GAiN Conference Day 5

Sunday marked the last day of the GAiN (Global Adventist Internet Network) conference. It was a half-day with only four presentations and a handful of “project slams.”

With the majority of the 850+ attendees checking out of their hotels this morning, things didn’t quite start on time. Our bus arrived on the UNASP campus for this final day about 30 minutes late, and we walked in just as UNASP professor Allan Novaes took the stage to discuss “Theology and Pop Culture.”

Novaes started by describing the difference between special revelation (the Bible) and general revelation, which he described as being found in culture through nature, history, and consciousness. God, he said, can communicate through culture and everyday life. We should use the culture of today and the culture of today’s youth (pop culture) to reach them. “God can be understood and preached through this culture, too,” stated Novaes.

Brent Hardinge, GC assistant communication director, spoke next on the topic of “The Adventist Living Pattern System: Branding Our Church Online.” He took the audience through a brief history of how the Adventist Church has utilized technology throughout the decades - from the printing press, to radio, to television, and now the internet and social media. Then he introduced the audience to “ALPS.”

The Adventist Living Pattern System (ALPS), is “a set of design patterns created by the Seventh-day Adventist Church for use around the world by Adventist churches, schools, and organizational units. The purpose of ALPS is to make it easy for our church to create good looking sites that promote the brand of the church, while allowing for individuality and customization of each site.”

ALPS, Hardinge said, puts an emphasis on “conversation” and “community” within the Church by promoting this unified visual dialogue.

Several project slams were next in the schedule. One project was a prayer website, We Pray Together. People add their prayers to the public site, under various categories, and then other individuals can click “pray” (similar to a Facebook “like” button) for these prayers. You can also comment on prayers.

Next, Karnik Doukmetzian from the GC General Counsel Office discussed the importance of adhering to copyright laws when using content, whether photographs or other media. He reminded the audience that no one except official Seventh-day Adventist entities may use the name or logo of the Church, which are trademarked by the General Conference. If you don’t appear in the Adventist Yearbook, you can’t use the Church name or logo, he emphasized.

Last up was Sam Neves, associate communication director, who provided a presentation on the Adventist Branding Identity. The new identity was voted and passed at Spring Council in April of this year. It provides a modern and cohesive feel that all official church entities are supposed to follow. It was the one item on the Spring Council agenda that did not receive a unanimous vote from the Executive Committee. The reception from the GAiN audience was much more positive, undoubtedly due at least in part to Neves’ energetic presentation on the importance of organizational branding.

“Advertising isn’t about showing what you can do; it’s about showing what you stand for,” stated Neves. He showed the audience commercials from Nike and Dove that successfully showcase the mission of those brands. Then he discussed the reach that companies such as fast food chains have. McDonalds has 37,000 restaurants in approximately 100 companies and Subway has about 31,000. The Adventist Church, Neves stated, has over 150,000 congregations in 208 countries. We have more locations than McDonalds and Subway combined, and yet so many have never heard of us. This is why a unified branding approach is key, Neves explained. All around the world, individuals should see the Adventist Church’s logo and its advertising, and instantly know who we are and what we stand for.

At the end of the presentation, audience members were invited up to receive a copy of a book entitled, “We are all Seventh-day Adventists,” that explains the branding initiative in greater detail.

This concluded the 2017 international GAiN Conference. This was my first time attending GAiN, and my thoughts at the conclusion of this international gathering of Adventist communicators is mixed. GAiN was like a mini-GC session in some ways: a gathering of Adventists from around the globe, all united with a passion to communicate the mission of the Church to the world. It was amazing to network with so many new people and put faces with some of the familiar names I interact with regularly through my work for Spectrum.

But, I’m not sure the GAiN Conference truly achieved this year’s goal, “Wired for Mission.” We heard from the fantastic Adventist Mission and Global Mission Center teams throughout the conference and hearing their challenges was inspiring and motivating. We also heard presentations on technology and communication best practices. But there was a disconnect between these two areas: technology and mission. Throughout the conference it was emphasized that church organizations should be using technology to further mission. But how? What does the practical application of this call look like on a day-to-day basis? How exactly does one relate mission to media, other than talking about both at an international conference? After five days of meetings, I’m still unclear.

Looking to the Brazilian Adventist entities is key, I think. As I’ve talked about throughout my daily reports, the cohesiveness of the mission and the strength of the message here was evident at every turn, from UNASP to Novo Tempo to Casa Publicadora Brasileira. But what is it exactly that has made Brazil so successful? I think one answer is their emphasis on young people. The Church in Brazil, at least from the examples I saw this week, doesn’t just say young adults are important or brainstorm a dozen ideas for keeping them in the Church. They show young adults they matter by supporting their creativity and initiatives and by placing them in key positions throughout their organizations where they can affect change.

The second answer, I believe, is a laser focus on Christ. In every aspect I saw, Brazilian Adventists weren’t just telling people about the importance of the gospel; they were acting out the gospel message in their country every day. They’re physically bringing ministry to the people who need it through educational programming and publications, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and live stage productions. And when the gospel is brought to life right before your eyes, what other response is there but to walk toward Jesus?

See also: GAiN Conference Day Zero, GAiN Conference Day One, GAiN Conference Day Two, GAiN Conference Day Three, andGAiN Conference Day Four

Alisa Williams is managing editor for SpectrumMagazine.org.

Image Credit: gain.adventist.org

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8162

What does “importance of the gospel” mean?
What does “acting out the gospel” look like?

What is the gospel?

“live stage productions”?..what?