Not too long ago, I reviewed the minutes of the 1903 session of the General Conference (GC). It was an exciting read because, at that time, the rudimentary parts of the Advent movement were beginning to employ a more organized shape. There must have been delight in the hearts of the delegates at this GC session as churches were applying to become part of local conferences, and commensurately, unions comprising local conferences were organized and accepted into the body we call the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Surely the church leaders must have been moved by seeing this brand-new prophetic movement, through many missional endeavors, becoming a broad-based entity with congregations, educational and health care institutions, and publishing houses encompassing the globe. After all, we had, and still have, an urgent prophetic message, rooted in Daniel and Revelation, that Jesus is coming—not soon but very soon! What joy church members must have felt, knowing that collectively, we would be stronger and, thereby, more effective in heralding His soon appearing when banded together.
A closer people
Without the past to tell the story, it may seem that these entities were always part of the larger whole. But the meeting minutes prove that was not the case. And as a result of the visionary decisions of yesteryear, today we are one of the most organized and effective organizations in the world. Many pastors and members of other churches, and even a health care CEO, have told me in various ways, “I wish our church [hospital] was organized like yours. You are much closer as a people and managed better institutionally.”
I share these vignettes from others because it is easy to take what we have for granted. While the grass may appear greener elsewhere, God devised our structure not to obstruct mission but to facilitate it. As one of my neighbors who traveled extensively for his job asserted, “Wherever I go in the world, I find Seventh-day Adventists!”
An advancing people
As a global body, our in-reach and outreach tools are becoming more refined. Today hundreds of churches are being planted, thousands of online Bible studies are completed every month, and people are being baptized faster than we can train leaders to lead them. Podcasts by our digital disciples are proliferating. Our congregations are now reaching the world with streaming ministries. And our legacy radio and TV media ministries are garnering an ever-larger share of listeners and viewers. Every day we are advancing in our understanding of how to better proclaim Jesus’ soon return. And thanks to our educational institutions, many more young adults are being inspired by the Holy Spirit to leave their comfort zones to change the world for Christ!
Thank God our theology is global because we have an urgent message to proclaim “to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6). And because we are tightly joined together, the lessons learned in New Delhi might very well impact the way things are done in Detroit. Just think; at our inception, our earliest leaders resisted making the church organization highly structured. But thank God, through prayer and study, they realized that God is a God of order and is not glorified by chaos in His church.
A called people
The Great Commission compels us to present a Christ-centered message, teaching that to love Christ is to obey Him and long to be with Him! But our message is much broader than loving Jesus and longing for His appearing. We are called to have God’s heart for the lost and answer the call of the Father as Jesus did—to say like Isaiah, “Here am I; send me!” (Isa. 6:8), to go near and far, sharing a message of hope that through Christ’s redeeming power, there is release from every addiction, especially the addiction to self-centeredness.
In keeping with our name Adventist, Matthew 24:14 asserts that Jesus will not return until the gospel of the kingdom is preached everywhere to everyone. As Moses stood before Pharaoh and declared on God’s behalf, “Let my people go” (Exod. 5:1; 10:3), we, too, are called to bellow in no uncertain terms a similar plea to those who are captive to the kingdom of Babylon today, saying, “Come out of her, my people” (Rev. 18:4)!
The desire of God's heart is for everyone to be saved (2 Pet. 3:9); thus, He sent His Son to make the greatest sacrifice the universe has ever known—a plan crafted before the earth was formed in its Edenic symmetry and beauty, even before humankind was scooped from the ground to receive the breath of life.
I have reached a point in ministry where my love for Christ outweighs all this life has to offer. Only one consideration stands juxtaposed to that of seeing my Savior with my family there—everyone needs to know of Jesus’ matchless love and soon appearing so that they, too, can daily experience His peace, share it with others, and be ready for His glorious return. This is the hope that burns within my heart! I hope it burns within your heart too.