The summons to a world situation today is beset with awesome but challenging responsibility. This is a time marked with foment and change. To say that the age is revolutionary has become a truism. Repercussions run like a chain reaction through the political, economic, social, and religious structures. Such a time requires Issachar men, with "understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (1 Chron. 12:32). Let me begin this report by reminding you briefly of certain new facts in the situation of the world and the Christian mission today.
There is first, the birth of what we must call a single world civilization.
Every part of the world, even to the most remote village, is being drawn irresistibly into the current of a single global civilization dominated by the science and technology of the West. The outward signs are obvious in modern techniques of production, transport, and communication. Behind these, less obviously, lie modern methods of business organization and government. At a deeper level yet there are questions concerning the whole nature and destiny of man. To a certain degree, the same techniques, the same problems, the same answers, the same philosophies, tend to become universal. Human right, security, health and happiness for all citizens, a linear conception of history replacing the non-Christian cyclical process—all has become part and parcel of a single world civilization.
Second, really a part of the first and stemming from it, is the change in the world cultural tide. The great period of missionary expansion in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries coincided with, and was intimately tied to, the cultural, political, and economical expansion of the Western world into all parts of the earth. That movement of expansion in the main has been halted, or reversed, or more generally stabilized. This fact creates a new situation. World missions no longer can nor should be associated with a foreign, expanding, cultural, or political power.
Third, let us note the rebirth of the non-Christian religions. These ancient faiths and some modern twisted counterparts are on a march, experiencing an unprecedented upsurge. The educated Hindu no longer reacts passively or defensively to the Christian message. By systematic revision the Hindu sacred writings are being made intelligible to the masses. Buddhists are expanding and adapting their program, setting Buddhist doctrine to Christian hymnody. Up Mandalay way, for instance, Buddhists now suggest to the children, "Buddha loves me, this I know." Already building bigger shrines, Shinto-ism in the next decade hopes to restore ancient splendors of ancestor worship. Mohammedanism reorganized and more united—at least on the surface—hobbles toward Pan-Islam for Asia and Africa.
Fourth, the fast-changing world situation has fostered the creation of new sovereign states without an equating dissolution of existing ones.
On the eve of World War I, 63 countries were independent as their status would be evaluated by current criteria. On the eve of World War II, 71 countries were independent. The year 1964 started with 122 states generally accepted as independent. Two others have joined them more recently. And this proliferation of ferociously independent units has greatly modified the context of a world mission.
Of the 124 independent national units 13 are without Seventh-day Adventist representatives. These are: Afghanistan, Albania, Bhutan, Chad, Gabon, Mauritania, Muscat and Oman, Niger, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Upper Volta, Vatican City, Yemen.
The independent states of the world represent 93 percent of the earth's surface and 98.5 percent of the world's total population. Lands with something less than complete independence have today less than 50 million people. The total lands with a Seventh-day Adventist presence represent approximately 99 per cent of earth's 3.5 billion people.
A worldwide distribution of states now emerging relates them to politico-geographic regions. Any given region or block has within it a strong community of interest based principally upon location, economics, and cultural ties. From this viewpoint the world states are grouped in 13 regions:
Caribbean America 12
South America 10
Western Europe 21
Eastern Europe 19
Northern Africa (Sahara and North) 7
Africa (South of Sahara) 30
Southwest Asia (Middle East) 12
South Asia 6
Southeast Asia 8
East Asia 3
Fifth, mankind's woefully misplaced loyalties confront the missionary venture with perhaps the greatest challenge. Godless social, political, and economic concepts are before us. More recently, a type of godless Christianity is nurtured in the writings of some theologians—the so-called demythologizers. They have the support of one all-too-famous bishop and of other church leaders.
Sixth, and finally, there is what Archbishop Temple called "a great new fact of our era," the existence of an ecumenical family of churches. He was referring to the World Council of Churches, which came into existence in 1948. That was only the beginning. Along with Protestant and Orthodox Christians, the Church of Rome has addressed itself to a long-range achievement of Christian reunion. In recent weeks the Vatican Council fathers have declared themselves as acknowledging the presence of virtue and of divine guidance in other Christian faiths; as acknowledging the great sixteenth-century split to be the fault of both sides; as urging Catholics to pray together with non-Catholics; as starting the long course toward complete reunion by the polestar of a completely new respect for other faiths. And an indication of how rapidly this new look can filter down to the local level came from Boston. The same day the vote was taken in Rome, Cardinal Cushing had Billy Graham in for a talk, and then issued a statement of praise, urging his flock to attend Dr. Graham's current meetings. A prince of the Catholic Church thus endorsed a Fundamentalist revival preacher. Reporting this fact, the Washington Sunday Star (Oct. 11, 1964) added. "How short a time ago, how unthinkable."
Certainly, ecumenicity today moves relentlessly toward an all-embracing religious union. This recalls strangely what Uriah Smith discerned (1872) for the last days in the unfolding pages of prophecy. Lesslie Newbigin has acclaimed this growing association of churches, and states thus a top requirement for world missions: "The church today must have the home base everywhere in the world, wherever the church exists." Then, he adds, wistfully, "This is easily said and even easily sung about; but the profound changes in attitude, organization, and practice which it requires are not so easily achieved."
Such are today's "new facts." Obviously, the Advent message and the church of the remnant were tailored for this day.
At a time of uncertainty, Seventh-day Adventists can be sure. "The faith once delivered unto the saints" has been travestied and mutilated; for more than one hundred years many scientists, theologians, and educators have moved consistently toward religious nihilism; and a respectable writer and citizen of the world has proclaimed, "God is dead. But let this bring no note of sadness—He is also no longer necessary. Man has discovered wonder drugs and social security." At such a time Seventh-day Adventists can charge into the fog of doubt with a positive, saving message. They call all men to worship God—Creator and Redeemer. They proclaim the glorious, imminent return of Jesus Christ. Then, too, the organization and strategy of the church of the remnant meet perfectly the challenges of a world mission under present conditions.
At the time of the end, God lifted the scales from off the eves of His men. In response to the prophetic call a people set out upon a world task. We are that people. We go to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." We do so with God's last messages. We can address ourselves to all faiths, to all religious bodies, to all national entities, to all races, to all men. We follow a universal Master to the ends of His domain, to convert men, not to Protestantism, nor to any special brand of Christianity; we bring them to God's everlasting gospel.
This means that in every section of the world field we preserve ourselves from ecclesiastical commitments and affiliations, from regional philosophies of religion, economics, government, or culture; we stand firmly on the platform of God's world organization and message. Thus we can work and be received without prejudice. To be sure, we cooperate with all men of good will and purpose. We are conscientious collaborators. We dedicate ourselves undividedly to a mandated trust. We wear the garb of divine revelation and carry with us the atmosphere, not of this land or of some other land; not of this culture or of any other culture, but of heavenly places. We go to all men with God's message for all men.
There is one field; it is the world. The evangelistic appeal and the missionary undertaking will be one and the same thing. The love of Christ directs Adventists to the man across the street and the men across the seas simultaneously. Every church, every field, every land, every section of the world field, must be at the same time a mission field and a home base.
The ultimate ideal, then, will be for every land to send workers across the street and across the seas. To finish the task, workers will be sent everywhere from everywhere. This is a world missionary church—not just a church with missions in all the world. And onlookers will continue to marvel while the cause of God advances triumphantly to the four corners of the earth.
Now, a quick look at two items:
- Every Seventh-day Adventist must carry the flaming torch of evangelism, for soul winning is the capstone of the Advent faith. And here one figure suffices. In 1963, 114,156 persons were brought into church membership through baptism and profession of faith. This was the largest figure by more than 10,000 in the history of the church.
- Our world mission continues with unabated vigor, confirming the fact that year after year the church gears its thinking and action more fully to the divine program. Now eight world divisions (seven in addition to North America) have become home bases from which faithful, well-qualified workers march to lands beyond. The total of new and returning workers sent in 1963 reached 519, which is a dramatic increase over the 1962 total of 449.
Thus the stream of workers sent overseas not only is maintained but in 1963 reached an all-time high for recent years. This is a real achievement when the background of political unrest, racial tensions, restricted residence permits, and overt fighting in some areas is taken into account. Truly, nothing can thwart the plan of God for finishing His work in all the world.
A look at the church's overseas worker group from another angle is informative. Today more than 2,300 workers serve the world field on overseas status. Of this total, 1,305 were called from the North American Division. Thus the North American contingent represents 56.5 per cent of the total group. This is 3 per cent less than four years ago, indicating that the contribution from overseas divisions to the world mission has increased proportionately.
We just mentioned that eight divisions of the world field have become home bases from which this church can reach out in continuous expansion overseas. I think it would be of interest to all of us to have a breakdown of this shared contribution:
Australasia last year sent 75; Central Europe, 4: the Far East, 12, Northern Europe, 24; South America, 28; Southern Europe, 35; Trans-Africa, 21; and North America, 321. Last year the Far East joined officially in this report. The Philippines have become an important home base in supplying qualified overseas workers. In fact, to date more than 120 Filipinos have accepted appointments overseas.