Of my 37 years of service in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the past five years at Ministry were among the most rewarding. The excellent work atmosphere, understanding and appreciative colleagues, a genuine satisfaction of serving an important constituency of the church, and the opportunity to advance the collective appreciation of clergy to what the Lord has done and what He expects us to do were all part of that reward. As I now leave Ministry to take up another assignment with the General Conference Department of Education, I wish to bid farewell to our readers by making three affirmations that define the uniqueness of the Adventist Church and its ministry.
First, our faith. My ministry as a layperson, a teacher, a pastor, an editor, a departmental director, or church administrator in no way has distracted my primary commitment to the One in whom I have chosen to believe. Jesus is the anchor of my faith. Ecclesiastic service is one way, not necessarily the only way, I have chosen to "cry aloud [and] spare not" that commitment. That is to say, whatever we do and wherever we are, we are called to affirm the uniqueness of who Jesus is, what He has done, what He is doing, and what He is about to do. When the apostle Paul arrived at the conclusion that he would commit all his resources to the one single event of the cross and nothing else (see 1 Cor. 2:2), he was affirming his faith that Jesus is the key that unlocks the mystery of life: He makes the past, present, and future forge together in a meaningful symphony; He offers forgiveness, provides assurance, and ushers hope. Our ministry succeeds or 4 fails to the degree that we continually affirm personally and corporately our unfailing commitment to Jesus.
Second, our message. Our message is the outgrowth of our faith. And as such, our message is Christ-centered and Christ-based. When we express the Adventist faith in terms of 27 fundamental beliefs, we are not making a creedal statement to suggest that we have arrived at a closed and final understanding of truth. But we are saying that even in the temporality of time and in the inadequacy of human under standing, the Holy Spirit has guided the church to formulate its fundamental beliefs, keeping in view that Christ is the basis and that His Word is the unerring authority of those beliefs. These beliefs provide a detailed avenue through which we present Christ as meeting the needs of people everywhere. Any one of those fundamental beliefs, presented apart from that Christ focus, will remain only as an intellectual doctrine or a philosophical cushion. The genius of the Adventist message is its unchangeable constant: Jesus and the assurance that comes from Him for every human being. Our ministry succeeds or fails to the degree that we continually keep our commitment to the 27 fundamental beliefs within the context of Jesus, the arbiter of human life and destiny.
Third, our mission. The mission of the church is twofold: within and with out. The mission within is a continual recognition that in spite of all the varied differences we may have and in spite of the various hues of our existence, we are Christ's precious body, created by His grace, carved out by His cross, nurtured by His love, directed by hope, and testified by unity. God's grace pardoning, empowering, sanctifying grace is at the core of our unity as a body. Where that unity is imperiled, the body comes under Satanic attack. No amount of preaching can safeguard that unity; only a deliberate renunciation of self to the preservation of the other, only a personal rejection of divisive factors, only a continued standing at the leveled ground of the cross, and only an eager awaiting for the Parousia can ensure a commitment to that unity. Our ministry succeeds or fails to the degree we nurture and care toward the preservation of that unity at every level.
The second part of our mission is without the global extension of God's kingdom. Where there is no evangelism, there is erosion of the very purpose for which the church is called to exist. A survey of the delegates at the Utrecht session of the General Conference directed church authorities to continue to give evangelism and mission high priority. That's not surprising at all. For Adventism was born with a sense of global mission and of creating a global community that awaits the Parousia. This does not mean, as some cynics would suggest, that the Great Disappointment found its answer in the great achievement. But this does mean Adventism, rising out of the Great Disappointment, found its challenge in letting the world know that the Lord who broke through history in Bethlehem is about to break through again to let eternity reign. The good news of the cross and the Second Coming is too good to keep to ourselves. That's the basis of our global mission.
History tells us that when church members or leaders are preoccupied with anything less than total commitment to Jesus, His message and mission, there begins a decay. Hence the call to higher ground: power and pomp must give way to passion for ministry and modeling; ecclesiastic structure and positions must become instruments of church growth and service; institutions must become dispensers of grace to the communities in which they serve; a sense of stewardship and integrity must permeate personal and organizational life.
Conceived thus, our task is heavy; our agenda is unfinished. But our ministry is neither unrealistic nor hopeless. The One who calls is the One who enables. He that has begun a good work among us will also complete that work. Only let us continue to plow, sow, plant, care, reap, and hope in order that when the day of triumph comes, we will be part of it.