For members only?

Ramon J. Canals, DMin, serves as ministerial secretary of the Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

Your church may not have a sign that reads “For Members Only” but if we are not actively, persistently, and intentionally inviting people to come in, it is like having an invisible sign that prevents people from visiting our churches. I will never forget Gloria’s testimony. “For more than eighteen years, we lived almost in front of this church but were never invited to come in.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. It was my first year as a pastor of this beautiful church in West New York. “We must visit every home around the church,” I had said, “beginning with the closest neighbors.” So, we had divided the church into groups of two and gone into the neighborhood. One of our young couples began Bible studies with an older couple living just one block from our church. After studying the Bible and attending an evangelistic meeting we conducted, they accepted the Lord Jesus. Gloria and her husband were baptized.

I thank God that it was after her baptism when Gloria shared her testimony with the whole church. “For eighteen years my husband and I walked in front of this church and wondered what they were doing there. I used to observe from a distance the weddings, baby showers, funerals, and other religious services with curiosity. Sometimes I was tempted to go in, but I thought this was a private church for members only.” It was both an indictment and a wake-up call—as if she were saying, “Thank you for inviting us. And, what took you so long?”

The mission statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is, “Make disciples of Jesus Christ who live as His loving witnesses and proclaim to all people the everlasting gospel of the Three Angels’ Messages in preparation for His soon return (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, Rev. 14:6-12).” To accomplish this mission, the church launched the I Will Go initiative. I Will Go is a personal call to get involved. It involves every church member, pastor, administrator, and leader at all levels of the church in the mission of saving souls for Jesus. This is a call for total member involvement.

In the last part of Jesus’ commandment, He says, “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20, NIV). The key phrase is “everything I have commanded you.” Does this “everything” include the commandment to go, make disciples and baptize them in verse 19? It certainly does. The disciples of Jesus were to go, make disciples, and baptize. They understood this commandment clearly. But they also understood that the disciples they made were to be taught everything Jesus commanded, including the commandment to make disciples.

Paul later wrote, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2, NKJV). Therefore, being disciples of Jesus means accepting Him as a personal Savior and Lord, taking up your cross, and following Him. This “following” means baptism, living as a disciple in a congregation, and obeying Jesus’ command to evangelize.

Like Gloria, many await an invitation to come into the church and, more importantly, to become full disciples of Jesus. People are willing to listen if we are eager to talk. You and I, and every member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, have been called to be Christ’s ambassadors and to say, “I will go to be His witness.” Will we wait eighteen years to offer an invitation to our neighbors to prepare for His second coming? I hope not.

For 100 years, the Ministerial Association has faithfully and forcefully preached that Jesus is coming soon. We need to practically provide opportunities for people to connect with Jesus continually so we can prayerfully demonstrate that we are not a private club—“for members only.”

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Ramon J. Canals, DMin, serves as ministerial secretary of the Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

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