October 12, 2022 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Anais Anderson | AN and IAD
“Dear delegates, our main objective is to inspire you, to train you and to invite you to work in an integrated way to reach the whole world with the messages of the three angels. The 2022 Leadership, Education and Development (LEAD) Conference opened with a powerful call from General Conference executive secretary Erton Köhler to church leaders around the world to take action and reprioritize their resources, reorient their emphasis, and commit to work in areas and among people groups that have not yet heard the gospel message of salvation.
Morning presentations Oct. 6 at the Seventh-day Adventist Church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, marked the start of Annual Council, the annual business meeting of the General Conference Executive Committee. More than 340 delegates meet in person for a week to hear reports, discuss plans, and vote on nominations and initiatives. Annual Council is the most important business meeting of the Adventist Church, after the quinquennial session of the General Conference.
Reaching those not yet reached
Two-thirds of the world’s population, representing 69 nations, 5.3 billion people, 8,868 people groups and 3,343 languages, are 95 percent unreached. These staggering statistics served as the basis for a presentation by Rick McEdward, President of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Union. In his morning devotional message, Rick McEdward called on Adventist world church leaders to re-examine their commitment to partner with God in reaching “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6 ).
In his message titled “The Great Shift,” Rick McEdward emphasized God’s desire for his people to be his witnesses and to “proclaim his glory among the nations” (1 Chron. 16:24) as they call people everywhere to respond to the great love of God. Rick McEdward pleaded with leaders during this final period of Earth’s history to “focus our mission where the mission is not yet. He quoted Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White, who in 1900 wrote, “I appeal to all who believe in the truth, to all who can help us in any matter . Give us your help to carry the work forward now… You know something about what has already been accomplished in the various aspects of our work. We went by faith and we made great progress, because we saw what had to be done, what God was calling us to do, and we dared not hesitate. But we haven’t done half of what should be done. We are not yet in an advantageous position. There is a great work ahead of us. All around us there are souls yearning for light and truth, and how do we reach them? (Australasian Union Conference Record, January 1, 1900).
Challenges and Opportunities
As Executive Committee members recommit to reaching unreached people, the challenges of reaching people of different cultures, beliefs and backgrounds must be carefully considered, Adventist leaders say . Two of the main challenges facing the Church today are secularization and post-Christianity. These two ideologies are revolutionizing our society and the world in which we live.
Kleber D. Gonçalves, director of the World Mission Center for Secular and Post-Christian Mission of the General Conference, said that 1.1 billion people, or one in seven people in the world, consider themselves atheist, postmodern or post -Christians, and they currently constitute the third largest “religious” group. He also said that over the past 15 years, Christianity has grown by 1 percent per year and the group of those who identify as non-religious has grown at a similar rate. “The younger generation, those aged 16 to 25, are the least religious of all,” said Kleber Gonçalves, who added: “In most of the Western world, more than 50 percent of young people say they do not believe in religion. »
This rise in post-Christianity, postmodernism and secularization has led to increased distrust of religious institutions, a belief in relativism and an elevation in the importance of personal choice, said Kleber Gonçalves .
But while there are challenges, he said, “all is not lost and opportunities abound. As Seventh-day Adventists, we are privileged to reach people through our health message. In today’s disease-ridden world, people everywhere are looking for ways to improve their health, and we have the unique opportunity to share God’s message on health. Our special Sabbath message is also a welcome invitation in today’s hectic society to rest and focus instead on family values, community, and God,” he said.
Kleber Gonçalves concluded his presentation by encouraging participants to commit to being those whom God will use to proclaim the hope he has promised, not only for the future but also for the present.
One message, several approaches
In an effort to reach those not yet reached and those outside of our own cultural context, coach, consultant and writer Jaimie Eckert spoke to highlight the importance of personalizing our evangelism efforts to reach people of different cultures and beliefs. However, she cautioned against forgetting to meet people where they are or avoiding sharing the full Adventist message. Jaimie Eckert has detailed a practical “missionary scaffolding” plan consisting of three steps for missionary optimization.
The first step, she said, is to “identify the group you are trying to reach in the territory and believe that you can reach them.” The second is to “prayerfully study their beliefs and their objections to Christianity. And the third is to “start building a scaffolding approach that encompasses the whole gospel message,” she said.
Jaimie Eckert assured church leaders that they would then follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who himself met people where they were and was sensitive to their different beliefs as he sought to break down the barriers that kept them to receive his message.
The work ahead of us is great, Adventist leaders said, but as church leaders and members unite with the Holy Spirit, we can move forward in fulfilling the gospel mandate given to us. by God himself.
This was proven time and time again throughout the first meeting of this year’s Annual Council LEAD Conference, when many divisions shared how they are moving forward in faith, putting innovative plans in place, and touching people not yet reached. Additionally, attendees said they were inspired by missionary stories about the early pioneers who made tremendous sacrifices and truly committed their lives to bringing the gospel message to the “ends of the earth. »
Following the morning presentations, Hensley Moorooven, General Conference undersecretary, asked trustees to meet with their respective division representatives and take time to reflect, plan, and come up with concrete strategies and ideas for determine how they can use their “knees, hands, and pockets” to support their local churches. He made a powerful appeal to them saying, “Now is not the time to go back to the usual routine, but the time to do the unusual mission. »
At the end of the morning program, Erton Köhler called on participants to invest in the people of an unreached country through prayer, action or finance. Adventist leaders have been called to commit and give their all for mission, to become contributors and not just receivers, to be bold and to partner with God in carrying out his end-time mission, and to claim the power of the Holy Spirit as they go forward in faith and say, “I will go.” »
Translation: Patrick Luciathe
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