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President’s Report for GC Session 2015
The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has always been based upon God’s Word, the Bible. From the beginning we have been a prophetic movement, based upon the sure word of prophecy. As we have followed God’s counsel, He has blessed His church. From its small beginnings the Seventh-day Adventist Church is now the fastest growing Protestant denomination in the world, with more than 18 million members.
As we look back over the past five years, it’s amazing to see how God has brought His church together, working together under His blessing and direction. His Spirit is moving in a mighty way, and it is a joy to recount how He has led us during this quinquennium. To God alone be all the glory!
Of the many marvelous evangelistic, nurture, and outreach activities all over the world that God has accomplished through the many members, churches, and institutions of His Advent movement, allow me to give you in this brief report just a sampling of some of the unique blessings He has provided.
Revival and Reformation
It is only by submitting to God that we can accomplish any good (see Phil. 2:13). We encouraged every church member to seek a personal revival and reformation, praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The General Conference (GC) Ministerial Association took a leading role in the Revival and Reformation Committee, comprised of leaders from other departments and laity tasked with planning ways to encourage and facilitate worldwide involvement.
“An Urgent Appeal for Revival, Reformation, Discipleship, and Evangelism” was drafted by the committee and voted by the General Conference Executive Committee during the 2010 Annual Council. In that action members pledged “to personally place priority on seeking God for spiritual revival and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in latter-rain power in our own lives, our families, and our ministries,”1 and to encourage the same throughout the world church.
The revival and reformation theme was promoted through many excellent resources developed by the GC Ministerial Association, the Ellen G. White Estate, the Adult Bible Study Guide, Adventist World, Hope Channel, and more.
During the 2010 Annual Council the Executive Committee also appealed “to each church member to unite with church leaders and millions of other Seventh-day Adventists seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at 7:00 each morning and evening, seven days a week.”2 Thus began the widespread “7-7-7” initiative, encircling the globe with earnest prayers for the latter rain.
Revived by His Word
Because God’s Word is the only solid foundation for all genuine revival and reformation, the Web-based Bible reading program, Revived by His Word, was initiated at the General Conference Spring Meeting in 2012. The goal of this initiative has been to encourage every church member to allow the Holy Spirit to transform their lives as they read, meditate, and pray over one chapter of the Bible each day. During this General Conference session in San Antonio we will read together the final chapter: Revelation 22.
The Reliability of God’s Word
Today it’s more important than ever that as Seventh-day Adventists living in an increasingly secular society, we believe in the trustworthiness of the Bible. For those who are looking, evidence abounds in a multitude of ways.
The Geoscience Research Institute, a GC entity located in Loma Linda, California, addresses tensions between science and biblical creation. This team of scientists is involved in scientific research, examining the evidence and evaluating it from both scientific and biblical perspectives. They present lectures to various groups, prepare materials and media for use in schools and churches, conduct field research projects, participate in scientific meetings, and publish numerous articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
The church’s Faith and Science Council is a select group of highly qualified scientists, biblical scholars, theologians, educators, and leaders. In August 2014 it organized the International Conference on the Bible and Science: Affirming Creation.
Held in St. George, Utah, this conference provided wonderful opportunities for the 463 participants—academics, scientists, administrators, church leaders, select graduate students, and lay members from all 13 world divisions—to experience firsthand how nature, science, and God’s Word are in harmony. Qualified presenters addressed such topics as genetics and molecular biology, the geological column, paleontology, environmentalism, and more. During the conference the group voted a statement acknowledging their “responsibility as Seventh-day Adventist educators to affirm and publicly promote the church’s Fundamental Beliefs on Creation and the worldwide flood as an integral part of our professional, ethical, and spiritual commitments.”3
Emphasis on Stewardship
During this past quinquennium a special emphasis has been given to stewardship ministries in bringing practical applications to revival and reformation and in affirming the trustworthiness of God’s scriptural plan for systematic Christian financial stewardship. Young people were engaged in a stewardship research project consisting of 31 focus groups in 16 countries, gauging their understanding of, and commitment to the church as faithful stewards, resulting in very positive feedback!
Comprehensive Health Ministry
As Seventh-day Adventists we are blessed with a message that leads to abundant life now and for eternity. To fulfill our God-given mission of sharing this complete message, comprehensive health ministry has come to the forefront during this quinquennium.
Comprehensive health ministry recognizes God as our Creator, Savior, Healer, and Sustainer. It is transformational evangelism in action: sharing healing, hope, and wholeness. While we as a church have been at the forefront of “medical missionary work” for the past century, comprehensive health ministry encourages us to be even more intentional in meeting needs through a blended ministry addressing an individual’s physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Led by the Comprehensive Health Ministry Committee and the General Conference Health Ministries Department, the worldwide launch of comprehensive health ministry took place at the Second Global Conference on Lifestyle and Health, held in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2014.
This world-class conference, organized by the GC Health Ministries Department, had as its theme “Non-Communicable Diseases: Lifelong Lifestyle and Prevention With Access for All.” During this six-day conference 1,300 participants from 83 countries listened to keynote presentations from internationally renowned speakers, and attended lectures and breakout sessions on a variety of health-ministry topics.
This conference represents just one of the many ways that comprehensive health ministry is playing a large role in the mission of the church. Under the leadership of the GC Health Ministries team, thousands of pastors, health professionals, seminary and health profession students, and other church members have received training in comprehensive health ministry in every division and attached union of the world church.
Remembering that “the restoration of the body prepares the way for the restoration of the soul,”4 comprehensive health ministry is the entering wedge for reaching the world with the wonderful news of Christ’s soon return.
Mission to the Cities
In 2011 the world’s demographics crossed a significant threshold when, for the first time, more people lived in urban rather than in rural areas.
During the 2011 Annual Council a special Mission to the Cities initiative was adopted. This initiative provided a renewed emphasis on implementing a strategic plan for effectively reaching people through comprehensive urban evangelism in hundreds of the world’s major cities from 2012 to 2015 and beyond, until Jesus returns.
Following the inspired counsel of Ellen White, focus was first placed on New York City. Leaders from the General Conference, North American Division, Atlantic and Columbia union conferences, and five local conferences surrounding the New York City metro area met together in 2011 to develop plans for a special Mission to the Cities emphasis, since New York City is a symbol of what God wants to be done in the cities. With 19 million people in its metro area, and as many as 800 spoken languages, this metropolis provided a rich experience for the thousands of pastors, evangelists, health workers, students, and lay members coming from all 14 major world regions to participate in this wonderful evangelistic outreach opportunity called NY13.
During the months leading up to NY13, specialized training was offered for participants, including a certification program for professional Bible workers. Nearly 1,800 people were trained through this program.
For the first time ever, the General Conference organized an International Field School of Evangelism, coordinated by Mark Finley, Robert Costa, and the GC Ministerial Association. Participants included 320 delegates coming from every world division. This three-week training equipped leaders with the tools necessary to launch a comprehensive urban evangelistic approach in their respective territories through Mission to the Cities.
God blessed NY13 in a mighty way! Thousands of church members utilized their God-given gifts in a wide variety of witnessing activities. Hundreds of multifaceted community outreach events were conducted, including wellness programs, cooking schools, English language classes, family life seminars, small-group Bible studies, literature distribution, musical concerts, prophecy seminars, personal Bible studies, and youth ministry events. The Holy Spirit was poured out powerfully. Hearts were touched, and lives were changed. NY13 climaxed with approximately 400 evangelistic meetings conducted throughout the metropolitan New York area, and 5,292 precious souls were baptized. This comprehensive urban evangelism outlined by the Spirit of Prophecy, including activities in the city and just outside the city, is to grow into a sustained “mighty movement,” described by Ellen White.
One Year in Mission
The One Year in Mission (OYiM) program, coordinated by the General Conference Youth Department, was an incredible boost to the Mission to the Cities initiative. One young person from each world division and the Middle East and North Africa Union Mission (MENA) arrived in New York and formed a 14-member team, conducting community outreach leading up to the many evangelistic series held during NY13.
Each of the OYiM volunteers took what they had experienced back to their home divisions, where they led out in training other volunteers. This wonderful youth initiative aims to involve thousands of young people in volunteering to serve one year in mission.
Spirit of Prophecy Still Relevant
Although the Ellen G. White Estate turns 100 years old on July 16, 2015—the centennial of Ellen White’s death—the work of the White Estate and the importance of the gift of the Spirit of Prophecy are as relevant today as they were a century ago.
One of the provisions given in Ellen White’s will is that her trustees should prepare compilations from her writings as needs arose. In 2012 the White Estate published Ministry to the Cities. This compilation has proved to be an excellent resource to those involved in the Mission to the Cities initiative’s being implemented worldwide.
The Great Controversy Project
Important counsel given by Ellen White in 1905 had to do with putting vital end-time information into the hands of as many as possible.
“The Great Controversy should be very widely circulated,” she wrote. “It contains the story of the past, the present, and the future. In its outline of the closing scenes of this earth’s history, it bears a powerful testimony in behalf of the truth. I am more anxious to see a wide circulation for this book than for any others I have written; for in The Great Controversy, the last message of warning to the world is given more distinctly than in any of my other books.”5
Following this inspired counsel, the Great Controversy Project Committee worked to establish a viable plan, encouraging all Seventh-day Adventists to read, or reread, The Great Controversy in 2011, and then to distribute it widely in 2012 and 2013.
Leaders around the world were actively involved in promoting this project, and they, along with millions of lay members, participated in this exciting outreach. Soon stories were being shared through print and video of lives changing as a result of reading The Great Controversy.
We praise the Lord that by the end of 2013 more than 140 million copies of The Great Controversy (or The Great Hope, featuring selected chapters) were distributed in nearly every country on earth, with wonderful results from sharing this book with friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, and the general public.
During this quinquennium we commemorated two significant anniversaries: the choice of our name, Seventh-day Adventist, in 1860, and the official founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1863.
Several church entities were involved in commemorating these sesquicentennial events. Adventist World published a yearlong series of articles, and the White Estate organized a special event in Battle Creek, Michigan, featuring seminars and other activities just before the 2013 Spring Meeting.
The General Conference’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research (ASTR), assisted in featuring the sesquicentennial. The ASTR office prepared an engaging 12-panel exhibit of Adventist Church history now on permanent display at the world headquarters and a portable version that toured numerous colleges, universities, and camp meetings. ASTR hosted a special worship series at the world headquarters, consisting of 25 talks focusing on the history of our movement. The department also featured sesquicentennial themes in its popular video series This Week in Adventist History, and their on social media generated millions of views.
Why all this focus on history? Because as we look to the future, it’s vital to remember the words of Ellen White: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”6
Recognizing the power of today’s technology, the church places strong emphasis on utilizing the Internet and media in proclaiming Christ and His three angels’ messages.
One way we do that is through GAiN—the Global Adventist Internet Network, a community of Seventh-day Adventist technologists and communicators sharing the gospel via the Internet. Organized in 2004 by the General Conference, the GAiN community meets in an annual forum, facilitated by the GC Communication Department. In 2015, for the first time, the GAiN Conference was a live online event viewed on 3,853 screens with participants from 105 countries. We praise the Lord for dedicated professionals who reach out through cyberspace to gain souls for Christ!
As we have looked back, remembering what God has done, we are encouraged to look forward to His soon return. We are certain that the Lord raised up the Seventh-day Adventist Church as His prophetic movement for these last days.
During this quinquennium God has worked through every department of the church, through our hundreds of educational, health, and publishing institutions, through special entities such as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and through our wonderful members around the world. He has given all of us a vital message to share with the world, a message emphasizing Christ as Creator, Redeemer, heavenly High Priest, and soon-returning King as we accept His gift of righteousness. He invites us to humble our hearts in revival and reformation, pleading for the latter rain of the Holy Spirit so we can go forward on His mission!
All of us are called to serve the Lord; we all have a work to do for Him in integrated and comprehensive evangelism and witnessing. Now is the time to accept His call. Now is the time to move forward in faith and confidence, trusting in His Word, in His Spirit of Prophecy counsel, as we come to the edge of eternity.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
1 “God’s Promised Gift: An Urgent Appeal for Revival, Reformation, Discipleship, and Evangelism,” Annual Council action, voted Oct. 11, 2010, p. 3.
2 Ibid., p. 4.
3 The full statement is available at http://fscsda.org/icbs/.
4 Ellen G. White, Medical Ministry (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. As sn., 1932), p. 240.
5 Ellen G. White, Colporteur Ministry (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1953), p. 127.
6 Ellen G. White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1915), p. 196.