the next General Conference.
On the stage beside him were two pictures of Christ hovering over the city that hang in his offices—one at home and one at work—and one has been in every office that he has had.
“I do not want to be accused by the Lord of ignoring the work of the cities,” Wilson said.
For his call to action for comprehensive urban evangelism, he first asked division presidents to stand if they were ready to take on the mission to the cities, then the GC officers, departmental directors and staff, union presidents, institutional leaders, pastors, lay members, everyone in the audience as Karla Bucklew sang a moving rendition of “Lonely Voices.”
As is his custom, Wilson asked people to pray with the person next to them to close the service.
The first business session of Annual Council will begin Sunday at 9 am.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3453